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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,
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
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
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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