This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
"What kind of a fish is this," said P. as he tugged laboriously at his line, when presently appeared a formidable weapon like a saw, two feet long, striking right and left. "This is the worst fish of all to handle; I do despise a Sawfish," said he, and he cut the line, and the huge fish, some six or seven feet long, swam away. "They are worse than Sharks or Stingarees, and ruin my nets."
Judge: "Did you ever get struck by one?"
"I have had them hit my boat,and cut big splinters out of it. You see they lie on the bottom, in shoal water, and the boat is apt to run on them; if you do, then look out for that saw."
Major: "Could a Saw-fish kill a Shark?"
"I don't know as to that, but I know that Sharks often eat Saw-fish. We find the small saws on the beach, when the balance of the fish has been eaten up by something-no doubt Sharks-and a piece of Saw-fish is a good bait for a Shark."
Jew-Fish or "Warsaw.".
We got another Bass, and then took lunch, after which P. raised the anchor, and we went up the creek with the tide.
"I will go home," said he, "by the inside passage, so we will have the tide with us." A few hundred yards, and we came to a creek running north and south which intersected the one we were in. At the point of junction the water flowed very deep around a high bank, with some large tree-tops above the surface.
We anchored, and the major and P. both dropped their baits into the hole; while I made a cast into mid-stream, where the tide ran quickly over an oyster-bed.
"Hold him fast!" shouted P., as the major's line ran off- "I can't hold him-there-he has got me fast to the bottom."
Judge: "Let the hook lie for a while; perhaps the fish will loose it."
Now P. had a heavy bite, and by main force he hauled out a Grouper of some five or six pounds.
"This is the kind of line for Groupers; yours is too light, major." And after waiting for some time the major was obliged to break his line, the hook being in some hole in the rocky bottom. Presently P. hooked another and larger fish, too heavy for even his line, for it parted at the hook.
"I reckon they have got the best of us, major; we might as well quit." That must have been a Jew-fish that I got hold of; I have caught a twenty-pound Grouper with this line."
Just then I hooked a two-pound Trout on my fly; and after boating it, we left the deep hole, and went northward with the tide through many winding ways, among islands so intricate, that without a good pilot, one would soon be lost. This we had, for P. traced his devious course without hesitation.
Major: "These creeks and islands all look alike; how do you find your way?"
"Well, I've been doing it this thirty years, day and night, and ought to know the road by this time."
Judge: "Are we near that Rock House that you told me about?"
P.: "It's not far, and I will stop there if you like."
After several more turns, we came to a shell-bank landing, with a high hamak covered with live oaks and cabbage palms. A hundred feet from the creek stood a house-or the four walls of one, for roof and doors were gone-the walls were of coquina rock, some fifteen feet high, and about twenty by thirty feet on the ground. On one side it was shaded by a huge live oak, and on the other grew a large fig tree.
Judge: "So, this is the Rock House-who built it, and when ?"
P.: "That is more than I know. Old people who lived here forty years ago said that it was here when they were born. Captain Dummitt, who came to this country from the West Indies fifty years ago, and who lived hereabouts many years, used to say that the house was built by some of Turnbull's colony, and there was formerly quite a large plantation here. This big tree is one of the Turnbull people's trees. Anyway, the house was built by a Catholic, for you can see the recess in the wall, where the crucifix stood."
"And has no one lived in it all this time?"
"Oh, yes, a number of families have tried to live here. One or two repaired the house, and put furniture in it, but they could not stay. I don't know why. There's many queer stories about the house. There was a young fellow here, just after the war, from Chicago, or somewhere out West, who used to hunt and fish about here. Well, one night, he got caught in a storm in these creeks, and went to the house for shelter-but he soon took to the woods and lay out all night. I was in Smyrna the next day when he came in-and badly scared he looked. He wouldn't say what scared him, but he said he would not go to that house again, for all Florida."
Judge: "You mean to say that the house is haunted?"
"So some people say. I don't, for I never saw anything strange, myself."
"Who owns the place, now?"
"There's two or three men claim it. One man from the West-St. Louis, I think-was here two years ago, and got me to bring him to see it. He said that he bought it with about 200 acres of land, of some person in New York, for a trifle, but he thought it might be valuable some day; the land is very good."
Judge: "And it is a fine situation for a house, with deep water in front, and a fine landing place."
P.: "Yes, the man that picked it out knew what he was doing-and the old Kings road from St. Augustine to Smyrna runs through the hamak."
Judge: "Now, major, here is a chance for you if you want to sleep in the haunted house?"
Major: "Much obliged, but I have no curiosity, and prefer Mrs. P. 's good beds."
Judge: "How is it that the Indians did not destroy this house, when they ravaged all this country, and burned up everything?"
P.: "That I don't understand; there was nothing to hinder; and they ruined every building on this coast except this one, and this they did not touch. Well, gentlemen, if you have seen all you want, we will be going."
The route homeward was through the same wilderness of islands and marshes, with no trace of mankind. Many birds were flying about, or perched among the mangroves-egrets, white herons, blue herons, pelicans, ospreys-while along the shores great numbers of the noisy clapper-rail ran in and out among the bushes-and coots and shelldrakes sported in the water. In these solitudes the birds remained safe from the murderous cockney gunner from the North, who is always wanting to kill something, and has driven away from the great frequented routes of travel much of the bird-life formerly so abundant.