History of English Florida
By Jerry Wilkinson
       As time passed, the English and the French threatened Spanish Florida. Before the Treaty of Paris with the English in 1763, the French threatened Spanish Pensacola. The English threatened St. Augustine to the east. In 1702, Carolina Governor Moire (English) made a significant sea attack against St. Augustine, but had to go back by land, as the Spanish fleet from Havana blocked his escape by sea. 

       Later, Georgia Governor James Oglethorpe (English) sailed up the St. Johns River in 1740 and took two small Florida forts. The Spanish retaliated with an offensive in 1741. They captured English ships and plundered plantations on the Georgia and Carolina coasts.
 Again, in September 1742, General Oglethorpe attacked St. Augustine, but was repelled. Oglethorpe then moved down the coast for another attack, but his fleet was scattered by a storm. Why so many naval attacks were attempted in September after 200 years of being repeatedly aborted by hurricanes at that time of year is not understood.
       Back to the Treaty of Paris in 1763. To set the stage for the year 1763, other comparison chronological events were: the end of the Seven Year's War; Voltaire wrote his "Treatise on Tolerance," Mozart at age seven was touring Europe and the first Chambers of Commerce were established in New York and New Jersey.
       The British armada had captured Havana in the summer of 1762, but apparently had little use for it. She had the 13 colonies to Florida's north. Spain had less use for Florida than her center of New World commerce (Havana), so Florida was traded to England for Havana. In about four months of negotiation in Paris, 250 years of Spanish rule of Florida was ended. The English traded Havana for Florida.
       At this time, Florida extended as far north as the Yazoo River on the Mississippi River. Small settlements at St. Marks, Mobile, New Orleans, Manchac and Natchez existed and Pensacola and St. Augustine were still the largest. Florida was too large to govern as one colony so England divided Florida into two colonies. East Florida was under Governor James Grant and West Florida under George Firestone. England's Major Ogilvie was in charge of East Florida affairs at St. Augustine and Don Elixio de la Puente was the Spanish agent in charge of Spanish goods and properties remaining in East Florida.
      Spain's Don Elixio insisted that the 1763 treaty only transferred the mainland of Florida, and not the Florida Keys, to England. His argument was that the Keys ("Los Martires") were "Norte Havana" and parts of Cuba, not Florida. Ogilvie, knowing of the ambiguity of the treaty, said the Keys would be occupied anyway and defended as part of English East Florida. When reading Spanish, Spain owned the "Keys" continously from 1513 to 1821.
       Neither country did much complaining, neither made much use of the Keys, and neither really contested the other's claim.  Havana did issue licenses to its fishermen, which the English called passports, to fish in the Keys. It appears that both countries principal concern was that the other would build forts and attempt to control the Bahama Channel shipping lane. Later (1822) the United States did not make the same mistake as it dispatched the schooner Shark to plant the U.S. flag at Key West to make it clear that the Keys were U.S. property. This ambiguity may be the reason that there were no English land grants in the Keys.
       On the mainland, the English government gave generous land grants and the Floridians (except the Indians) prospered as never before. New Smyrna Beach, founded by Dr. Turnbull and named after his Greek wife, is probably the best known new settlement of this English era (1767). Denys Rolles also formed an early English settlement known today as Palatka.
 The Keys were only affected indirectly. For example, the British warship H.M.S. Carysfort in 1770 ran aground (She did not sink.) on the reef now named Carysfort Reef. George Gault, surveying eastward from the Mississippi River for the British, surveyed most of the Florida Keys in 1774. His charts and notes are an important part of Keys history. He did not return the following year due to the Revolutionary War scare. No known English land grants or settlements were made in the Keys.
       It is significant to mention that the two English Florida colonies did not join their 13 sister colonies in the American Revolution of 1776. They were probably too small, too new and undeveloped to shed their mother country's apron strings. In fact, in 1776, when the news of the Declaration of Independence reached St. Augustine, the townspeople burned Hancock and Adams in effigy. Three signers of the Declaration of Independence, Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward, were later held captive in the English prison at St. Augustine. As a trivia item, Florida celebrated its first 4th of July in 1822 after it became a U.S. territory.
       During and after the American Revolution, many English Loyalists in the 13 Colonies wished to remain under the English Crown. Some went directly to the Bahamas and others came to Florida, which was still English.
       The Florida native Indians were being pushed out by everyone, including the invading Creek Indians from the north. The white man was pushing the Creeks out of their native lands to their north and east. The Creeks spread as far south as the Keys. A band of 48 Uchise attacked a group of nine Spaniards in Key West on February 28, 1762. Eventually, all Creek and other Indians in Florida were called Seminoles.
      The Spanish in Cuba made several attempts to rescue the native Florida Indians. They were taken to Cuba where many died of disease, or reportedly returned to Florida. The last major exodus reportedly took place in 1763, when some at St. Augustine and Key West departed by ship to Havana. Although it is credible that some intermarried or were adopted by the Creek, this was the theoretical end of the native Florida Indian. The whites and the newly named Seminoles from the north had taken over.
       In 1783, with the Revolutionary War ended, England was forced to give up a large part of her American possessions. The Treaty of Versailles returned Florida to Spain in exchange for the Bahama Islands. (Nassau in the Bahamas had been captured by Havana's Governor Don Cargigal in 1782.)
       Many of the English Loyalists (Tories), who had moved to Florida during and after the 1776 Revolutionary War, now moved to the Bahamas to remain under England. Some of their descendants become the "Conch" settlers in the Keys in later years.
       In summary, Florida became a Spanish territory with the arrival of Ponce de Leon in 1513. After 50 years of Spanish attempts to settle Florida, Spain decided not to send more expeditions. Then the French made their move to settle in the Jacksonville area, and Spain sent an expedition to annihilate them. The French shifted their attention to the New Orleans area, and Spain developed St. Augustine, our oldest city.
       England began developing colonies in the northeastern United States in the 1600s and Spain did relatively little with Florida. In 1763, the Spanish had to trade Florida to England in order to repossess Havana. England lost its 13 colonies to the United States in the revolution, but the two Florida settlements did not participate.
       During the American Revolution, Spain declared war with England in 1779 and by 1780 Spain had captured the English-owned Nassau. In the Treaty of Versailles (1783), England traded Florida for Nassau with Spain. English ownership of Florida had lasted only twenty years and the English were given until March 19, 1785 to settle their ownership interests.
       I repeat that considerable maritime activity took place off the coasts of the Keys, but there was little terrestrial activity other than the native Americans. The Keys had provided many shipwrecks, lumbering, fishing and hiding areas, and fresh drinking water for every nation. The deep-water anchoring facility at Cayo Hueso (Key West) permitted anchoring for ships not wishing to stop in Havana or Charleston. Most, if not all, of the Florida indigenous natives had been killed or driven from their homeland by about1763.
       Corresponding events in 1783 were: American author Washington Irving was born, Mozart wrote his "Mass in C Minor" and the Society of Cincinnati was founded.
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