If traveling to Jacksonville and St Augustine, read the Florida History section on this website.
St Augustine –
St Augustine on the eastern Atlantic Ocean side of the Florida Peninsula is considered the oldest Spanish settlement in the United States, with the settlement first established on August 28th 1565 when 600 soldiers and settlers first arrived here from Spain under the command of Admiral Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles (1519-1574).
The site was also the existing Timucuan Indian village of ‘Seloy’. The name, St Augustine was named in honor of Saint Augustine of Hippo, and the settlers were accompanied by Father Lopez de Mendoza Grajales and three other Franciscan brothers. There is a statue of Father Lopez de Mendoza Grajales at 27 Ocean Avenue.
St Augustine makes the claim to be the first town on the basis that it has been “continuously settled”, whereas Pensacola on the Gulf of Mexico makes its claim on the fact that in August 1559 a Spanish settlement was established there, but by September the same year, the settlement was destroyed by a hurricane, and while a small military presence was maintained until 1561, it was then abandoned completely and it would not be until 1698 that the Spanish returned to establish a town again.
St Augustine certainly has a lot of history – involving battles, forts, pirates, wars, the city being burnt down, Spanish, Timucuan, Slaves and runaways slaves, British, French, Minorcans, Union and American forces and so a lot of amazing stories and history comes to life here in the old cobble stone streets in St Augustine.
One of the most beautiful sights to see is the Bridge of Lions, with its two Italian Carrera Marble Lions guarding the western entrance to the Bridge. The bridge provides a fitting entranceway to the old city of St Augustine, connecting the city with Anastasia Island and its beaches. With the lions on one end, classic archways, and four towers at the center where the two cantilevered bridge sections open to allow boats with high masts to pass under the bridge, it makes for a great photo from the water or land.
If you enjoy Golf, there is a spectacular golf course and the World Golf Hall of Fame and museum located just north of St Augustine off 1-95 Exit 323 on International Golf Parkway. The Golf Museum, course and club facilities are all built as a circle around a Lake in the Center – a truly world class facility. See www.worldgolfvillage.com Tel: 877 888 2002.
Anastasia Park on Anastasia Island – is where the St Augustine Amphitheatre is located. This is a stage for big music events during the year, so worth checking to see what is happening when you’re in town. It is located at 1340 c A1A South. Anastasia Island is about 14 miles long and 1 mile wide, and here you can see the old Fort Castillo de San Marcos, follow walking trails, head to 4 miles of sandy beaches, camp, windsurf, see hammock forests, canoe or kayak and just enjoy seeing wildlife and nature.
Old St Augustine is a very walkable city to see a lot of the History and there are certainly a lot of places to see. These are some of them –
TOURS – of the waterways
St Augustine is almost surrounded by water with the rivers, wetlands, saltpans and ocean all here. There are the historic locations, bird watching, fishing, dolphin spotting, beaches, islands all here and a number of companies can either take you on tours or hire a boat or kayak for you. These are some of the companies offering these services –
Head to 111 Avenida Menendez for tickets
Certainly if you like history and want to get to know more about the United States and the story of how the country all came together, St Augustine is a great place to discover and learn more about it. The great beaches just minutes away, tropical climate, waterways, shopping, golf courses, restaurants and hotels all make it a good place to stay and enjoy.
Jacksonville is just 42 miles north of St Augustine and located at the mouth of the St John’s River, just a little way inland from the Atlantic Ocean where there are many great beaches up and down the coastline. They call the city “the River City” due to the importance placed on the River and Port, with the port used as a large cargo port for cars and other goods coming into or leaving Florida. The river itself is the longest in Florida, with eight bridges crossing over it in Jacksonville, with the most prominent being the Acosta Bridge, which at night is lit up with blue neon lights. The River is big but flows slowly, with Jacksonville itself just 40 feet above sea level. Fishing, windsurfing and boating are popular, and ferries cross the river from
The city has a population of around 820,000 people, but in the wider city over a million people and like many American cities, Jacksonville has sprawled outwards from its center creating a large suburbia. Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) is around 12 miles from the City Center, with limos, taxis, shuttle buses and rental cars available.
The original inhabitants of the area were Timucua Indian tribes – Mocama, Saturiwa and Utina tribal groups, and in 1513 the Spanish under the command of Admiral Ponce de Leon claimed all of ‘La Florida’ in the name of Spain.
While Spain claimed all of ‘La Florida’ as their territory, a group of Huguenot French Christians in 1562 led by a French Naval Officer, Jean Ribault sailed from France to the St John’s River with the intention of establishing a settlement there. After assessing the site, they decided on a new site further north in Georgia, naming their new settlement, Charlesfort. They would remain there until 1564, abandoning Charlesfort and returning to the St John’s River, where they built a log timber fort, naming it ‘Fort Caroline’.
In 1565 Pedro Menendez de Aviles established the Spanish settlement at St Augustine. A battle on sea and land between the French and Spanish ensued (See Florida History section on website), with the Spanish triumphing and most of the French, including Jean Ribault were either killed in battle or hung for their crimes. It is said that this was mainly because they were Heretics (being Huguenots) and not Catholics, and Fort Caroline was renamed as Fort San Mateo. Further confrontation between the French Huguenots and Spanish would also occur in 1568, when the Fort was burnt down, but then the Spanish rebuilt it then abandoned it in 1569, rebuilding a new Fort, naming it ‘Fort St Nicolas’.
The settlement remained under Spanish control until 1763, then British for the next 20 years until 1783 who named it ‘Cowford’, returning to Spain that year where it would remain Spanish territory until 1821 when ‘La Florida’ was sold by the Spanish to the United States. They in turn named the town ‘Jacksonville’ in honor of General Andrew Jackson.
During the Civil War, Florida was one of the 13 states forming the Confederate States of America, and Jacksonville played an important as a port for supplies of food to the Confederate States. Union forces tried to blockade the port, and Jacksonville see-sawed in control between the two sides, with Union forces ultimately gaining control of Jacksonville . The Battle of Olustee on February 20th, 1864 to the west of Jacksonville was one of the most deadly in the Civil War with the Confederates winning this 5 hour battle, but with large numbers of casualties on both sides. Both sides employed around 5000 troops, and on the Union side there were 202 deaths, 1152 wounded and 506 missing, while the Confederates also suffered large losses too, with 93 killed, 847 wounded and 6 missing. Today you can visit the site of the battle at the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park- 50 miles west of Jacksonville off Exit 1-10 off US 90. In Jacksonville itself you can see more about the Civil War at the MOSH Museum of Science and History (See www.themosh.org 1025 Museum Circle in the City Center near the Southbank Riverwalk. Also for collectibles – see Uncle Davey’s Civil War Antiques & Collectibles at 6140 St Augustine Rd (See www.uncledaveys.com Tel: 904 730 8932)
The Civil War had been fought over the issue of Slavery and territorial control, and Florida had been a slave state from its very beginnings, though African Slaves were treated quite differently under Spanish as opposed to British and American Rule and Laws. Under Spanish Law, Slaves could earn their freedom, own property once freed and had rights under a ‘Task system’ – where once they completed the ‘tasks’ for the day, they were then free to work for themselves, whereas under the British and American systems slaves were considered property – ‘goods and chattels’ to be bought and sold, with almost no rights.
There were certainly good plantations, slave masters and Slave traders and bad ones too; ones who taught and trained their slaves in the many skills that are needed in life and ones who didn’t. African Slaves also brought with them their own stories, music, language and skills too in building, trades, agriculture and labour, and much of the South was built using their labour. There are literally hundreds of thousands of stories that have emerged from the days of Slavery.
‘History’ is both a simple yet complex story of people, politics, religion, race, class systems, power, sex, morals, criminal behaviour, beliefs, economics, laws, doctrines, disease, natural disasters, economic prosperity, fortunes and misfortunes, rights and wrongs and it is the interplay of all these good and bad stories that become history over time, and while in many ways we don’t recognize it, history is happening and evolving every day.
Here in Jacksonville there is a lot of history, and one of the places you should try and visit is the Kingsley Plantation in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve on Fort George Island.
The Preserve covers an area of around 46,000 acres of land, woods, wetlands, waterways, salt marshes and while most people come here for the fishing, nature walks and baoating there are also a number of historic sites to see. The Preserve is named in respect to the Timucuan people who originally inhabited this whole area prior to the first Europeans arriving on their shores, with shell middens (mounds of shells) now the only marker to their civilisation being here. The French Huguenots also built Fort de la Caroline here and a monument marks the spot. There are also the remnants of San Juan del Puerto – the Spanish Mission.
Most interesting of all is the Kingsley Plantation – a plantation owned by a Quaker, Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. (1765-1843) born in Bristol England, who at age five emigrated with his family to South Carolina. His father, Zephaniah Kingsley Sr. then sent his son to be educated in England, and he only returned to Charleston, South Carolina in 1793. The name ‘Zephaniah’ comes from the ‘Book of Zephaniah’ in the Old Testament.
Zephaniah Kingsley Jr. became a merchant, shipping and slave trader, slave smuggler as well as plantation owner, not only having a large number of slaves, but also marrying a 13 year old slave girl, Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley (1783-1870) and also having 3 other African Slave wives too, and raising 9 children. He had bought Anna in Cuba, but she was born in Senegal, and married her in Cuba, and while he was able to petition the Spanish authorities to free Anna and her children from Slavery, his marriage to her was not recognized by the Spanish, though following his death, she was able to claim property rights. Under American Law, Inter-racial marriage was forbidden.
There is a lot more to this whole story, but today at the Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island you can see the original Plantation home (built 1797-1798) almost certainly using slave labour, the separate kitchen, barn and 25 Slave Cabins. These buildings were built using what is called ‘Cement Tabby’ – with sand from the river and the lime needed coming from shells taken from the shell middens left behind by the Timucuan and fired in a kiln. If you look closely at the ‘cement tabby’ you will be able to see small pieces of shell in the mortar. I am not sure if there is a connection between a ‘Tortoise Shell Cat’ and the description of the cat as a ‘Tabby’, but maybe there is.
By way of interest, in Sydney Australia, the first buildings also used a lime mortar, the lime coming from Aboriginal shell middens and also fired in kilns, in the same way as it was done here on Fort George Island. The Kingsley Plantation is located at 11676 Palmetto Avenue in the northern end of Fort George Island. Tel: 904 251 3537.
The Fort Caroline Memorial is also located on the island too at 12713 Fort Caroline Rd (Tel: 904 641 7155). The whole park is managed by the NPS (National Park Service).
Also on the island is the Ribault Club Golf Course and a clubhouse that dates back to the 1920’s when it was a private club for members. There is a visitor Center here too (Tel: 904 251 1050) and behind the club there are hire facilities for Kayaks, canoes and small boats.
Today Jacksonville has a population of 820,000 people, and over a million people in the greater Jacksonville area. Of these roughly 60% are white, 30% African American, 8% Hispanic and just 0.1% are Native American.
There are a number of places to see in Jacksonville and these are some of them –