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Books on Cedar Key: 
Shadow Over Cedar Key: A Brandy O'Bannon Mystery
The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance
The New History of Florida
Florida: A Short History

Pre 1865

Cedar Key is located on Way Key just south of the mouth of the Suwannee River.  Prior to 1896 the city of Cedar Key was located on Asenta Otie Island.  Asenta Otie was used by the Spanish as as a way station for treasure galleons on the way back from Mexico to Spain.  Ships would pick up water and drop ballast in the harbor before circling the tip of Florida on their return trips with gold from Mexico.  Pirates used the area to raid shipping.  In the late 19th century a treasure chest was recovered from the area around Fowler's Bluff on the Suwannee.  Rumor and tales relate that Baird Hardware in Gainesville, FL was started with part of this discovery.

During the Second Seminole War Cantonment Morgan, a U.S. government military hospital and internment camp for Indians, was located on Seahorse Key nearby.  From this point Indians were shipped west to reservations.  In 1851, by order of the President, Seahorse Key was reserved as a lighthouse site.  On August 1, 1854 the light was first lit to guide shipping in and out of Cedar Key. 

The first census of Florida as an American Territory was taken in 1830.  Among the first settlers listed was David Yulee Levy.  David Levy was born in 1810 on the Virgin Island of St. Thomas (then a Danish possession).  On May 26, 1845 two months after Florida became a state, voters elected David Levy to be Florida's first elected member of Congress. Levy County, and its first county seat, Levyville were named for him during this same year.  Also during 1845 the Florida Legislature authorized Levy to change his last name to Yulee.  Two bill were introduced in the legislature to change the name of Levy County, but died on the floor of the House.  Except for a matter of timing, our county would have been named Yulee County.  Levyville was first named Sodom, then Mount Pleasant, but at a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners in January 1856, it was ordered to be named Levyville.

David Yulee was instrumental in the building of the first railroad in Florida.  His dream of a trans-Florida railroad began as early as 1835, and development began in about 1844 and was completed on March 1, 1861.  The Florida Railroad Company built a 155 mile line that ran from Fernandina Beach on the Atlantic to Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico.

During the Civil War Cedar Key was occupied by Federal forces on January 15, 1862.  In March of that same year Federal forces took Fernandina.  The railroad was basically closed down for the duration of the war.  Rails were stripped north of Balwin to be used on another line.  Seahorse Key was used to house prisoners.  Skirmishes were fought between Federal and Confederate forces at Number Four Bridge on the outskirts of Cedar Key.  Federal forces would also make frequent raids up the railroad and Suwannee River to confiscate cotton and cattle. 

In the final days of the Civil War what was left of the Confederate treasury was brought by train to David Yulee's plantation (Cottonwood) near Archer.   When Federal troops caught up with the train it was found empty.  Rumors and tales of the treasury's disappearance abound in the area.


Yulee was not able to reestablish his railroad following the Civil War and the line was merged and consolidated with other lines until it became part of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad.  The line ran diagonally from southwest on the Gulf from Cedar Key through Lukens (located at Number Four Bridge outside of Cedar Key), Sumner, Rosewood, Wylly, Dutton's Spur, Ellzey, Otter Creek, Lennon, Otella, Bronson, Merediths, Albion, and Camp Spur located in the northeast quadrant of Levy County.  From there it ran to Archer in Alachua County.   Each year in June the town of Archer in Alachua Country holds a Yulee Day festival.  

Cedar Key was one of the primary population centers during the frontier days of Florida.  Produce was shipped down the Mississippi River and then carried across the Gulf of Mexico to Cedar Key.  Here the produce was off loaded to boxcars and transported across the state to Fernandina Beach and then north to population centers in the Northeastern United States.  This avoided the dangerous trip around the tip of Florida during hurricane season.

Cedar Key again became a shipping point for produce, cedar, and seafood.  Its population grew to around 10,000 people.  Faber and Eagle Pencil Companies  operated factories on Asenta Otie and Way Keys.  The vast stands of cedar that covered the islands and the nearby coast supplied the companies with the raw materials needed to produce quality pencils for the world .  Cedar Key was became one of the major source of pencil cedar for the world at that time.

In 1880 Henry Plant organized the Plant Investment Company and purchased the Florida Transit & Peninsular Railroad, one of the railroad lines which had absorbed the Yulee's original line.  Cedar Key was a major population center at the time, had a deepwater port, and shipped oysters throughout the Southeastern United States.  Steamships plied the waters between New Orleans, Havana, and Cedar Key .  The Suwannee River's mouth was located just to the north.  The river was navigable for quite a distance inland.  Plant discovered that he had purchased all the rail line except the railhead at Cedar Key.  When the owners refused to sell, he abandoned his plans and instead moved  his railhead to the small village of Tampa located approximately 100 miles to the south of Cedar Key. 

On September 23rd, 1896 a hurricane wiped out the town of Cedar Key.  All that remains on its original site on Asenta Otie Island is a graveyard. Buildings were floated by barge across the channel separating Asentie Otie and Way Key and the town was reestablished.  Sadly to say Faber and the Eagle Pencil Company moved elsewhere, leaving the forests depleted.  Though still shipping seafood over the railroad, the economy of Cedar Key declined.  its population moved elsewhere and Cedar Key became a small fishing village.


Cedar Key School started as a private school in the 19th century.  It was run by Amelia and Eliza Hearn. In their will the school site was given to Levy County with the stipulation that their grave site locate within the school property would be maintained.  The grave site is directly behind the current gym.

The original two story high school building built in 1932 was destroyed by fire on December 21, 1943.  It was replaced by a concrete one story structure that served high school students until February 25, 2002.

With the Net Ban voted by Florida voters in the 1990's the fishing industry declined.  Commercial clamming has become the primary industry for the community.  Retirees and artist from throughout the United States have settled in Cedar key.  The community is growing, but remains a delight for those who discover its wonders./font>

Resource: Cedar Key High School web site, http://www.levy.k12.fl.us/cks/

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