Time for some history!

Trip Start Mar 04, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2014

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Stagecoach RV Park

Flag of United States  , Florida
Sunday, April 15, 2012

It has been awhile since I have felt the need to share the history of an area we are visiting with you. St. Augustine, billing itself the "Oldest permanent Europeon city" just screams out for me to share it's history with you.  I promise to keep it brief!! 

The vicinity of St. Augustine was first explored in 1513 by Spanish explorer and governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de Leon, who claimed the region for the Spanish crown. In the 1560's, King Phillip II of Spain named Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Governor of Florida, and instructed him to explore and to colonize the territory. When Menendez arrived off the coast of Florida, it was August 28, 1565, the Feast Day of St. Augustine. Eleven days later, he and his 600 soldiers and settlers came ashore  with banners flying and trumpets sounding. He hastily fortified the fledgling village and named it St. Augustine.

Thus, St. Augustine was founded forty-two years before the English colony at Jamestown, Virginia, and fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts - giving it the right to claim to be the oldest permanent European settlement on the North American continent.

Another first for St. Augstine is that the first slaves in the territory that we now regard as the United States were brought to St. Augustine on the day it was founded by Pedro MenÚndez de AvilÚs. MenÚndez’s contract with King Phillip afforded him three years to import 500 African slaves. This first is not heralded as loudly or proudly as the cities claim to be the oldest occupied European settlement!  .

The settlement of St Augustine continued to grow over the years. In 1586 it was attacked and  burned to the ground by English privateers, but it's residents re-built.  It was attacked and plundered again  in 1668. As a result of this attack the Spanish began building a fortress, named Castillo de San Marcos, in 1672.  This fort still stands today and is a National Park. 

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War and gave Florida, along with St. Augustine to the British, in exchange for the British relinquishing control of occupied  Havana.. With the change of flags, almost all of the population of 3,100 Spaniards departed from St. Augustine.

In 1783, the British 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. And so it was that Florida, along with St Augustine, were once again under Spanish control from 1783 until 1821.  

Between 1808 and 1814 Spain was being invaded by Napoleon and was struggling to retain its colonies. Florida no longer held its past importance to Spain, thus, in 1821 the Spanish colonies in Florida and, with them, St. Augustine,were turned over to the United States by the Adams-Onis treaty.

Florida would join the Confederacy in 1861 but  would see no major action during the Civil War and would re-join the United States in 1865. Lots of change would come St Augustines way over the years. Since I promised to keep this brief I will just say that at the turn of the century is became a popular winter resort area for the wealthy northern elite and the 1960's would find St Augustine playing a pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement. 

The St. Augustine of today is often ranked right towards the top of most travel magazines 'must visit' list.  The city has managed to maintain quite a bit of it's history and charm.  The Castillo de San Marcos is within easy walking distance of historic St George street and it's shops & restaurants.  The opulent hotels built at turn of the century for the Norths early 'snowbirds' are now colleges and museums.  

We only had a few days here.  It was just enough time to convince us that a return visit, or two, was necessary.  St. Augustine actually lived up to all it's hype, which is something that we can't often say! 

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