The earliest known settlements in Florida were by Native American tribes the Seminoles and Timucuans. These tribes were pushed further south as a result of the Seminole war of 1818 led by Andrew Jackson. Reservations still exist in Florida and have become home to the Native American tribes. The Seminoles of Florida call themselves the “Unconquered People,” because they were able to avoid capture by the U.S. army. Today, about 2000 live on reservations across Florida. The Timucuans, who were in the Flagler County area, were destroyed by a lack of immunity to Spanish diseases.
Juan Ponce de León was the first explorer to land on the territory on the east coast of Florida for Spain in 1513. He was in search of the elusive fountain of youth. He sailed back to make his claim for Spain in 1521. He named the area near Cape Canaveral “La Florida”. He names it “La Florida” because of the Easter celebration called Pascua Florida. Eventually the Spanish claimed the entire state. This is how the state got its name. He was fatally wounded by a Native American attack, but the territory was secured as Spanish territory. Those were the only two Florida explorations made by Ponce de León, but they were pivotal in Spain obtaining the territory. His home base was Puerto Rico where he mounted his explorations and attacks.
In 1558, Pánfilo de Narváez, another Spanish explorer, landed near Tampa and claimed Tampa and the areas north for the Spanish. It was always a struggle for the Spanish to keep “La Florida”. Pánfilo de Narváez conquered Cuba in 1511 and proceeded to explore different parts of what is now the United States.
Hernando De Soto came to the Americas in 1559, landing on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He used five large vessels and four smaller ones, exploring much of the southern United States. He claimed the area in the gulf for Spain, solidifying a Spanish presence in Florida. De Soto lost his life in his expeditions to Florida, but many explorers made their way to Mexico to tell their tales.
The Spanish were searching for gold. It was the main reason for establishing colonies and claiming territories in Florida. Expeditions in Mexico and Central America Made the Spanish very wealthy. The Mayan and Aztec gold was not only looted, but the tribes barely survived the onslaught. The Spanish fought Native Americans in the Florida area, but there wasn’t any gold to be found. The Native American tribes were taken down to under 300, all in search of Spanish riches.
Spanish explorers arrived in Flagler County in 1567. War between the French, Spanish, English and the Native Americans made settlements next to impossible. When the French were driven out of Northeast Florida, The Spanish took their opportunity to create a presence in the area.
In 1763, the Spanish gave Florida to the British in exchange for Havana, Cuba. In 1784, England returned Florida to Spain. Ultimately, the United States obtained the land in exchange for Spanish debts.
St. Augustine was founded by removing the Huguenots from the area and establishing a Spanish settlement. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés is credited with the founding of St. Augustine. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was a Spanish admiral, explorer and conquistador from Avilés, in Asturias, Spain. It is at that time that the small developing town became a solid Spanish settlement. Today, you can still visit the two remaining forts: Castillo de San Marcos, and Fort Matanzas in St. Augustine. Most Spanish history no longer exists in the area. It is amazing that two Spanish forts are still standing today.