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Florida: The March of Progress

Circa 1930s

Florida has a background of more than four centuries of colorful history since the coming of the white man. Indian races, extending into the dim shadows of the forgotten past, roamed its hills and shores. Explorers and settlers from Spain, France and England have left their imprint. Some of the most interesting incidents in the history of the American nation have to do with the old and the new land of Florida. Over its soil a pre-historic people roamed, then the Indian. The first flag waved was the royal banner of Spain; next, the lily-spangled flag of the Kingdom of France; then the British Union Jack; the Stars and Stripes; the Stars and Bars of the Southern Confederacy, and again the flag of our own United States.

Traces of occupation by all of these people come vividly before us as we tour the state. The ruins and monuments of the early colonists, Indian settlements, and battlefields, mingle with modern structures and engineering feats. The past and the present combine to interest all observers.

The white man's first recorded contact with this land was on March 27th, 1513, when Ponce de Leon sighted the shore near what is now St. Augustine. His later attempts at settlement failed. Narvaez in 152-8, and DeSoto in 1539, led exploring expeditions through Florida. The only worthwhile result of these expeditions was the introduction of the orange, which they brought from Spain.

In 1562, Jean Ribault, a Frenchman, visited this land and made a glowing report of what he saw. In 1564, French Huguenots, under the leadership of Rene de Laudonniere, established a colony named Fort Caroline near the mouth of the St. Johns River.

A Spanish settlement under Pedro Menendez de Aviles was established at St. Augustine in 1565. This settlement has had an unbroken history to the present day. Menendez's first task was the destruction of the French Fort Caroline, with the slaughter of its defenders. A French fleet, under Ribault, was wrecked on the coast and its survivors were captured and slaughtered by Menendez's soldiers. This ended the first period of French contact with Florida, although an avenging expedition in 1568 destroyed the Spanish garrison which Menendez had established on the site of Fort Caroline.

The stone ruins of Missions are to be found in many places today-missions established among the Indians by Spanish priests. The Spanish also established a settlement at Pensacola. Many of these early buildings and forts still stand at Pensacola and St. Augustine, and will be more fully described in the paragraphs devoted to these towns.

In 1763 Florida was ceded to England and remained loyal to that country during the Revolutionary War. Up to 1784, when Florida was ceded back to Spain, the English established many fine plantations in Florida and more thin fifteen thousand English families left Florida when their flag ceased to fly over its territory.

Spain sold Florida to the United States in 1821 for $5,000,000. Florida was one of the eleven seceding states in 1861, and her citizens played a prominent part in the war which followed.

In recent years thousands have come from other states to make their homes. Other thousands come for an annual visit in the salubrious climate. Henry M. Flagler on the east coast and Henry B. Plant on the west coast were far-seeing capitalists who had much to do with the modern development of the state.

As the meeting point of Anglo Saxon America with Latin America, Florida, with its beautiful setting and matchless climate, will play a most important part in the days that are to come.

Excerpt from "Florida: The March of Progress" published circa 1930s by the Florida Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Immigration.


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