Florida History Timeline

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1497-1514  Europeans see Florida for the first time. A Spanish map of 1502 depicts a peninsula like Florida. Peter Martyr writes in 1514 of a land near the Bahamas with water of eternal youth.
1513 Juan Ponce de Leon, who first had come to the New World on the second voyage of Columbus, sights land on March 27. Between April 2 and 8, in the vicinity of present day St. Augustine, he names the land "Pascua Florida" because of its discovery "during the time of the Feast of Easter."
1516-1561  Florida is explored by Spaniards, including Ponce de Leon, Panfilo de Navarez, and Don de Luna Y Arellano. Hernando de Soto lands in Florida on May 30, 1539, with nearly 600 men near Tampa Bay. De Luna establishes a colony on the shores of Pensacola Bay in 1559. This settlement is abandoned two years later and antedates by six years the founding of St. Augustine, which becomes known as the first attempt at permanent colonization in Florida. Fray Luis Cancer de Barbastro, a Dominican priest is killed by Indians near Tampa Bay in 1548. He is the first known churchman to die for his faith in this country.
1564  Rene oulaine de Laudonniere of France builds a fort which he names Caroline for Charles IX, on the St. John's River, which is known to the French as the River of May.
1565  Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain enters a harbor which he calls San Augustin on August 28; he captures Fort Caroline which becomes San Mateo, a Spanish outpost. He also massacres the shipwrecked French forces of Admiral Jean Ribault on Anastasia Island. San Augustin will become known as St. Augustine, and will be settled continuously after Menendez leaves part of his troops there before his foray on Fort Caroline.
1566  Intensive and continuing efforts are begun by Jesuit priest to convert the Indians of the area to the Christian faith. The mission system in Florida begins soon after the establishment of St. Augustine - nearly 200 years before the first mission in upper California is built.
1567- 1568  Dominique de Urgues of France launches an expedition to avenge the dead of Fort Caroline and Anastasia Island. He captures San Mateo, hangs the Spanish, and returns to France.
1575  The Franciscan friars begin their missionary work in Florida.
1586  Sir Francis Drake, a British seafarer conquers and burns St. Augustine.
1600  Throughout the 17th century, although impeded by sporadic Indian outbreaks, Spanish colonization spreads in Florida. By the 1680s, San Marcos de Apalache (St. Marks of today) is a fort and a settlement of consequence. Pensacola is permanently resettled in 1698.
1702-1704  The British raid Spanish settlements including a 52-day siege of St. Augustine. The town is captured but the fort is not. Governor James Moore of Carolina invades middle Florida forcing the Spaniards and Christianized Indians to abandon the Apalachee missions. Within a few years, the mission era of Florida comes to an end.
1719  The French capture Pensacola; however, as a result of an alliance with Spain, in order to stave off English conquests, it is soon returned to the Spanish. The French also occupy the Gulf Coast west of Pensacola.
1740  The British General James Oglethorpe invades Florida from Georgia, seizing outlying forts. He lays siege to St. Augustine for 27 days until a lack of fresh water and provisions, plus the July sun and hordes of insects, cause him to turn away. He does free the 1500 soldiers and townspeople crowded in the Castillo de San Marcos.
1763  Spain ransoms Havana from the British with Florida. The British find St. Augustine to be a city with about 342 dwellings, Pensacola to have grown slightly beyond the original settlement, and the fort and town of San Marcos de Apalache at the head of the Gulf. The remainder is wilderness and efforts are made by the British to attract investors and settlers.
1781  The Spanish capture Pensacola from the British.
1783  The British return Florida to Spain. Numerous people, many of whom have fled the American Colonies during the Revolution, leave Florida for the Bahamas and the West Indies. Florida's first newspaper, The East Florida Gazette, is published at St. Augustine by Williams Charles Wells. He rushes out an "extra" to proclaim the British defeat in the Revolutionary War.
1785-1821   Numerous Spanish-American border disputes occur. Encouraged by the Americans, a republic is proclaimed in northeastern Florida in 1812 by "patriots" who run up their own flag over Fernandina.
1813  Andrew Jackson captures Pensacola which has been used as a base of Gulf operations by the British against the Americans.
1816  A red-hot cannon ball explodes the magazine of an abandoned British fort on the Apalachicola River, occupied by free and runaway Negro slaves and kills nearly 300. This is a result of Americans seeking to stop Spanish forays upon boats supplying American troops and settlers in Spanish territory.
1817-1819  Gregor MacGregor, a Scotch soldier of fortune, captures Fernandina, menaces St. Augustine, and leaves his lieutenants to resist an attack by the Spanish and volunteer American forces on Amelia Island. MacGregor is replaced by Luis Aury, who declares himself a Mexican, annexes Amelia Island to Mexico, and flies the Mexican flag. American forces evict him in December 1817, without bloodshed, and hold the area until yellow fever causes their withdrawal in 1819.
1818  During the first Seminole War, Andrew Jackson campaigns against the Indians and outlaws Negroes from Pensacola to the Suwannee. He also executes two British citizens whom he accuses of inciting the Indians of the region against the United States.
1819  American Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and Spanish Minister Luis de Onis reach an agreement finally ratified by both nations in 1821, by which Spain gives the United States title to East and West Florida. The United States relinquishes its claims to Texas, and Spain assigns its rights in the Pacific Northwest to the U.S., leaving ownership of the Oregon Territory to be settled among the United States, Russia, and Great Britain. The United States pays about $4.1 million to Americans in Florida holding claims against Spain.
1821  Andrew Jackson receives the Floridas from Spanish authorities at Pensacola on July 17. He leaves Florida in October and resigns as U.S. Commissioner and Governor of the territories of East and West Florida in November from his home in Tennessee.
1822  The unified government of Florida is established on March 30,1822, when President James Monroe the Congressional Act providing for a Governor and a Legislative Council of 13 citizens. William P. Duval from Kentucky, a Virginian by birth, becomes the first Territorial Governor.
1824  On March 4, Governor Duval proclaims the site of present day Tallahassee to be the seat of the new territory. The Legislative Council meets there in November in a log house erected in the vicinity of today's capitol.
1825  The Marquis de Lafayette is granted $200,000 and a township of land anywhere in the unsold public domain in recognition by Congress of his Revolutionary War services. He accepts a township adjacent to Tallahassee in the Territory of Florida. Lafayette never comes to his land, but initiates its settlement in 1831 by a short-lived colony of about 60 Norman peasants who attempt to cultivate vineyards, olive groves, and mulberry trees for feeding silk worms.
1834-1837  Florida's first railroads begin operation. The Tallahassee-St. Marks is the first to be incorporated on April 10,1834; however, the b St. Joseph-Lake Wimico line is the first to be in service on April 14, 1836.
1835-1837  With the beginning of the Second Seminole War, Major Francis L Dade and two companies of U.S. Army troops are ambushed and massacred. In 1837 the Indian leader Osceola is imprisoned after entering an American camp under a flag of truce.
1837-1840  General Zachary Taylor, future president of the United States, commands forces against the Seminoles. His battle on the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee on Christmas Day in 1837 is considered the last organized encounter with the Seminoles.
1838 A convention held at St. Joseph drafts a Constitution in anticipation of early statehood.
1842  The Second Seminole War ends with 3,824 Indians and Negroes relocated to Arkansas. The cost of the war to the Federal government, beyond the expense of the regular army, is placed at $20 million. While 1,500 soldiers are wounded or contract disease, no estimate of civilian casualties is made.
1845  On March 3, the last day of his administration, President John Tyler signs into law the act granting statehood to Florida's 57,921 inhabitants. William D. Moseley, a Jefferson County planter and a North Carolinian who had lived in Florida only six years, becomes the state's first governor. David Levy Yulee, a native of St. Thomas in the West Indies and of a Portuguese Jewish family, is elected the first representative to Congress. However, before going to Washington, he is selected by the General Assembly as Florida's first U.S. Senator, which with the exception of a four-week interruption, he continues to be until secession.
1851  Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola patents the process of making ice artificially, a process he had developed in 1845 to cool the rooms of his feverish patients. He dies in 1855 with little recognition; however, today his statue stands in the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
1855  The General Assembly passes the first Internal Improvement Act which uses swamp and other land ceded by the Federal movement to the state to furnish incentives for a statewide railroad and canal transportation system.
1855-1858  The Third Seminole War takes place.
1860  The Legislature, meeting after Abraham Lincoln's election as president, passes an Act for a Constitutional Convention to meet in Tallahassee and appropriates $100,000 for outfitting state troops. The Florida Railroad, the first cross state line, links Fernandina on the East Coast with Cedar Key on the West.
1861  Florida withdraws from the Union on January 10. State troops occupy Chattahoochee Arsenal, Fort Clinch on Amelia Island, Fort Marion at St. Augustine, and Fort Barrancas at Pensacola. Federal authorities hold Fort Taylor at Key West, Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, and Fort Pickens at Pensacola.
1861-1865 Florida furnishes salt beef, and bacon to the armies of the Confederacy. The voting population of Florida is 14,374 in 1860 which gives greater significance to the fact that more than 16,000 Floridians serve in the Civil War 15,000 in the Confederate army and 1,290 in the Union forces. Of those in the Confederate armies, 6,700 serve for the entire war or until disabled or killed. Florida troops are represented in all principal battles and more than 1,000 are killed in action. At least 5,000 Florida soldiers are dead by the spring of 1865.
1864  The Confederates defeat the Union army at Olustee and save the interior supply lines from Florida. This confines the Union troops, to the coast.
1865  Home Guards and Cadets from the West Florida Seminary save Tallahassee from capture by turning back invading Federal troops at the Battle of Natural Bridge. The war ends with Tallahassee as the only Confederate state capital east of Mississippi to escape being captured. Federal troops do occupy Tallahassee on May 10 and the American flag once more flies over the Capitol on May 20. A Constitutional Convention convenes on October 25. It annuls the Ordinance of Secession and decrees the end of slavery; however, the right to vote is restricted to "free" white male persons of 21 years old or older.
1868  A faction-torn Convention submits a new Constitution which the voters approve in May. It grants equal suffrage to all races. Civil government is resumed with an end to military rule on July 4.
1876  Florida's electoral votes, cast amid charges of fraud, give the winning margin for the U.S. Presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes. Democrats regain control of state offices and put an end to the carpetbag rule as Federal troops are withdrawn in 1877.
1881  Hamilton Disston, Philadelphia saw industrialist, buys four million acres of the Everglades at 25 cents an acre to free the Internal Improvement Fund of debt and open the way for development of much of peninsular Florida.
1884 The first train of the new Plant System, created from short-lines in south Florida by Henry B. Plant, rumbles into Tampa to produce the agricultural and industrial awakening of the West Coast.
1885  A Constitutional Convention of 56 days broaden people's share in their government. Cabinet posts are made electives, as are those of justice of the Supreme Court and all county offices except county commissioner. A State Board of Education is created and the establishment of normal schools is authorized.
1886  Requiring a railroad adequate to serve a great hotel he has built at St. Augustine, Henry M. Flagler buys the first transportation link in the chain of railroad and hotel properties he builds down the East Coast to Key West.
1888  The first commercial shipment of phosphate is made from the Peace River Valley, where the mineral had been discovered in 1881.
1889 A yellow fever epidemic results in the creation of the State Board of Health.
1890  The National Convention of Farmers' Alliance, a predecessor of the Populist Party, is held in Ocala. Their radical demands include the abolition of national banks, unlimited coinage of silver, a graduated income tax and the direct election of senators.
1894-1899  Repeated frosts kill much citrus and send the industry southward.
1898  The Spanish-American War creates embarkation camps at Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville with thousands of soldiers and others who visit the state returning afterwards either as tourists or residents.
1901  A primary election law is enacted to displace the convention system of nominating candidates for public office.
1905  The Buckman Act consolidates state institutions of higher learning into three: The University of Florida at Gainesville, Florida State College for Women at Tallahassee and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes at Tallahassee. The Legislature also creates the Everglades Drainage District of 7500 square miles to reclaim water-burdened land for agriculture and cattle raising. An automobile registration law is enacted with 296 registering the first two years.
1911  The first night flight in aviation history is made by Lincoln Beachey over Tampa.
1913  Governor Trammell sponsors the first corrupt practices law to reduce the legal cost of seeking public office. The law allows the expenditure of $4000 by candidates for the U.S. Senate and for governor $3500 for cabinet positions.
1914  The world's first scheduled airline service with pilot Antony Jannus begins service from St. Petersburg to Tampa on January 1.
1915 The first legal steps are taken toward establishment of a state constructed and maintained system of highways a governmental function left previously to local agencies but requiring emergency measures because of rapid development of automobile and tourist traffic.


This page was lasted updated on 17 June, 2002 , 08:42 PM CST