The crew immediately set to work building shelters. The plan
was to build a group of houses of palmetto logs, than add to these as
need developed. At first the pirates spent their time looking for the
treasures of the corsairs who they believed had preceded them. It is not
known, however, if any were found. The region was almost a
wilderness. No white man lived near, and it was only occasionally that
Indians approached, looking for game.
About three months after settling on the island, the crew set out
in search of a first victim. After several days cruising off the north coast
of Cuba they sighted a merchantman, engaged in trade between Spain
and the West Indies. The trader, taken completely by surprise and with
inadequate armament, offered little resistance. Gasparilla gave the crew
the choice of joining him as pirates, or death. About a dozen joined the
pirates. The captain and the others were shot and thrown overboard.
Considerable money and stores of food were found. Within the hold of
the ship, Gasparilla spied two frightened girls. These, according to an
account in Gasparilla's own diary, were taken captives but treated
courteously. He planned, he said, to offer all women prisoners as wives
to his men. He also insisted upon a ceremony and faithfulness to the
marriage by both men and women.
Captures of other ships followed, and the camp grew. Gasparilla
Island soon had 12 crude but comfortable structures built of palmetto
logs, thatched with palms, and strengthened with tim-