Last of the Pirates - Pass-A-Grille Beach
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member ChapterhouseInc
N 27° 41.343 W 082° 44.278
17R E 328615 N 3063965
Quick Description: John Gomez, the 'last of the pirates', started ferrying guests from Tampa to this area in 1857 to create this tourist resort destination
Location: Florida, United States
Date Posted: 2/26/2009 1:52:42 PM
Waymark Code: WM5XRY
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Scooter Bill
Views: 16

Long Description:

For 10,000 years, Indians hunted the praries and fished the waters of what later became Pass-A-Grille. The last group of Native Americans to settle in the Pinellas County area were the Tocobagas around 1000-1700 A.D. This area was first visited by Europeans in 1528, when the Spanish explorer, Panfilo de Narvaez, anchored off Pass-A-Grille Pass. Afterwards, the island was used as a camp ground for fisherman to obtain freshwater and to grill their catch. According to legend, it is thought that Pass-A-Grille derives its name from the French, Paees and Grilleare. In 1857, John Gomez, self styled, "last of the pirates," begun bringing excursionists here from Tampa, which gave this area the distinction of perhaps being the oldest resort on Central Florida's West Coast. Zephaniah Phillips, the first homesteader settled here in 1886 and by the turn of the century Pass-A-Grille had its first hotel and a ferry boat service from what is now Gulfport. The town of Pass-A-Grille Beach was incorporated into the City of St Petersburg Beach in 1857 and in 1989 a section of Pass-A-Grille was declared a National Historic District.

This bit about John Gomez was found at this link

The Story of Juan Gomez

“Panther” John Gomez as he was called by the old timers of Lee County, was a member of the crew of the pirate ship of Gasparilla (Jose Gaspar), the pirate, at the time of his last piratical attempt in 1822, when he met his “Waterloo” and committed suicide by wrapping an anchor chain about his waist and jumping overboard, off Boca Grande Pass.

The following is a verbatim quotation from the chapter entitled, “The Last Florida Pirate” in the book “The Caloosahatchee,” which consists of miscellaneous writings concerning the history of the Caloosahatchee River and the City of Fort Myers, Florida, compiled by Thomas A. Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez is the grandson of one of Lee County’s first pioneer settlers, and resides in Fort Myers. (Mr. Gonzalez has died since this story was written).

From the Fort Myers Press of June 14th, 1894, under the caption, “Old John Gomez and Wife,” we find an illustrated news story concerning the 113th birthday of a centenarian, who, in the latter part of his unusually long life confessed, that he had witnessed no less than 100 people walk the piratical plank, blindfolded, into eternity. According to the Press story, Gomez was born in Portugal in 1781. We went from the island of Mauritius to Bordeaux, France, at the age of twelve, and from Bordeaux, while yet very young, he went as cabin boy on a vessel sailing to the United States.

“Old John” as he was more generally known, his real name being Juan Gomez, was a member of the Roman Catholic Church, and exhibited his crucifix with pride. In physical make-up he was short, heavy set, and had a beard of heavy curly hair, which had been black but was then silvered all over. He had large, dark eyes, and bore marks of having been a handsome man. He served in the Seminole War under General Zachary Taylor and was in the battle of Lake Okeechobee which was fought December 25th, 1837. He frequently visited Fort Myers where he had many friends who were always glad to see him.

That Juan Gomez was the oldest man in the United States at the time, was a well known fact to the citizens of Fort Myers and Lee County. He and his wife had been wards of the county for ten years, and the County commissioners on many occasions made personal investigations of him, and paid him the sum of $8 per month for maintenance.

The Press of July 19th, 1900, informs us of the old man’s death at the age of 119. He came to his death while out fishing. In some manner he had drowned with his body hanging from the side of the boat, one foot being entangled in the fishing net on the floor of the small craft. His body was recovered several days later in a badly decomposed condition and was buried on his island. The fact that he was out on the Gulf fishing, at the time he met his death, is evidence that he was still vigorous enough to be about, though in the last few years of his life he had suffered from rheumatism.

Site Description: Historic Marker

Date of Pirate Activity (Estimated): 1857

Reference Web-link or Book Title: http://www.mypass-a-grille.com/index.php?pageId=180774

Site Admission (If needed): none

Hours Available (If needed):
24/7


Additional Information (optional):
metered parking


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