The Legend of the Pirate Gasparilla

Legend has it that the barrier islands soon became a haven for infamous pirates. “The Buccaneer Coast” attracted the notorious Jose Gaspar, also known as Gasparilla in the early 1800s.

There are many stories involving Gasparilla, it is hard to know which is true. Some say he was in the Spanish Navy, when he kidnapped a young girl. It is also said that he was high in the Spanish court favored by the king, when he jilted a lady. The spurned lady falsely accused Gasparilla of stealing the crown jewels, forcing him to flee and start his career as a feared pirate.

Though his true story may never be know, Gasparilla was very influential in the history of the Islands.

It is said that Gasparilla would bury is stolen treasure on Sanibel. He then built a prison on Captiva Island where he kept his female prisoners for ransom. Captiva Island was then known as “Isle de los Captivas.”

Gasparilla was captured in 1821 by the U.S. Navy. To escape imprisonment Gasparilla wrapped himself in chains and jumped overboard his ship.

For years Indian raids and pirates discouraged any permanent settlements on the Islands.