- History of Conch Key
- By Jerry Wilkinson
- The author
has very little documented information of
Conch Key and solicits
input from readers. To assist, please click the prepared e-mail tab at
the bottom of this page. The first mention he finds of the use of the
Conch Key is by F. W. Gerdes in his Reconnaissance of the Florida
and All the Keys in 1849. His quote is "The first islands between
Key and Viper Id. [Long Key] are named Conch Keys." No doubt this
Walker Key, or Little Conch Key which is the smaller Key farther west.
Conch Key ocean side is an superb example of dredge and fill. It simply
did not exist until it was filled - it was an excellent shallow water
lobstering area. I know this as it was not there when I moved to Key
West in 1947. So it joins the man-made parcels such as
Trumbo Point, Key Colony Beach, the two bayside islands of Craig Key.
Perhaps I should include the newly named Veterans Key south of Lower
Matecumbe Keys - it is the remains of a bridge approach built by the
World War One veterans.>
- The section of a map
to the right has
no surveyor name and is of the Duck Key area which included Conch Keys.
As one can see it is Section 15 and is of Township 65 South and Range
East. The larger Key is Conch Key, the subject of this page. The
survey of the Duck Key area by Charles F. Smith in 1874 does not
the Conch Keys. If you are unfamiliar with this area, for a 1966
map (it is a large file), please Click
HERE, then the Back Arrow.
Conch Key was used by the Florida East Coast Railway as a construction
camp site; however, not much of this use is found. In 1944, Frank M.
an adventurous traveler, purchased the island of about 5 acres from the
state of Florida for $11,000. According to the Key West Citizen
dated July 19, 1944, ". . . County Tax Assessor, Claude A. Gandolfo,
this morning that the key, that is the real estate part of it, has
been on the assessor's books because it had always been owned by
since it attained statehood , but, he explained that, since his
office, he had levied personal taxes against the pumphouse, log cabin
two cottages that were on the key, but had been unable to learn to whom
the key had been leased by the state.
- "The log cabin burned
down two years
ago, but the two cottages and the pumphouse are still there. The latter
is used to supply water and electricity.
- "Another Key was sold
of the dissolved Anchor Lodge Corporation conveyed Ohio Key comprising
51.16 acres to ... for $15,000.
- "Both Conch and Ohio
keys are on the
new Overseas Highway."
Some interesting Keys history are contained in this article. The
log cabin was not the typical log cabin but what was generally referred
to as a "tie cabin." The tie meaning cross ties from railroad
The cross ties were interlaced together to build as large of a
as needed. A few continue to exist in the Lower Keys. Supposedly, the
had used the tie cabin for a multitude of purposes. Later the State
Department when building the second Overseas Highway in 1938 used the
on Conch Key. The electricity referred to had just been installed as
of the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative.
- Coward built himself a house which he
used as a home
and a place to
build his dream-boat, a 44-foot ketch, Don Pancho. It was a
boat yard, marina and living quarters. When the boat was
part of the house had to be removed for the launching. Coward died in
and E.V. Jones purchased the house. E. V. Jones and his wife, Ruth,
the Conch Key boat yard in 1954 and died in 1978. Jones was the
of the Conch Key Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Corps. Jones also
had organized a disaster unit under the Key West Red Cross chapter
served the island well after Hurricane Donna in 1960.
There were few residents on the island until about 1952 which was
the time many of the Upper Keys had a burst of growth. One contributing
factor was the opening of Coral Shores High School, the first Monroe
high school outside of Key West. It is said that some of the first
residents were the Liebys,
Jones, Hunts, Doolittles and Pearl Jacobs, a niece of Coward, yet I do
not see early phone numbers listed for these names. We must
remember that in earlier times phones were not a necessity and
considered an expensive luxury. Also, some did not have telephone lines
available, but one could always pay for their own poles.
- From my 1954 Southern Bell and Telegraph
phone book, I see the following names and numbers:
- - Hunt Marine
- - Mac & Ann's Fishing
- - McCarthy, M. J.
- - Mitchell,
- - Tiny's
The Hunts, Doolittles, Phillips and the Fire
Department are in the 1964 phone book.
The years passed comfortably in the fishing and retirement community of
Conch Key and many passed by without notice. In 1997 part of Conch Key
made the news media. A few years earlier the Billy Wagner family had
the property of Coral Key Village Mobile Home Park. This was composed
about 50 mobile homes and about 100 residents. The new owners wished to
develop and modernize the property with a marina, an restaurant and
30 townhouses and detached houses.
In October of 1997 the mobile home residents received an eviction
effective December 1998 so the new project could go forward. Faced with
no place to go, the Home Owners Association as a cooperative offered to
purchase the park. Both sides faced legal problems, one was that the
zoning was not zoned for either use. A law suit ensued and the
purchased the property in August 2001.
- We began this page
with Conch Keys, plural.
The second Key, or the Key to the southwest and totally on the
is known as Walker's Key by many and is discussed on another web
- This page is ended
with another photo
of the proud Conch Key Volunteer Fire Department.
- Use the Back Arrow to return to reading
- Go to the History of Walker's Key,
- To return to the Specific Locations and
Keys homepage, Click