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MP3 Missi Johnson - Ghosts Of Islamorada

guitar-voice acoustic-folk

6 MP3 Songs

Hi folks, and welcome to Missi Johnson''s page!

WATCH for the the
to be released some time during 2008.

Missi will very likely be performing
an unplugged, acoustic/country version
of Nazareth''s song, "STAR,"
from Nazareth''s 1979 album
"No Mean City.

will feature various bands representing many genres,
from all around the world,
each doing thier own versions of original NAZARETH songs!

It''s sure to be a treat for all NAZARETH fans!

To hear Missi Johnson''s version of STAR, go to


"Ghosts Of Islamorada"
was written about the World War 1 Veterans who died in the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 while working on the Overseas Highway construction project.
lyrics :

"Ghosts Of Islamorada"

(verse 1)
welcome signs were made
and hung on every door
for the brothers that were heros
that were comin'' home from war
they stood proud and they stood tall
they were admired and loved by all
no one ever knew there''d ever come a day
they''d be hungry, tired and poor
the wretched refuse
of hoover''s teemin'' shore

(verse 2)
they took jobs and worked for very little pay
slept in tents and worked together
on the overseas highway
they stood proud and they stood tall
even papa loved them all
no one ever knew there''d ever come a day
they''d be taken all away
by the winds
of a bloody holiday

(instrumental break)

(verse 3)
that old haunt still looks the same year after year
i can almost see the builders
standin'' on the piers
they stand proud and they stand tall
still admired and loved by all
there''s a pretty garden where thier ashes lay
not much cryin'' anymore
for the sleepin'' children
of the golden door

when i hear the winds a blowin
when i see a darkened sky
i''m reminded of a story
that i heard so long ago
about the prayers of the forgotten
as they waited for a train
that never came
and i can hear the desperation
in thier voices
as they cried
ghosts of islamorada
ghosts of islamorada
copyright registered
BMI registered
visit my CD Baby friends:

Jerry " The Hogman " Isham

Liana Bray
to see photos and read an article about the labor day hurricane of 1935,
visit the link below. The article was written by
Jerry Wilkinson and is called
"The Bridge That Never Was"

simply copy and paste this URL to your browser:


History of the Upper Keys
The Bridge That Never Was
By Jerry Wilkinson
(Slow downloading - 21 images)
Each year millions of people pass the Florida Keys Memorial in Islamorada at MM 81.5 without realizing that part of its tribute is to the World War One veterans who died in the Keys building a bridge. As easily seen are the innocent looking coffin-like rectangles in the bay just south of Lower Matecumbe Key at about MM 73 that are the piers for this bridge that never was. These chunks of concrete are the actual monuments for this little know epic struggle of politics and human survival.
This history evolved from the Great Depression, the Roosevelt New Deal program, the Federal/Florida Emergency Relief Administration, Florida State Road Department and many other socio-politico-economic elements. The reader is asked to wade through the introductory portions to arrive at the actual attempt to build the elusive bridge. Extensive use of images is used in hope that each image will supplant a thousand words as well as none of these artifacts exist today except the eight bridge piers and an island that represents a portion of the bridge approach that were under construction on September 2, 1935 at MM 73, bayside. Please chick on any image to enlarge.
- Bonus for War Veterans -
Government assistance for war veterans goes back to March 25, 1588 when England established compensation for veterans after its war with Spain. In the American Colonies, the 32nd Article of the General Assembly of Virginia in 1624 passed a body of laws aimed at paying benefits to soldiers injured during the Indian War. In 1636, the Plymouth Colony followed with the first provisions for service connected disabilities. The Continental Congress in 1776 provided for a pension and later in March 1818, a limited service pension was added. A more liberal law was passed in 1832 and benefits extended to the widows in 1836. All of these efforts were aimed at the disabled veteran.
- World War One Veterans -
After World War 1, Congress in 1924 approved an Adjusted Compensation Certificate, also known as the "Soldier''s Bonus" to be paid veterans in 1945 or upon death. When the time came, each veteran was to receive $1 for everyday served at home and $1.25 for days served overseas.

The great depression came on in the late 1920''s and times were hard throughout the country. As the depression years passed one by one, Representative Wright Patman of Texas introduced a bill calling for the immediate payment of the Soldier''s Bonus. Many veterans with their pride, savings and credit exhausted, began considering that a few dollars while alive would be more useful than when dead in 1945. To effect passage of the Patman bill, a few hundred jobless veterans from Oregon began a "Bonus March" across the country to Washington, D.C. As the saying goes, it snowballed. By June 1932 there were an estimated 20,000 jobless and homeless veterans in the Capitol''s vicinity. They became known as "Bonus Expeditionary Force" or "Bonus Army."
The bill passed easily in the anti-administration House and it was sent to the Senate for certain defeat and on June 17, 1932 it was defeated 62 to 18. Still more veterans were arriving in Washington than departing and being election year, Congress wanted to adjourn to get on with electing a President.
It is a long story, but in the end General MacArthur routed the helpless veterans with tanks, tear gas and burned their makeshift camps. The public sympathy was with the veterans and some say this incident gave Franklin D. Roosevelt an easier victory over President Hoover.
The annual trek to Washington became am annual pilgrimage for WW-1 veterans in the forthcoming years.

- Overseas Highway Project -
Meanwhile, what does this have to do with the Florida Keys? In 1912 rail service was opened from the mainland to Key West. In 1928 vehicle service was provided but with two water gaps spanning 40 miles in the center. The water gaps were serviced by three ferryboats. This highway system was called State Road 4-A. The ferry service was barely adequate being slow, limited capacity, unreliable, inconvenient and relatively expensive for the time. Consulting Army Engineers estimated the cost to be from $7.5 million for a poor highway to $13.7 million for a first-class continuous highway.
In October of 1932, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) forwarded a plan to Congress for a $10.7 million load to be amortized over 20 years repaid with toll fees. It fell on deaf ears as the Great Depression was on and even $1 million was out of the question.
After Franklin Roosevelt became president and as part of his New Deal economic program, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) was created on May 22, 1933 with Harry Hopkins as its head. Congress authorized $500 million for which to operate, of which one half was for matching grants and one half as discretionary funds. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration was the second phase and emphasized public construction.
Among other things, FDR also had the residuals of the Bonus Army to contend with. The veterans were persistent, but only about 3,000 showed up in Washington in March 1933 and only 1,500 in May 1934.
To provide employment for the Bonus Army and other WW-I veterans, a project was created to renovate Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. However, Fort Jefferson was owned by the Military and needed to be transferred to the Department of Interior as a national park to justify use of FERA funds. The administration was aware of Monroe County''s need for an improved through highway and with the transfer of Fort Jefferson at a snail''s pace, the use of the WW-1 veterans was diverted to the highway project. The foregoing is a simplification, but is how the project was authorized.
- Monroe County -
Leaving the veterans for a moment, newspapers throughout the south announced in the first week of July, 1934 that "KEY WEST AND MONROE COUNTY SEEK RECEIVERSHIP - Both Thrown Into State of Emergency by Economic Trouble - 75 Percent of People Jobless." Further in the article was a partial explanation, "Accessible from the mainland only by train, ferry, or airplane, Key West long has sought a vehicle bridge stretching across the keys, only to meet rebuff at every turn. Within the last six months, the Public Works Administration refused to make a loan for the bridge, on the grounds it would not be self-supporting." The state was in no financial position to bail out Monroe County. The dream of a continuous highway was over for now unless another source of funding could be found and it appears that the jobless veterans in Washington were the solution.
- Federal Emergency Relief Administration -
Each state had a FERA administrator and in Florida it was Julius Stone. Julius Stone liked Key West and had an almost immediate solution for Key West - tourism. He envisioned Key West as The Bermuda or The Gibraltar of Florida, the name depending on which newspaper one read, but a better transportation system would be necessary.
The story is that another cost survey was made to replace only the water gaps with a highway similar to the railroad but wider at an estimated cost of $2 million. A bridge would be built from Lower Matecumbe Key to Long Key (the subject of this page), a highway across Long Key with a bridge to Grassy Key and a bridge from Knight''s Key via Pigeon Key to No Name Key. Most of State Road 4-A had already been completed to connect it to these bridges when built. Construction would begin in the Upper Keys shown as "Route A" on the map at the right. Just how the funding for the bridging of the water gaps was handled is not clear. The author believes it more or less evolved between the FERA''s interest in providing employment for the veterans and the state/county''s interest of building a through highway. In June 1935 Julius Stone moved to the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
- State Road Department -
The highway project had two lines of supervision. The engineering and construction was under the supervision of B. M. Duncan, Consulting Engineer for the Florida State Road Department. The labor force was the responsibility of FERA''s director of Veterans Work Program, Fred B. Ghent.
- World War I Veterans -
Therefore, there were thousands of veterans seeking employment and a fully funded FERA with bridges to build. When the decision was made to take the veterans from Fort Jefferson and devote them to a Monroe County highway enhancement work began rather fast. The saga unfolds as told by the Homestead Leader Enterprise on November 16, 1934, "ENGINEERS BUSY LAYING OUT WORK FOR 300 VETERANS ON OVERSEAS HIGHWAY BRIDGES -- FERA Project Would Close Matecumbe-Marathon Gap -- Links Up With Key West Relief Work -- Advance Detail Builds Camp Then Joined by Main Body."
The Miami Daily News had announced on October 19, 1934 Mr. Stone''s proposed "Overseas Gap To Be Filled" without revealing the labor source.
- Veteran''s Work Camps -
In Florida, FERA created a total of eleven Veteran''s Camps, a cross between relief camps and Civilian Conservation Camps (CCC), three of them in the Keys. This crossbreed of veteran''s rehab camp and the CCC camp along with the dual responsibilities of FERA and the SRD caused considerable confusion from then on. The CCC''s wore a uniform, took a physical exam for entrance and were structured as a military organization. The veterans often conducted themselves along military lines using military terms, but were organized as civilian organization. Each camp had a superintendent, but was often referred to as the commander or captain.
The veterans sent to the Keys were probably a cross section of American citizens. Some were well educated, some were professional athletes and some were tradesmen. Some were poison gas victims, some were shell-shock victims, some were simply wounded and some had no incapacitation what-so-ever. Some had brought their families with them and worked two jobs to make ends meet. They were in new make shift camps with little recreational activities in a sparsely populated area. The 1935 census showed the population of the entire Upper Keys as 673. The only structures on Lower Matecumbe were the Terminal Lunch serving the ferry landing and the Corslan Fish Company with headquarters in Miami.

In the beginning and almost throughout the project''s existence, construction of the work camps was first and foremost, especially for FERA. Camp 1 on upper Windley Key was the first camp constructed, presumably because of quarrying the coral rock on Plantation Key. Camp 3 on the lower end of Lower Matecumbe Key was the second Keys'' camp and the one from which the highway would proceed from. Additional personnel housing was needed and Camp 5 was built on the upper end of Lower Matecumbe Key. See the map provided. The Matecumbe Hotel was leased from Captain Ed Butters as the FERA headquarters. Captain Butters kept the restaurant portion of the hotel.
- Plantation Key Quarry -
The Plantation Key quarry across highway US-1 from the present Florida state weigh station (2001) was a typical strip mining quarry for blocks and crushed rock. A series of three images are provided. The site purpose was to provide crushed rock fill and rectangular coral blocks to be placed inside the bridge piers to eliminate the necessity for huge amounts of concrete. All images may be enlarged by clicking on the image. In photo number 1 the rotary trencher machine cut trenches to provide the crushed rock and spaced each trench the correct distance for rectangular blocks of coral to be removed.
Quarry photo number 2 provides and overall perspective with the trencher to the right, rows of potential blocks in the center, blocks being removed at the lower center and removed blocks at the lower left. The personnel lived at Camp 1 across Snake Creek on Windley Key. The quarry was located just northeast of the entrance to the Venetian Shores subdivision. Today''s subdivision entrance would be at the far end of this scene.
Quarry photo number 3 shows a crane loading the coral blocks onto railroad flat cars to be transported to Camp 3 on Lower Matecumbe for use in the bridge piers. No one is certain how the rectangular blocks were loosened at the bottom, but many suggest very low powered dynamite charges. The blocks appear to in good condition with little sign of fracturing. Flagler filled his bridge piers with concrete, but FERA put many of these blocks inside of each pier''s form.
- Camp 3 Construction -
Camp three was adjacent to the Corslan Fish Company and vehicle ferry dock on lower Lower Matecumbe Key at Mile Marker 73.5'' This was where the actual bridgework was to be done. Camp 1 was for quarrying rock and Camp 5 was just for housing (there were fewer mosquitoes there). About half of the workers were at Camp 3 and the other half were housed at Camp 5 on the northern end of the Key. Another series of four photos provides a brief history of Camp 3. Photo 1 is the dredge that excavated the docks for the workboats and materials, the area for the piers to be constructed and for the bridge approach out to where the concrete arch bridge would begin.
Camp construction photo number 2 shows the clearing and the beginning of the construction of the permanent four-man living structures. Since Camp 3 was the primary bridge construction site, it would maintain and house a significant amount of construction equipment. Most sub-contractors were based here.
Camp Construction photo number 3 is more or less how the living portions of Camp three appeared in 1935. The railroad passes across the top portion and that could be a locomotive to the left of the water tower. The water tower for the desalination plant can be seen in the upper right. The motor pool at the center right is well stocked with vehicles. New living quarters are being built to the left. Tents are still being used as temporary shelter and storage.
Camp construction photo number 4 shows the Camp 3 dock area almost completed. Notice the huge pieces of sub-contractor equipment being used. This emphasizes that the complex bridge construction was handled by sub-contractors hired by the State Road Department. These were under the direction of E. H. Sheeran who also had worked for the Florida East Railway construction bridges from 1905 to 1912.
- Bridge Construction -
After much preparatory documentation we are ready to begin construction of the highway bridge. In photo number 1 and early in the project, Camp 3 can be seen in the background. Wooden piles have been driven to form and support the placing of a steel cofferdam much like the work done on the Bahia Honda railroad bridge. These were to be the first concrete arches and a filled approach will be dredged and built in the shallow water to connect Lower Matecumbe Key out to the concrete arches.
This series of concrete arches were the first of the project and the completed bridge was to go straight to Fiesta Key (known then as Jewfish Bush Key), which is a few thousand feet shorter than following the railroad route via Craig Key. From Fiesta key the bridge would be along side of the railroad bridge to Long Key.
The interlocking steel cofferdam is shown completed and slabs of Plantation Key quarry coral rock are placed inside spaced so that when concrete is poured they will be encased with concrete. No steel rebar is visible and none was probably used. The railroad discontinued the use of steel rebar after construction of the Long Key bridge. Remember, this is the pier to support the concrete arches when set on top. The stress is vertical and downward and vehicles will not weigh as much as trains.
When the coffers were removed the piers were about 10 feet by 30 feet. At an average tide a completed pier stands about seven feet out of the water. The average water depth around the piers is about 10 feet deep; therefore, the total height is about 17 feet.
- The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 -
Work on the bridge piers was progressing reasonably fast when the great "Labor Day" hurricane of 1935 was declared a tropical disturbance in the Caribbean headed westward on Thursday, August 29. It was forecasted to be 275 miles east of Havana with probably hurricane force winds. On Sunday at 4:00 P.M., the advisory placed it 200 miles east of Havana moving slowly westward and again at 10:00 A.M. Monday, September 2. The 4:30 P.M. advisory reported, "Tropical storm now apparently moving northwestward toward the Florida Keys accompanied by hurricane winds over a small area." It struck the Upper Keys only four and a half hours later. Untold numbers of veterans and civilians perished. The Official figure then was 164 civilians and 259 veterans, however the actual number varied. Local, state, railroad, Presidential and Congressional investigations followed.
It is not clear whether these bridge piers were some in progress of being built or the ones that remained; however, the author is convinced that they are the ones we see today with the steel coffer material rusted away. The water around the uncompleted piers, especially the last pier, is cluttered with pieces of this steel coffer material. Eight piers remain above the water line today and there may have been the ninth one started at the southwest end of the group. The last pier above water has significant pieces of rusted steel coffer material folded away from the pier. It should be remembered normal rusting in salt water, category-4 Hurricane Donna in 1960 and category-3 Hurricane Betsy in 1965 have contributed to the disappearance of the steel material. There is no evidence of steel rebar in any of the piers.

The fill in the foreground now appears as an island, some call it Veteran''s Key, between the eight bridge piers and Lower Matecumbe Key. As with most of the bridges in the Keys, the water was shallow in the immediate area close to the Key and filled approaches were extended out to the beginning of the bridges. Filled approaches were much cheaper and less technical to build than bridges.
Hurricanes have washed out and eroded the once bridge approach between the remaining island now privately owned and Lower Matecumbe Key. Some of this fill between the Key and the island was also used for the development of the subdivision Toll Gate Shores. The small Key in the background is Fiesta Key, proposed terminus for this section of highway bridge.

The State Road Department headquarters boat was under "Col." Ed H. Sheeran, the Superintendent of Bridge Construction. He was a civilian, had served in the military as a major and this title can be assumed to be an honorary one. He worked under B. M. Duncan, Consulting Engineer, State Road Department who normally was in Key West. When questioned during the post hurricane investigation he said there were "about 30" people aboard the Sarasota during the hurricane. The following question was "Do you think that is all that could be on the boat with safety?" His reply was "That was all - and they weren''t safe!" One veteran survived aboard the headquarters boat.

President Franklin Roosevelt called for an immediate investigation. Colonel Ijams of the Veterans Affairs telegraphed FDR on September 8, 1935: "LOSS OF LIFE FROM SEPTEMBER 2, 1935 HURRICANE IN FLORIDA CAUSED BY TIDAL WAVE, STOP PROXIMATE 250 MPH WINDS STOP TENTATIVE DEAD AND MISSING 684 STOP WILL INVESTIGATE ..."
The House introduced Bill 12869 to provide for the immediate cash payment of the certificates to surviving veterans and their dependents by extending the provisions of the Employees Compensation Act. As part of the process, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on World War Veteran''s Legislation chaired by John E. Rankin made a lengthy hearing from March to May 1936 with many witnesses appearing. His final report was submitted on May 29, 1936 and the bill came into law. A copy of the hearing portion (inquiry) of this investigation can be seen at the Islamorada and Key West Libraries.
Additional reading links:
The Florida Keys Memorial(Hurricane Monument to WW-1 veterans and civilians)
Photos of the 1935 Hurricane (Natural History cybermuseum)
1935 Hurricane Homepage
Additional photos taken by Willie Drye and myself on an expedition in October 2001 follow with little text (JW).

Looking about northeast in straight line to where the veteran''s camp was. Veterans Island, or the remains of the approach to the first pier, appears as slight dome in line with piers and Lower Matecumbe Key. The automobile ferry landing was just right of this line and the railroad just right of it. The second pier is often almost submerged. The far three piers were almost ready for the spandrel walls for the arches to be installed.

This view is looking southwest towards Fiesta Key (Jewfish Bush Key then) and shows two of the completed piers.

The memorial at Woodlawn Park Cemetery on SW 8th Street in Miami, Florida where 80 veterans were interred. The inscription reads, "Erected by Harvey W. Seeds Post 29, the American Legion, In memory of our comrades who lost their lives on the Florida Keys during the 1935 Hurricane."

The Florida Keys Memorial at Mile Marker 81.5 on Upper Matecumbe Key commemorating civilians and veterans who perished in the 1935 Hurricane. To read more about the memorial, Click HERE.
Use Back Arrow to return to reading previous page or:
To return to the Specific Locations and Keys homepage, Click HERE.

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