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St. Augustine History

On March 27th 1503 while seeking treasure Don Ponce de Leon landed on what is now Florida and subsequently discovered North America. Over the next 50 years the Spanish government made several attempts to settle the region but their efforts were met with failure.

Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles
In 1564 the French bypassed the Spanish

treasure hunters that had been scowling the Florida coastline and established a colony on the St. John’s River. Furious when he received news of the French settlement, King Phillip II of Spain dispatched Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles along with 600 soldiers to drive out the French settlers and secure the region for Spain once in for all, which they succeeded in doing.

Menendez and his soldier then took control of the Tumucuan Indian village and renamed it St. Augustine. Though St. Augustine remained under Spanish rule, maintaining the settlement did not come easy. The British attacked and Burned St. Augustine to ground in 1586. Then in 1668 the town was attacked and nearly destroyed by pirates.

Castillo de San Marcos
Increasing concerns over of the British colonists in Georgia and the Carolinas were diffused with the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos. The un-penetratable stone fortress acted as an effective guardian against the growing British forces. To this day, the fortress has never fallen to enemy attack. Then in 1763 Spain ceded Florida to England in exchange for control of Cuba.

The American Revolution
During the American Revolution, the Florida colonist remained loyal to the British. Ironically, Florida was returned to Spain in 1783 under the Treaty of Paris. Florida remained under Spanish rule until 1821, when it was sold to the United States of America. The Americans officially took control on July 10th. Tragically the yellow fever spread through the region in 1821 killing many of the newcomers. The Seminole War of 1836 further stunted the development of the area.

In 1845, Florida became the 27th state admitted into the Union. Though the state capital was moved from St. Augustine to Tallahassee, the North America’s oldest city entered a period of great prosperity. The prosperous years came to halt during the Civil War. St. Augustine was occupied by Union Troops throughout most of the conflict.

Henry M. Flagler
The arrival of Henry M. Flagler, co-founder of the Standard Oil Company, in 1885 marked the start of a golden era for St. Augustine that would continue for the next two decades. Flagler recognized St. Augustine’s potential as a vacation destination for wealthy northerners. He invested much of his wealth into turning his dream into a reality. Flagler was responsible for building not only hotels and golf courses but also two hospitals, city hall, and several churches. The state eventually took over Flagler’s work and maintains ongoing preservation efforts. Today travel and tourism remains St. Augustine’s premier industry.


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