History of Little Munson Island
By Jerry Wilkinson
      One of the lesser known Lower Keys is Little Munson Island. Access is only by boat. It is about a 20 minute ride from Little Torch Key at mile marker 28.5 in Hawk channel. I have little early history of this island of approximately nine acres. 
       When F. H. Gerdes surveyed the Keys in 1849 it is written in his Reconnaissance of the Florida Reef and all the Keys, "The small key due south of Looe Key is called Newfound Harbor Key." It began its recorded history as Munson Island when Charles Newton Munson (believed to have been associated with the Munson Steamship Line) and his wife, Ada, of Deep River, Conn. purchased four small islands in 1923. These islands are known as Little Munson Island, Big Munson Island, Carrier Island and Cook's Island. These are a chain of islands that lay off of Newfound Harbor extending westward past Little Torch, Ramrod and Summerland Keys in Hawk Channel. They are the Newfound Harbor Keys. Click the above map to enlarge.
      Charles, or Newt as he was often called, barged a building down from Camp Johnson near Jacksonville, Florida to begin his winter retreat.  An acquaintance of Newt's, Capt. Percy Cook,  was visiting and wanted an island of his own. The eastern island was sold to Capt. Cook, hence the name Cook's Island.  Newt gave Big Munson Island to his secretary, Ruth Ellison.  Not even a fable exists of the transaction of Carrier Island.
       Newt employed Edward Bayly as his agent for Little Munson Island. A house and water cistern was quickly constructed and Ada and Charles wintered there. According to the Key West Citizen dated March 1, 1924 it was a five room bungalow. Newt passed away in October at Deep River, Conn. Ada never wanted the island and it was willed to Ruth. She operated Little Munson as a fishing camp for a while after Newt's death.
       In 1936, Ruth sold the island to  Samuel A. Anderson of Chicago, Ill., a brass manufacturer. Anderson eventually employed Lorenzo "Ludy" Trevejo of Key West as the caretaker. Later, Ludy took on a wife, Dorothy, and the two stayed on for about 16 years. Dorothy had visited Key West from Washington, met Ludy, married in 1944, moved to Anderson's Island and built their own house. Their son, Tommy, was born in 1946.
      Meanwhile, the devastation of the 1935 Hurricane was fresh on many minds and Anderson had Ludy construct a concrete hurricane similar to the Red Cross houses built by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration in the Upper Keys. These concrete houses were built on top of a concrete cistern with 12 inch thick walls. Anderson purchased the "Anita" as a work boat for the project and sweat and hard work took over the project. The story goes that Ludy and Millard Johnson dug a 15 by 25 foot cistern, hauled about 300 bags of portland cement and 450 barrels of ballast stone from the then defunct Florida East Coast Railway tracks to build a two room hurricane house.
      When Tommy was four years old, Ludy and Dorothy decided it would be best for Tommy to move to a community and Summerland Key was chosen in 1950. Sam Amderson passed away 15 years later and the island was sold to John Spottswood of Key West.
      Under Spottswood the island and it facilities were tidied up. It became a retreat for such dignitaries as President Truman, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Governor George Wallace and others. Many believe its real fame came when Spottswood arranged for the filming of the Warner Brothers movie "PT-109" in 1962.
      The movie was of Lt. Jg. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, USNR, in Tulagi, Solomon, Islands, 1943 reporting for duty in a patrol torpedo squadron played by Cliff Robertson. John Spottswood, Munson Island owner and Monroe County Sheriff , played Lt. Cluster, the skipper of PT-109. To see more photos taken from the Miami News,  Click HERE, then use the back arrow to return. 
      In 1974, John Spottswood sold Little Munson Island to a Georgia campground owner, County Johnson. Homer Formby, the authority on wood refinishing, wood care and "Refinishing Tips" for 40 years, was the next owner. His better known effort was to provide the island as a home for the "Caribbean Veterinarians Education Trust", a group of 32 doctors to advance the science of veterinary medicine through research and continuing educational courses and limited research facilities for qualified veterinary professionals.
      In 1982 Charles and Alexis Kelm plus and unidentified partner reportedly purchased the island for $1.25 million. The Florida Keys Keynoter reported on January 6, 1983 that Charles and Alexis had been arrested in a drug sting raid. Mr. Zuelch, the Florida State Attorney, was unable to seize the island as one of the partners was an innocent owner.
      Ben and Lucy Woodson of the Arcadia Management Corporation was looking on Florida's west coast for an offshore island for a small ecologically minded tropical resort when he discovered Munson Island. In February of 1987 it was announced that it was going to open as the Little Palm Island Beach Club.  It opened in 1988 and is better known as Little Palm Island. Little Palm In 2001
       Little Palm Island is controlled by out of state people formed as Palm Island Ltd. It begin with five general partners and 81 limited partners. When Hurricane Georges passed nearby in 1999, it quickly recovered with $$2 million for landscaping and $$8 million for renovation of the 30 suites and supporting amenities.
      Additional historical documentation is requested.
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