Jacksonville Then and Now
Spanish explorers and missionaries were the first to lay claim to Florida in the early 16th century. And even though control was wrested back and forth between the Spanish, British, and later the French, it is this rich history that makes Jacksonville unique. But the history of the United States of America is premised on the establishment, by the British settlers, of colonial territories all over continental America. So it isn’t surprising that the history of Jacksonville FL starts with the construction of a tourist garrison for British settlers from the Mid and North West. In later years -after the great fire of 1901- this city blossomed into a lovely metropolitan area with a population well into the millions.
The Timucan Indians
The Timucan Indians had been living in the densely wooded area around the area where the Atlantic Ocean meets St. Johns River long before the first Europeans arrived. Archaeological findings point to 500 B.C as the time when the Timucans -without a written language- thrived and dominated this area.
Everything was as it was until the Spanish came and claimed huge swaths of the Florida peninsula. Being a vast territorial enclave stretching as far as the North, it would be imperative for them to defend themselves from the threat of latter expansion from other European countries, such as the French. To do so, Fort Mateo was established on the site of the old French Port Caroline and became a stronghold for early Spanish missions, stretching from St. Augustine to South Carolina. In the period from 1513 to 1763, natives were converted to the Christian faith. However, their flirtation with this beautiful coastal enclave would end, with the Spanish giving over control to the British while they held on to the city of Havana.
You can see the tremendous influence of the Spanish all over Jacksonville, from Fernandina to St. Augustine.
British Reign and Influence
With the British came the plantation system and large-scale mechanization. The Industrial Revolution was in its fledgling years in Europe, and growing cotton, rice, vegetables, indigo, and lumber was key to the rapid growth of the Jacksonville area. That was when work began on the expansion of the British navy and construction of the first road. As if by consequence, this attracted a lot of people and commercial activities began. Later, control would be vested in the Spanish, but that wouldn’t be for long.
1821 marks the year when Florida’s marriage to U.S territory was consummated. It is named in honor of Andrew Jackson, who was its first Governor and, eventually, 7th president of the United States.
Florida eventually gained statehood in 1845.