I love the Florida Keys but haven't been there for several years now. What I love most are the islands that aren't over populated and simply tourist attractions. I stumbled upon No Name Key when trying to find the Key Deer. We never did find one but the reserve for them makes up the largest part of No Name. Yes, the name is No Name and has been in some of the earliest maps.
No Name is a unique Key because the residents did not have electric power until last year. At first the power company didn't want to run the cables, then the residents built up a self reliant lifestyle and enjoyed living off the grid. However, some of the residents decided solar wasn't enough and wanted air conditioning. A long legal battle ensued and after twenty years it was resolved and power lines were connected to the first house in 2013. You can read the details on the web.
The legal battle isn't what makes this island unique at least for the writing of this post. There are several little things. One of them being that it is made from oolitic limestone not Key Largo limestone. This is important because oolitic limestone is a natural filter for salt water to become fresh. So you will find little pools of fresh water on the island.
It's a relatively small island with 1,140 acres, about a mile wide and two miles long. Homesteading in the 1870's and on were some of the first inhabitants of the island. When we think homesteading many don't realize that Florida was a part of the Homesteading experience but rather we think of going west.
Back when Flagler was building his railroad to connect the keys to Miami a ferry landing was put in and was used until the highway went in. There's a great clip from a 1935 advertisement of how people actually traveled down to the Keys in the early days. If you watch you'll see how Key West used to look before it was built up. 1935 Ad You'll want to stop at a minute and a half since the ad goes on about other Chevrolet News.
As I mentioned earlier No Name Key is mostly a Preserve for the Key Deer. The key deer is smaller than a regular deer and they were nearly drove to extinction. Today they are coming back and still endangered but not nearly as much as before. National Key Deer Refuge Headquarters is on Big Pine Key but the preserve is on No Name Key. You can find videos of these deer coming right up to the tourists hands and licking them. You are not allowed to feed the deer.
As with any local history there is always a character or two and No Name is no exception. Nicolas Mateovitch, an old Russian settler who homesteaded 160 acres of land on the Key in 1868 was such a character. He was Russian who came by way of Cuba. If you're interested in learning more about Nicolas, I'd encourage you to.
One of the items that Nicholas planted (I don't know if they were native to No Name or not) was Sapodilla. It is said this fruit is very sweet and tastes a bit like brown sugar when ripe, so I have read.
Lynn A. Coleman is an award winning & best-selling author who makes her home in Keystone Heights, Florida, with her husband of 40 years. Lynn's newest novel "Winning the Captain's Heart" released the first of this month. It is the first in her Historical St. Augustine, FL. series.
Check out her 19th Century Historical Tidbits Blog if you like exploring different tidbits of history.