Monroe: A Unique History


Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered the Keys in 1513 during his search for the "Fountain of Youth." During the next three centuries, Spain & Great Britain claimed Florida as a territory. 

In 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States in accordance with the Adams-Onis Treaty. A year later, a small naval depot was created in Key West to help rid the area of pirates that were terrorizing the sea trade route. 

Next, in 1823, the Territorial Legislature established Monroe County as the sixth county in Florida territory. It was named for the fifth President of the United states, James Monroe, who served from 1817 to 1825. 

Key West became the County seat in 1828, when the population was less than 600 people and the main industries were salvaging shipwrecks on the coral reef and fishing. In 1845, Florida was granted statehood. 


The Keys were perpetually changed with Henry Flagler's decision to build a railroad from Miami to Key West at the turn of the 20th century. His first train rolled into Key West in 1912. The railway was destroyed in the Category 5 Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, but the federal government rebuilt the rail lines as an automobile highway, helping tourism evolve into the major industry it is today. 

The County's boundaries originally were the entire southern portion of Florida. Over the years, Dade, Broward, Collier, Lee Henry and parts of Charlotte, Glades and Palm Beach all formed within Monroe County. 

All information from: Monroe County State of the County 2017-2018;