How Casey Key got its name


DSC06025Casey Key, home to some of the most expensive houses in the region, is one of the few barrier islands on the Gulf Coast named for an actual person.

It is named after Capt. John Charles Casey, who was born in England in 1809, but his family emigrated to New Jersey when he was a child, according to a 1962 article in Florida Historical Quarterly by Fred W. Wallace. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy just before his 15th birthday and graduated 11th in the 1829 class of 46 cadets. No. 2 in that class was a Virginian named Robert E. Lee, who was two years older than Casey.

Casey served with the Second Regiment Artillery at Fort Brooke in Tampa in 1835 in time for the Second Seminole War; Florida would not become a state for another 10 years. Casey oversaw the transfer of Seminoles from Florida to the new Indian Territory, in what would become Oklahoma.

He became an officer in the Department of Commissary of Subsistence, which was in charge of keeping soldiers fed. An important role, as “an army moves on its stomach,” as Napoleon so famously said. But because of a lung illness he suffered while serving in the Mexican War (1846-48) under Major Gen. Zachary Taylor, later president, Casey requested a transfer back to Fort Brooke. It was one of the early cases to be made for West Central Florida’s “salubrious” — a word often used by 1920s developers — effect on health.

In 1849, besides running the commissary in Tampa, Casey was named commissioner for the Removal of the Seminole Indians from Florida. He was a friend of legendary Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs and was successful in that effort, which was centered around Little Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor and the Caloosahatchee River. He also served as agent for Indian Affairs in Florida, and is regarded with high honor by historians. He died in 1856 of tuberculosis.

Casey Key was known as Clam Island until the 1850s, when government maps showed Casey’s Pass and Casey’s Key. Some documents also refer to it as Treasure Island. Although the key has been served by a single-lane swing bridge since 1925, development of the island didn't take off until after World War II. In the past decade, mansions approaching 20,000 square feet have been built on the island. Famous property owners include comedian/actress Rosie O'Donnell and author Stephen King.

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: July 15, 2014
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