General History of Indian Key
The Massacre Story
Page 2
By Jerry Wilkinson
- The Narrative -
     Using the aforementioned codes, floor plan and map, we will proceed to re-enact the occurrences between August 4 to August 10, 1840 on Indian Key using events described by Hester and Henry Perrine Jr.:
       1. Indian Key consisting of 8.77 acres was the home for about 50 inhabitants at the time of the massacre in August, 1840. There were approximately 40 buildings on the Key when the Perrines arrived December 25, 1838.
       1-A. Probable route used by Chief Chekika and his attacking warriors from the Everglades to the bay side of the upper end of Lower Matecumbe Key to await the Navy's departure.
       1-B. Chekika's attack route in the early morning of August 7, 1840. Note, this is one of the rare mentioning of any Indians ever attacking at night. Also, one of the few of Indians crossing a body of water other than a creek or river to attack.
       2. Dr. Perrine and daughter Hester walked one mile down Lower Matecumbe Key and into the forest to visit his "Fairy Grotto" for lunch on August 4, 1840 and thought that they were watched by the waiting Indians.
       3. Seventeen canoes of Spanish Seminole Indians and English-speaking negroes (not in the dialect of the negro) waited in this vicinity, or assembled here, waited for the Navy vessels of war of the Florida Squadron at Tea Table Key to leave on their expedition to the Everglades.
       4. Lt. Rodgers left Tea Table Key August 6, 1840 for Cape Romano in the vessel Wave with every man capable of doing service, except 5 men, yet including 7 or 8 who, were sick.
       5. Chief Chekika and his band of 200 Indians landed here (5) August 6, 1840, during a moonlight night and were discovered on Thursday, August 7, 1840 at about 2:00 A.M. by James Glass.
      6. James Glass (J) informed his neighbor, George Beiglett, (K) who took his double barrel shotgun loaded with mustard-seed shot and with Glass climbed the fence in their backyard to inform Jacob Housman (G). Enroute they found a large group of Indians lying in wait (L). An Indian fired his flint lock musket, "which only flashed in the pan", then Beiglett fired in their midst, at the same instant uttering a terrific yell. Thinking Beiglett wounded, Glass ran to Maloney's Wharf (Q) and hid beneath it (L-1). Meanwhile, Beiglett scaled a fence and went in an opposite direction to Housman's warehouse wharf (S), where he hid his gun under a ships mast (W-1).  [Research reveals Beiglett's real name was Augustus Frederick Beiglett, and he was born in 1794 in Russia.]
      7. Beiglett, met a sailor from the sloop at the end of the wharf (W) and young Joseph Sturdy, who wandered by after being awakened by the savage yells while he slept on his mother's piazza (0). The three upon advice from Beiglett, who knew of the large cistern under Housman's warehouse (H) which could be entered by a trap-door in the warehouse piazza (H-1) floor directly in front of the wide door leading into the warehouse, quietly pulled the trap door (H-2) and entered the chest deep cistern. At dawn, after remaining there for some time, Beiglett, climbed out and ascended the high cupola where Indians could be seen scattered all over the island carrying the loot to their canoes and captured boats. He also saw them throwing books from Perrine's attic library (A-11). He saw the Perrine family escaping, then returned to his hiding place. Shortly after his return to the cistern, the Indians set  fire to the warehouse (H) and young Sturdy was suffocated by the dense smoke of the burning bales of hay. Beiglett and the sailor were greeted by flames when they raised the trap-door, yet held their breath and dashed head-long through them escaping with scorched hair, eyebrows and blistered arms and shoulders. The body of the boy was later found amid the ruins in the water of the cistern.
       8. The captain and mate from the sloop Key West (W), docked at Housman's warehouse wharf (S), hearing the alarm lowered a hatch cover over the side of their vessel as a raft, and escaped to the schooner Medium (V) anchored off shore.
      9. Other sailors from the Key West concealed themselves under the wharf (S-2) by building a "breastwork" of coral rocks before them.
      10. Jacob Housman's first impulse on hearing the alarming cries was to descend the stairs and gather his guns which stood near his front door. However, he was met by the Indians who had succeeded in breaking open the door (G). Defenseless, both Housman and his wife turned and fled through the back door, scaled the fences, and in their bare feet ran across the jagged rocks on the side of the Key towards the Gulf Stream. They waded out as far as they could. Their two large and valuable dogs came barking after them and Housman had to drown them. Swimming with the incoming tide and supporting his wife as best he could, he made a wide swing around the warehouse wharf (S) to his enclosed docks (G-1) where he kept his boats (GA & GB). Leaving his wife clinging to one of the outer piles of the dock (G-3), Housman was able to reach one of his boats (GA), loosen its fastenings and pushed it ahead of him until he reached the place where his wife was anxiously waiting. Finally they made their way to Tea Table Key.
       11. Houseman saw one of his favorite slaves, Ben, with a handkerchief tied around his head and he seemed to be helping his captors plunder the store (E) and house (G). Actually, he was contacting several other slaves, including three of Charles Howe's, and together they succeeded in seizing a canoe and making their way to Key Vaca. Afterwards they returned to their masters. 
       12. A young negress with a baby in her arms jumped from the second story of Housman's home and hid among the trees and bushes of his garden. She received only a sprained ankle. (12 and 13 hard to find - just to the right of G.) 
      13. Henry Goodyear, one of Housman's clerks, upon hearing the Indians enter Housman's home (G) ran up to the Housman's cupola and climbed out on the roof where he lay near the eaves until dawn. When an Indian near the corner of the building showed no sign of concern, Goodyear dropped to the ground unmolested, waited there for a few moments, then crawled towards the garden and concealed himself there. Later, both the negress and Goodyear from the garden saw young Henry Perrine as he passed Housman's store (E) and home (G) after leaving the turtle crawl (A-2).
       14. Mr. Otis, a carpenter, who had a room over the store (E), received a musket ball in his side as he opened an upper outside door to look out. He escaped by a side door and managed to reach the other side of the island where he took an Indian's canoe. Because of loss of blood he was too weak to paddle so he laid in the canoe and let it drift. The next morning he was discovered by the people aboard the Schooner Medium (V) as he drifted toward Lignum Vitae Key. Otis recovered from his wound and lived for several years thereafter.
       15. The entire John Motte family and grandmother Johnson (N) were also aroused by the noise of the screaming Indians. Fearing for their safety, they hastily and unwisely sought concealment in the outhouse behind their home (N1). Soon they were discovered by the marauding Indians who with one shot fired through the thin siding hitting Mr. Motte. The Indians broke the door down and Mrs. Motte was dragged out with her baby still in her arms. Mr. and Mrs. Motte, clasped in each others arms, were found later scalped. Their clothes had been burned from their bodies. The baby was tossed into the ocean to drown.
       16. An Indian returned to the Motte's outhouse N1 (this was probably a kitchen and not a privy) where Mrs. Johnson (Mrs. Motte's 70 year old mother) and the older Motte daughter were still hiding. Mrs. Johnson hid behind the door and was not noticed in the dark. The daughter was seized and clubbed to death. Her grandmother, being sure the Indians had gone, cautiously left the outhouse and climbed over a high picket fence. She crawled under a neighboring vacant house (P) and remained for many hours until flames finally drove her from this hiding place. Then she fled to the bathhouse (R) at the end of Maloney's Wharf (Q).
       16A. Charles Howe and his family (B), after first hiding among the mulberry bushes  in his garden, were finally able to make an opening in the fence that surrounded his home through which they all escaped to the beach. While the Indians were busy  ransacking the homes of Motte (N) and others (0 & P) and Housman's store (E),  the Howe's waded around to the wharf (A-4) near the place where the Perrine family  were still in hiding (A-1). Untying a scow, Charles Howe was able to pole his way  out to his sailboat moored to a stake in the false channel, and sail towards Tea Table Key. In the darkness they beat back and forth across the channel  sometimes coming so near the island again that they almost  ran the risk of discovery. Eventually, they succeeded in reaching the schooner Medium (V) which lay at anchor off Tea Table Key.
       16B. Henry Perrine Jr. wrote, ". . . Mrs. Sturdy and her daughter Mrs. Smith and child (see house O), managed to reach the jagged rocks on the southeastern end of the island, and getting down in the water behind them (T), remained there in the full blaze of the tropic sun until after the foe had gone."
       17. The noise of falling glass, Indian yells, rifle and musket fire awakened the Perrine family (A), who by now had gathered at the head of the stairs. Realizing that young Henry was missing, Hester returned to find him still asleep on a mattress (A-13) on the floor in the southeast corner of the hall. Leading him by the hand they all descended the stairs to the small bathroom where they sat upon the floor. Dr. Perrine returned upstairs to get his Colt rifle (good for sixteen shots) and also some of the old style Allen pepper-box six-barreled pistols. It was then that young Henry remembered that he had used all the percussion caps on a recent hunting trip. As the noise of the attack neared the Perrines they raised the trap door (A-8) and descended the steps into the water below. Meanwhile, Dr. Perrine closed the trap door and placed a chest of seeds over it. It was an open cellar except for a (A-6) foundation wall 13 feet in length directly under that part of the house where the door from the hall led out onto the piazza. Cautiously they circled this wall and feeling their way along the outer wall, came to the passageway (A-1) leading to the turtle crawl (A-2). They were fortunate in having the space of a foot between the water and the planks above. Normally, a spring high tide would have filled this passageway. Crouching, they made their way to the far end and sat down on the marl bottom. The water reached to up to their necks. Outside, an Indian waded past, another dropped a chain into a boat, while others were seen leaping upon the wharf directly over their heads. As the Indians surrounded Howe's house (B), the Perrines could hear many voices in loud and rapid speech mingled with yells. Suddenly they became silent, as Dr. Perrine from his second floor window (A) spoke to them in Spanish - telling them  he was a physician. Strangely, they gave a shout and left the house - only to return a short time later. Soon they again started their yelling, and taking wood from a pile upon the wharf (A-7), began to batter down the door and windows. As the window blinds were broken and the windows smashed, the Indians entered the house. In the pantry (A-9) they could be heard dashing the crockery on the floor. A voice was heard saying in English "They are all hid - the old man is upstairs." In a few minutes the sound of battering against a heavy door (A-15) could be heard, and a loud chorus of yells indicated the death of Dr. Perrine in his cupola (A-10). Over the heads of his family (A-1), the Indians were dragging the plunder from their home and loading it into boats alongside the turtle crawl (A-2). At about day break the turtles (A-16) in the crawl  splashed the water with their flippers and attracted the attention of a lone Indian, who raised a plank and looked down into the crawl. Being satisfied that the noise was made by turtles, he continued about his business. Had he looked more closely, he could probably have seen the Perrine family in their night clothes behind the palmetto piles. Through a small crevice in the coral rock wall, Henry saw an Indian wading past. He was dressed in pantaloons and a hat. Through the turtle crawl in the front, he saw a boat passing - loaded high with plunder.

    Continued on page 3

E-Mail to editor

Return to Keys Historeum