In Uncategorized

June 26, 2019 – (Key West, FL).   Avast ye! Registration for Key West Art & Historical Society’s Pirate ArtCamp! is under way

Shiver me timbers! Key West Art & Historical Society’s ArtCamp!, a summer program with weekly-themed activities for children aged 6-12, continues at Fort East Martello with Pirate Camp (July 8-12), where campers will batten down the hatches for a full week of pirate revival.  Led by counselors “Deadeye” Rick Wheelus, Kevin Lisinski, Crystal Smith, and Daisy Connolly, children will make personalized pirate flags and pirate pouches to collect treasure on a nature walk, learn authentic pirate knots and lashings, participate in a treasure hunt with puzzles and riddles and compete in a day-long water battle for “the booty.”

While official documentation of pirates in the Florida Keys is a lot like buried treasure (lore-driven and hard to find), pirates probably patrolled the Florida Reef from the Golden Age of Piracy until the early years of the 1800s, preying on ships floundering on the reef, says Brad Bertelli, curator of Keys History & Discovery Center. Even still, we’ve plundered five pirate legends that will ready your camper and make them Yo ho ho for a bottle of fun!

  1. There’s treasure in them thar …sand ridges?! For the most part, pirates did not bury their treasure, preferring instead to spend and enjoy their divided loot.  That said, buried treasure in the form of 74 pieces of eight dating from 1732 and 33 were scattered over a 10 x 15 square foot area and recovered by a bulldozer operator on a sandy ridge of the Florida Keys—Plantation Key to be exact.

“Whether or not they were buried by pirates is another story,” says Bertelli. “The theory is that the coins were contraband smuggled aboard one of the 1733 wrecks. The sailor tried to swim for shore but drowned in the process. After his body washed on shore, it became covered over time. Adding credence to the story is the fact that a small portion of a human skull was found on the beach.”

  1. Pretty literal.  “Pirate,” from the Latin term “pirate,” meaning sailor or sea robber, and also from the Greek term “peirates,” meaning “one who attacks ships.”
  2. Pirate Black Caesar, former resident of Elliott Key. Lore tells us of an African chief born in the 1600s who became wealthy and powerful by providing slaves to traders but was captured when enticed aboard a Spanish ship to obtain treasures “too heavy and numerous to bring to shore.” One of only two survivors from the ship after a hurricane blew over the Upper Keys, Caesar adopted his pirate ways and established a successful pirate community on Elliott Key. But not before killing the friend who saved him in order to steal his woman.
  1. 17thcentury workman’s comp, pirate-style. According to the Pirate’s Articles of Agreement as detailed in John Esquemeling’s 17th century chronicle, The Buccaneers of America, the loss of any limb during a voyage had restitution. For example, a right arm garnered six hundred pieces of eight, or six slaves; for the loss of a left arm five hundred pieces of eight, or five slaves. Clearly, lefties were not considered in this factoring.
  1. What do some pirates, Ernest Hemingway, & Jimmy Buffet have in common? They “hung” out at Captain Tony’s, the island’s oldest bar that was also once a morgue and ice house and is known for the infamous gallows Hanging Tree growing through its roof, where 17 pirates allegedly met their death.

ArtCamp! runs from 9:00AM to 4:00PM, Monday – Friday and is $200 per session for Society members, $225 for nonmembers. Included are all supplies and light snacks. Detailed descriptions of the ArtCamp! sessions along with registration information can be found at or call Kim Livingston at 305-295-6616, extension 106. Registration fills quickly.  Sign up now to secure your child’s spot! Your museums.  Your community.  It takes an island. 


Kids aged 6-12 can venture into a week of adventure during Key West Art & Historical Society’s enormously popular Pirate Camp, led by period reenactors “Deadeye” Rick Wheelus and Kevin Lisinski and camp counselors Crystal Smith and Daisy Connolly at Fort East Martello, July 8-12.