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Title: Sketches of St. Augustine

Author: Rufus King Sewall

Release date: August 19, 2016 [eBook #52853]
Most recently updated: January 24, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Chuck Greif, Broward County Library and the
Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


Image unavailable: BAY ST. AUGUSTINE E.F.









Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1848, by
George P. Putnam,
in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court for the Southern District
of New-York.

Leavitt, Trow & Co.,
Printers and Stereotypers,
49 Ann-street, N. Y.



This brief account of one of the most interesting towns in this country, in many historical points of view, has been prepared to meet the wants of those who may desire to learn something of the place in view of a sojourn, or who may already have come hither in search of health.

The work makes no pretension to fullness of detail, nor to absolute perfection in any particular. It is rather a glimpse at, than a full history of, the place, though it gives such a connected view of the course of events, as to satisfy the curiosity of such as come among us, (and which every sojourner feels the want of,) so far as the lights we now have can aid us in a knowledge of the past.

I have availed myself of such helps, in the few works written, as I could find, which speak of the place.{4}

But the field of historical researched upon which I have entered, I find too extensive to be compressed in all its interesting particulars into a work of this sort. The gleanings, therefore, must for the present suffice.


St. Augustine, June 20, 1848.



Location—Description—Antiquity—Distant Appearance—Public Places—Public Works of the City7
Early Settlement—Founder—The Objects of his Voyage from Spain—Character—Entrance into the Harbor—Name—Massacre of the Huguenot Protestants—Slaughter at Matanzas—Drake’s Attack—Indian Assault—Contribution laid on the City by Davis, the Bucanier—The Bucaniers—Expedition of Gov. Moore of South Carolina—Causes of the same—Col. Palmer’s Attack—Oglethorp’s Invasion—Minorcan Inhabitants—Patriot War—Purchase of Florida by the United States—Change of Flags—Frost of 1835—Orange Trade and Groves—Fruit Growing in East Florida—Tropical Luxuries produced—Inducements to Agriculturists from the North18
Climate of Florida—Testimony of Physicians—Coast Climate—Its Advantages—Class of Diseases favorably affected by a{6} Residence in the Climate—St. Augustine as a Place of Resort for Invalids—Accommodations—Society—Tables of Temperature of the Climate, exhibiting the Degree of Changes during the Month and Year, as compared with Foreign Places of Resort—Customs—Conveyances to the City49





This city, the ancient metropolis of the Spanish Province of East Florida, is situated near the Atlantic coast, little south of the 30th parallel of north latitude. The southern point of a narrow peninsula, formed by the confluence of the waters of the St. Sebastian River and the sea, which here is backed in behind Anastatia Island, through the inlets of North River and Matanzas bar, is the site on which the city stands.

The island, behind which takes place an expansion of these waters into a beautiful harbor, accessible to all classes of vessels drawing nine feet, which is the depth on the bar at low water, is a long, low, and narrow body of sand and coquina, or shell rock, which is covered with various shrubbery; and though it affords a barrier to the surf of the Atlantic, it does not obstruct the cooling sea-breeze, nor indeed a prospect of the ocean from elevated stations.{8}


The town is nearly surrounded with salt water. The face of the country, skirting on the seaboard, from Cape Hatteras hither, is low, level, and sandy. This feature prevails southward to near Cape Florida; when the rock-bound shore, the rudiments of which begin with the coquina formation opposite the city, again is made the barrier against the encroachments of the sea, and continues until it is broken up among the keys of the Florida archipelago.

The country around the city, is a plain of sandy shell soil, termed “pine barren.” With this the city is joined, on the west, by a substantial bridge over the St. Sebastian River; and on the north, in a neck of land over a stone causeway. Egress at this point is made from the city by a thoroughfare, once commanded by a fortified trench and gateway. On the east, are the harbor and bay, which open in a beautiful sheet of water, over which, towering above the sand hills, on the adjacent island, is seen the light-house, originally a fortified “look-out,” where the Spanish sentry watched against danger.

The peninsula on which the city stands is said to have been originally a “shell hammock.” The soil consists of shell and sand, with an intermixture of vegetable mould. The surface has but a slight elevation above the level of the surrounding water. Both these circumstances are favorable. In wet weather, the texture of the soil is favorable to a rapid extraction of the super-abundant moisture from the surface; and in dry weather,{9} the slight elevation of the land above the sea, enables it to withstand drought,—the waters percolating through the soil, refresh vegetation.

These things conspire to promote the health of the city, inclosed as it is by the arms of the sea, to whose salubrious and refreshing breezes it is entirely open.


The city of St. Augustine is built in the style of an ancient Spanish military town. The plan of the city is a parallelogram, traversed longitudinally by two principal streets the whole length. These are intersected at right angles, transversely, by several cross streets, which divide the city into squares. Though not larger than many of our New England villages, the city is nevertheless regularly laid out, as it was intended to be compactly built, each square having more or less space, once occupied with groves of the orange, which a few years since were the glory and wealth of the place. Indeed, it was once a forest of sturdy orange trees, in whose rich foliage of deep green, variegated with golden fruit, the buildings of the city were embosomed; and whose fragrance filled the body of the surrounding atmosphere so as to attract the notice of passers by on the sea; and whose delicious fruit was the great staple of export.

The harbor fronts on the east, and is furnished with good wharves. The sandy beach of the St. Sebastian brings up the rear on the west, affording space for a delightful drive around the city; while a once thrifty{10} but now ruinous suburb—the bubble of speculation in “morus multicaulus” times—called the North City, fills the background on the north.


The coquina rock, a concretion of sand and shell formed on the neighboring sea-beach on the south side of the bar and on the island—the upper extremity of which opens in sheets, ready for quarrying, and on which quarries are now extensively worked—is the principal building material. The streets are excessively narrow, and are furnished with neither side-walks nor pavements. The houses are usually two-story buildings, generally crowded into the streets; and are built without much regard to architectural style or ornamental beauties.

Not unfrequently a piazza projects from the base of the second story, which in some cases is inclosed with movable Venetian shutters, so as to control the draft of air, and increase or abate it at pleasure.

These appendages, though they add greatly to the comfort of the occupants, nevertheless disfigure the buildings by impairing their symmetrical proportions. The piazza, especially, awakens a sensation of peril, as one passes for the first time on horseback through the streets, particularly if he has been accustomed to the broad thoroughfares and elevated structures of a northern Anglo-American city. The contrast is great.{11}


In all its outlines and main features, this city is deeply traced with the furrows of age. It also wears a foreign aspect to the eye of an American. Ruinous buildings, of antique and foreign model, vacant lots, broken inclosures, and a rough, tasteless exterior, scarred by the ravages of fire and time, awaken a sense of discomfort and desolation in the mind of a stranger.


From the sea, as you enter the inlet from the harbor, the city presents a fine view. Any distant prospect is decidedly pleasing. Its deformities—the narrow streets—dilapidated buildings, with their projecting piazzas—are lost to the eye in the distance; in which, also, unity of effect is produced by the regularity of the plan on which the city is built; which effect is heightened greatly by the ornamental trees, whose foliage screens many of the houses—the overshadowing pride of India—and the vigorous “morus multicaulus.” There is, however, much to relieve the first unfavorable impressions of a stranger. Its comfortless appearance is the effect of first impressions, which of course are superficial, and often delusive. The blighted stocks of desolate orange groves—the tokens of decay—the obvious lack of industry and taste, and the consequent want of thrift—on a close inspection, are relieved by a constant succession of images of the past, illustrative of the character of Castilian mind in a heroic and barbarous age. Moreover, there is{12} a rapid transition in progress. This ancient city is being transformed into American features, both in its external appearance, and in the habits and customs of the people.

Many of its recent edifices are in the neat, attractive style of American village architecture. Especially is this the case in the neighborhood of the Magnolia House.


The city has a public square, or inclosed common. In the centre, a monument some sixteen or eighteen feet high, has been erected. It commemorates the giving of a constitutional basis to the Spanish government. On its fronts, the following Spanish sentence is engraved:—“Plaza de la Constitution.”

The three sides of this square, or plaza, are now bounded by as many streets, fronting on which are the public buildings. The Government House, now used as a hall of justice, and for public offices, stands on the west front. On the east, near to the water, are the market buildings. The Roman Catholic Cathedral, surmounted with the vertical section of a bell-shaped pyramid, which supports a chime of bells, and which terminates in a small cross, stands on the north; and on the opposite south front is the Episcopal Church, a neat, well-proportioned Gothic edifice, having a spire and bell.

The Presbyterian and Methodist Churches, the former north and the latter south from the common, on the same street, are well-built, substantial houses of worship, of{13}

Image unavailable: FORT MARION, ST. AUGUSTINE. E.F.

simple Grecian style of architecture and neat American finish.


St. Francis Barracks, on the southern extreme of the city; Fort Marion, on the north, with its water-battery and the sea-wall, are among the objects of historical and military interest within the city.

The sea-wall is erected of the native coquina rock. The upper stratum is granite flagging stone. This important work is more than a mile in extent, and of sufficient width for two to walk on it abreast. As a public promenade, as well as a fortification against the encroachments of the sea, it is of great use; and it is also a place of universal and of delightful resort.

This wall incloses two beautiful basins, furnished also with stone steps. These are the points of embarkation and of debarkation for the numerous boatmen who navigate the neighboring waters for pleasure and for profit.

The Castle is a fortress of great strength, covering several acres, and built entirely of stone from the neighboring coquina quarries, and according to the most approved principles of military science. It is said to be a “good specimen of military architecture.”

Its walls are twenty-one feet high, terminating in four bastioned angles, at the several corners, each of which is surmounted with towers corresponding. “The whole is casemated and bomb-proof.” This work is inclosed in a wide and deep ditch, with perpendicular walls{14} of mason-work, over which is thrown a bridge, originally protected by a draw.

Within its massive walls are numerous cells. On the north side, opposite the main entrance, is one fitted up as a Romish church. It has now become converted into a storehouse for military fixtures. These rooms are at best dark, dungeon-like abodes; and, by natural association, they revive the recollection of scenes characteristic of a dark and cruel age.

Some of these gloomy retreats, though like Bunyan’s giant Despair they now can only grin in ghastly silence at the Pilgrim stranger, yet look as if they were once the strong-holds of despotic power. With this character the gossip of common fame also charges them.

The Castle commands the entrance to the harbor. Its water battery is furnished with a complement of Paixhan guns of heavy caliber. These are in a state of readiness to be mounted.

The Castle is a place of chief and universal attraction to the curious stranger. On approaching the main entrance, through the principal gateway, the first object of interest is a Spanish inscription, engraved on the solid rock immediately over head, and under the arms of Spain, and is as follows, viz.:[1] “Reynando en Espana{15} el son Don Fernando Sexto y Sierdo Governador y Capitan General di esta Plaza de San Augustine de Florida y su Provincia el Moriscal de Campo Dn. Alonzo Fernandez de Herida se conduyo este Castello el ano de 1756 dirigendo las abras et Capitan ynginero Don Pedro de Brazas y Garay.”

On reaching the interior of the Fort, the several apartments may be explored, except those where the magazine is found, and those which are used as cells for prisoners—the State being permitted to confine its prisoners therein.

Within the bastion of the northeast angle, far under ground, is a dark, dungeon-like recess, constructed of solid mason-work. Before entering here, the guide will furnish himself with a torchlight of pitch-wood.

This place was accidentally discovered soon after the work fell into the hands of the American army. It was then walled up, and was not before known to have had an existence. Of this concealed retreat, Rumor has whispered strange things.

A human skeleton, with the fragments of a pair of boots and an empty mug for water, it is alleged were discovered within. As to the history of the place—whether it was once an inquisitorial chamber, or the scene of vengeance, where bigotry invoked the secular arm to silence heretical tongues, and suppress heretical thoughts; and as to the name, character, standing, guilt or innocence, pleasures or pains, of the poor unfortunate to whom the boots and bones belonged, there is silence. Either Fame has been unable to catch the echo through{16} the lapse of time, or shame bids her be silent, or horror has paralyzed her tongue.

By these, and like rumors, either truth or fiction has succeeded in investing this place with mysterious and melancholy interest to an American citizen.

The Barracks occupy a spot on which were the ruins of an ancient monkish retreat, near the south end. The main building is a substantial structure, of large dimensions and neat appearance. The prospect from it, of the harbor, bar, ocean, and neighboring country, is delightful. Its location is one of the most eligible in the city. A large space is inclosed in rear of the main building, for a garden; the southern extremity of which is occupied as a military burial ground, where repose the ashes of the major part of the regular force of the United States, who fell in battle during the recent bloody Seminole war. Chaste and beautiful monuments with appropriate inscriptions, mark the spot where sleep the gory dead.

Here, beneath two pyramids, together in one bed repose the ashes of one hundred and seven men—the gallant Major Dade and his intrepid warriors—a sacrifice to the vengeance of the brave and warlike Seminole, who with the Indian agent were the first fruits of the terrible threat of Osceola, who having indignantly rejected all overtures on the part of the government to leave the graves of his fathers, on closing his intercourse with the government agent, being refused the right of purchasing powder, thus addressed himself to Gen. Thompson: “Am I a negro? a slave? My skin is dark, but not black. I am an Indian—a Seminole. The{17}


white man shall not make me black! I will make the white man red with blood; and then blacken him in the sun and rain, where the wolf shall smell his bones, and the buzzard live upon his flesh!”[2] The extreme point of the peninsula, south, on which the city is located, is occupied with the outlines of an ancient breastwork, in a ruinous condition, and the United States Arsenal buildings.

On the whole, it will be seen, from the facts above stated, that this city is not without its interest to the antiquary and to the historian. If not old Spain in miniature, it is a chip of the block of the old in the new world, a relic of the past interwoven with the texture of the present age.{18}



This city is by forty years the oldest town within the limits of the United States of America. It was the offspring of the religious bigotry, fanaticism, and jealousy, of a barbarous but heroic age.

On the 8th of September, 1565, at noonday, on the celebration of a religious festival in honor of Mary, the virgin goddess of Papal homage and superstitious reverence, a creature of the Spanish government, Pedro Melendez by name, who had recently crossed from the old world, entered this harbor, debarked, and taking formal possession of the country, proclaimed Philip II king of North America, had the service of Mass performed, and the foundations of the town immediately laid.


Pedro Melendez was a man of blood. His bigotry had been nourished, says the historian, in the wars against the Protestants of Holland. He had also acquired wealth and notoriety in the conquests of Spanish America.

But there he had been guilty of such excesses, and pursued a course of such rapacity, that his conduct had{19} provoked inquiry. It ended in his arrest and conviction. The king confirmed sentence against him. To recover the favor of his sovereign, retrieve his character, if not to atone for his crimes, Melendez devised the scheme of conquering, colonizing, and converting to the faith of Papacy, the Province of Florida. He agreed also to import five hundred negro slaves.

In the meanwhile, a company of French Huguenots, in their flight from the bloodhounds of persecution, let loose upon them from the strong-holds of the Romish church, had found an asylum in the wilds of America, and as they supposed, on the banks of the St. John’s River in East Florida. Thither they had fled and planted their colony. Amid the desert wilds and pestilential vapors of the morasses of Florida, they fondly hoped to enjoy “freedom to worship God.”

Delusive hope! Where could a poor Protestant hide from the wrath of the “great red Dragon,” breathing out fire and death to worry and destroy the saints, if the dens and caves of the earth could afford him no shelter in Europe?

Melendez, whose piety had been fed on the blood of Protestants till it had become bloated with bigotry, smelling the scent of prey from afar, “collected a force of more than twenty-five hundred persons:—soldiers, sailors, priests, Jesuits, married men with their families, laborers and mechanics.”[3] With this company he embarked, not merely to found, but to root up and destroy a peaceful{20} colony, solely because it was made up of the followers of Calvin, and not of the Pope!

In traversing the Atlantic he encountered a storm. His ships were by it scattered; so that only one third of the number he embarked with from Spain reached the coast of Florida.

It was on a day consecrated to the memory of St. Augustine, a venerable and pious father of the early ages of Christianity, that he came in sight of the coast of Florida. Four days he sailed along this coast; and on the fifth he landed, having discovered a fine haven and harbor.


Learning from the natives, the place where the French Huguenot colony had established itself, and the position of Fort Caroline on the banks of the St. John’s, and having named the harbor and haven here, where he first set foot on shore, St. Augustine, Melendez immediately sailed northward in quest of the infant Protestant community.

Landonnier had conducted the expedition which had sought the shores of Florida, to find an asylum for the persecuted Protestants of France. Under the patronage of Admiral Coligni, he had on the 30th of June, in 1564, settled the mouth of the River St. John’s with Protestant refugees, and erected Fort Caroline. This place Ribaut had reached on a return voyage from France, a few days prior to the appearance of Melendez. Melendez purposed to seize by treachery the French shipping,{21} which, however, by suddenly running to sea, eluded his grasp, and was soon after wrecked; being driven by a storm on the coast below, while menacing this place.

The appearance of the Spanish fleet foreboded evil. The circumstances excited the fears of the Protestant colonists. They inquired the name and objects of the Spanish commander. To the deputation he answered: “I am Melendez of Spain, sent with orders from my king to gibbet and behead all the Protestants in this region. Frenchmen who are Catholics I will spare—every heretic shall die!”

Thus did he announce his mission to be one of blood with unblushing boldness. Melendez now returned to this place, to prepare for, and put it effectually into execution. Here his forces were collected, his plans laid: and from the newly laid foundations of this—the first town within the United States of America—even while they were wet in the holy water of the Mother Church—armed with the blessing of her priesthood, Melendez led a chosen band to the execution of his bloody mission. He marched through the wilderness with eight days’ provisions, and reached the forests and hammocks on the banks of the St. John’s near to Fort Caroline, where the Protestant colony reposed, unconscious of the evil impending. He now prepared himself and his followers for their work of human butchery, “by kneeling and praying for success.”[4] All was silence, save the calm voice of nature, whose soft whispers were{22} wafted through the branches of the gray old trees and sturdy oaks, that stood round about and cast their protecting shade over the heads of a peaceful colony. These, perhaps, sighed at what they saw, and against which they could not warn. From prayers Melendez rose up to the slaughter. The blood of the mother and of her innocent babe mingled in the same pool! Helpless woman and decrepit age bowed together in death and violence! The citizen and the soldier met the same fate! A scene of carnage and of cruelty was enacted, unparalleled in the annals of human butchery!

Some eighty-six persons, whose only crime was their Calvinism, fell victims to the barbarity of a savage Popish bigot. But few escaped. Of these, such as were afterwards taken were hung on the limbs of the next tree, where their bodies became food to hungry birds of prey; and to mark the spot, Melendez erected a monument of stone, on which he engraved, in extenuation of his crime, “Not as Frenchmen, but as heretics.”[5]

Having executed his avowed mission of death to Protestantism in Florida, he retraced his steps to the place where he had laid out his new town, the work of the erection of which he was prepared to complete on the foundations he had now consecrated with hands reeking in Protestant blood, as well as with holy water. Here{23} “Melendez was hailed as a conqueror by a procession of priests and people who went out to meet him.” “Te Deum was solemnly chanted!”[6]

But the sacrifice offered could not satiate the thirst for blood which inflamed the desires of this persecutor, whose life had been steeped in atrocities. Perhaps he felt that a life of crime such as his, could have its guilt washed out only in the blood of poor innocents, who presumed to avow their purpose to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. The taste of Protestant blood he had just sipped seemed but to quicken his appetite.

“Angry,” says Bancroft, “that any should have escaped, the Spaniards insulted the corpses of the dead with wanton barbarity;” and having celebrated mass, and reared a cross on the spot, and chosen for the site of a church the ground still smoking with the blood of a peaceful colony, Melendez went in pursuit of the shipwrecked fugitives, who were now the only survivors of the French Protestant settlement in East Florida. They had been cast upon the sands south of this city. In their wandering along the beach, they had reached the inlet of the Matanzas. Here they were found, a company of famished and forlorn men. To secure the destruction of these men more effectually, the cowardly assassin, Melendez, first contrived to obtain their confidence in his humanity, a virtue of which this creature in human shape was utterly incapable.{24}

They surrendered by capitulation, though a few, suspicious of treachery, distrusted the integrity of Melendez, and fled into the interior. The major part being secured, the captives, in successive bands, were ferried over the river and received among the Spaniards. On reaching the opposite shore, each man’s hands were pinioned behind him; and thus, like sheep to the slaughter, they were driven toward St. Augustine. But, as the company approached the fort, “a signal was made.”[7] Thereupon, the man in whose perfidious honor and humanity they had confided—(acting, it may be fairly presumed, on the principle that no faith was to be kept with heretics—a principle worthy of the Romish church, and which had been baptized and sanctified in oceans of Protestant blood)—this man, I say, amid a flourish of trumpets and drums, cut the throats of the whole company, not as “Frenchmen, but as heretics.”[8]

Though the government of France looked on this thrilling scene of horror, in the destruction of her own peaceful subjects, unmoved, yet, adds the historian, “history has been more faithful, and has assisted humanity by giving to the crime of Melendez an infamous notoriety.”


The site of the Huguenot colony was named Fort Caroline. De Gourgas was a Roman Catholic and a Frenchman. He had been distinguished in public life, but had retired to the enjoyment of his repose, when, on learning{25} the barbarous atrocities with which his countrymen on the St. John’s had been sacrificed to Spanish bigotry, he emerged from private life—again buckled on his armor for vengeance. At his own risk, he got up and fitted out an expedition. He sailed from France, with a chosen band of followers, to avenge the blood of his slaughtered countrymen. Between the years 1569 and ’74 he reached the coast of Florida—debarked his forces at the mouth of the St. John’s—carried several outworks—and finally inclosed the Fort, now occupied by a Spanish colony. He entered it, and the first sight that greeted his eyes, was the horrible vision of the skeleton forms of his murdered countrymen, their bones and sinews dangling from the limbs of the surrounding trees. Here too was the stone set up by Melendez, with its inscription. The bones and relics of the slaughtered Huguenots De Gourgas ordered to be buried. He then fell upon the Spaniards. Hardly one escaped; and their bodies he ordered to be hung in the places where those of his countrymen had been before suspended, and underneath De Gourgas wrote this inscription—“Not as Spaniards, but as murderers.” He immediately returned to France.

Thus the light of Protestantism, which had been first kindled by the fugitive Huguenots of France on the coast of Florida, in the southern extreme of these United States, was put out in the blood of those, who, as pioneers, were the torch-bearers of religious liberty, which was not to be again rekindled until it shot up from Puritan altars, and burst forth in the frozen north, where it was cherished and protected by chilling snows and frosts in those wintry{26} wilds, till it had acquired force and intensity sufficient to spread its beams over the whole land.

Such is the connection of this city and its founders, in its early history, with the early Protestant institutions of the republic! It can hardly be credible to an American citizen, that there is within the bounds of these United States a nook or corner so dark and blood-stained!

Melendez, for twelve years, presided over the destinies of this town, directing his attention mainly to the subjection, and conversion to papal superstitions, of the aboriginal inhabitants, aided by the Franciscans, an order of monks. Their missions were established throughout the interior. An ancient monkish retreat, occupying the present site of the United States Barracks, was the head-quarters of the order in this city. A number of the missionaries, while on their passage from Cuba to this place, were wrecked on the bar at the entrance of this harbor, and in full view of their convent, and, with the crew of the vessel, were drowned.


Some twenty-one years had elapsed since the founding of this city and the massacre of the neighboring Protestant colony, when Drake, as he coasted along the shore, discovered the “Look-out,” a tower on the adjacent island. This led him to suspect a settlement inland. He ordered his boats to be lowered and manned, to make a reconnoisance on the shore. He landed on an island. In the exploration he perceived, across the water, a town built of wood. Soon after, a French fifer deserted from the{27} Spanish forces—crossed the lagoon in a canoe, playing an English air, the march of the Prince of Orange. This circumstance recommended him to the favor of the English admiral—for Drake now sailed as an admiral of the royal navy. The Frenchman described his situation to be that of a captive. He probably told also of the recent massacre, and described its horrors; and was himself, undoubtedly, one of the fugitives from that scene, who had been spared for some reason.

Elizabeth of England was a Protestant queen; Drake, her representative, was a Protestant in his sympathies. Moreover, Spain and England were on terms of hostility at this time. His marine force was disembarked, under the command of Carlisle, his subordinate; the intervening sound was crossed; and, notwithstanding the greatest caution had been observed in all these movements, the reconnoitering officer was discovered by the Spaniards. A cannon was fired, and thereupon they all fled to town. This took place at an outpost. This work was immediately taken possession of by the reconnoitering party under Carlisle. It was a fort built of timber, mounting fourteen pieces of brass cannon. Drake then plundered the garrison of a chest of silver, and next day marched for the town. As he approached, he encountered the Spaniards. An action commenced; but at the first fire of the invading force, the Spaniards fled, and the inhabitants evacuated the town, which fell into the hands of Drake, who burnt and plundered it; and then sailed for England, where he arrived in July of the same year, 1586.[9]


Twenty-five years[10] passed away before any other tragedy was enacted within the precinct of this then new city. But vengeance did not slumber long. The natives of Florida—a brave, warlike, and cruel, as well as numerous band of savage men—assaulted, captured, and burned the city to ashes. The details of this terrific scene of savage barbarity, and the immediate causes thereof, we have not at hand.

1665. In a quarter of a century more, Davis, the Bucanier, discovered this Spanish retreat. He entered on a piratical expedition against it; invested it with an armed band of freebooters; captured, and plundered it. The circumstances of this movement, the details of the attack and plunder of the town, are not to be found.


The Florida archipelago, and the neighboring keys and islands of the West Indian seas, have been the resort of freebooters from an early period. The security they afforded, as a place of retreat from discovery, gave these points great eminence, as the centre of operations for a large, bold, and ruthless band of sea-rovers. Their piratical expeditions swarmed over the adjacent waters, and desolated the neighboring coasts of the Gulf of Mexico and the Spanish West Indies. This brotherhood of outlaws were termed Bucaniers. They hailed from France, England, and Holland. They led a life of plunder; and reduced piracy to a profession, regulated by its own laws and customs, which had all the force of martial law among themselves.{29}

The existence of these desperate men as a class was owing to the exclusive and arbitrary measures of the Spanish government, through which, they endeavored to secure and maintain the exclusive control of the commercial resources of the New World.

In war, the Bucaniers preyed on commerce as commissioned privateers; in peace, they resorted to hunting wild cattle, and contraband trade against the Spanish. Finally, they entered upon a course of open piracy and plunder. They are said to have originated on this wise. Soon after the Spanish conquests on the Main had secured the fertile plains of Mexico and extended over it the Spanish power, the island of Cuba was nearly depopulated by a tide of emigration setting into the newly acquired territory. The emigrants left their cattle behind. These, in course of time, multiplied prodigiously. The hills and valleys of the island of Cuba were at length covered with herds of wild cattle; and it was soon found profitable to hunt them for their hides and tallow alone. The first who engaged in this business were French. The distinctive term applied to these men, had its origin in their customs. Bucanier is supposed to be a derivative of the Carib word “boucan,” by which the Indians designated flesh prepared for food by its being smoked and dried slowly in the sun. The hunters prepared the flesh of the slaughtered cattle for food in this way. From this circumstance, the term “Bucanier” was first applied to the hunters; and subsequently, it was used to designate all such as followed a contraband trade, or were engaged in a predatory life upon the sea or shore.{30}

The Bucaniers, at first, made the island of Tortuga their head-quarters. But the settlement being obnoxious to the Spaniards, they seized the first opportunity to destroy it. This dispersed the company, who sought other places of refuge; and from thence they worried the Spanish settlements, actuated by motives of revenge. Several places and Spanish towns were compelled to submit to the degradation of purchasing the forbearance of the Bucaniers, by paying them contributions, equivalent to black-mail levied by the banditti of Scotland.

Being driven from their original retreat on the island of Tortuga, the Bucaniers retired to the Keys. No doubt the inlets and islands of the southern peninsula of Florida attracted their bands. Not only the towns and settlements on the Spanish islands and on the Main became objects of plunder, but the commerce of every nation also.

It is not till within a few years, that the remnants of this desperate class of men, who have long infested the waters in the neighborhood of the West India islands, have been driven from their haunts, and hunted down, by the American Navy. The Bucanier was terrible in his appearance, as well as in his profession.

His dress consisted of a shirt dipped in the blood of cattle—trousers prepared in the same manner—buskins without stockings—a cap with a small front, and a leathern girdle, into which were stuck around his body, knives, sabres and pistols. Such was the filthy and terrific garb of the Bucanier in full costume.

Such was Davis, who laid this city under contribution{31} some eighty years after it was founded by Melendez. At this period, the Bucaniers seem to have regarded the whole Spanish race as their natural enemies, and their commerce and their cities as lawful objects of plunder.


At the close of the seventeenth and in the beginning of the eighteen century, the English settlements of Carolina had acquired permanency and importance. But Spain had proclaimed her exclusive right to American possessions. By a permit from the Roman Pontiff, she had already seized and subdued a greater part of the New World, and left the prints of her bloody hand upon the rights and treasures of the aboriginal inhabitants.

In the face of the civilized world, Spain, then one of the richest and most powerful states on earth, having asserted a claim to and planted her foot upon the soil of North America, how could she forego the exclusive control of the same? How could she endure the presence, or divide the occupancy of the soil with a rival state? She had already acquired the proud title in her sovereign, of “Defender of the Faith,” for the ardor and fidelity with which she supported the arrogant pretensions of the See of Rome, having given her strength to the extension of its interests, even to the prostitution of her civil power to ecclesiastical domination. How then could Spain consent that the Protestant religion should gain a foothold in North America? Had she not already extinguished it on the coasts of Florida? Were not the English colonies still in their infancy, as well as within{32} the reach of her arms? It required but a single well directed stroke, and the Anglo-Saxon race and the hated Protestant faith would perish together.

We have glanced at the barbarous scenes with which Spain opened her schemes of colonization in North America. The same malign purposes and bigoted spirit moved all her subsequent counsels, and hung like a dark and portentous cloud over the future peace and prosperity of her border settlements.

In her efforts to make good her pretensions, a series of petty jealousies and strife between the English and Spanish races ensued. Distrust and jealousy were fostered. These feelings led to mutual hostile demonstrations. Mutual depredations were perpetrated; and thus the seeds of open war were sown. The struggle was maintained till English blood and the Protestant faith acquired permanent ascendency in the Floridas.


The Spaniards and Indians, stimulated by the bigoted and rapacious spirit of the mother country, perpetrated acts of wanton barbarity on the colonial settlements of Carolina and Georgia. Provoked to retaliation by these depredations, Governor Moore, A. D. 1702, projected an invasion of Florida, by the forces of South Carolina. In the month of September, with an army of twelve hundred men, he embarked on an expedition for the reduction of St. Augustine, which was esteemed the centre of the predatory operations against the English settlers.

Col. Daniel was ordered to scour the country inland,{33} and penetrate to the city by the route of the St. John’s River. An officer of distinguished military skill and enterprise, Col. Daniel, with great promptitude and success, marched through the country, captured and plundered the city, and shut its inhabitants up within the walls of their Castle. Such was the position of affairs when Gov. Moore reached the scene of his military operations before St. Augustine. A regular siege was advised. The Fort was invested. But the artillery of the besieging army was too light, and no impression could be made on the fortified works.

Col. Daniel was despatched to procure guns of a larger caliber and more effective powers. In the meanwhile, a Spanish naval armament made its appearance off the coast. Governor Moore, in a panic, appalled at this demonstration, raised the siege, abandoned his ships and stores, and fled back to Carolina by the nearest inland route.


The original causes of disquietude were in nowise removed or abated. They became, indeed, more and more active and aggravated, till they ripened into further hostile demonstrations.

The Spanish charged the English with intrusion. The grounds of complaint were mutual.

The English, on the other hand, charged the Spaniards with enticing away their colored servants, and with exciting the Indians to murder and depopulate their frontier towns. The Spanish governor not only justified himself{34} in these things, but immediately fitted out an expedition from Augustine and marched into Georgia, laying waste the country, sparing neither age nor sex.

These provocations occurred twenty years after Gov. Moore had invaded the Floridas.

The tribe of the Yamasee Indians had been made the tools of Spanish barbarity in their recent hostile operations against the English colonies of Georgia and Carolina.

The intrepid Col. Palmer immediately raised a force of militia and friendly Indians, with which he marched into Florida to retaliate the injuries of his countrymen. He pushed at once to the very gates of the city, laying waste nearly every settlement. The citizens fled and entrenched themselves within the city fortifications, leaving the poor natives, their allies, to the mercy of the invaders; and the power of the Yamasee tribe was broken under the walls of the city, being nearly all killed or made prisoners by the English.

All was destroyed but what lay within range and protection of the guns of the Fort.

The Georgians, in their fury, seized on the Papal Church of “Nostra Seniora de Lache,” plundering and burning it to the ground, from which they took the gold and silver ornaments for booty, and also an image baby, which they found in the arms of the image of a woman, the Virgin Mary, with which the church was adorned.

This place of worship occupied a position a little without the city gates. The point of land back from the old steam mill is alleged to have been its site, the ruins of which, it is alleged, are still to be found there.{35}

Palmer, with his Georgians, having taken ample vengeance, and being unable to reduce the city without heavier ordnance than he then had at command, gathered all the booty within his reach, which was considerable, and retired to Georgia, leaving the Spaniards to obtain satisfaction as best they could.


During the next fifteen years, no considerable overt act of hostility was perpetrated, though the spirit and embers of war still glowed in the hearts of the border colonists. The Georgians were still plundered of their property. Their negroes were enticed and spirited away into the wilds of Florida; and this was justified by the Governor of St. Augustine, on the pretence that the Spaniards “were bound in conscience to draw to themselves as many negroes as they could, in order to convert them to the faith of the Roman Catholic Church.” Moreover, “a plot was discovered, which contemplated the utter extinction of the English settlements. A German Jesuit—one Christian Priben—a resident among the Cherokees, was the master spirit in this conspiracy. He was taken by the English traders. Upon his person was found his private journal, revealing his design to bring about a confederation of all the southern Indians, and to effect a new social and civil organization. He had noted his expectations of assistance in the execution of his original design from the French, and from another nation, whose name was left a blank. Among his papers were found letters for the Florida and Spanish governors, demanding their protection and countenance. Also, there{36} were found among his papers the plan and regulations for a new town.

Many rights and privileges were enumerated, marriage was abolished, a community of women and all kinds of licentiousness were to be allowed.

In addition, the Spaniards had just made an abortive attempt to dispossess the Georgian colonists of Amelia Island.

At this juncture, Oglethorp appeared on the stage of action. He had been recently appointed to the office of governor of the colony.

The salvation of the English settlements required prompt and vigorous measures.

Oglethorp solicited and secured the co-operation of South Carolina, in a combined effort to insure the safety of the English settlement.

The invasion of Florida, and the reduction of St. Augustine, as the nest where were hatched the broils and perils of a border serife, and from whence swarmed the savage hordes which overran and devastated the land, were determined upon.

South Carolina promptly responded to the call of Oglethorp. Carolina raised a regiment of five hundred men, and equipped one vessel of war, carrying ten carriage guns and sixteen swivels, with a crew of fifty men. Two hundred men enlisted as a volunteer force. In addition, Oglethorp had his own regiment of five hundred men, two troops of Highland and English rangers, and two companies of Highland and English foot.”[11] His{37} plan was to take the city by surprise. This however failed.

With a select force, he entered East Florida, invested and reduced Fort Diego, situated some twenty-five miles north of St. Augustine. Having left here a garrison force, and completed his arrangements, he marched direct for St. Augustine and occupied Fort Mosa. This work he destroyed; and then advanced to reconnoitre the city. The result of the reconnoisance was disheartening. The town was strongly fortified. The Spanish force within the intrenched city and castle, amounted to seven hundred regulars, two troops of horse, with armed negroes, militia, and Indians.[12]

At the outset an oversight had been committed, in neglecting to blockade the harbor, on account of which, supplies were thrown into the city, and additional means of resistance. Oglethorp, however, soon afterward enforced a blockade. The ships were moored across the entrance of the bar; and lines of investment were drawn around the town on the land. Col. Palmer, with a company of Highlanders and a small force of Indians, occupied the old Fort Mosa, with orders to scour the country. A small battery was planted on Point Quartele; while Oglethorp with his own regiment erected and occupied field works on the northern extremity of Anastatia Island, opposite the Castle. The ruins of these works are marked by a clump of shrubbery and a slight elevation on the point.{38}

The arrangements being perfected, a bombardment of the town and Castle was attempted. Oglethorp opened his batteries with a hot fire of shell and shot, a great number of which were thrown into the town. The fire was returned with spirit from the Castle, and from galleys in the harbor; but the distance was too great for either party to do much execution. The shallow water of the bar prevented any co-operation of the English naval force with that of the land. The fire of the besieging army at length abated. A counsel of war was held. In the meanwhile a sortie was made by the besieged; and Col. Palmer, with his entire force, were surprised in sleep, and all cut off at Fort Mosa, except a few who escaped by a small boat, and crossed to Point Quartele, where the Carolina regiment was stationed. The Indian allies soon grew impatient, and left in disgust. The blockade of the inlet at Matanzas was raised, and provisions and other supplies were thrown into the town, through this approach to the city. The English troops became enfeebled by disease, dispirited, and filled with discontent, and many deserted. The naval force became short of provisions, and the hurricane season was at hand. Oglethorp was taken down with fever, and the flux raged among his troops. The siege was thereupon raised, and the army withdrawn into Georgia. Thus the expedition became abortive, though the face and angles of the Castle, fronting the harbor, bear the mark of Oglethorp’s storm of shot and shells to this day.

A counter invasion of Georgia was projected from this city, two years after. But though the preparations were{39} made on a scale of unusual magnitude, and the expedition was well supported by competent naval power, the Spaniards were whipped and frightened off from the settlements of Georgia. They related, on their return, as an excuse for their disgraceful and cowardly behavior, that, “the deep morasses and thickets were so lined with wild Indians and fierce Highlanders, that the devil could not penetrate to the strong-holds of the Georgians.” Retaliation was, of course, the natural result. The very next year, Oglethorp again visited Augustine, captured a fort in the vicinage of the city; but being frustrated in some of his plans, retired again to his province, without further molestation to the enemy. These hostilities and differences continued to distract this city, till A.D. 1763, when the peace of Paris gave the Floridas into possession of the government of Great Britain. For the twenty years that Florida remained in possession of Great Britain, great improvements were made, flourishing settlements begun; and the prosperity which industry and skill insure began to show itself on every side. In 1784, the Floridas were retroceded to Spain. The Anglo-Saxon race forsook their fields and villages, and retired under the shield of British law and the Protestant faith.


Says the historian, “A military government succeeded, together with a sparse population, who barely subsisted on their pay, who neglected improvements,—who suffered their gardens and fields to grow up with weeds, their fences and houses to rot down, or be burned for fuel.”{40}

The Minorcan population, however, it is alleged, were an exception. Their industry furnished fish and vegetables to the market. This is a peculiar people, and they compose a large proportion of the population of the city. The present race were of servile extraction. By the duplicity and avarice of one Turnbull, they were seduced from their homes in the Mediterranean—located at Smyrna—and forced to till the lands of the proprietor, who had brought them into Florida for that purpose. After enduring great privation, toil, and suffering, under the most trying circumstances of a servile state, they revolted in a body, reclaimed their rights, and maintained them under English law, by a decision of the king’s court at Augustine, whither they had fled from their oppressor, under the conduct of one of their number, a man by the name of Palbicier. A location was assigned them in the north of this city, which they occupy in the persons of their descendants to this day. Their women are distinguished for their taste, neatness, and industry, a peculiar light olive shade of complexion, and a dark, full eye. The males are less favored, both by nature and habit. They lack enterprise. Most of them are without education. Their canoes, fishing lines, and hunting guns, are their main sources of subsistence. The rising generation is, however, in a state of rapid transition. The spirit of American institutions, and the reflex influence of an association with Anglo-American society, are working an assimilating change in the whole social structure of the native population of this city; the present population of which is estimated at from 1800 to 2000 souls.{41}

From the time of the retrocession of the Floridas, till the disturbances growing out of the late war with England, there was a state of comparative quiet in the border settlements. But ancient jealousies and the seeds of former dissensions, differences of religion, and the remembrance of past injuries, had not been altogether eradicated. Moreover, the occupants of lands on the line between the American and Spanish nations found those within the Spanish domain who strongly sympathized with the free and liberal spirit of American institutions, as seen in contrast with the despotic features of a military government under the control of an intolerant and bigoted hierarchy.

A patriot war ensued.[13] A neutral territory was erected. Spanish authority was rejected. Augustine was again invaded. But the American government interposed, restored quiet, and immediately entered upon negotiations with the king of Spain for the purchase of the Floridas.

These negotiations were at length crowned with success; and on the 17th of June, 1821, the “stars and stripes” of the United States of America floated from the Castle, and St. Augustine became an Anglo-American town, under the government of the American general, Andrew Jackson.[14] Protected by the shadow of the{42} American eagle, for the first time, the genius of the American institutions called together her sons and daughters in the old Government House, for the exercise of a right which had been watered with Protestant blood in the soil of Florida centuries before—“freedom to worship God.” On Friday, the 11th of June, 1824, was organized the Presbyterian church. Subsequently, the Protestant and Methodist Episcopal churches were established. Thus Protestant influence and institutions gained a firm foothold in the ancient Spanish capital of East Florida.

It is related,[15] that immediately on the exchange of flags a strange sight was seen in the city. A Methodist{43} itinerant was observed, wending his way from street to street and from house to house on a religious mission, distributing Protestant religious books, and otherwise intruding himself among the sons and daughters of the mother church.

The circumstance, so unusual, and the great presumption of the stranger, of course alarmed the Romish ecclesiastical authority. The priest could not brook such intrusion. He went in pursuit of the presumptuous man in black, and when he had overtaken him, menaced him with the indignation of his ghostly power if he did not at once desist.

The itinerant surveyed him for a moment in silence, as if measuring with his eye the capacity of his power, and then, with the most imperturbable coolness, and an impudent though significant movement of the eye, pointed the wrathy shadow of the Pope to the “stars and stripes,” which now proudly floated over the battlements of the Castle—when it vanished, and left the Methodist minister to prosecute his favorite work among the people as he listed.

This, undoubtedly, was the first time that prelacy had been taught a lesson of forbearance here, or to consider the nature of the change which had come over the scene of its former undisputed sway, and to understand, that under the flag of the United States of America man was protected in the enjoyment of his high prerogative—“freedom to worship God.”{44}


Prior to February, 1835, groves of the sweet orange had for many years, and with great care, been brought into a thrifty and productive state. Then St. Augustine was one immense orange orchard, and appeared, says an eye-witness, “like a rustic village, with its white houses peeping from among the clustered boughs and golden fruit of the favorite tree, beneath whose shade the invalid cooled his fevered limbs and imbibed health from the fragrant air.” Much attention was given to the rearing of orange orchards, and large investments had been made in planting out nurseries of fruit trees, which, indeed, could hardly supply the demand for the young trees.

The season prior to February, 1835, was very productive. Some of the orange groves paid from one to three thousand dollars. I have been informed, that twelve years ago the income to the city was some $72,000 per annum. Mature, thrifty trees sometimes produced 6000 oranges; and the average product per annum of a single tree was 500 oranges.

In the vigor and thrift of the orange business, the annual export of oranges was between 2 and 3,000,000 per annum from this city.

The trade was brisk, and a source of revenue and profit to the place of great value. In the orange season, the harbor was enlivened with a fleet of fruit vessels, that thronged the city for the purchase and transportation of oranges to the northern market.

But on the night of the fatal month of February, 1835,{45} a frost cut down the entire species of the orange tribe, some of the trees rivaling in stature the sturdy forest oak. At one fell stroke, the labor and profit of years of toil—the inheritance of many generations—the little all of many families, were swept away! The resources of the city were dried up! Many were hurled in a night from the seat of affluence, into the lap of poverty and distress!

To this day, the city has not recovered from the blight of that dire stroke. Shoots from the withered stocks of the old trees have indeed sprung up, and been struggling for life ever since, but under the pressure of disease; and all efforts to resuscitate the tree have been rendered abortive by the ravages of insignificant animalculæ, which prey on the life and vigor of the young shoots, and perpetuate the influence of the frost of 1835.


There are important facts relative to these agricultural products and resources of East Florida, which ought to be better understood by those, who, on account of constitutional delicacy, consumptive habits, or other causes, at the north, are disposed to seek other and more congenial latitudes. On the east coast of South Florida the lands are productive, and healthy in location. On the St. Lucie River and Sound, the banks are high shell bluff, and exceedingly fertile for high lands. Though north of the tropical latitude, yet the climate is so genial, that it nourishes with luxuriance, in the open air, most of the fruits of tropical climes. The cocoa, orange, lemon, lime, guava, citron, pine-apple, banana, and other like products{46}, together with the semi-tropical fruits, the grape, fig, olive, &c., and garden vegetables, the cabbage, potato, beet, onion, with various species of the melon kind, grow with great luxuriance. Orange orchards, pine-apple fields, banana and cocoa-nut groves, are now in process of cultivation by settlers, many of whom are from the north, and have begun to clear their lands within the last few years.

Industry and perseverance are the chief investments of capital required, in order to reap ample remuneration. Northern men, with their own hands, are now thus engaged. It is no longer an experiment. On the banks of the Indian River and St. Lucie Sound fruiteries are being raised. Fruit groves and cane fields are being planted, which will probably ere long furnish for northern markets the delicious products of tropical climes, in a more perfect condition and of better quality than can be elsewhere found.

The lands of tropical Florida on the east coast, in the region of the Indian River, appear to be of an older formation, and are on a higher level above the sea, than those in this neighborhood. The landscape is finer. The climate is more salubrious. Its attractions for those who wish to make their own labor their capital, from which they shall be enabled to draw a support for themselves and families, are great. The orange, pine-apple, and sugar lands of South Florida are worthy more attention from agriculturists, capitalists, and emigrants, than they have received; and the day is not far distant, when their rich resources will begin to be developed, and will excite interest.{47}

Image unavailable: Bromelia Ananas.  PINE APPLE  Lith. of F. Michelin 111 Nassau St. N.Y.
Bromelia Ananas.
Lith. of F. Michelin 111 Nassau St. N.Y.

The orange culture has been proved to be a source of great profit. It will be again, whenever in this country groves can be reared. The culture of the pine-apple will be found to be of equal worth with that of the orange.

The pine is said to mature its fruit from the slips, when they are well set out, in about eighteen months, and their stocks will continue to bear for several years. One acre of land will produce some 40,000 pines, and the sale of this fruit is made in market at say from ten to eighteen dollars per hundred.

Moreover, the fruit from the pine plants of South Florida need not be plucked till it has matured on its stock. It will therefore come into market in a more mature condition, and of finer flavor than any that can elsewhere be grown. It will bring the highest market prices; and the fruit of this kind that has already been grown, by competent judges is said to be of the best quality.

The lands which are adapted to this culture are, indeed, of limited extent; but there are sufficient to supply the home market.

These facts, together with the salubrity of the fruit-growing region, must ere long attract attention from the public. Thousands, in that mild and equable climate, might there live and labor, and enjoy a ripe old age, who must soon die, amid the vicissitudes of the climate in the north.

Admitting that the pine-apple, on account of risks in transportation and cost in getting to market, should be worth only about one-half the market price in the field,{48} yet an acre of thrifty, well cultivated pines will yield from $1500 to $2000 per annum. At five cents each, the product of an acre of pine-fruit would be $2000.

These calculations show the great value of the pine lands and other fruit soil of Tropical Florida. These facts have but to be known, to be understood and appreciated. They indicate the great resources of South Florida, in the soil of its tropical fruit lands, which is a region of country lying some forty miles south of Cape Carnavaral.{49}




This city enjoys many advantages in respect to climate, which are peculiar. The same may be true of the climate of the Florida peninsula in general. An intelligent correspondent of the Army and Navy Chronicle, in an interesting article, thus writes of the climate of Florida:

“Florida, from its position, lying just north of the Tropic of Cancer, and being nearly surrounded by water, would be judged to possess one of the blandest and most equable climates in the world. And such, in fact, for several months in the year, is found to be the case.

“In the interior and upper portions, the variations in the annual temperature are considerable—80 and 90 degrees. The diurnal variations are considerable. On the sea-coast and in the lower part of the territory, where regular trade-winds prevail, the temperature is so much less variable, that the islands about capes Florida and Sable are in this respect unexcelled perhaps by any other region of the globe.”

Dr. Forry,[16] U. S. A., thus writes of the climate of this region:—“Among the various systems of climate{50} presented in the United States, that of the peninsula of Florida is wholly peculiar. Possessing an insular temperature, not less equable and salubrious in winter than that afforded by the south of Europe, it will be seen that invalids requiring a mild winter residence, have gone to foreign lands in search of what might have been found at home. Florida therefore merits the attention of physicians at the north; for here the pulmonary invalid may exchange for the inclement seasons of the north, or the deteriorated atmosphere of a room to which he may be confined, the mild, equable temperature, the soft, balmy breezes of an evergreen land.”

“For many years,” says Dr. Wardeman, “afflicted with phthisis, and compelled to pass the last seven winters in the West Indies and the southern parts of Florida, we have been necessarily placed in communication with numerous invalids similarly affected, many of whom were under our professional care; and from personal experience and the observation of others, we have had ample opportunities for comparing the effects of different climates on the disease. Premising that we have passed five winters in Cuba, one at Key West, and one at Enterprise, East Florida. Florida has the advantage over Italy, in having no mountain ranges covered during winter with snows; the cold blasts from the Apennines and the Jura mountains, rendering a large portion of Italy and southern France unfit for invalids unable to bear a sudden and great increase of temperature.”

Dr. Bernard Byrne thus writes of the climate of Florida (see the National Intelligencer of May 18th, 1843):{51} “Taking it the year round, the climate of East Florida is much more agreeable than any other in the United States, or even than that of Italy. In the southern portion of the peninsula frost is never (rarely) felt; even so far north as the Suwanee River, there are generally but three or four nights in a whole winter that ice as thick as a quarter of a dollar is formed. The winter weather is delightful in East Florida, beyond description. It very much resembles that season which in the Middle States is termed “Indian Summer;” except that in Florida the sky is perfectly clear, and the atmosphere more dry and elastic.”

We now will consider the climate of St. Augustine in particular. There is circulated a sentiment prejudicial to the virtue of the climate of St. Augustine, as a resort for invalids in search of health. This may be all very natural, when the interest north of this city, served by the traveling public, is considered; but it is not just. Experience usually contradicts this sentiment. It is encountered under various exaggerated forms of statement, all along the southern inland route. In the face of declarations designed to forestall opinion against the place, however, many have persevered, and found experience the wisest counselor.

Says a correspondent to the Florida Herald, 1848: “I have occasionally been in the interior. In every instance, however, I have found the climate of this city preferable on the whole. The same is true of every place I have visited south, if I except the climate of south or tropical Florida, which I believe to be without a parallel.”{52}

These remarks on the nature of the climate, exhibiting its advantages, are founded on the experience and observation of individuals who have thoroughly tested its virtues, and who were capable of forming and of expressing an intelligent opinion—many of these writers being called, in the course of professional duty, to analyze and study the nature and effects of climate.

Let me suggest certain peculiarities, which impart to the climate of St. Augustine peculiar advantages over any interior or more northern locality, and which are properties peculiarly favorable to a restoration of impaired health.

During the winter months, the extremes of temperature, though the transitions are somewhat more sudden, are nevertheless not so great here as in the interior. This peculiarity follows a law of climate, which, both north and south, causes it to be warmer in the neighborhood of the sea in winter, than in regions remote therefrom. It is also cooler in summer.

The east winds here are far different from the east winds at the north. Though somewhat raw and gusty, they are nevertheless shorn of their intensity, and greatly modified, in their passage across and along the Gulf stream. They thus lose very much of their asperity, and would hardly be recognized by a New Englander, being usually unattended with rain. In summer, the air is neither so hot nor as sultry as it is inland, where respiration is attended with a suffocating sensation. The atmosphere of the sea-coast is not so highly rarefied. The process of evaporation, which is perpetually going on,{53} tends to equalize temperature, and so to adapt the atmosphere to the action of the respiratory organs, that one breathes freely and easily. By the same process, the intensity of the heat is greatly abated. The afternoons and evenings are invariably cool and refreshing.

The atmosphere exhilarates. On one’s energies and spirits, it acts as a stimulus, so that one does not suffer from lassitude here, as is usual at the north. The nights are refreshing in the hottest season. This remark is true, I believe, only of the atmosphere in the neighborhood of the sea, amid the coast climate. Indeed, the whole body of the atmosphere on the coast is more pure and healthful than in the interior; and is believed also to be medicinal in its effects. The various chemical ingredients of the atmosphere on the coast, are powerful disinfecting agents, which are perpetually elaborated, from the prodigious evaporation and other chemical combinations of the mineral waters of the sea, whose grand elements are soda and chlorine. These impart to the atmosphere healing power and medicinal virtue. The sea and the sun are laboratories of healthful energy and influence, which are projected into this atmosphere from natural resources, and which are taken into the system by the ordinary process of respiration. For these reasons, invalids have often experienced as great, if not greater benefit, from a summer residence here, than from a winter sojourn. Disease, taken in its incipient stages, may be eradicated, under the influence of the climate alone, aided by the “vis medicatrix naturæ.” Air and exercise are the chief medicines required.{54}


In relation to this interesting point of inquiry, the opinions and reasoning of Dr. Samuel Forry (in the Journal of Medical Science, in the year 1841) are full and explicit. Bronchitis.—“The advantage of a winter residence in a more southern latitude, as respects this disease, becomes at once apparent.

“If the invalid can avoid the transition of the seasons, that meteorological condition of the atmosphere which stands first among the causes that induce catarrhal lesions, he will do much towards controlling the malady.

“As regards the change of climate, it will be observed that in the advantages enumerated, reference is made only to chronic bronchitis.

“The climate of Florida has been found beneficial in cases of incipient pulmonary consumption, and those threatened with disease from hereditary or acquired indisposition. It is in chronic bronchial affections more particularly that it speedily manifests its salutary tendency.

“But there are other forms of disease, in which such a climate as that of East Florida is not unfrequently of decided advantage. To this class belongs asthma.

“In chronic disorders of the digestive organs, where no inflammation exists, or structural changes have supervened in viscera important to life, but the indication is merely to remove disease of a functional character, a winter’s residence promises great benefit; but exercise in the{55} open air, aided by a proper regimen, are indispensable adjuncts.

“In many of those obscure affections called nervous, unconnected with inflammation, exercise and traveling in this climate, are frequently powerful and efficient remedies.

Chronic rheumatism, though apparently much less under the influence of meteorological causes than pulmonic affections, will be often benefited by a winter residence in Florida. As these cases often resist the best directed efforts of medicines, it is the only remedy which the northern physician can recommend with a reasonable prospect of success.

“When there exists a general delicacy of the constitution in childhood, often the rubeola, or scarlatina manifesting itself by symptoms indicative of a scrofulous disposition, a winter residence in a warm climate frequently produces the most salutary effects.

“Another form of disease remains to be alluded to, in which change of climate promises healing power, viz.: premature decay of the constitution, characterized by general evidence of deteriorated health, whilst some tissue or organ important to life commonly manifests symptoms of abnormal action. This remarkable change occurs without any obvious cause, and is not unappropriately termed in common parlance, ‘a breaking up of the constitution.’ In treating of the climate of Florida, the primary object held in view, is to direct attention to its fitness as a winter residence for northern invalids.{56}

“A comparison with the most favored situation on the continent of Europe and the islands held in the highest estimation for mildness and equability of climate, affords results in no way disparaging. A comparison of the mean temperature of winter and summer, that of the coldest and warmest months and seasons, furnishes results generally in favor of the Peninsula of Florida.

“On the coast of Florida, the average number of fair days, is about 250; while in the Northern States, the average number of fair days per annum, is about 120. Though climate is one of the most powerful remedial agents, and one, too, which in many cases will admit no substitute, yet much permanent advantage will not result, either from traveling or change of climate, unless the invalid adheres strictly to such regimen as his case may require.

“The attention of many persons suffering with pulmonary diseases having been directed to the southern section of the United States, as a temporary residence for the benefit of their health, and there being much diversity of sentiment as to the location most proper for attaining this desirable end, I propose to offer to the public some facts derived from personal observation. Having in the early part of last year been the subject of an attack, that threatened a rapid termination in consumption, the unanimous opinions of several of my medical friends concurred with my own judgment, to induce me to avoid the vicissitudes of the approaching winter in our varying climate; and I felt compelled to make an effort, which to every appearance was to decide the event of my disease.{57}

“St. Augustine in East Florida, was the place to which my views had been directed, and I arrived there soon after the commencement of the present year. A few days’ residence convinced me of the efficacy of the climate in promoting my own health; and from the observations I was continually enabled to make, in reference to the invalids who had resorted there, from motives similar to my own, I became assured of the excellent effects of the climate: and am fully satisfied, that although prudence would have dictated a removal two months earlier in the season, the present great improvement of my health is to be attributed almost wholly to having substituted for the variations of our own latitude, the mildness of that favored region. St. Augustine is the most southern location[17] on our extensive seaboard to which a valetudinarian can resort, with any prospect of obtaining the attentions and comforts requisite for the improvement of health.

“The climate of St. Augustine, seems peculiarly adapted to the improvement of patients with consumptive chronic affections of the lungs, asthma, spitting of blood, rheumatism, and dyspepsia. It is a fact worthy of remark, that though it is universally acknowledged the advanced stages of pulmonary consumption are often beyond the power of medical skill to produce restoration,{58} yet most of those who resort to a change of climate for cure, reject the advantages to be derived from the removal, until the disease shall have made such extensive ravages as to render hopeless every prospect of renovation.

“Many cases of this nature I had an opportunity of observing during the last winter; and, in some instances, the patients seemed to have hastened from their homes whilst the last glimmerings of life only remained.

“The benefit of the climate of St. Augustine will be particularly evident in the incipient stages of those affections, for the cure of which it has been celebrated; and those invalids who contemplate a removal thither, ought not to allow the commencement of winter to surprise them whilst preparing for departure.

“The glowing, and even exaggerated reports of this climate, that have been given by some persons of lively imagination, have occasioned disappointment to a few whose expectations had been greatly excited. Nevertheless, I am persuaded, generally, a residence there during the winter season will contribute much to the advantage of every stage of pulmonary affections.” Extracts from a Circular published in Philadelphia, 1830, by James Cox, M. D.{59}



Table I.

Exhibiting a Comparison between the Mean Temperature of the most favorite Resorts for Health in other Countries and that of St. Augustine—Fahrenheit’s Thermometer.

  deg.  deg.
Pisa, 5.75Naples, 64
Nice, 4.74Nice, 60
Rome, 4.39Rome, 62
Penzance, Eng., 3.5Penzance, 49
Madeira, 2.41Madeira,
St. Augustine, Flor., 3.55St. Augustine, 59
Table II.

Exhibition of the Mean Temperature of each Month at St. Augustine, East Florida—Years 1825, 1828, 1830.

 deg. deg.
June,81.12December,    61.31
Table III.

Exhibition of the Mean Annual Monthly Range for the same Years.

Annual range, 59°.

 deg. deg.


Table IV.


Northern Limits of the Tropical Fruit-growing Region—Fort Pierce, Indian River Inlet.[18]


From Meteorological Reports on file in the Surgeon General’s Office.

June 16th, 1848.

Highest° Lowest° Mean Mean T. Mean T. N. N.W. N.E. E. S.E. S. S.W. W. Fair Cl’dy Rain. Sn’w.
d’ys d’ys d’ys d’ys d’ys d’ys d’ys d’ys d’ys d’ys d’ys d’ys Inches.
April, 86 6874.07 78   69   8 - 3 4 2 10 2 1 25 1 4 -No
May, 90 6576.43 82   70   5 - 3 7 8 2 6 - 26 - 5 -
June, 90 7078.61 82   74   2 - 7 2 9 4 3 3 25 - 5 -
July, 88 7279.61 81+ 76+ - - 1 13 2 - 26 5 - -
August, 88 7278.95 83   75+ - - 13½ 6 1 20½ 10½ - -
September,90 7278.65 82   75+ - - 13½ 6 ½ ½ - 19½ 10½ - -
October, 80 6275.88 78   64   ½ 8 3 1 2 24½ - -
November, 73 4464.40 70   51+ 2 7 8 2 - - 18 12 - -
December, 72 4661.51 68   48   - 4 15½ 2 - ½ 15 16 - -
January, 84 3866.13 76   47+ ½ 3 6 14½ - - 24½ - -
February, 82 3263.18 76   41+ 3 13 1 - 25½ - -
March, 80 4867.19 74+ 54+ 4 4 9 ½ 1 26 5 - -




The accommodations for invalids, in this city, are comparable with any that can be furnished in this region, and will be ample.

There are four public houses, two of which, in regard to style, convenience, and comfort, will compare well with any like establishments.

The “Magnolia House,” erected by B. E. Carr, is a spacious and attractive resort. Its style of architecture is neat; its grounds are laid out with taste; its location is eligible. Its host was trained in one of the best establishments of the city of New-York, and of course understands well how both to satisfy and please those who make his house the home of their sojourn. The Magnolia House, though recently opened for public accommodation, it has been found necessary considerably to enlarge. This work its enterprising proprietor is now engaged upon. It will be also modified so as to suit the convenience and meet the wants of the public, by affording many comforts and conveniences not generally attached to a hotel. Seventeen additional rooms, with a new and spacious dining hall, are to be added, which in many respects will make it one of the most desirable places of sojourn for families and travelers in this city, as well as for invalids.

The “Planters’ Hotel” is a spacious and convenient public house, well adapted to the accommodation of the public. This large establishment is to be opened the ensuing fall, under the supervision of its present proprietor{62}, Mr. Loring. The “Florida House,” on the side opposite, is a large, well-kept establishment, belonging to Mr. Cole; the “City Hotel,” under Mr. Bridier, is also open.

There are several neat private residences, where strangers and sojourners can be accommodated, at reasonable prices. The boarding establishment of Mrs. Reid is an attractive establishment, capable of accommodating many persons, both families and single.

The residence of Mrs. Dr. Anderson is conspicuous on the avenue leading over the bridge near the St. Sebastian River. It is built of the native coquina rock, and was embosomed in a grove of young orange trees, of which the decaying stumps and sickly shoots are all that remain, together with the hedge of Spanish bayonet, which inclosed it. These suffice to designate “Markland,” though shorn of its glory—which is partially supplied by a grove of olive trees now in bearing.

“Yallaha” is the neat cottage residence of P. B. Dunnas. It is the Indian word for orange. Yallaha is situated on the river St. Sebastian, and is distinguished for the beauty and healthfulness of its position, and also for the delicious strawberries which enrich its blushing gardens in the month of March.

It was in orange times the site of a beautiful and extensive grove of trees, variegated with green foliage and golden fruit and fragrant blossoms.

It is the purpose of the proprietor to erect on his grounds commodious boarding establishments.{63}


This city contains a small circle of intelligent and cultivated society. It is not as yet deformed with the arts and moral conveniences of more fashionable circles, in the higher walks of life. It needs not the blandishments—it dreads not the encroachments which, if tolerated in higher circles, would dissipate the fictitious colors that glow to deceive around fashionable intercourse. Its very simplicity is at once its greatest charm and surest defence against impertinent intrusion. The city affords comfortable, if not elegant homes, to the invalid sojourner, both in public houses and private families, through which he will have a more or less direct connection with the avenues to the Anglo-American society. Excellent medical aid can here be commanded, from resident members of the profession; and the institutions of religion can be enjoyed under the several forms of the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Roman Catholic churches. The invalid will here find a home in his sojourn, where he will meet with some of the advantages which distinguish the more cultivated circles of northern society.

The sportsman, with his line and gun, can satisfy his largest desires in the way of game and angling. The boatman has a spacious harbor and the broad Atlantic open to him for health and pleasure, though it must be confessed that good boats are in great demand without a supply.

{64}The active, agile “Indian Pony,” is a luxury to those who seek health in horsemanship. In the neighborhood, on the estate of Capt. Hanham, of the ordnance department, are springs, which are alleged to contain mineral waters; and to which invalids sometimes ride in a conveyance the proprietor has had fitted up, and runs for that purpose.

And then pleasure excursions over the beach are frequent. A boatman with his crew are secured the day beforehand, a party having been made up for such an expedition.

The boatman and crew are usually negroes. The party having provided themselves with a lunch, apparatus for making coffee, knives and forks, and other necessary and useful articles for an oyster pic-nic, embark in the morning. They wend their way across the harbor, debark, and arrange matters so as that the scattered fragments of the expedition shall be gathered at the proper time and place, to partake of the refreshments, and then disperse,—some for the light-house, and others for the quarry—while the boat’s crew are left to collect oysters, and gather fuel for the roast on the beach.

When the repast has been finished, the party return, loaded with specimens of rocks and natural history, fatigued, indeed, but gratified and benefited. This excursion is both pleasant and useful; and should the resort to this watering place for health increase as it has been doing, there doubtless will be afforded greater facilities for more extended and healthful water excursions: such expeditions, whether for shell or fish, in this climate being healthful and pleasant. Ordinarily, exposure{65} does not induce colds, and may be taken without risk.

The moonlight walks, are truly delightful beyond description. Those who reside at the north, and have never beheld, can have no adequate conception of a moonlight scene on the coast of Florida. A recent writer thus speaks of it: “The nocturnal aspect of the heavens differs from a northern one, in the same manner that two paintings may differ, the warmth and richness of the one contrasting with the coldness and poverty of the other.” It is no unusual thing for ladies to appear abroad on the public promenade, in their light, loose, flowing dresses, without shawl or bonnet, with denuded neck and arms, till near midnight, and not suffer the least risk or inconvenience. Nature, in silence, majesty, and beauty, invites her children to enjoy her moonlight luxuries. She fans them with soft and fragrant breezes. She allures them into the open air, and charms them with the gorgeous magnificence of the nocturnal scene, in which every object, earth, sea, and sky, are made to glow in rich and pure effulgence. Who can restrain himself from the enjoyment of health and exercise, amid such attractions? and that, too, without peril from evening dews and tainted atmosphere?

The maiden and her lover, the matron and her spouse, the youth and children, alike participate in the enjoyment of these natural luxuries; and make the welkin ring at midnight often, with the merry peal of joy and{66} life, or with the notes of music, accompanied with the soft mellifluous strains of the guitar and viol.

There are various customs, relics of Popish superstition and Spanish practice, yet prevalent in the city.


Carnival is here observed, though not with its ancient excess of folly. This is a religious festival, observed in Roman Catholic countries, as a season of feasting, by which another religious festival called Lent is introduced. It is usually celebrated “by feasts, operas, balls, concerts, &c.” In this city it is celebrated by masquerade dances by night, idle and frivolous street sport, in processions of vagrant men and boys, disguised in masks and grotesque array by daylight.

A most ridiculous burlesque is exhibited in honor of St. Peter, the fisherman of Galilee, by which his professional skill in the use of the net is attempted to be illustrated. This is the closing farce of the feast of carnival. The description of this, as it passed under the eye of the author at the very last carnival, may suffice to give a stranger some idea of its folly.

As I passed along one of the narrow streets of the city, my attention was arrested by the various exclamations and boisterous cries of a motley crowd of black and white, who thronged the street, occasionally surging to the right hand and left.

I was at first at a loss to account for it. On a nearer approach, I perceived two half-grown men heading a{67} rabble of boys and others, with the face masked and concealed, and the person attired in a coarse, shabby fisher’s dress. Over the shoulder of each was flung a common Spanish net. Whenever a boy black or white came within range of a cast, the net was suddenly spread, and thrown over the lad’s head so as to inclose his person. There was seldom more than one throw of the net; and if it were not successful, it was seldom repeated on the same individual. Thus the streets were beset till the farce—the solemn farce—in illustration of the call of Peter to become a “fisher of men” was ended.


On an evening after the celebration of the nuptials of an inhabitant of the city, who has been before married, and thus emerges from a state of widowhood, the welkin is made to ring with a most discordant concert of voices, horns, tin pans, and other boisterous sounds. It is an excessively annoying exhibition, to say nothing of its ill-manners, and gross violation of the peace and good order of society. The whole city is usually disturbed by such riot and confusion, as in any orderly community would consign the perpetrators to a guardhouse, or prison, till they had taken some practical lessons in decency. This is what is here termed Sherivaree. The residence of the newly married pair is beset by the rabble in some cases, till it is bought off with money, or whisky.

There are some other customs and practices growing{68} out of the foreign extraction of the city, and connected with religious festivals, and which are the relics of the past, that are now passing rapidly away.


There are two routes, by which invalid strangers from the north may reach this city.

The one is direct by sea, from either Charleston or New-York; the other is by the inland steam and stage route. The former is occasional; the latter is always available, though there is some prospect that a direct communication will be opened, and sustained between this city and Charleston ere long.

The voyage from New-York, by sailing or steam-packet, through to Charleston or Savannah, is the most reliable and expeditious. Twice a week, steamboats connect between Savannah and the St. John’s River, at Picolata. The distance from Picolata to St. Augustine, is over land, and about eighteen miles. This distance is overcome by stage-coach, and a new and convenient omnibus the present proprietor of the line, Mr. Bridier, has just had completed for that route. Passengers are met by these conveyances, and usually reach St. Augustine by 4 o’clock P. M., and often about noon. There is an inland steam connection between Charleston, S. C., and Savannah, Ga., with which the Florida boats connect twice in a week.

The most expeditious and economical route to Florida is that by which the traveler takes passage direct from New-York to Savannah, where he will be received by{69} the steamer, with his baggage, and brought into Florida and landed within eighteen miles of St. Augustine; the distance to which, from Savannah, is 218 miles.

The passage from Savannah, especially over the waters of the noble river of the St. John’s, is pleasant and instructive. The lover of nature—the curious stranger—may each be gratified. In passing along this route, the traveler will get a “bird’s-eye view” of a considerable portion of the southern country, on the seaboard. The plantations—marshes—and peculiar varieties of trees, among which the noted cabbage-tree will be conspicuous—creeks—inlets—and the various specimens of natural history—the alligator—and peculiar species of water-fowl met with—and the various contrasts between northern and southern habits, as presented in agricultural life—will be novelties, more or less interesting and instructive to the curious traveler. Many prejudices will be dissipated—many errors will be corrected—many contrasts will be presented.

F I N I S.



[1] Translation.—“Don Ferdinand the Sixth being King of Spain, and the Field Marshal, Don Alonzo Fernandos de Herida being Governor and Captain General of this place, St. Augustine of Florida and its province, this fortress was finished in the year 1756. The works were directed by the Capt. Engineer, Don Pedro de Brazas y Garay.”—See Williams’s Hist. Flor.

[2] Sprague’s Hist. War in Florida.

[3] Bauer.

[4] Johnson’s Life of General Green.

[5] As there are some slight variations among historians in respect to the order of the events in the destruction and overthrow of the colony on the St. John’s and of this massacre, I have inclined to the numerical preponderance of historical proof, inclining to Bancroft, reconciling the several particulars.

[6] Williams.

[7] Bancroft’s Hist. U. S. A.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Family Library.

[10] Cohen.

[11] Stephen’s Hist. Geo., art. in Southern Quarterly; April No. 1848.

[12] Spanish accounts say less than this.

[13] It is more than probable that the American government connived at, if it did not encourage, these transactions.—Editor.

[14] It is well known that the Spanish governor of West Florida attempted to withhold from the United States the public papers, and that Governor Jackson was under the necessity of resorting to compulsory measures to obtain them.

The same disposition was exhibited by the governor of the East. Captain Hanham had been appointed sheriff of East Florida, and was dispatched for St. Augustine, and required to be there in seventeen days. He arrived within the given time, and applied to Governor Coppinger for the public records. The governor declined, and gave him to understand that he should resist his authority. Understanding that a vessel lay in the offing ready to receive the papers and convey them to Cuba, Hanham forced his way into the governor’s room. There he found the papers nearly all packed in eleven strong boxes. He seized them all, and delivered them over into the hands of the collector of the United States. It was afterwards found that the papers thus rescued were of the greatest importance to the United States.

These summary proceedings created an excitement at the time, which however soon passed away.

[15] This was told the author as coming from the lips of the man who was the subject of this anecdote, who still lives.

[16] Author of a standard work on climate, and of the highest professional authority.

[17] There are now points in South Florida in a tropical climate, where preparations are being made for the accommodation of invalid strangers. The banks of the Indian River, St. Lucia Sound, and the Miami, possess advantages over any other place in this country.

[18] The region of fruit of tropical growth is clearly defined by the appearance and change in the vegetable kingdom, especially by the mangrove tree.

The eye will detect the line of demarcation, as one sails along Indian River northward. The Table No. IV. indicates the temperature of the climate where this region begins.