Key Biscayne Cont.

The island’s history would forever change when Indians attacked Major Francis Dade marching with 107 soldiers from Tampa Bay to Fort King, located near present day Ocala, on December 28, 1835. Three soldiers survived. The hostility provoked the Second Seminole War. When attacks moved south, William Cooley was fortunate to not be at his home on the banks of the New River (Fort Lauderdale) when Indians attacked circa January 5, 1836. His wife and children, however, were home and killed.

Cooley and others living along the New River and Miami River fled in boats to the Cape Florida Lighthouse. The group, including keeper Dubose, sailed first to Indian Key before sailing to Key West where they arrived January 16. Fearing for his safety, Dubose refused to return to his post and stayed at Key West with his family. Cooley, however, initially agreed to take the job, providing he was assigned an armed detail. The deal was agreed upon in principal, but never fully came to fruition and Dubose eventually agreed to return to his post. Dubose relit the lighthouse March 16.

Dubose had again returned to Key West to visit his family on July 23. The two men at the lighthouse that day were Irwin Thompson and Aaron Carter, a handyman. When Indians attacked with a hail of bullets, Thompson and Carter barely had time to escape to the relative safety of the tower and barricade the door behind them. The tower provided temporary relief. The Indians set fire to the wooden door which eventually burned through, setting the wooden staircase within aflame and engulfing the tower’s interior.

To escape the flames, Thompson and Carter sought refuge on an exterior stone platform.

Below, the Indians waited for the chance to aim their rifles and shoot at any exposed appendage.

Trapped and desperate, Thompson threw a keg of gunpowder down into the flaming tower and while the subsequent explosion helped to knock out most of the flames, it also cracked the tower’s walls.

Out on the platform, Carter attempted to peek over the edge and was shot in the head.

Thompson was shot through both ankles. While Carter’s wound proved fatal, Thompson suffered and bled, but was rescued by the crew of the transport vessel Motto the following day and recovered from his wounds in Key West.

In response to the attack, a fortification dubbed Fort Dallas was established near the ruins of the Cape Florida Lighthouse the same year. It would be the first of three locations dubbed Fort Dallas. After Key Biscayne, Fort Dallas moved to the mouth of the south bank of the Miami River. The fort would last settle on the river’s north bank.