Coral Rock Man – a Florida Keys story

Coral Rock Man – The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Written by ‘The Coral Rock Man Historical Society’ – 2008

There have been many stories told about Coral Rock Man – some being fact, some being myth, and some being legend.  Some of the stories have come from people who claim to have seen him or who claim to have spent some time with him – usually on or around one of the unchartered Keys south of the mainland of Florida.

The Coral Rock Man Historical Society researched many of these stories and came up with what it believes to be an accurate account of his life.

What we know for sure is that Coral Rock Man was born a full blooded Conch currently living out the remainder of his life somewhere on one of the unchartered Content Keys.

He didn’t always go by Coral Rock Man.  The name given to him at birth by his mom and dad was Eugene, and they never gave him a last name.

Eugene was born to Irwin and Rita from Boot Key.  There is no documentation showing when he was really born, but we know for sure that he was born somewhere in the early 1900’s.  Although there are people who have claimed to be a relative of his, none of those claims have ever been substantiated.

Eugene and his mom and dad lived off of grits and grunts primarily, but also ate lobsters, stone crabs, and other fish they were able to catch.  They ate coconuts, and even grew pineapples until the trees were eventually wiped out by hurricanes.  Shelter and clothing was provided primarily from palm fronds and the mangroves.

Eugene didn’t meet people from the mainland until workers came to build Flagler’s railroad, and he never understood the concept of getting paid to work for others, until those railroad workers came.  He had a hard time understanding what money was used for.

Eugene didn’t understand why the workers were even building a railroad.  He told them that they were all nuts.  When they first arrived he told them “one of those bigger hurricane storms will blow your railroad all away anyway” – but the workers just called Eugene a crazy conch.

One year Eugene was proven right and the railroad did get destroyed.  Unfortunately before that hurricane came, Eugene was out on his John boat a few miles out to sea, and got caught in the storm.

After several hours of being thrashed around, Eugene’s boat shipwrecked on a Key many miles away from home, and that’s where he lived for a number of his young adult years.

Once a shrimp troller anchored right off the beach where he had a fire going, and told Eugene that they wanted to rescue him.  He didn’t understand what they wanted to rescue him from and told them to leave him alone and to go away.

The fishermen left him there thinking he was nothing more than a crazy conch, and it was those fishermen who nicknamed him Coral Rock Man.

From that day on he was dubbed Coral Rock Man.  Stories began to surface about this crazy conch called Coral Rock Man who lived somewhere on an unchartered Key.

Sometime in the 1950’s he met his girl Gemini.  He went out fishing on one calm and clear day and saw a girl on a flats boat who pulled up beside him.  She asked him “what you fishing for?”  He said he was after a big hog fish he saw swimming around about 10 foot down, but it wasn’t biting his bait.

Without hesitation she told him to tie her boat up to his, and she jumped in the water.  She grabbed his hook, line, and sinker, swam under water, and before she came back up to the surface they were both hooked – The big hog fish and Coral Rock Man’s heart.

For months after that, Gemini fished and dove with Coral Rock Man every day.  That is until one day when she told him that it was time for her to go back to her home on the mainland.

Naturally Coral Rock Man was very much torn apart because as he always said “Gemini is the best friend that I ever knowed”.

For a few years after that, Coral Rock Man led a secluded life again until one day when he decided to go to the mainland and find his Gemini.

After some weeks of oaring his boat, he reached land just north of the 18 mile stretch and found civilization for the first time.  He was very confused and didn’t like civilization at all.  All he could do was to stay focused on finding Gemini.

The unfortunate thing is that he never found her.  Although he did find a stray dog, and that dog immediately became his companion.

After giving up his search for Gemini a beaten man, he and his new dog friend got on his boat and oared his way back home to the Keys.

The mainland people didn’t make any sense to Coral Rock Man.  They were only interested in having things and using money – which he never did understand.

The two of them eventually made it back to Boot Key, where there was no trace of his mom and dad any more.  Coral Rock Man also found that there were now mainland people living all around on surrounding keys.

Coral Rock Man and his dog did find a few other settlers who also didn’t handle any money and had no things like the mainland people had, so they lived amongst those people until Coral Rock Man’s dog eventually died of old age.

Coral Rock Man was once again alone, and to this day is leading a secluded life around some of the unchartered keys.

Every so often we at the Coral Rock Man Historical Society hear about a sighting, and will continue to post sightings we believe to be true and accurate.