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1977: Indians settled islands off Dunedin first

Published May 13, 2007


MAY 8, 1977

DUNEDIN - About 7 miles south of the Anclote Keys lie Honeymoon and Caladesi islands.

The two were joined as a single island until a 1921 hurricane carved out a new pass, producing two islands.

But the islands' record of human habitation goes back even farther, to early Indian settlements.

In the 1750s, the ancestors of the Seminole Indians began moving from Georgia and Alabama to Florida. One group of Mikasuki Seminoles pushed down the west coast of our state, where they joined forces with Spanish fishermen in the Tampa Bay area and farther south. The Mikasukis eventually became known as Spanish Indians.

And the Indians were still there in 1839, toward the latter part of the Second Seminole War, a war that was unpopular from the start. Many felt the United States was throwing its full military might against simple people who wanted to be left alone.

The Seminoles were barely hanging on when a strange tribe of Indians from somewhere in the mangrove swamps of Florida joined them. Led by a giant man named Chakaika, they launched a devastating attack against Col. W.S. Harney's troops near present-day North Fort Myers. The warriors killed 13 troopers, scalped them and vanished back into the swamps.

Harney killed Chakaika, and most of the remaining Spanish Indians joined Aripeka's Mikasuki Seminoles in the Everglades.

But a few Spanish Indians reappeared on the Gulf Coast after the Third Seminole War.

During the cooler months, the Seminoles worked at fishing ranchos on the Gulf Coast and islands, taking their catch to Havana, where they also sold honey, plumes, hides, tame squirrels and songbirds to be used as pets. In warmer months, they raised crops. They were living in palm-thatched huts on this coast as late as 1900.

AUG. 12, 2004

Storm's lore survives for eight decades

DUNEDIN - It's been more than eight decades since Pinellas County took a direct hit from a hurricane.

Long enough for Louise Beckton Saunders of Dunedin to perfect a storm survival plan, honed by a dozen or so near-misses since the 1921 category 3 storm tore through Tampa Bay.

This steely great-grandmother has distinct memories from that Tuesday night. With fierce gales and rain shooting down, she was whisked out of her family's Palm Harbor farmhouse to ride out the storm in the feed room of their barn. Little Louise wore a red fuzzy coat. She was 6.

Her father feared their home, on a sprawling tract of land that is now a neighborhood called Patty Ann Acres, could fall off the supports that kept it a few feet above the earth. In the barn, at least, they were on solid ground.

A few miles away in Clearwater, winds ripped up the Gulf Coast at 100 mph and 10-foot tides surged to shore. The hurricane, which originated in the western Caribbean, touched down in Tarpon Springs on Oct. 26, 1921.

Throughout Pinellas, six died. Beach town bridges were knocked down and a high school roof blew off. The hurricane cut an island north of Clearwater Beach in two, splitting it into Honeymoon and Caladesi islands. Damage was estimated at $3-million. In today's dollars, that figure would exceed $30-million.

The hurricane of 1921 wasn't considered a major one, and was trumped by other storms that were stronger and caused more damage but weren't 'canes. But even today, old-timers in North Pinellas still talk about the storm that became local lore when the well- known Garrison family lost three children that night.

Fisherman Al Garrison and his wife, Estelle, lived on Hog Island, which is now called Honeymoon Island. In the midst of the storm they were running to higher land with their three young children in their arms. Estelle took a hit from a tree, fell and lost grip of her child. Her husband let go of the two children in his arms to help her, Saunders recalled, and the children were gone.

After the storm cleared Sutherland, an area now known as Palm Harbor, residents combed the area for the children, who had drowned and were not found for three days. Saunders remembers their funeral.

Nowadays, Saunders hardly flinches when someone cries "hurricane." After nearly nine decades, she doesn't need to make any special preparations. She's stocked up on canned meat and the ingredients for a good PB&J sandwich.

The only thing that really makes her uneasy is the thought of a big oak tree falling on the house she's lived in for 63 years. If the electricity goes out, it could get a little annoying, but Saunders knows that her two oil lamps will provide enough light so she can keep on knitting Christmas stockings and pink baby tunics.

In the 1920s, a storm would roll in with no warning, unless maybe it hit Miami first and made the newspapers up here. Now it's so different. Amazing, she says.

"I guess it puts more scare into people because then you didn't know to be scared till it hit, " said Saunders, 89.

MARCH 19, 1954

Landowners envision Caladesi resort

Steps were taken this week to form a corporation of mainly Caladesi Island landowners. The corporation will attempt to obtain private financing for a $1.5-million causeway between this city and the island and eventually develop it as a resort, Mayor Sam E. Davis said yesterday.

North Pinellas History is compiled by Clearwater Times staff writer Theresa Blackwell. She can be reached at or 727 445-4170.

Looking back

Headlines through the years

A look back at the events, people and places that made North Pinellas the unique place that it is. The information is compiled from past editions of the St. Petersburg Times.

[Last modified May 12, 2007, 19:55:15]

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