Tag Archives: William R. Hackley

Murder in the Keys: Crime and Punishment in Special Collections

Hackley describes a dinner on November 30, 1830, that evolves into a wine-fueled song-and-story time. Goulding Family Collection, 01/MSS 0-128, Box 171C

FSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives has many resources devoted to Florida history. The Goulding Family Collection (01/MSS 0-128) was donated by Professor Robert L. Goulding following his retirement from FSU in 1960. The collection includes several remarkable documents from Goulding’s ancestors, including primary sources chronicling military and civilian life during the American Civil War, World War I and World War II.

However, the most detailed historical testimony can be found in the diaries of Goulding’s maternal grandfather William R. Hackley. Hackley, a Virginia native and alumnus of William and Mary, moved to Tallahassee in 1826 at the age of twenty. The aspiring lawyer soon passed the Florida State Bar Association examination and settled in Key West in 1828, where he established a law practice and eventually became district attorney for the southern district of Florida from April 1849 to May 1857.

Hackley’s diaries detail his life in Key West from 1830 to 1857, giving first-hand accounts of daily life in the recently-established American settlement. Many of the entries are concerned with predictable facets of island life – changes in the weather, and ships sailing in and out of port. However, as a lawyer and man of privilege, Hackley had access to information and events that the average Key West resident would not.

Hackley provides eyewitness details of many court cases, including a first-hand look at an historical event in American Key West – the first known trial for murder. Continue reading Murder in the Keys: Crime and Punishment in Special Collections