“This is the story of a dog, a beautiful Irish Setter, which played a heroic part in one of the worst tragedies in the history of the Florida West Coast . . . . The dog was brought to Fort Brooke early in the winter of 1838-39 from New Orleans by an army officer. He was still a puppy when he arrived at the camp – a mischievous, frolicsome puppy which romped all through the garrison. All the officers and men liked him and saw to it that he had plenty of nourishing food. Perhaps because of that it grew with amazing rapidity and by late spring weighed more than 60 pounds. He had a friendly disposition and rarely got into fights with other dogs, but when he did he fought with vicious ferocity and soon became dog king of the fort.” (pg. 513)
The dog, named Romeo by a sutler (a civilian merchant who sells provisions to an army unit in the field) who spent the most time with him, became known as King Romeo, hero of the Caloosahatchee, after a massacre on July 22, 1839, that subsequently ended the truce with the Seminole Indians.
You can find this intriguing story, and many more, in Volume II of Pioneer Florida by D.B. McKay, a Tampa native who became the owner/publisher of the Tampa Tribune newspaper in 1900. He was elected Mayor of Tampa in 1910, serving in that position for 14 years, and was again elected Mayor in 1927. In 1949, he was appointed Hillsborough County Historian and began writing a column in the Sunday Tampa Tribune called “Pioneer Florida,” which he wrote until his death in 1960. His writings were collected into a three-volume set of books called Pioneer Florida.
This book (and its companion volumes) can be located in our online catalog at http://www.hcplc.org (or directly at http://bit.ly/1dk6E7D) or here in the Florida History and Genealogy Library (Fla 975.9).