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Florida's Byways and Ancestral Trails


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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:

http://www.floridastateparks.org/egmontkey/

http://www.fws.gov/egmontkey/

 Egmont Key

 


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Letters from the frontier of Florida 1822 – 1830

These are excerpts from the book “Letters from the Frontiers: Written during a Period of Thirty Years’ Service in the Army of the United States” by Major General George A. McCall from 1822-1853.

Letter to a loved one

Pensacola, February 26, 1823

Dear H———: Some few days ago, orders came from under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Geo. M. Brooke, to proceed to Tampa Bay, and establish a Military Post, within the territory of the Seminole Indians, at some point on the navigable waters of the Bay. Transports have been ordered to be sent from New Orleans; and it is understood that a brig and a topsail schooner will be at Pensacola immediately, to take the troops on board. I have only just now been notified that the company to which I belong is one of those selected for this service. Little time have I to take leave of friends, and pack up for the voyage.

Journal entry

March 5, 1823

We are encamped on rising ground, where the river comes into the bay at right angles with the shore. All hands on fatigue-duty, clearing the ground in our rear of dense undergrowth, but leaving all trees (they are magnificent live-oaks) untouched. The work progresses finely, the men working with a will.

Letter to his father

March 28, 1823

I believe I mentioned that Colonel Gadsden begged leave to name this embryo station “Fort Brooke,” in honor of our commanding officer; and the latter returned the compliment by naming the point of land which separates the two bays, and where the Engineer’s letter was found, “Gadsden’s Point.”

Letter to his father

May 1, 1836

When the Major arrived opposite to where Micanopy had taken his stand, the chief raised his rifle, took deliberate aim at him and fired. Dade fell dead from his horse, shot probably through the heart, as I should judge from the bullet-hole in his side, which I saw when General Gaines and his little band reached the battle-ground about two months afterwards.

This book can be found in the Florida History and Genealogy Library (SpC 975.904 M122L 1975) or in our online catalog at www.hcplc.org.

Search our Burgert Brothers collection for more early Florida photographs.

Frontier                         

 


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Burgert Brothers Highlight: National Vinyl Record Day — August 12

What musical artists have you seen perform in Tampa, maybe Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, or Ella Fitzgerald?

Molly Ferrara at Columbia Music and Appliance Company in 1957, 1416 East Broadway in Tampa, Florida.  Courtesy of Burgert Brothers: PA 7482, Negative No. 75678-3.

Search the Burgert Collection here: http://bit.ly/1gErh2M

Vinyl Record

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