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The Notorious Wrecker
John Jacob Housman

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The problem with Housman is that he is one of the men directly responsible for giving wreckers a bad name. History proves that most wreckers operating along the Florida Reef were conscientious workers intent to risk their lives for profit. However, in just the same way not every used car salesman is a Slippery Sam and not every lawyer a crook, there are always bad apples. Housman was a bad apple.

Housman was the kind of guy to lend all the credit needed (and then some) at his general store and once over-extended, be happy to take possession of personal property like a house to satisfy the debt. It was one of the ways he obtained such a stronghold over the Indian Key community. However, he was also the kind of guy who would apply credits toward a debt should intelligence of a wrecked ship be secreted to him.

An 1833 visitor to Indian Key was quoted in the Charleston Mercury as reporting, “There are many poor persons, and some of them not noted for honesty, settled on the Florida Keys, who are compelled to deal with this man. He, by allowing them credit and indulgence in his store, gains an ascendency which he turns to some account. These people are his agents, or spies… when occasion requires they are brought in as “disinterested” witnesses to prove a meritorious claim for salvage.”

Follow the links below to read stories about Housman’s wrecking history.

Bad Wrecker 1

Bad Wrecker 2

Bad Wrecker 3

Bad Wrecker 4