Dr. Henry Perrine, Page 2
By Jerry Wilkinson
- Perrine of Indian Key -
       Dr. Perrine landed at New Orleans in the spring of 1837 to pursue his plans to make south Florida the productive tropical plant center of the U.S.  The state of Louisiana offered him LaFitte's Island for his tropical plant center.  The offer was refused apparently preferring South Florida where he had been testing his plants for years through the efforts of those like Captain DuBose of Cape Florida and Charles Howe of Indian Key.  From New Orleans he sailed to Havana, Cuba, Key West, Indian Key, Charleston, Washington,  Baltimore and New York.
       The details of these stops are not known, however Hester Perrine related: "My father having resigned his position and been for some months engaged in his surveys in South Florida, and his efforts to awaken an interest in the people of Florida to the culture of Tropical Fruits, and also in presenting his reports to Congress, and they, for his services granting him a Township of Land to be located in South Florida, we prepared to move there.
       "There were but few vessels running to southern ports, and for three long months we waited in New York for a sailing vessel that would land us at 'Indian Key.'  Believing the 'Seminole War' closed, we had expected to go upon the land at once, and Joel R. Poinsett, the then 'Secretary of War', had promised to make it a military Post, so there need be no fear of Indians.  While in New York my father received a letter from the Sec. saying the war had again broken out and it would not be prudent to go to the land.' Then my father decided to go to 'Indian Key' and remain there until we could go to his land, as there was already established there one of his depots of plants sent from 'Yucatan' and under the care of  Mr. Charles Howe.  We sailed from New York the first week in December 1838, and landed at Indian Key on Christmas morning!" 
       Before continuing with Hester's comments, the 1838 U.S. Congress approved an Act granting Dr. Perrine a township.   This Act is found in volume 9, Laws U.S., page 869, titled "An Act to encourage the introduction and promote the cultivation of tropical plants in the United States.  Approved July 7th, 1838." 5   Therefore, a land grant Act was approved before his arrival on Indian Key which prescribed the conditions for the grant in four sections.
       Section 1 stated generally that, "to be located in one body of six miles square, upon any portion of the public lands below twenty six degrees north latitude."  Note that no specific location, other than below 26 degees latitude, was stated and the word "township" was not stated.  Of course a township contains 36 sections or six miles square.
       Section 2 basically stated, “That the said tract of land shall be located within two years from this date by said Henry Perrine.”  It would be up to Dr. Perrine to choose the specific location,  however, he never had the opportunity.
       Section 3 in general, "that when any section of land shall be really occupied by a bona fide settler, actually engaged in the propagation or cultivation of valuable tropical plants, and upon proof. . . " a patent shall be issued.  This would be debated for years after his death alleging that some sections were proved. 
       Section 4 was the reverter clause reverting any section not complied with back to the United States.
       Now back to Hester as she relates how she and Sarah were on Indian Key, "Shut out from all social life, with the exception of the family of Mr.  Howe."   The reason was that her father had learned that the officers of the Army and Navy had previously bragged that "they would make the Dr.'s daughters the Belles of the Reef."   She further explains how "We had an abundance of books and papers, but only a monthly mail."  Continuing, "For amusement we sometimes used to fish, learned to use the rifle & pistol, & often go over to 'Lower Matecumba' with Father when he spent the day there attending to his plants."
       Hester describes the visit of Judge Marvin and Stephen Mallory of Key West, "to pay their respects to the Dr. & his family, but alas for human expectations, the daughters were not to be seen."
       She also tells of, "a very rare sight.  Three great waterspouts coming from the southeast directly towards Indian Key & moving with great velocity.  A big gun was loaded to fire into and break them before they could reach us, when their course diverted and they broke near the lower end of Lower Matecumba.  Had they broken upon Indian Key, we should all have been destroyed."  Hester’s writings have been criticized as exaggerated since cannon fire of that period will not divert a waterspout.
       As we approach the night of the Indian attack, which is not the subject of this booklet, Hester recalls, "One memorable day, only three days before the Indians came to Indian Key!  Father and I went over, and he did but little work and then telling me that 'he had found a place where it would be pleasant for us to take our lunch' took me about a mile down the Beach & then turning into the forest soon brought me to a spot where he parted the branches & there was a 'Fairy Grotto.'  In the center was a small sparkling spring perhaps ten or fifteen feet across; various cacti in bloom & fruit, with other flowers upon the bank.”
      The story of the Indian raid on Indian Key has been told and retold.  Portions of the the raid are re-enacted annually at the Indian Key Festival.   Exactly  why Dr. Perrine was killed will probably never be known.  Conjecture abounds as to why the Indians attacked.   Were they simply revengeful because Captain Jacob Housman had formerly offered, “. . . to the Governor and Legislative Council of Florida and to the President and national Congress of the United States, to catch or kill all the Indians of South Florida for $200 each.”   The attack was three days after a Mr. Downing presented the offer to the Legislature.  Or, were they simply desperately in need of food and supplies?  Did they mistake Dr. Perrine for Capt. Housman?  When they did attack it was at night, which was very unusual for their mode of operation. 
      The number of attacking Indians varies from writer to writer.  The writer of the first written communication of the attack added a postscript to his military communication of August 7, 1840,  “The Indians force at the lowest estimate judging from the numbers of canoes is fifty or sixty, I am obliged to write in great haste.  The Indians used the long guns (cannons) on the Key firing them at us repeatedly with good aim.”  This was one of the few written reports of the Native Americans firing a cannon.
      As I stated earlier, this is not a treatise of the attack on Indian Key.  Hester and Henry both write of the night their father was killed.  In summary, the Perrine family was awakened in the early morning hours of August 7, 1840.  Dr. Perrine hid the family in the cellar and said “he would see what he could do.”  He tried to reason with the attackers.  Being unsuccessful, he went to the cupola and barricaded the door.  In Hester’s words, “For a few moments after they swarmed up the stairs after him, there was a horrid silence, only broken by the blows of their Tomahawks upon the door, then a crash, one wild shriek, a Rifle Shot, & all was still.”  The family eventually escaped from the cellar through the attached turtle kraal and made their way to the ship Medium anchored off shore of Tea Table Key.
      Of the seven reported killed by the St. Augustine THE NEWS, August 21, 1840, exactly why were the four members of the Motte family chosen to be killed while others appeared to be ignored will also likewise remain speculation forever.
 In summary, as Hester stated, "His life was ended." Dr. Perrine was 43 years old.
       Both Hester and Henry Jr. relate in their writings that only "a few charred human bones, which were doubtless those of my father" were found and those were taken and buried on Lower Matecumbe at the side of a sisal hemp plant.  Henry Jr. wrote, "In after years when we wanted to reclaim them for burial in my lot in the beautiful Palmyra Cemetery, all traces of the grave were lost."
       The family of  Dr. Perrine was well taken care of by military, government, civilian friends and sympathizers.  The family moved to Palmyra, New York and Mrs. Perrine was successful in persuading Congress of 1841 to transfer the land rights to the Perrine family.   The final location of the grant was south of  Miami in the area of the present day community of Perrine and Cutler, Florida.   While in New York, Sarah married a Carlton Rogers and Hester married a James Walker.  Henry Jr. studied law and was accepted as a lawyer in 1848, the same year he met a Miss. Cordelia Hall.  During this same period, his uncle Edwin on his mother's side, was building a ship to move to California.  His purpose there was to construct saw mills, a venture in which Henry Jr. joined him.  Four years later, Henrymarried Cordelia.
       Charles Howe also sent his children to Palmyra for schooling and Charles remained in contact with Mrs. Perrine concerning the Land Grant.   Evidently in cooperation with the Perrine family, Charles Howe proceeded to attempt to "prove" the Perrine Grant.   Congress had not simply given the 36 square miles of land to the Perrines.  As summarized in the aforementioned 1838 Act, like a homestead claim, there were attached certain stipulations to "prove the claim" and obtain a patented title.   Each of the 36 square miles had to be settled, land cleared and specified crops planted.
       The Howe family never lost faith in the value of Dr. Perrine’s sisal hemp as a product, or the allegation that Dr. Perrine had promised Charles Howe a fifth of the grant.  Henry A. Howe, presumedly of the Howe family, on his way from New York to Key West for a hemp machine filed an 1887 lawsuit in Juno, Florida for the 10,000 acres promised by the Perrine heirs.  The lawsuit went to the Supreme Court where it was dismissed in 1898.
       Anyway, in 1850 after only five years of statehood for Florida and Miami still 46 years in the future, it is said that Charles Howe obtained 36 Bahamian families to come over and work the land.  Evidently, not much success could be claimed as when settlers arrived in the area after the War Between the States, there were no Bahamians in that area.  In any fashion, Congress held fast to its commitment to the Perrine family and continued to allow them to prove the claim.
       In 1875, Henry Perrine Jr. gave up on California and seriously pursued proving the claim himself.  In an 1876 manual by the Weed, Parson and Company of Albany, New York, Henry E. Perrine and James E. Walker 11 presented a Biscayne Bay offer in an 18 page document.  For the era it was fairly represented with a punch line offer, "As an inducement to settlers, we will, to each of the first thirty-five families (who will in October or November of this year, locate themselves upon our land with a view to permanent settlement) donate twenty acres of land free of charge, save the condition of erecting a dwelling place thereon, and agreeing to cultivate at least one useful tropical plant.  For others who desire to engage largely in the cultivation of the staples named, and who wish to purchase larger tracts of land for that purpose, we will give information as terms, etc., on application to us.  We will also dispose of a limited number of lots, of one and two acres each, at 'Perrine' the most eligible location on the bay for a town, called at present Addison's Landing."
       Henry Jr., himself with his two children Carlton and Harry, moved onto the property in 1876 bringing considerable supplies with them.  It was apparently on this trip that he re-visited Indian Key and Lignum Vitae Key.  The Perrines set up a tent near the Addison family - who had been in the Cutler, Florida area for many years.   As a northern attorney, Henry Jr. was beset almost immediately by the problems of living in a relative wilderness.  He had only a handful of prospectors from his advertisement, ants attacked his food supply, the land was very rocky, funds ran out before a wharf could be completed and a hurricane came along and destroyed what had been completed.
       He was determined to established his “Perrineville” and some of his crops were reasonably successful, but his only practical market was Key West.  His prospectors branched out on their own, since they could get 160 acres by homesteading, and Henry Jr. threw in the towel after about eight months.
       Homesteaders were flocking to South Dade County for their near free 160 acre tracts of land, however Congress remained steadfast that the Perrine Grant was not to be homesteaded.   By 1886, many families had squatted on land within the Perrine Grant and had built farms.  To protect their investment they formed a “Squatter’s Union” with Dr. Cutler as their representative.
       The Perrine heirs were joined by Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad and the Florida East Coast Railroad (Henry Flagler) to settle the claim, naturally for a price.  A Senate investigation ensued and on January 28, 1897, the settlers received a total of 2,000 acres, the Perrine heirs 10,000 acres and the two railroad companies 5,000 acres each.
       Case closed?  Wrong.  The Howe heirs sued everybody involved, challenging that half of the Perrine Grant was theirs from the very beginning.  In addition, the F.E.C. railroad planned to “cut down trees, destroy vegetation, dig up the soil and construct ditches and embankments . . . to the permanent and irreparable injury of said land.” The F.E.C. was planning to do exactly that as it needed the land to build the railroad from Miami to Homestead and eventually to Key West. An Orlando court ruled that the railroads and the settlers could not be sued and the Supreme Court dismissed the case on November 11, 1898.
       Henry Flagler built the railroad through his portion in 1902 and 1903 and today’s Perrine came into existence in 1903.  The town of Perrine had its first school in 1909.  Perrine’s prized Agave Sisalana now only grows wild.
1. House of Representatives, 22d Congress, lst Session, Document Number 198, April 6, 1832.
2. House of Representatives, 22d Congress, lst Session, Report  454, April 26, 1832.
3. U.S. Senate Document 300, 25th Congress. 2d Session, March  12,  1838.
4. U.S. House of Representatives, Report 564, 25th Congress,  2d  Session, February 17, 1838.
5. U.S. Senate, Report 94, January 29, 1946, 29th Congress,  lst Session.
6. U.S. Senate Report 111, February 3, 1846, 29th Congress,  lst Session.
7. Editorial Notes, Hovey's magazine of Horticulture, Vol 6,  pps  358-360, 1840 and Vol 7, p 34, 1841.
8. Army and Navy  Chronicle, Vol. 11, pps 154 -155, 1840.
9.  Henry E. Perrine,  Some Eventful Years in  Grandpa's  Life, Hutchinson Press, Buffalo, New York.
10 .  John.T. Sprague, The Florida War, 1848, Univ. of Florida Press.
11.  Henry E. Perrine, "Biscayne Bay Manual", 1876.
12. Harriet P. House, "An Untold Story of the Florida War", in  Harper's Magazine, Vol. 83, pps 591-594, 1891.
13. J.K. Small, in Journal of the N.Y. Botanical Garden, Vol.  22,  pps 216-17.
14. Jefferson Bell, in Miami Herald, March 2, 1924.
15. Frances F. Cleveland Preston, "A Hero of Horticulture", in bulletin of the Garden Club of America, no. 18, pps 2-8, 1931.
16. T.R. Robinson, Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society for 1931, pps 110 -116.
17. T. Ralph Robinson, Perrine and Florida Tree Cotton, Tequesta Number 7, 1947.
18. Hester Perrine Walker, "Reminiscences of Dr. Perrine", in Florida.
19. Farmer and Fruit Grower, March, 1888.
20. Daniel Drake, "Death of Dr. Perrine", Western Journal of Medicine and    Surgery, pps 321-323, lst Series, Vol. 2, Surgeon Generals Library.
21. Howard A. Kelly, "Dictionary of American Medical Biography, pp 961, 1928.
22. Sara W. Palmer, "Henry Perrine, Pioneer Botanist and Horticulture", Florida Historical, Society Quarterly, pps 112-115, Vol. 5, October 1926.
23. Henry Perrine, "Fever Treated With Large Doses of Sulfate of Quinine, in Adams County, Natchez, Miss.”, The Philadelphia Journal of Medical and Physical Sciences, pps 36-41, Vol 4, 1826.
24. S.A. Richmond, "The Perrine Grant", Tropic Magazine, April-September, 1915.
25. Hester Perrine Walker, "Massacre at Indian Key, August 7, 1840 and the Death of Dr. Perrine",  Florida  Historical Society Quarterly, pp 18-42, Vol 5, July, 1926.
26. Miami Metropolis, "Written in 1840", Miami, Florida, May 4, 1900.
27. Charleston Daily Chronicle, Charleston, S.C., January 19, 1858.
28. The News, St. Augustine, August 21, 1840.
29. Florida Times Union, "Along the Florida Keys", May 22, 1892.
30. Washington Daily National Intelligence, "The Indian Key Massacre", December 19, 1840.
31. Niles National Register, pp 406, August 29, 1840.
32. Wyatt Blassingame and Richard Glendinning, "The Frontier  Doctors", 1963 
33. The Journal of the Florida Medical Association, Dr. Henry Perrine - Versatile Florida Pioneer', July, 1952.
34. An Act to Incorporate the Tropical Plant Company of Florida, P.K. Yonge Library, Gainesville, Florida.
35.  Edward Jelks, M.D., Dr. Henry Perrine, Jacksonville Historical Society Annual, 1933-34.
36.  Letters by Dr. Henry Perrine (To Dr. Ralph Glover, June  12 and July 17, 1840), Tequesta, 1979, page 29.
37.  C.F. Millspaugh, 1904, Library of New York Botanical Garden.
38. Dr. Perrine to the Editor of the Farmers’ Register, January 1, 1840.
39.  Massacre at Indian Key, August 7, 1840 and the Death of Doctor Henry   Perrine, an unpublished manuscript of Mrs. Hester Perrine Walker, Florida Historical Quarterly, July 1926 - Volume 5. 
40. Jean Taylor, Villages of South Dade,  Byron Kennedy and Co. 
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