John Jacob Housman’s character was complex and colorful. He was an energetic entrepreneur, a shrewd businessman, a daring adventurer, a visionary developer, and it was all wrapped around the soul of a pirate. And in 1830, he found the perfect place to use these traits to his best advantage—Indian Key, a remote, tropical island in the Florida Keys, close to shipping lanes but well away from too much scrutiny by authorities. “He was clearly a man with vision who was unafraid of going against the status quo,” said Brad Bertelli, an author and historian who is curator of the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center in Islamorada, Florida.


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