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Florida's Byways and Ancestral Trails

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Tragedy and Treasure

In 1622, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha (“Atocha”) went down in a hurricane near the Marquesas Keys after leaving Cuba on its way to Spain. No one in the more than 300 years since the Atocha sank had been able to locate and recover the treasure, estimated in the 1970s at $140 million . . . no one, that is, until treasure hunter Mel Fisher decided to commit his life to the search.

You can go hunting for the Atocha with Mel and crew in the true-life salvage adventures told by Eugene Lyon in his books, “The Search for the Atocha” and “Search for the Mother Lode of the Atocha” (a later 1989 edition with color photographs, fold-out salvor charts, two new chapters, and 10 appendices).

Both volumes can be found in the Florida History and Genealogy Library or on our website at www.hcplc.org.

Atocha Atocha.2


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Did you know . . . ? Interesting trivia about Florida

Florida’s coldest day on record was February 13, 1899, in Tallahassee. How cold did it get?

Two degrees below zero.

What boom town was almost destroyed by a hurricane on September 18, 1926?


What park did President Harry Truman dedicate on December 6, 1947?

Everglades National Park.

How were Florida’s U.S. Senators chosen in the mid-1800s?

State legislators drew lots.

What legendary southern rock group started in Daytona Beach?

The Allman Brothers, born in Tennessee, moved to Daytona Beach as youngsters and got their start playing in local youth clubs.

How much of Florida is more than 60 miles from the nearest salt water?

None of it.

What city was once called “Hogtown?”

Gainesville, which was once a center for pork production. It was renamed for Seminole War General Edmund Gaines.

What bay did early explorers once call “Espiritu Santu” (Holy Spirit)?

Tampa Bay.

What have 1,200-1,800 ships done off the coast of Florida in the last 450 years?


What action taken by the Florida government on January 11, 1861, prompted former Governor Richard Keith Call to say, “You have opened the gates of hell”?


At the time of the Civil War, Florida had 60,000 of what?


What speed did a car travel for the first time ever on March 29, 1927, at Daytona Beach?

200 miles per hour.

Who was Old Joe, whose murder on August 1, 1966, in Wakulla Springs was never solved?

A 650-pound, 11’2” alligator. His stuffed body is on display in the Wakulla Springs Lodge.

How did Florida’s status change on March 3, 1845?

It became the 27th state.

You can find the source for all of this cool information in the following book found at the Florida History and Genealogy Library: or in our online catalog at www.hcplc.org.

Kleinberg, Eliot. Florida Fun Facts. 2nd ed. Sarasota: Pineapple Press, 2004. Print. R 975.9044 Kleinberg 2004

 Fun Facts Photo

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A Brief Look at Egmont Key, Florida

Egmont Key is a 1.7-mile-long island at the mouth of Tampa Bay, just southwest of Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County. Erosion over the centuries has shrunk the width of the key to about ½-mile. Once a strategic military site, playing major roles in the Seminole Wars, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I and II, Egmont Key has been a national wildlife refuge since 1974, providing safety for many endangered or threatened animals such as loggerhead sea turtles and ospreys. It is also a bird nest sanctuary, protecting about 117 species of shorebirds and their offspring.

The Egmont Key lighthouse, which has withstood hurricanes and human battles since 1858 and can be seen from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, is still a beacon for ships entering Tampa Bay today. At the southern end of the key is a haven for Tampa Bay pilots who are between assignments guiding massive ships through the narrow waterway under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and into Tampa Bay, but from the late 1800s to around World War II, it was home to the pilots who lived on the key with the lighthouse keepers and the soldiers.

In 1978, Egmont Key was named to the National Register of Historic Places. An assortment of buildings (some merely walls), artillery cannons, and red brick street remnants of the former U.S. Army Fort Dade Military Reservation built in 1898 (then called the United States Military Reservation at Egmont Key and renamed Fort Dade in 1900 after Major Francis Dade who, along with almost all the men under his command, died in a Seminole Indian massacre in 1835) can still be seen today by those who visit Egmont Key, which is accessible only by private boat or by ferry.

You can find this information, and more, in the Thompson book at the Florida History and Genealogy Library:

Thompson, Donald H., and Carol Thompson. Egmont Key: A History. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012. Print. R975.965 Thompson.

Interesting links that offer more details about Egmont Key:



 Egmont Key



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