BIG PINE KEY History

By Jerry Wilkinson
Edited
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History Page 2   History Page 3 

   oolitic-rockBig Pine Key, or Big Pine for short, is slightly different from the Middle and Upper Keys. First it is oolitic limestone and not Key Largo Limestone. Fresh water can be found in oolitic formations but rarely in Key Largo Limestone. Its namesake the pine tree is rare in the Middle or Upper Keys. It is generally thought to be fairly large having about 5,855 acres, but small compared to Key Largo with 22,000 acres. Historically, some permanent settling caught on in the Middle and Upper Keys in the middle 1800s, but little in Big Pine. Therefore, after World War II, when settling in all the Florida Keys became an interest to outsiders, Big Pine had plenty of space, but no public electricity or water. Bradley Real Estate was the only real estate broker between the Middle Keys and Key West. It is also home of the Key deer. So with this in mind we move back in time. 

   For this history I have used the 1870 census for my general reference. In 1870, the census enumerator only listed one family on Big Pine. There were however more on Big Pine’s neighbor – No Name Key. It lists 44 inhabitants which was a large settlement for a Key of its size. Here is an excerpt from the 1870 census: 

Name Key Age Sex Job Prop. Value

Birth
Place

Wilson, George Big Pine 30 M Charcoal Burner New York
Thrift, William No Name 24 M Farmer $200 Bahamas
Thrift, Joseph No Name 60 M Farmer $250 Bahamas
Thrift, Hannah No Name 60 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Carey, William No Name 27 M Farmer $200 Bahamas
Carey, Hannah No Name 21 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Carey, Mary No Name 2 F     Florida
Knowles, Thomas No Name 44 M Farmer $300 Bahamas
Sands, John No Name 39 M Seaman $200 Bahamas
Sands, Amelia No Name 30 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Sands, Amelia No Name 1 F     Florida
Lowe, Joseph No Name 60 M Farmer $250 Bahamas
Knowles, William No Name 23 M Farmer $300 Bahamas
Knowles, Susannah No Name 20 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Matcovitch, Nichols No Name 45 M Farmer $1,000 Louisiana
Matcovitch, Eliza No Name 35 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Matcovitch, George No Name 1 M     Florida
Knowles, Alexander No Name 29 M Seaman $200 Bahamas
Knowles, Mary No Name 18 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Cates, William No Name 25 M Seaman $200 Bahamas
Cates, Margaret No Name 26 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Thompson, Joseph  No Name 79 M Farmer $300 Bahamas
Thompson, John No Name 34 M Farmer   Bahamas
Knowles, David No Name 14 M     Bahamas
Sands, John No Name 27 M Farmer $250 Bahamas
Sands, Susan No Name 50 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Sands, John No Name 21 M Seaman   Bahamas
Sands, Susan No Name 9 F     Bahamas
Carey, Benjamin No Name 28 M Farmer $275 Bahamas
Carey, Susan No Name 25 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Carey, Margaret No Name 5 F     Bahamas
Carey, Emma No Name 1 F     Florida
Cates, John  No Name 34 M Seaman $200 Bahamas
Cates, Isabella No Name 27 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Cates, Catherine No Name 6 F     Florida
Cates, Mary No Name 1 F     Florida
Carey, John No Name 50 M Seaman $225 Bahamas
Carey, Sarah Ann No Name 40 F     Bahamas
Carey, Harriet No Name 13 F     Florida
Carey, Sarah No Name 4 F     Florida
Knowles, James No Name 35 M Farmer   Bahamas
Knowles, Frances No Name 35 F Keeping House   Bahamas
Knowles, Mary No Name 12 F     Bahamas
Knowles, James No Name 7 M     Florida
Knowles, Louisa No Name 3 F     Florida
Knowles, Margaret No Name 2/12 F Born in April   Florida        
Of those listed above William Cates homesteaded 115.4 acres in 1883. Other homesteaders with the same surname were Sands (William Henry, 1905) and Knowles (Henry {1901} and John T. {1911}) State records show there were 19 homesteaders. The first patented land deed was issued to William F. Wood on January 25, 1882. As with much of the Keys, the late official land surveying made homesteading and patenting of land title impossible. Charles F. Smith surveyed Big Pine Key for the state of Florida on March 21, 1873. 

William Sands was a Bahamian shipbuilder and captain. He had his own sawmill and used local pine for parts of his boats.

History of Big Pine Key 

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History Page 2   History Page 3