Original FLGenWeb Project begun in 1996 & incorporated as
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Johns County was named for St. John the Baptist. St. Johns
County and Escambia County were Florida's original two counties with
the Suwannee River being the boundary between the two.
Located in St. Johns County is St.
Augustine, the oldest continuously settled city in the nation and was founded by the Spanish in 1565. The
first Christian worship service held in a permanent settlement in the
continental United States was a Catholic Mass celebrated in St.
Augustine. A few settlements were founded prior to St. Augustine but
all failed, including the original Pensacola colony in West Florida,
founded by Tristán de Luna y Arellano in 1559, with the area
abandoned in 1561 due to hurricanes, famine and warring tribes. Fort
Caroline in what is today Jacksonville, Florida only lasted a year
before being obliterated by the Spanish. in 1564
The city of St. Augustine was
founded by the Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de
Avilés on September 8, 1565. Menéndez first
sighted land on August 28, the feast day of Augustine of Hippo, and
consequently named the settlement San Agustín.
Martín de Argüelles was born here one year later in
1566, the first child of European ancestry to be born in what is now
the continental United States. This came 21 years before the English
settlement at Roanoke Island in Virginia Colony, and 42 years before
the successful settlements of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Jamestown,
Virginia. In all the territory under the jurisdiction of the United
States, only (European) settlements in Puerto Rico are older than St.
Augustine, with the oldest being Caparra, founded in 1508, whose
inhabitants relocated and founded San Juan, in 1521.
In 1586 St. Augustine was attacked
and burned by Sir Francis Drake. In 1668 it was plundered by pirates
and most of the inhabitants were killed. In 1702 and 1740 it was
unsuccessfully attacked by British forces from their new colonies in
the Carolinas and Georgia. The most serious of these came in the latter
year, when James Oglethorpe of Georgia allied himself with Ahaya the
Cowkeeper, chief of the Alachua band of the Seminole tribe and
conducted the Siege of St. Augustine during the War of Jenkin's Ear.
A fanciful depiction of St.
Augustine in 1760, while under Spanish control
In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended
the French and Indian War and gave Florida and St. Augustine to the
British, an acquisition the British had been unable to take by force
and keep due to the strong fort there. St. Augustine came under British
rule and served as a Loyalist colony during the American Revolutionary
War. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 gave the American colonies north of
Florida their independence, and ceded Florida to Spain in recognition
of Spanish efforts on behalf of the American colonies during the war.
Florida was under Spanish control
again from 1784 to 1821. During this time, Spain was being invaded by
Napoleon and was struggling to retain its colonies. Florida no longer
held its past importance to Spain. The expanding United States,
however, regarded Florida as vital to its interests. In 1821, the
Adams-Onís Treaty peaceably turned the Spanish colonies in
Florida and, with them, St. Augustine, over to the United States.
Florida was a United States
territory until 1845 when it became a U.S. state. In 1861, the American
Civil War began and Florida seceded from the Union and joined the
Confederacy. Days before Florida seceded, state troops took the fort at
St. Augustine from a small Union garrison (January 7, 1861). However,
federal troops loyal to the United States Government quickly reoccupied
the city (March 11, 1862) and remained in control throughout the
four-year-long war. In 1865, Florida rejoined the United States.
Spanish Colonial era buildings
still existing in the city include the fortress Castillo de San Marcos.
The fortress successfully repelled the British attacks of the 18th
century, served as a prison for the Native American leader Osceola in
1837, and was occupied by Union troops during the American Civil War.
It was removed from the Army's active duty rolls in 1900 after 205
years of service under five different flags. It is now the Castillo de
San Marcos National Monument.
From Flagler to the Present
In the late 19th century the
railroad came to town, and led by northeastern industrialist Henry
Flagler, St. Augustine became a winter resort for the very wealthy. A
number of mansions and palatial grand hotels of this era still exist,
some converted to other use, such as housing parts of Flagler College
and museums. Flagler went on to develop much more of Florida's east
coast, including his Florida East Coast Railway which eventually
reached Key West in 1912.
The city is a popular tourist
attraction, for the rich Spanish Colonial Revival Style architectural
heritage as well as elite 19th century architecture. In 1938 the theme
park Marineland opened just south of St. Augustine, becoming one of
Florida's first themed parks and setting the stage for the development
of this industry in the following decades. The city is also one
terminus of the Old Spanish Trail, which in the 1920's linked St.
Augustine, Florida, to San Diego, California with 3000 miles of