Wednesday, June 24, 2009
St. Augustine, Florida - Part One
This post begins a new series on beautiful and historic St. Augustine, Florida.
The oldest permanently occupied settlement in the continental United States, St. Augustine was already more than 40 years old by the time the English arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, and had been a thriving community for 56 years when the first Pilgrim set foot on Plymouth Rock. The number of "oldests" and "firsts" in the historic city is truly amazing.
Among them are the nation's oldest house, oldest masonry fort, oldest public park and oldest wooden schoolhouse. The Catholic Church has been active in St. Augustine since 1565, making it the oldest active religious organization in the United States.
Founded in 1565 by the Spanish military leader Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the city initially served as a fortified outpost against French expansion along the Atlantic seaboard. Soldiers from St. Augustine destroyed the French settlement of Fort Caroline at present-day Jacksonville, putting its garrison to the sword. Those who escaped the slaughter were captured near Fort Matanzas National Monument a short time later and were also massacred.
With the French presence in Florida thus exterminated, the Spanish settled into a centuries long effort to colonize Florida and built the city of St. Augustine.
Beginning with the next post, I will explore some of my favorite historic sites in the old city. Until then, you can learn more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/staugustine1.