American Indians were the first explorers and settlers of Georgia and Florida. Those living along the coast became among the first to encounter Europeans when, on Easter Sunday, 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon landed north of what would become St. Augustine. He claimed the region in the name of Spain and called it Pacua de la Florida in honor the Easter season's "feast of flowers." Today St. Augustine is the oldest continously occupied European and African American settlement in the United States; in the 17th century it was part of the extensive mission/presidio network Spain established among the Timucuan and Appalachee Indians of north Florida. For centuries, however, much of the rest of the state remained unsettled by Europeans.
Florida's reputation as a tropical paradise belies its turbulent history. From the beginning of European exploration disease and warfare began to reduce drastically the native population. A frequently violent rivalry among France, Spain, Britain, their American Indian allies and, later, the United States was not resolved even after Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821. Numerous archeological sites throughout the state testify to the thousands of years of American Indian civilization, and historic cities such as St. Augustine tell the story of European rule.
Georgia's history exhibits many of the same patterns. Inland expeditions under Hernando de Soto and Juan Pardo and a string of coastal missions from St. Augustine north to St. Catherine's Island reinforced Spain's claim to the area, which they considered part of La Florida. After the British successfully established South Carolina in 1670, however, conflict increased between these two European powers. Both sides conducted skirmishes and raids on the other's settlements; many times local tribes such as the Yamasee and the Creek accompanied European forces. With aims both philanthropic and strategic, Gen. James E. Oglethorpe founded Savannah and the royal colony of Georgia (named for England's King George II) in 1733. Between 1739 and 1742, the area became one battleground in a larger war between Spain and Britain. At the Battle of Bloody Marsh on St. Simons Island the British won a decisive battle that ended the war in the region.
The St. Augustine Town Plan Historic District and Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island are just two of the historic places that make up Along the Georgia Florida Coast. If you'd like to learn more about them, as well as the other forty-nine places that make up on this travel itinerary, go now to the on-line map and descriptions that will guide you through the history of this section of the United States. You can also explore the history of Georgia and Florida in The Golden Crescent, an National Park Service guide to the region between Savannah, Tallahassee, and Cape Canaveral.
Created: August 8, 1996