In 1831, Jacob Housman bought Indian Key and set out to build his own wrecking empire to compete with the monopoly in Key West. At this time, wrecking or salvaging cargo from shipwrecks was both legal and extremely lucrative. Housman's empire included a store, hotel, dwellings, cisterns, warehouses and wharves. Known for his shady business practices, he constantly feuded with other salvagers.
In 1836, in an effort to become independent from Key West, Housman had the Legislative Council establish Indian Key as the first county seat for Dade County. Unfortunately, Housman's fortunes began to decline and he lost numerous court battles and finally his wrecker's license.
In December of 1838, Dr. Henry Perrine moved to Indian Key with his family to await the end of the war. Perrine wanted to use a government grant to cultivate useful tropical plants on the mainland.
In 1840, Indians attacked the island, known for its well-stocked store. Except for one building, all the structures on Indian Key were destroyed. Dr. Perrine was killed but many inhabitants, including Housman, managed to escape.
Today, only stone foundations remain.