The History of Florida

It’s impossible to cover the fascinating history of Florida in a 500 word article, so I am going to hit the highlights and promise to come back and fill in rest in future posts. Like all of our United States, it belonged to someone else before the settlers took it by force and built colonies and cities.

A Florida map that shows some of the history of Florida.


According to Florida Facts on the official Florida website, Florida’s first inhabitants were here over 12,000 years ago. The Spanish followed suit in 1513 when Juan Ponce de Leon set foot on shore. The Spanish continued to rule Florida until the 1700s, and it was a popular territory for the Southern plantation owners.

It is said that Christopher Columbus brought the first oranges to Florida, but Ponce de Leon is credited for planting the first orange trees, which has been a cash crop for Florida ever since.

The name Florida is from an Easter Spanish Festival, Pascua Florida, which means Feast of Flowers that historians believe is another Ponce de Leon contribution to the state.

St. Augustine is the oldest continuously populated city in the United States, and it dates back to 1565. If you get a chance when you’re in Florida, stop by this city and spend some time wandering around the Fort.

Not Spanish

Spain had to give up Florida during the Seven Year War, when Cuba and the Philippines were captured by the British. If they wanted those colonies back, they had to give Florida to the Brits. The First Treaty of Paris was the paperwork that gave it away.


During the Revolutionary War, Florida did not fight for the colonies. They remained loyal to England, and the first chance they got, the Spanish took it back. From 1783 until 1821, the Spanish again ruled Florida. It didn’t stop Andrew Jackson from trying to wrest control over Florida though, and he started the First Seminole War. By 1817, everyone was fighting everyone, and Jackson burned it all to the ground.

Not Spanish

An 1819 Treaty saw the state in the hands of the United States as a territory with Andrew Jackson as its first governor. Funny how that turned out. The first Florida newspapers were St. Augustine’s Florida Gazette and Pensacola’s Floridian.

Tallahassee was chosen as the capital and it became a state in 1845. First thing the state tried to do was secede during the Civil War. Brilliant, I say.

Then Maybe Not a State

During the Civil War, the Ordinance of Secession was drawn up in 1861. Florida was taking its flowers and going home. The Union army didn’t really care and took over Fernandina, St. Augustine and Jacksonville. They had Black troops with them, which sent the Confederates over the edge. The Confederates managed to hang onto Tallahassee and the governor killed himself. The Federal government took it over and ended slavery.

There was an impeachment, a fight against Reconstruction, another election kerfuffle – if there is an election kerfuffle, look to Florida first to have mucked it up, and the end of Reconstruction thanks to Florida’s strong arming another election with disputed electoral votes. If anything goes wrong in an election, it’s because of Florida.

Then Maybe a State

They became a state again, or at least acknowledged they were a state. Then they wrote a new state constitution that seemed to work until 1968. They even granted Confederate pensions to veterans.

Nobody drank, then everybody drank, then nobody drank again with the 18th Amendment to the Florida Constitution outlawing alcohol.


1920 land boom. Then a hurricane. Then another hurricane. Boom over.

Amelia Earhart waved good-bye from Miami and was never seen again.

So much more to cover, but this is going to be it for the moment. We are up to World War II for those of you playing along at home.

Think that Florida sounds like someplace you want to live? Keep reading my blog posts while I cover some of the more interesting aspects of Florida. Like more booms and more busts, and a lot more hurricanes.

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