The name "Florida" actually comes from the Spanish word "florido," which means "full of flowers."
Monroe County, Florida, located in the southernmost part of the state, has a rich and diverse history. The area that is now Monroe County was initially inhabited by the indigenous Calusa tribe, known for their seafaring skills and trading network. European explorers, such as Ponce de Leon and Juan Ponce de León, arrived in the 16th century, but it wasn't until the 19th century that Monroe County began to take shape.

In the early 1800s, Monroe County became part of the newly formed Florida Territory. Key West, the county seat, quickly developed into a vibrant port city due to its strategic location. It became known for its sailors, shipwreck salvagers, and trading activity. During this time, wrecking became a major industry as many ships ran aground on the treacherous reefs surrounding the Keys.

The county's history is also intertwined with the era of American expansionism. In the 1820s, the US government established Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West to control piracy along the coast. It played a role in the Mexican-American War and served as a base during the Civil War.

The early 20th century brought significant changes to Monroe County with the completion of the Overseas Railway, connecting Key West to mainland Florida. This railway transformed the Keys into a popular tourist destination. However, a devastating hurricane in 1935 destroyed much of the railway and led to the construction of the Overseas Highway. This highway replaced the railway and became a lifeline for the county, allowing for increased development and tourism.

Today, Monroe County remains a popular tourist destination due to its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant culture. It continues to be a major center for fishing, boating, and diving. The county's history, shaped by its indigenous roots, maritime activities, and unique geographical location, continues to be celebrated and preserved.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Monroe County, Florida.

  • 1823 - Monroe County is established as one of the original counties in Florida.
  • 1830 - The first permanent settlement, known as Indian Key, is established.
  • 1836 - The Second Seminole War begins, leading to the abandonment of Indian Key.
  • 1870 - Key West becomes the county seat and experiences economic growth as a major port.
  • 1912 - The Overseas Railway connects Key West to mainland Florida, boosting tourism and trade.
  • 1935 - The Labor Day Hurricane devastates the Florida Keys, causing massive destruction and loss of life.
  • 1942-1945 - The Florida Keys become an active military zone during World War II.
  • 1982 - The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is established to protect the region's coral reefs.
  • 1998 - Hurricane Georges causes significant damage to Monroe County and the Florida Keys.
  • 2017 - Hurricane Irma makes landfall in the Florida Keys, causing widespread destruction and devastation.