St. Augustine is a city in the northeastern region of the U.S. state of Florida, and the county seat of St. Johns County. Founded in September 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it is the second oldest continuously occupied European-established city and port in the continental United States coming after Fernandina Beach which was established in 1562 by the French. St. Augustine lies in a region of Florida known as "The First Coast", which extends from Amelia Island in the north to Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Palm Coast in the south. According to the 2010 census, the city population was 12,975. St. Augustine is the headquarters for the Florida National Guard.
Early exploration and attempts at settlement
The vicinity of St. Augustine was first explored in 1513 by Spanish explorer and governor of Puerto Rico, Juan Ponce de León, who claimed the region for the Spanish crown. Prior to the founding of St. Augustine in 1565, several earlier attempts at European colonization in what is now Florida were made by both Spain and France, but all failed.
The French exploration of the area began in 1562, under the Huguenot captain Jean Ribault. Ribault explored the St. Johns River to the north of St. Augustine before sailing north, ultimately founding the short-lived Charlesfort on what is now known as Parris Island, South Carolina. In 1564, Ribault's former lieutenant René Goulaine de Laudonnière headed a new colonization effort. Laudonnière explored St. Augustine Inlet and the Matanzas River, which the French named the River of Dolphins. There they made contact with the local Timucua chief, probably Seloy, a subject of the powerful Saturiwa chiefdom, before heading north to the St. Johns River. There they established Fort Caroline.
Later that year some mutineers from Fort Caroline fled the colony and turned pirate, attacking Spanish vessels in the Caribbean. The Spanish used this as a catalyst to locate and destroy Fort Caroline, fearing it would serve as a base for future piracy, and wanting to dissuade further French colonization. The Spanish quickly dispatched Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to go to Florida and establish a base from which to attack the French.
Founding of St. Augustine
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sighted land on August 28, 1565. As this was the feast day of Augustine of Hippo, the territory was named San Agustín. The Spanish sailed through the St. Augustine Inlet into Matanzas Bay and disembarked near the Timucua town of Seloy on September 7. Menéndez's goal was to dig a quick fortification to protect his people and supplies as they were unloaded from the ships, and then to take a more proper survey of the area to determine the best location for the fort. The location of this early fort has been confirmed through archaeological excavations directed by Kathleen Deagan on the grounds of what is now the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. It is known that the Spanish occupied several structures in Seloy, the chief of which, known as Chief Seloy, was allied with the Saturiwa, Laudonnière's allies. It is possible, but undemonstrated, that Menéndez fortified one of the occupied Timucua structures as this first fort at Seloy. In the meantime, Jean Ribault, Laudonnière's old commander, arrived at Fort Caroline with more settlers for the colony, as well as soldiers and weapons to defend them. He also took over the governorship of the settlement. Despite Laudonnière's wishes, Ribault put most of these soldiers aboard his ships for an assault on St. Augustine. However, he was surprised at sea by a violent storm lasting several days. This gave Menéndez the opportunity to march his forces overland for surprise dawn attack on the Fort Caroline garrison, which then numbered several hundred people. Laudonnière and some survivors fled to the woods, and the Spanish killed almost everyone in the fort except for the women and children. With the French displaced, Menéndez rechristened the fort as San Mateo, and appropriated it for his own purposes. The Spanish then returned south and eventually encountered the survivors of Ribault's fleet near the inlet at the southern end of Anastasia Island. Menéndez executed most of the survivors, including Ribault; the inlet was thus named for the Spanish word for slaughters, matanzas.
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 Menéndez de Avilés on September 8, 1565. Menéndez’s contract with King Phillip afforded him three years to import 500 African slaves. In 1566, Martín de Argüelles was born in San Agustín, the first European child who was recorded as born in the continental United States. Argüelles was born in San Agustín 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. Additionally, the first recorded birth of a black child in the continental United States is in the Cathedral Parish Archives. Augustin was recorded as born in the year 1606, thirteen years before enslaved Africans were first brought to the English colony at Jamestown in 1619. In territory under the jurisdiction of the United States, only Puerto Rico has continuously occupied European-established settlements older than St. Augustine.
St. Augustine was intended to be a base for further colonial ventures across what is now the Southeastern United States, but such efforts were hampered by apathy and hostility on the part of the Native Americans towards becoming Spanish subjects. The Saturiwa, one of the two principal chiefdoms in the area, remained openly hostile. In 1566 the Saturiwa burned down St. Augustine and the settlement had to be relocated. Traditionally it was thought to have been moved to its present location, though some documentary evidence suggests it was first moved to a location on Anastasia Island. At any rate, it was certainly in its present location by the end of the 16th century.
The settlement also faced attacks from European forces as well. In April 1568 the French soldier Dominique de Gourgues led an attack on Spanish holdings. With the aid of the Saturiwa, Tacatacuru, and other Timucua peoples who had been friendly with Laudonnière, de Gourgues attacked and burned Fort San Mateo, the former Fort Caroline. He then executed his prisoners in revenge for the 1565 massacre, but he did not approach St. Augustine itself. Additional French expeditions were primarily raids and were unable to dislodge the Spanish from St. Augustine. The English also believed Admiral Avilés and the Catholic Spanish were responsible for the disappearance of the English fishing settlements in America which had been established by John Cabot. Thus, following the disappearance of the Roanoke colony in Virginia, the blame was immediately leveled at St. Augustine. Consequently, on June 6, 1586 St. Augustine was attacked and burned by English privateer Sir Francis Drake and the surviving Spanish settlers were driven into the wilderness. However, lacking sufficient forces or authority for permanently establishing a settlement, Drake left the area.
The Spanish did not have as many slaves in Florida as the English Americans had in the colonies to the north, as it was basically a military outpost rather than a plantation economy. As the British settlements moved farther and farther south, the Spanish adopted the policy of giving sanctuary to slaves who could escape from British plantations and make their way to Florida. Thus did it become the focal point of the first Underground Railroad. Blacks were given sanctuary, arms, and supplies if they joined the Catholic Church and swore allegiance to the king of Spain. As the British established settlements closer to Spanish territory, with Charleston in 1670 and Savannah in 1733, Spanish Governor Manual de Montiano in 1738 established the first legally recognized free community of ex-slaves as the northern defense of St. Augustine, known as Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, or Fort Mose.
In 1740 St. Augustine was unsuccessfully attacked by British forces from their colonies in the Carolinas and Georgia. The largest and most successful of these was organized by Governor and General James Oglethorpe of Georgia who managed to break the Spanish-Seminole alliance when he gained the help of Ahaya the Cowkeeper, chief of the Alachua band of the Seminole tribe.
In the subsequent campaign Oglethorpe, supported by several thousand colonial militia and British regulars along with Seminole warriors, invaded Spanish Florida and conducted the Siege of St. Augustine during the War of Jenkin's Ear. During this siege the black community of St. Augustin proved its worth when during the siege it proved decisive in stopping the city's take-over by the British. The leader of Fort Mose during the battle was the legendary Capt. Francisco Menendez (creole), who was born in Africa, twice escaped from slavery, and played an important role in defending St. Augustine from raid by British colonists to the north. The Fort Mose site is now owned by the Florida Park Service, and recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War and gave Florida and 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.
During this time the British converted the monks quarters of the former Franciscan monastery into military barracks which were named St. Francis Barracks. They also built The King's Bakery which is believed to be the only extant structure in the city built entirely in British period.
The Lieutenant Governor of East Florida under Governor Grant was John Moultrie who was born in South Carolina, he had served under Grant as a major in the Cherokee War and remained loyal to the British Crown. Moultrie's brother William Moultrie, after whom Fort Moultrie in South Carolina is named, was a general in the Continental Army. His brother Thomas was a captain in the American 2nd South Carolina Regiment who was killed in the Battle of Charleston, while his half-brother Alexander became the first Attorney General in South Carolina and was held prisoner in St. Augustine while John was acting British Lieutenant Governor. Moultrie was granted large tracts of land in the St. Augustine vicinity upon which he established the plantation of "Bella Vista" he owned another plantation in the Tomoka River basin named "Rosetta". While acting as the lieutenant governor he lived in the Peck House on St. George Street.
Another large development effort during the British period was the establishment in 1768 of the colony of New Smyrna, by Andrew Turnbull, a friend of Grant's. Turnbull recruited indentured servants from the Mediterranean, primarily from the island of Minorca. The conditions at New Smyrna were abysmal, prompting the settlers to rebel en masse in 1777 and walk the to St. Augustine, where Grant gave them refuge.
The story of the Minorcan colony (as the entire group came to be known) is told, fictionally, in the book Spanish Bayonet by Stephen Vincent Benet, a prominent descendant of one of the leading Minorcan families of St. Augustine. The Minorcans stayed on in St. Augustine through all the subsequent changes of flags, to become the venerable families of the community, marking it with language, culture, cuisine and customs.
Second Spanish rule
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.
On September 3, 1783, by Treaty of Paris, Britain also signed separate agreements with France and Spain, and (provisionally) with the Netherlands. In the treaty with Spain, the colonies of West Florida, captured by the Spanish, and East Florida were returned to Spain, as was the island of Minorca, while the Bahama Islands, Grenada and Montserrat, captured by the French and Spanish, were returned to Britain.
Florida was under Spanish control again from 1781 to 1821, but St. Augustine since 1784. During this time, Spain was being invaded by Napoleon between 1808 and 1814 and was struggling to retain its overseas territories. Florida no longer held its past importance to Spain, thus, in 1821 the Adams–Onís Treaty peaceably turned the Spanish provinces in Florida and, with them, St. Augustine, over to the United States as a way of compensating the American government for the civil claims that were in part caused by undefined border areas with Spanish territories.
Local Societies and Associations
St. Augustine Historical Society
The St. Augustine Historical Society maintains a research library with collections that include:
Library hours 9:00 am to 4:30 pm Tuesday through Friday.
Menorcan Cultural Society
The Menorcan Cultural Society members trace their lineage to the failed New Smyrna colony founded by Andrew Turnbull in 1768. Many survivors of that colony found shelter in St. Augustine and their descendants live in the St. Augustine area today.
Fort Mose Historical Society
Fort Mose is the first settlement of free ex-slaves and was founded just north of St. Augustine in 1738. The Fort Mose Historical Society works to preserve the history of this settlement and its people.
St. Augustine Genealogical Society
The St. Augustine Genealogical Society meets monthly at the Southeast Branch of the St. Johns County Public Library located on US1 South. They have cataloged the local cemeteries as part of the RootsWeb Cemetery Records project.
As mentioned above, the St. Augustine Genealogical Society has cataloged the local cemeteries. These records can be found on the Society's Cemetery page. The Graveyard Rabbit of Moultrie Creek, a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits blog network, documents the history of local cemeteries and their inhabitants. Articles include documented sources for additional research help. A photo collection of St. Augustine Cemeteries is now available at Flickr. A Cemetery Map of St. Johns County is being built using Google Maps. Click on the cemetery icons to display additional information for that cemetery.
The Huguenot Cemetery is located on Avenida Menendez between the City Gate and the Visitors Center and was in operation from 1821 to 1884.
Tolomato Cemetery is located on Cordova Street just south of Orange Street. Originally the location of an Indian village and Franciscan mission, it became the Catholic cemetery in 1777 when the survivors of the failed New Smyrna colony - most of Minorcan ancestry - arrived in St. Augustine. It continued to serve the Catholic community until the city closed it in 1884.
Evergreen Cemetery opened in 1886 and is still active. The original plan was influenced by the Rural Cemetery Movement of the 19th century and the older sections reflect this. Family plots, beautiful monuments and impressive landscaping are highlights. The newer sections reflect a more stark appearance with few trees and simple grave markers. A map of Evergreen Cemetery including aerial photography shows the delineation between the old and new sections.
St. Augustine National Cemetery is located at 104 Marine Street just south of St. Francis Barracks, headquarters of the Florida National Guard. The first interment is recorded in 1828. Burials included casualties from the Seminole Wars and the Spanish American War. More information on this cemetery can be obtained at its Place page here or at the Veterans Administration and RootsWeb sites.
The Mission of Nombre de Dios is not a cemetery, but does contain a number of graves. There are some graves dating back to the 1850s, but most are dated between 1880 and 1900. All are indexed at the SAGS site mentioned above.
The Florida National Guard web site includes a Heritage Center section with a history of "Florida's Army".
Other useful military history resources include: