History of Second Spanish Florida
By Jerry Wilkinson
       In 1783 Florida was once again under Spanish rule, but now Spain was a war-weakened country. England had strengthened Florida's mainland considerably (except for the Indians) by her favorable land grants. The Loyalists who had fled south to remain under the English Crown once again had to move, and many did. The Bahamas were their natural choice as it was English.

       Land-hungry U.S. citizens from the north began to openly seek Florida land, admittedly generally coastal land at the mouths of rivers. In the beginning, the Indians were generally left alone in the inner regions. Renegade white settlers, unruly Indians and runaway slaves strained the Spanish-U.S. relationship. Raids across the border were more often than not only to steal slaves. More and more New World trade from Europe was shifted from Havana to American ports, which were more accessible and offered better return cargoes.
       Spain tried unsuccessfully to control the Indian and slave situation, however the quantity of military personnel that the Spanish had to send to Florida precluded its success. The Spanish, French and English were primarily interested in the Florida coasts and readily left the interior lands to the Indians. This land was to become the favored plantation land later.
       Indians living to Florida's north were constantly being pushed west and south by the northern white settlers. The creation of the Georgia colony in 1733 pushed even more Indians into Florida. By now the northern Indians began arriving in south Florida and taking the lands of the indigenous Indians.
      The Seminoles were an important tribe of the Muskegon American Indian. The Creek words "ishiti semoli," which meant "separatist, seceder, runaway, or renegade," probably gave rise to the label Seminole. It was applied to the Upper and Lower Creeks, and to the Hitchitis in Georgia and Alabama migrating into Florida. The land left for the Indians became overpopulated and crowded, so many separated from their main tribes in the mid 1700s. The name "Seminole" was first used in written language by British Indian Agent John Stuart in 1771. Others say the name came from the Spanish word "cimarron" (wild or untamed).
      The Seminoles first moved down the rivers and spread throughout north Florida with the Florida native Appalachis and Timucuan Indians. Those of the Hitchitis were primarily of the Mikasukis, but included Yamasis, Yuchis and blacks.
      Other northern Indians followed these and ultimately became known as the Seminole Nation. Within 100 years the original Florida Indian -subjugated, intermarried, diseased, killed or chased to the Islands- had practically disappeared.
      Another irritation to the whites  -who agreed that all Indians must go- was that the Florida wilderness provided a haven for fugitive black slaves. The Seminoles would neither return the runaways to their owners, nor permit the owners to retrieve them. Some were kept by the Indians as slaves, others intermarried and created a family bond between the two races.
       This bond meant that the Indians would not enter any treaties that did not protect their black companions. For the other part, the blacks were opposed to being forcibly moved to an Indian reservation as an Indian. Osceola, though not a blood line chief, was a spirited leader particularly opposed to the separation of the races. All these factors resulted in a series of Indian wars and manipulation on all sides.
       To read a history of the Seminoles, Click HERE and then use the back arrow to return here.
       Border wars continued on both sides and the Spanish Crown could do little. General Andrew Jackson often had to travel from his Tennessee base especially against the Seminoles. At the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (Alabama) in 1814, General Jackson conquered the Creeks and large numbers fled to Florida to become Seminoles.
       Florida extended to the Mississippi River, before present-day Louisiana was transferred to France in 1800. President Monroe took the territory in 1810 and the State of Louisiana was formed in 1812. In April 1813, General James Wilkinson marched into Mobile and set the western boundary at the Perdido River, west of Pensacola, where it remains today.
The First Seminole War commenced in 1817 after U.S. soldiers attacked a Seminole village and the Seminoles attacked a boatload of U.S. soldiers. Spain, by then a mere figurehead, appeared powerless.
       For 300 years the Spanish, French and British flags had flown over Florida. Finally, in the Treaty of 1819, for $5 million and certain claims, Spain relinquished Florida to the 43-year-old United States. The transfer of flags did not take place until 1821. Florida then became a U.S. Territory, on its way to becoming a state.
      Article six of this treaty supposedly guaranteed the Seminoles "all the privileges, rights and immunities of the citizens of the United States."
       Spain sensed that she was losing control of Florida and gave liberal land grants to her citizens. All of these land grants, two of which were in the Keys, eventually would have to be settled when the U.S. gained control. 
       Things were about ready to pick up in the Keys. After 1815, the Bahamas enjoyed a long period of peace and "wrecking" increased. English Loyalists, Indians, and blacks had fled to the English owned Bahama Islands and improved their economic base. Most of these economic features involved shipping, as the Bahamas were an island nation. The Bahamas by their law required all salvaged goods to be brought to Gnaws at the Vendue House for disposition -regardless of where the ships wrecked. Many of these goods were from, or near, the Florida Keys reefs.
       As we will read in the next Florida historical period, Florida became a U.S. Territory in 1821 and life on the Keys as we know it began. Pirates and wreckers, the settlement of Spanish land grants and the elimination of the Indians became federal problems.
       In 1825, the United States decreed that all goods from shipwrecks in its domain must be taken to an American port of entry, principally Charleston, or Key West. To participate in the wrecking industry, many of the original 13 Colonies's Loyalists and their descendants, who had fled to the Bahamas, were now coming to the Keys. Many of these were also experienced farmers with some knowledge of farming on coral islands.
       Typical family names were: Albury, Baker, Bethel, Curry, Johnson, Lowe, Knowles, Parker, Pinder, Roberts, Russell, Saunders, Sands, Sawyer, Sweeting, Thompson, and many more. These names were endemic to the Bahamas.
       During Florida’s second Spanish dominion, its waters experienced a major increase of what many romantically think of piracy. If one likes marauding outlaws, torturers and murderers, then piracy is for them. The failing of Napoleon’s conquest and the War of 1812 left a horde of Gulf and Bahamian mariners and their equipment unemployed. Transportation routes between the Americas and Europe attracted the less moral of these resulting in a surge of piracy. The Keys was a watering and anchoring location, therefore is likely to be mentioned in these exploits. Any mention of a pirate’s headquarters in the Keys almost surely was a temporary anchorage for capturing or off-loading their prey. Commodore Porter and his U.S. anti-piracy squadron squelched this activity by the mid-1820s.
       Corresponding events in 1821 were the beginning of James Monroe's second term as President, the death of Napoleon, Missouri became a state and Mary Baker Eddy was born. Population comparisons were the United States 9.6 million, France 30.4 million, Italy 18 million and Great Britain 20.8 million.
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