HISTORY OF THE KEYS: DETAILS OF THE LIST OF NEW SECRETS OF BLACK CAESAR

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A story republished in “The Jackson Standard” on April 22, 1858 is one of the oldest on record that deals with a pirate named Black Caesar, who ruled the Florida Reef from a lair in Elliott Key. The tale appeared in the story, “Jack Weatherwax: The Wrecker of Caesar’s Creek, A Tale Of The Florida Reef in the Olden Time.” The signing was Ned Buntline.

Buntline was a popular storyteller, one of the most popular of the 19e century. He was also one of the most successful commercial writers of his time. A contemporary of Samuel Clemens, more easily recognized by his pseudonym, Mark Twain, Buntline was a prolific writer who wrote as many as 400 penny novels. The dime novels were inexpensive melodramatic adventures published in paperback between the 1850s and 1920s.

Like the name Mark Twain, Ned Buntline was a pen name. On March 20, 1821, in the small New York village of Stamford, he was born Edward Zane Carroll Judson. As a child, he aspired to experience adventure or, at the very least, to write about it. As a teenager he escaped and joined the US Navy and served during the Second Escalation of the Seminole War (1835-1842). For a time he served as a midshipman aboard the Ostego. The Ostego was patrolling the Florida Keys and was in the area when the Indians attacked Indian Key on August 7, 1840. It turned out to be the most southerly attack of the Seminole War.

Judson resigned from the military in 1842. He would continue his career as a writer and editor. While Judson is best known for writing under the name Ned Buntline, and Buntline is perhaps best known for publishing the Wild West antics that made William “Buffalo Bill” Cody famous around the world, he also writes a bit about pirates, Indian Key and the Florida Keys.

In 1847, Buntline wrote two pirate novels. The first one was “The black avenger of the Spanish principal: Or, the demon of the blood”. The story had a Black Caesaresque theme and was about a servant who ran away with his master’s daughter and turned to a life of piracy. The second was “The Red Revenger: Or, the Pirate King of Florida”. In the introduction to Buntline he writes: “Off Matecumba Island, perhaps a mile from the reef, lay a bogged down ship, which in its appearance was so strange that we have to describe it.

Buntline’s story, “Jack Weatherwax: The Wrecker of Caesar’s Creek, A Tale Of The Florida Reef in the Olden Times,” includes a story about Black Caesar. While the story tells the tragic tale of the Weatherwax convenience store, Buntline also explained why the creek that flows between the Old Rhodes Keys and Elliott was named: “… Black Caesar’s Creek because it was once the hiding place and the rendezvous of a famous pirate known as Black Caesar. , which was destroyed, and his band dispersed by Commodore Porter’s expedition in 1822 or 3 — perhaps by the same gallant “Old Plug” I mentioned in The Mercury not long ago. . It is a dark, winding waterway, leading into the inner bay, shaded by shelters on either side by tall mangroves, and offered an excellent hiding place for pirates, who suddenly rushed to the merchant ships as they ascended or descended. the Gulf Stream. Ah, if all the accounts of the acts committed by those who once hid there were written, what a gripping book of horrors it would make! The soul shudders at the thought of the murderous acts committed by the black-hearted pirates, whose motto was – – “Dead men tell no stories” and which spared only young and beautiful young girls, who fell between their hands, for sufferings worse than a thousand times death!

According to Buntline, Black Caesar’s Creek was named after his version of Black Caesar. He would certainly have heard of the cove while serving on the Ostego. As a serviceman, he would have heard the stories of Commodore Porter and how his squadron fundamentally cleared the West Indies of much of the piracy threat that faced merchant ships.

However, Buntline’s account of Black Caesar and how Black Caesar’s Creek was named is not supported by authorities records that he claims to have shot the suspected pirate down. Additionally, by the time Buntline says Porter took care of the pirate, the creek had already been given its particular name. Bernard Romans named the creek in his “Maps of East and West Florida,” published in 1775.

Although Buntline didn’t fully understand the local history, he did a great job as a professional thread spinner.


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