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The Cedar Keys Hurricane of 1896

| September 28, 2007 @ 9:06 pm | 8 Replies

The Cedar Keys is a group of islands off the Florida Big Bend. An Army depot was established in 1836 on Depot Key, also known as Atsena Otie Key. It was abandoned after a devastating hurricane in 1842. The area began to develop commercially after that.

Cedar Key became an important seaport for cotton, sugar, tobacco and lumber coming down the Suwanee River into the Gulf. The Eberhard Faber pencil mill was established on Atsena Otie. Eagle Pencil also had a mill on Way Key. A railroad was established between Fernandina and Cedar Key, increasing the seaport’s value.

Then the Civil War left the Keys in ruins, but within a few years, an economic boom was underway. The town of Cedar Key was incorporated on the old Way Key. The boom would be short-lived. The city of Tampa was pulling shipping activity away from the Keys.

The big blow was a major hurricane that struck the Cedar Keys on the morning of September 29, 1896. It brought a ten foot storm surge to the low lying areas. Headlines screamed, “Cedar Key Crushed,” and “Town Almost Wiped Out.” The hurricane devastated the Eberhard Faber and Eagle mills. The mills were not rebuilt after the hurricane.

The town of Atsena Otie was so badly damaged that it was not rebuilt. But in actuality, even without the devastating effects of the hurricane, the timber industry on Cedar Key was in big trouble. Without any thought to conservation or replanting, the valuable cedar resource was being rapidly depleted. The economic loss of the plants was staggering. There was one additional industry that did rise on Cedar Key. The Standard Manufacturing Company was established in 1910. The company produced high quality brushes and would stay in operation until the factory was essentially destroyed in the 1950 hurricane.
Today, Cedar Key has evolved into a beautiful laid back resort and artists colony.

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Bill Murray is the President of The Weather Factory. He is the site's official weather historian and a weekend forecaster. He also anchors the site's severe weather coverage. Bill Murray is the proud holder of National Weather Association Digital Seal #0001 @wxhistorian

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