I think we went to St. Augustine when I was really, really young, too, but don’t remember that trip, so we’ll just ignore it for now.
This first trip is germane to my post because when I was in . . . fifth grade . . . ? My texbook said that St. Augustine was the oldest continually occupied permanent European settlement in what is now the United States and I seemed to remember having been there.
Of course, it is more complicated than that, as it turns out, but that was shocking enough for our little 10-year-old brains. I mean, the Pilgrims! They’d been here longer than anyone!
And, of course, well, no. The Mayflower immigrants have indeed been here a very long time for Europeans, but Jamestown has been there longer than . Also, San Juan, Puerto Rico is older than St. Augustine.
I know there’s an organization for descendants of the Mayflower immigrants. Are there organizations for the descendants of the first settlers of Jamestown and St. Augustine? If there aren’t, there should be.
And, well, yeah. There are. Jamestown descendants have the Jamestowne Society and St. Augustine descendants have, or maybe had, since their website doesn’t look to have been updated since 2014, the Los Floridianos Society.
Welp. I guess some history is in order now. The first recorded visit to Florida by a European was by Juan Ponce de León in 1513. The Spanish had been in the Caribbean for years at that point, so another Spaniard may have made it there before then, but if so, there’s no recorded history of the visit.
When I was growing up, we were told that Ponce de León was looking for the Fountain of Youth, but he probably wasn’t. There’s a whole chain of events there that I really don’t want to go into here. Maybe I’ll dig into it someday and write about it. I am trying to come up with lots of content this month, after all.
Fast forward 52 years. The King of Spain ordered Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who was based in the Indies, to establish a settlement on the mainland and destroy Fort Caroline, a French settlement near what is now Jacksonville, Florida. They sighted the coast of Florida on August 28, which is the Feast of St. Augustine, hence the name.
There were skirmishes and things and people died. War is not really my historical . . . jam? This mess was, by the way, all about religion. The French settlement was Protestant and to be Spanish at the time was to be Roman Catholic. Eventually, it looks like all of the men of Fort Caroline except a few with useful skills and those who claimed to still be Roman Catholic, were all killed and all that was left were French women and children, and the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine.
There’s nothing left of the original settlement, which was really disappointing to me when I discovered this in 1989. The fort that’s there, the Castillo de San Marcos, is the oldest masonry fort in the United States, but it dates from 1672, over 100 years after St. Augustine was founded.
The Castillo is made from coquina, which is a really cool kind of limestone where you can still see the shells that make up the stone. Unfortunately, I don’t have any closeup pictures of the coquina (I wonder if Thomas and I took any, not that it would matter, since he has those pictures).
The rest of the buildings in St. Augustine date from then or later, but this historic district is a really pretty little area and was actually kind of how I imagined San Antonio would look. Turns out the La Villita section of San Antonio is kind of similar in feel, but San Antonio in general is kind of suburban feeling.
I need to go back to St. Augustine one of these days if only to take some pictures of my own. Alex will inherit both his dad’s and my pictures someday and I’d like for my descendants to have that record of history.
For today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link, we’re continuing the Avatar: the Last Airbender kick with the first of the comic book sequels, The Promise, by Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino , Gene Luen Yang, and Gurihiru. The war is finally over and now the Gaang have to begin the process of picking up the pieces. Zuko is terrified of turning out like his father and strongarms Aang into promising to kill him if he turns evil. Then Zuko heads out to start to get the Fire Nation out of the Earth Kingdom, a project that turns out to be harder than it originally looked.