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HISTORY OF JOHNS PASS - FLORIDA


 


THE NEW JOHNS PASS BRIDGE

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Separating Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, John's Pass is internationally known as one of Florida's most beautiful and busiest waterways.

Johns Pass Board Walk

On the North side of John's Pass we have the well known board walk which was built by Wilson Hubbard over his popular restaurant and fishing marina in 1980. Complemented by, shops and other restaurants, together with Charter fishing boats, hire boats, sea scooter hire and parasail. You can even take a cruise on a Pirate ship. Recently there have been further buildings and additions to the restaurant area with such names as Bubba Gump, Hooters etc.

For those who require fuel for their boats, you can obtain that from the well known Don's Dock, which was established in 1946. Here it's easy to dock even when the tide is at it's full flow. This dock has now been extended for easier access for fuel.

Gators Bar

To the South side we have the well know Gator's Bar on the Pass which is the location of the world's longest waterfront bar offering you a variety of refreshing beverages and great food, all on a beautiful waterfront setting. New owners have been in  place since mid 2012 and are currently refurbishing the restaurant and surrounding facilities.

There is however plenty of parking on the south side of the bridge behind Gator's Bar, however you need to use there facility to park there otherwise you will be towed.

Just past Gators Restaurant and bar you come to Marlin's Dock where several charter boats are moored. Here there is also a fuel dock.

If you did not know John's Pass was created by the Great Hurricane of 1848 and discovered by fisherman John LeVeque for which the waterway is named.

John's Pass connects Florida's West Coast Intracoastal Waterway with the Gulf of Mexico. Everyday hundreds of pleasure boats, fishing charters and even ocean going gambling ships, ply the waters of John's Pass.

Going back in history escaped slaves from the Southern states found refuge and freedom here, where they joined the Native American tribe of Seminole Indians. In an early example of the individualistic Floridian spirit, the newcomers and natives lived together in peace, living off the land in co-existence with one another. Another type of person was attracted to the West Coast of Florida as well. A sort not unlike the thousands of visitors who make their way to our beaches each year in an escape from the rigors and structured demands of life . . . PIRATES!

Johns Pass courtesy of Mapquest

One such individual was a man named John LeVeque. A Frenchman by birth, LeVeque found work as a cabin boy in a Spanish Galleon in 1836. Little is known of his life up until this point, but it can be safely inferred that he was of the lowest class in Europe, and held hopes of making his fortune across the sea. Heading for the New World, however, the ship was attacked by pirates. LeVeque was invited to join the pirate crew as a galley slave in return for his life. Cold and afraid, he accepted their offer, and within a decade he went from Galley Slave to pirate himself, from First Mate to Captain of his very own pirate ship. Maybe he remembered what it felt like to be attacked by pirates. Maybe he was simply a good man. Whatever the reason, John LeVeque always allowed his victims to keep their lives and freedom.

In the seven years he sailed the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, there is no record of LeVeque killing a single innocent or holding a hostage for ransom. Perhaps this is the reason for his curious economic state. In his entire career as a pirate, the fortune he had amassed totaled one chest of "Pieces of Eight" and Spanish doubloons. He had hidden his chest right off the beach on an island on Florida's West Coast, an area he would often times visit when he had to hide out for a while.

It was an un-named and isolated island that would someday be named Madeira Beach. The life of a pirate was hard and short. If the scurvy or malaria didn't get you, the Dutch and English pirate-hunters surely would! LeVeque understood this and decided to retire from the pirate's life after seven years of captaining his ship. Taking only a small boat, meager supplies, and his treasure map, he left his crew and ship in the Gulf of Mexico, sailing off alone as his men cheered one last cheer for their departing Captain. He was headed for his hideout on Madeira Beach, where he planned on digging up his treasure and continuing on to New Orleans. As he sailed North into the coastal waters, however, he noticed a storm on the horizon. Recognizing the storm as a hurricane, LeVeque held back and waited overnight as the hurricane ran its course.

Madeira Beach - it's never crowded

The next morning, September 27, 1848, John LeVeque found that the hurricane had cut his long skinny island clean in two, rendering his treasure map useless.

The storm had destroyed the very area of the island where his treasure had been buried! As he sailed through the new pass, and as dolphins played alongside his boat, John LeVeque realized his treasure had been lost forever.

Since that day, the inlet has been known as John's Pass, in honor of John LeVeque's discovery and maiden passage through the waterway.

LeVeque lived out the remainder of his life on the local beaches, fishing and swimming by day, searching for his lost treasure by night. He lived to a ripe old age, seeing his isolated island become a quaint fishing community.


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