John C. Hoyt


From the beginning there was wide difference of opinion and sharp controversy in regard to wrecking, the principal occupation of the people of a town which for a time was the largest in Florida. The nature of the business (for it came to be an extensive and well-regulated business) and human nature rendered any agreement between owner and salvor difficult if not impossible; hence, after 1828, every case was automatically taken before the district court which was established at Key West in that year almost wholly for the adjudication of these admiralty cases, and owners and masters of the wrecking vessels were licensed by that court. The following account of the business at the middle of the last century is reprinted largely from a contemporaneous article on the subject appearing in Hunt’s Merchants’ Magazine. As that is one of a series on Commercial Cities of the United States, its author probably was on the staff of that periodical, so it is believed to be accurate and unbiassed; and internal evidence also indicates its trustworthiness.