- By Jerry Wilkinson -

Hackleys Diary

William R. Hackley practiced law in Key West off and on from 1829 to 1852 and wrote a diary of which a copy is at the Key West Library, 700 Fleming Street, Key West, FL 33047. Tom Hambright has published most of his diary in the Florida Keys Sea Heritage journals. The portion below is from the Summer 2012 issue of his diary of the year of 1831.
    Most the diary takes place in Key West;  however, on February 23, 1831, he and others make a trip up to the present-day area of Miami. In route, he stops at Key Vaca, Lignum Vitae Key, Indian Key, Tavernier and on to the mainland. The first portion is very early history of Lignum Vitae Key, and to a degree all relates to the wrecking industry. Of course his view is as an attorney practicing in Key West. Hackleys diary is a must read for all serious researchers of Florida Keys history.
     I am putting this link in various web pages as additional reading. Use the Back Arrow to return to the page where you clicked the link. Any typos are probably mine-JW. Now the portion of his 1831 diary-

    “… Wednesday, February 23. Rose at daybreak and went on board, Captain Thomas Rooke got under way and hove for Captain William Bunce. A squall came up from the northwest. It lasted but a few moments and a little after sunrise we got out of the harbor with the wind northwest and fresh. At 1/2 past 12 came to anchor at Key Vacas. At 3 P.M. went on shore to try and kill a deer by moonlight a method which Captain Rooke has tried with success. We took different stands but did not see a deer. At 10 P.M. we got on board.

Thursday, February 24. Got under way a little before sunrise. Wind northwest and beat up to Indian Key and came to anchor about 4 P.M. We stretched out in the Gulf out of sight of land and in going in the Captain caught two fish that would weight around 70 pounds. They were 7 foot long, with an upper bill projecting out one foot, they were nearly black but in dying exhibited a change of color and had on the back a fin 28 inches long and 24 broad which gave them a beautiful appearance in the water and two pectoral fins of 24 inches length and 3/4 broad. The natives of the Bahamas call this a Pike, it is a very good fish.

    Friday, February 25. Got under way at daylight with the wind northeast and stood out to the reef and stood out to the reef and stood back to the harbor and came to anchor. The Sloop John Denison came in and I received a letter from Mother and papers. Captain William Barker went down to Key West with a load of cotton from the British Brig Marcelly of Grenack, Captain Monroe, who got on shore on the bar at Bear Cut on the 15th instant from New Orleans bound to Glasgow with 991 bales of cotton. She is a total loss and the cotton is all landed on the beach. After breakfast went on shore on Lignum Vitae Key where Captain Rooke has built a house for the purpose of obtaining preemption right. It is about 3 miles from Indian Key and is about 3 miles in circumference and is heavily timbered and a fine soil. In one place when a well was dug a quantity of stiff red clay was found. A quantity of Lignum Vitae grows on the key from whence it derives its name. Captain Bunce went shore for the purpose of going down to Duck Key. Wrote a note to F.A. Browne.

Saturday, February 26. Rose just after daylight and after an early breakfast went up to Lignum Vitae Key. The men went to work thatching the house and I took a walk through the woods. I found the land very good and very difficult to be cleared. The house is made of post set in the ground and poles nailed across and palmetto leaves tied to them which forms a tight roof and lasts about five years. Got back on board about dark.

    Sunday, February 27. Rose about daybreak and after breakfast went to Lignum Vitae Key to look at some traps I set last night for raccoons, they took none and we hunted the woods with the same success. Got on board at ~ past 12, read Roccus and remained on board all evening as I dislike Indian Key so much that unless I have business I am determined not to go on shore.

Monday, February 28. Rose at daybreak, after breakfast went up to Lignum Vitae Key and took all hands to finish the house which was done and it makes a much more pleasant one than I had supposed possible. The leaves look rather rough on the outside but within they present a pretty appearance. About 2 P.M. Mr. Burton and two men took the boat and went to look for stone crabs I accompanied him and waded for more than an hour up to my knees in the water. The crab lives in a hole generally under some stones from which they are very difficult to be taken. They are nearly round with very large claws and are much larger than the common crab and much more delicate eating. Got on board after sunset. Wind blowing fresh from northeast and about 1/2 past 7 it began to rain but very little fell. Captain Rooke left one of his men to prepare the ground for planting during his absence to fill his water at the Cape.

    Tuesday, March 1. Florida Reef. Rose at daybreak, the wind blowing so fresh from the northeast that we do not like to undertake to beat up to the Cape and therefore did not get under way. Last night there were seven wrecking vessels out of 12 which are now on the reef in the harbor and at anchor. Read the "Peace Campaigns of a Comet."

  <>    Wednesday, March 2. Rose at daybreak and got under way to beat up the reef with wind east northeast. Made one or two tacks when we found that the wind was so fresh and the sea so high that it was needless to attempt to get up and so we ran back and came to anchor at Indian Key. Read "Hungarian Tales." After dinner took a sail with the Captain up to Lignum Vitae Key.

Thursday, March 3. Got under way at daybreak with a single reefed mainsail, foresail with the bonnet off, and standing jib. The wind variable in squalls from about north northeast and a heavy sea even inside of the reef. About 9 A.M. discovered a ship on shore which proved to be the Amulet, of Duxgery, G. Wisdom, Mate, from Boston to New Orleans, - at Pickles Reef in 8 feet of water and she draws 13. On our arrival we found six sloops and one schooner at anchor and we came to about half a mile from the ship in a position in some degree sheltered by the rocks but even then the schooner rolled heavily. The ship lay on her bilge and the breakers were white all around her and now and then I could see a sea break on her stem and fly in foam all over her. One of the sloops was anchored at a 114 mile and had a warp to the ship by means of which by hauling the boats through the midst of the breakers the cargo was transferring on board of the wrecking vessels. Captain Rooke went on board but there were enough without him. We went in about sunset and anchored in Tavernier Creek. While at anchor on the reef the Revenue Cutter Marion passed on her way to Charleston.

     Friday, March 4. Got under way at 1/4 past 4 A.M. and beat out to the reef, the ships in the same position. Bore up and stood for the Cape and at 1/4 before 3 P.M. came to anchor off the mouth of the Miami River. Captains Barker and Monroe came on board and Captain Rooke agreed to take a load of cotton to Key West for $2 per bale. Mr. Burton and myself went up the river to procure water, saw some ducks but killed none. I left the boat and walked down the river for a short distance. The land has the appearance of being very rich, being a black mold, the grass being more than waist high.

    Saturday, March 5. Got under way at 5 A.M. and beat up to Bear Cut where the cotton was landed from the Brig. The Schooners William Ross and Pizzarro and Sloop Energy are here to take a load. The Brig has been burnt to obtain the copper and gear. Her stem and a stem part now alone remains to show the spot she struck, about half a mile from the shore. Took my gun and walked about 5 miles up the beach, on my return killed one partridge. I could have shot several but had none but duck shot with me.

    Sunday, March 6. Rose at daylight all hands employed in loading the schooner. I had so little success yesterday that I do not feel inclined to try the gun again. Read "Anne of Grirestein" and tried to fish, caught a catfish and in disengaging it from the hook it stuck one of its fins in my finger which gave a great deal of pain for several hours.

    Monday, March 7. Rose at daylight, all hands loading the schooner. I went on shore and walked up the beach and gathered some Hicaco plumes. Returned on board about 12. Read Roccus. After dinner it became cloudy and rained a little. At night the mosquitoes were so numerous as to make a bar useful.

    Tuesday, March 8. Rose at daylight, the Captain and myself went to the brig, on our way discovered the whole of the rigging and gear of the brig, got some of it and at 12 got under way with a light wind from south southwest. There was a heavy fog in the morning Came to anchor under Key Biscayne about sundown.

    Wednesday, March 9. Rose at daylight and took in 33 bales of cotton making 246 in all and the bales are piled four tiers on deck. After dinner took a walk up the beach.

    Thursday, March 10. Rose at daylight and went fishing before breakfast. At 1/2 past 10 a squall came up from the northwest and blew for a short time accompanied by rain. At half-past 11 got under way in company with the Schooners Pizzarro and William Ross and Sloop Energy and a smack all loaded from the Brig Marcelly. Anchored at 7 P.M. off the Carysfort Reef Lightship.

    Friday, March 11. Got under way before daylight and at 1/4 before 12 anchored off Indian Key the Captain went up to get the men he left. The Ship Amulet stripped of her rigging and gear lays on the rocks a little to the southward of Tavernier. Mr. Theodore Owens spoke to us, he is bound up to New River. At about 1/4 before 2 got under way and about 7 came to anchor at Key Vacas all in company.

    Saturday, March 12. Got under way with a light breeze from the east at 4 A.M. but I did not turn out till day. Captain Joshua Appleby came down in company, arrived at Key West at 5 P.M. The wharf presents a very lively appearance from the number of vessels in port. The Judge called and sat for some time. I subscribed $10 toward the salary of a preacher who is to be invited to reside at this place. The Judge gave $2,200 in the case of the Schooner Toison. After tea wrote to Mother.

    Sunday, March 13. Rose at reveille and read my brief in the case of Oliver O'Hara vs. Brig Halcyon and after breakfast read over the authorities relating to the case. About 12 Captain Thomas Rooke went up the reef and at half-past, George Weaver sailed for Charleston in the Sloop Mary Ann from St. Marks. He took my letter to Mother.

    Monday, March 14. Rose with the sun and prepared for the trial of the case of the Halcyon or rather as to the validity of the award. After breakfast attending to the case. At 1 the Court adjourned till 10 o'clock tomorrow. After dinner read Smith, after tea Tacitus.

    Tuesday, March 15. Rose at sunrise, read Hall's Admiralty. After breakfast at the Court House till dinner, the case of the Brig Marcelly was tried at 2 P.M. and the court adjourned till Thursday. The Schooner Delta arrived from St. Marks, wrote to Father. After dinner read Smith, after tea Tacitus.

    Wednesday, March 16. Rose with the sun, read Hall, after dinner read Smith and after tea played backgammon with the Judge until after eight and then read Tacitus till 10.

    Thursday, March 17. This being St. Patrick's day the drum and fife paraded the town just after day. Rose before the sun and finished Hall's Admiralty, after breakfast recommenced Maddock's Chancery. After dinner the Judge gave his decree in the case of William Barker vs. 984 bales of cotton the cargo of the Brig Marcelly. He gave the salvor $9,000 or 492 bales at the option of the Captain. In the case of the Halcyon the Judge decreed the 56 1/4 per cent given by the arbitrators to be paid to the salvoes from which decree on appeal was entered. After tea played whist at F.A. Brown's till near nine and then read Tacitus for about an hour.

    Friday, March 18. Rose about sunrise read Spanish. After breakfast attended for some time the sale of the goods of the Ship Amulet sold under orders of the court. After dinner Major James Glassell came for me to take a walk. Read Smith, after tea read Tacitus.

    Saturday, March 19. Rose before the sun read Spanish, after breakfast read Maddock. The sale of the goods of the Ship Amulet was finished today most of the articles sold for a profit, indeed, scarcely anything is ever sacrificed at a wreck sale. After tea Edward Chandler invited some gentlemen to play cards and I played whist until after ten. The latter part of the morning I had cramp colic lightly.

    Sunday March 20. Rose before sunrise and read Spanish, took a dose of salts. After dinner read Maddock and a portion of the Old Testament. At 6 P.M. Oliver O'Hara sailed for Havana for the purpose of obtaining the money to pay salvage on the cargo of the Brig Marcelly. A Miss. Knight of the Island of Cuba who was a passenger in the Tioson also went over. Theodore Ownes returned this morning and brings the news of a brig being on Conch Reef but whether she was given up to the wreckers he did not know.

<>    Monday, March 21. Rose at reveille and read Spanish. The sun crosses the line in bad weather, it blows pretty fresh from north northeast and is dark and chilly. One of the discharged soldiers who was waiting for an opportunity of leaving the Key died last night of bronchitis contracted by falling in the water in a drunken fit and remaining without medical care for some days. Read Maddock. At 10 returned to the Court House to attend the case of the Ship Amulet. Mr. Cochran and Mr. John Decatur, a brother of the Commodore, who is the sutler at Little Rock were passengers who gave evidence in the case. At 12 the Court adjourned till the 23 rd…”    
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