Pirates of the Florida Straits

In the same year (1822) that Simonton purchased the island of Key West, Lieutenant Matthew C. Perry sailed here commanding the U.S. naval schooner Shark in order to raise the Stars and Stripes banner over the island proclaiming it, and the surrounding keys, as territory of the United States.  He named the island Thompson's Island, in honor of the Secretary of the Navy, but it failed to remain popular.

During this time, Commodore David Porter, also under orders of the United States Navy, pursued a horde of pirates throughout the Florida Straits.  They were known as the Brethren of The Coast.  He destroyed a majority of their ships.  However, a few managed to escape and found protection under the Spanish government by declining to attack Spanish sailing vessels.  Commodore Porter was so determined to completely eliminate their practices that he felt it necessary to send expeditions demanding the surrender of those who had escaped him.  This resulted in diplomatic protests by Spain, which led to a court marshal and temporary suspension of Porter.

Before losing his command, Commodore Porter had successfully rid the keys, together with the Cuban and Puerto Rican waters, of these seafaring buccaneers, and based his operations here.  He was the first to acknowledge the geographically strategic importance of Key West.


Conch Republic, Founded 1982