Saturday, February 28, 2009


Key West is for most people a charming tourist trap as far south as you can go in the US. For me it is an ancestral home. My family originally were English plantation owners who settled in the Carolina's. When the Revolutionary War escalated, they kept their loyalties to England as Tories. Unwilling to fight against their neighbors nor against their British relatives, they fled to the Bahamas and were given land grants from England. Some of my ancestors must have fought on the colonist side of the war for I do qualify as a DAR.

They sought to raise cotton there as they had in the Carolina's but the lime soil made cotton a poor choice. My ancestor, William Curry left the Bahamas ( Green Turtle Cay) in 1837 at the age 16 and went to Key West to seek his fortune.

Have you ever seen a weirder beard?

He was enterprising if not terribly honest according to family rumor. Some historians paint him as an astute business man but I prefer the racier version my family clung to. There is a 12 mile reef around Key West that was hazardous to shipping vessels. When a ship became stranded on a reef, the wrecker was a man who rescued the crew and claimed salvage of the cargo. The first wrecker to the rescue got 1/3 of the spoils.

Where my multiple great grandfather got creative was when he was rumored to have hired the pilots to ram the ships on the reef. Thus he knew where and when to claim salvage. He opened a large dry goods store that had virtually no over head and along with being stock market savvy, he became Florida's first millionaire. Little known fact is that around 1860, Key West was Florida's largest city.

My mother was the last to enjoy the fruits of his labor. She knew and enjoyed the wealth but her father pretty much made short work of it. I just have some lovely heirlooms to remind me of the day.

All of my family except myself, were born in Key West. My mother suffered severe asthma and Key West was killing her. My father loaded up the family ( I was a bun in the oven) and swore he would drive till she could breathe easily. Who would have thought that Youngstown Ohio was where mother would draw easy breaths. A steel mill town with soot that turned snow gray was where she could breathe. Go figure. That was where I became the only Yankee born into the family in 8 generations.

We went back to Key West when I was 10 for mother deeply missed her home and family. I was able for a few years to get to know and understand my roots before her asthma made us move again. I was grateful for the time I got to spend there. It truly was a paradise in those days and I learned to appreciate the self sufficient island people whose genes I carried. There will be stories of Key West in the future so this is just a little background chatter.
Any rascals in your family tree??


  1. Interesting family history…so you have almost been wealthy twice. : ) Yes, that is a very strange beard (looks like a bib) but he is handsome. It is wonderful that you were able to enjoy the Keys in their more natural state! I have an ancestor who was imprisoned at Key West in 1865. Dr. Samuel Mudd (multiple great uncle) gave medical attention to John Wilkes Booth for his broken leg he incurred while assassinating President Lincoln. Dr. Mudd was convicted of conspiracy and imprisoned at Fort Jefferson and was later pardoned by Andrew Johnson in 1869. Booths initial plan was to kidnap Lincoln for ransom in exchange for military supplies and Confederate prisoners. He planned an escape route near Dr. Mudd’s farm and the two met on several occasions (along with other known conspirators) prior to the assassination. The day after the assassination Booth along with David Herold arrived at Mudd’s house and stayed for 15 hours. Mudd waited a day after they left to contact the authorities which was a significant factor in his conviction. Was Dr. Mudd guilty of conspiracy? I tend to think so. Either way I am glad my name is not Mudd.

  2. I don't have any rascals as far as I know. My mom is first generation American. Her family came over from eastern Europe in 1920. The rest of the family, the ones who stayed, were killed in the Holocaust.

  3. Jewels

    We are related!!!! My name is Mudd also. Also a multiple great uncle. Who woould have thunk it.My family thought he was not guilty and we were proud of our rascles. Often wanted to go to the Tortugas to see where he was imprisioned.Lots of literature out on the dude swinging both ways as to guilt. See ya cuz.

  4. Robin
    How terrible for your family. Have you ever tried to find surviving members who might have escaped?? How fortunate your mother made it out in time. The horrors of that time period boggle the mind.