"" Writer's Wanderings: Vaca Key or Key Vaca?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Vaca Key or Key Vaca?

While reading The Florida Keys, A History Of The Pioneers, I keep coming across the mention of Key Vaca. Going through my memory of the keys between Key Largo and Key West, I could not recall an island by that name. I figured it was one of the really small ones that are rarely mentioned. When it finally got the better of me, I looked it up.

Amazingly we've been there--or through there, several times. It is located between Duck Key and Marathon and is actually a part of the city of Marathon which sits on Key Vaca according to some of the information I read. On the Google Map, to the north of it is a Dolphin Research Center and to the south, the Marathon Aquarium Encounter.

The name of the key dates back to the 1500s when it was first mentioned on a Spanish map. The Spaniards named it Key Vaca. Vaca meant "cow" and the speculation is that it was named so for the manatees in the area which are called "sea cows".

Along with Key West and Indian Key it was one of the first settlements and catered as did the others to the wreckers (salvaging companies) who needed supplies and a safe harbor for ships.

When Flagler's railroad was built connecting the mainland to Key West, Marathon grew with the many workers who settled there as the building took place. Later it would become a center for fishing and tourism when the hurricane destroyed the railway and a road was built instead.

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