Original Owners of the Island

The Spanish Governor of Florida gave the island of Key West to a young officer named Juan Pablo Salas, his secretary, in the year 1815.  Fortunately for the United States, neither the Spanish Government or Juan P. Salas recognized the island as a strategic base for naval operations or trade at this time.  Salas did not, in fact, even visit the island though he held possession of it for seven years.

Soon after Florida was ceded to the United States by Spain, John W. Simonton met with Salas in a Havana cafe where the Mobile, Alabama, merchant bought the island for the sum of $2,000 in 1822.  Prior to this, Salas had made an agreement of sale with John B. Strong of Charleston, South Carolina, who then sold portions of the island to John Geddes and George Murray.

Despite the complexity of who actually owned what, complications did not arise until the day the U.S. schooner Revenge commanded by Captain Hammersley, was sent by Geddes to take possession of the island.

A lawsuit quickly developed over the situation, ending in a settlement in favor of J. W. Simonton.  Salas presented John Geddes with a schooner and several acres of land in East Florida to compensate him for his losses.

Simonton's title was confirmed by congress in 1828.  He finally sold three quarters of the island to John Whitehead who arrived in Key West after being shipwrecked in the Bahamas.  John Flemming and Pardon C. Green also bought shares of the island.  All three of these early entrepreneurs are responsible for substantiating business here.


Conch Republic, Founded 1982