St. Augustine Written Timeline

  • 1812
    War declared on England by the United States.
    The Patriot War was fought between Spanish (West) Florida and Patriots from Georgia and East Florida. The President initially backed the attack, but withdrew support as the Patriots began looting and burning plantations, native settlements, and capturing blacks to re-enslave them. Eventually the Patriots ran out of food, money, and supplies, essentially ending the uprising.
    The Monumento de la Constitucion, or Constitution Monument, is an 18-foot tall obelisk erected in the Plaza of St. Augustine in 1813. It is one of the few, perhaps only, surviving monuments of its kind in the world because the constitutional government of Spain was overthrown in 1814 restoring the monarchy. Madrid issued orders for the destruction of these monuments, however St. Augustine refused to do so.
    The Treaty of Fort Jackson was signed on August 9, 1814 following the defeat of the Red Stick (Upper Creek) resistance at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Chief Menawa led the Upper Creeks, fleeing with hundreds of survivors into Florida after the treaty. The surrender ended the Creek War, which the U.S. was fighting simultaneously with the War of 1812. The terms of the treaty ceded 23 million acres of Creek land in Alabama and Georgia to the United States.
    The First Seminole War came to Florida when Jackson gathered 2,800 soldiers at Fort Scott and marched down the Apalachicola River. Various Indian nations allied in Florida, forming the Seminole tribe. Jackson wanted all threats to the United States eliminated and he was willing to invade foreign land if necessary. Jackson’s actions revealed Spain’s weaknesses in the Americas, and allowed the United States to petition for Florida lands.
    Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot, two traders in Florida, were tried by Jackson’s military tribunal and sentenced to death for aiding the Spanish, Indians, and Fugitive Slaves. On April 29, Arbuthnot was hanged from the masthead of his schooner and Ambrister was shot by a firing squad.
    The Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 settled the land dispute between the United States and Spain. In this treaty Spain ceded Florida to the United States in exchange for $5 million. The United States gave up claims in Texas, establishing a new US and Spanish border in the Americas along the west Sabine River. The treaty was concluded on February 22 in Washington, D.C., however it took until 1821 for final revisions to be agreed upon.
    The Adams-Onis Treaty was officially proclaimed on February 22. This treaty was proposed in 1819 at the conclusion of the First Seminole War and took three years for both nations to settle. This treaty established a firm boundary between the two nations, a line that was disputed since the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Spain controlled lands west of the Sabine River and the United states gained Florida as a territory.
    The Treaty of Moultrie Creek was signed on September 18 by representatives of the United States and the Seminole Indians. The treaty stipulated lands in central Florida for the Seminole, however, the land was subpar and the Seminole were unable to support themselves on it. Settlers around the reservation, as well as government officials were calling for the Seminoles to be relocated to lands out west.
    The United States Government renamed the Castillo de San Marcos to Fort Marion. The new name was chosen to honor General Francis Marion, a Revolutionary patriot from South Carolina. The fort continued to be called Fort Marion until 1942, when a Congressional act changed it back to the original Spanish name, Castillo de San Marcos, which it retains to this day.
    The George Washington was the first steamship to navigate the St. Johns River in May 1829. The George Washington traveled from Savannah to Jacksonville, a route soon established to serve the growing commercial economy of Florida. Steamboats transformed Florida travel for the next 70 years, and turned Jacksonville into a bustling distribution center. During the height of the steamboat era there were about 38 stops along the St. Johns.
    President Andrew Jackson passed the Indian Removal Act on May 26. A longtime enemy of the Indians, Jackson passed the law that allowed for the forceful removal of thousands of Native American Tribes from the southeastern states to areas west of the Mississippi River. The Seminole tribe in Florida resisted the move, and the Second Seminole War erupted in 1835 as a result of increasing US pressure on the tribe to relocate.
    James Gadsden held negotiations at Payne’s Landing with leaders of the Seminole Tribe. Gadsden was attempting to move the Seminoles west. Seven chiefs were sent to inspect lands in the west, and upon seeing them some signed an agreement, however, once back in Florida all bets were off and the chiefs refused to move.
    Trinity Parish Church was established in St. Augustine in 1821 and is the oldest Protestant Church in the state of Florida. The first building was erected in the 1830s and was made of coquina. On June 30, 1831 the first service was held even though the building was not yet completed. The church was formally consecrated on June 5, 1834 by Bishop Nathaniel Bowen from South Carolina.
    Osceola, a leader of the Seminole, killed Indian Agent Wiley Thompson and 4 other men outside Fort King on December 28, 1835 sparking the beginning of the Second Seminole War. Francis Dade and his troops were ambushed at Fort King, near Ocala the same day, leading to a series of skirmishes. The Second Seminole War lasted for 7 years, and an estimated 300 Indians remained in the Everglades including chiefs Micanopy, Billy Bowlegs, and Sam Jones.
    Repairs to the St. Augustine Sea Wall begin in 1835 by the United States Government. This project complimented the rehabilitation of Fort Marion, done around the same time. A $100,000 project, it extended the wall to 10 feet in height with 3 feet of granite coping. Stairways and boat and basins were made at the Plaza and Barracks for the unloading of supplies. The project was completed in 1842.
    Osceola and 71 warriors, 16 women, and 4 Black Seminoles were captured on October 20. Osceola was heading for Fort Peyton to discuss a truce, however Thomas Jesup had the group arrested and brought to St. Augustine. The Seminole captives were moved the Fort Moultrie in South Carolina where Osceola died three months later, on January 30, 1838. Osceola’s arrest caused a national uproar; the public condemned Jesup for violating a flag of truce.
    Florida became the 27th state in the United States of America on March 3, 1845. The first governor was William D. Moseley and David Levy Yulee became Florida’s first senator. Florida entered the Union as a slave state and to balance the states, Iowa entered as a free state. Florida maintained a plantation-based economy, centered around the production of both cotton and sugar. With just over 600,000 inhabitants, half of Florida’s population was enslaved.
    Father Felix Varela was orphaned in Cuba at the age of six and was sent to live in St. Augustine with his grandfather, a brevet colonel. He returned to Cuba for a short while, and returned to the US in 1823 and appointed vicar of the New York diocese. He returned to St. Augustine with failing health in 1849 where he died on February 25, 1853. He is remembered today as a priest, Cuban nationalist, publisher and philosopher.
    The Third Seminole War broke out in late 1855 and lasted until 1858. Chief Billy Bowlegs remained in the Everglades with around 300 Seminoles. A scouting party located the settlement and plundered the fields, leading to an attack by Bowlegs and his men. By 1858 Bowlegs accepted a settlement, and moved west with 163 Seminoles. Chief Sam Jones and about 200 other Seminole’s remained in the Florida everglades after the close of the war.
    Augustine Verot was appointed Apostolic of Florida in December 1857. A man of deep faith, he was dedicated to education as well. In addition to his responsibilities in Florida, Verot served as Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah. He made many improvements to churches in Jacksonville, Key West, Tampa and Tallahassee. In March 1870, Pope Pius IX appointed Verot as the First Bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine.
    Delegates from across Florida gathered in Tallahassee in January to discuss the Secession of Florida from the Union. Both Governor Perry and Governor-elect Milton supported the secession and on January 10, 1861, in a vote 62 against 7, Florida withdrew from the Union. It was the third state to withdraw from the Union. A formal Ordinance of Secession was signed the next day and Florida joined the Confederate States of America within the month.
    Union marines and sailors took Confederate held St. Augustine on March 11. The Confederate troops, called the St. Augustine Blues, spotted the gunboats entering the harbor and abandoned their posts, knowing they could not defend the city against the Union Forces. Commander C. R. P. Rodgers of the USS Wabash, negotiated the surrender of the city with acting Mayor Bravo. St. Augustine was held by the Union until the end of the Civil War.
    Union forces sailed into Tampa Bay on June 30 and requested the city's surrender. The Confederates guarding the city, called the Osceola Rangers, refused to submit and the Union gunboat began firing on the city, stopping only to give citizens a chance to leave. The bombardment lasted for two days but the Rangers maintained control of the city. The Union gunboats departed in the afternoon of July 1st without capturing their prize.
    The African-American people of St. Augustine gathered to hear the reading of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued on January 1. These newly freed slaves volunteered for the United States Army, joining the 21st, 33rd, and 34 USCT regiments. Among these men were Joseph Cryer, Pablo Gray, James Sanchez, and Simon Williams.
    Florida’s largest battle during the Civil War occurred at Olustee station, near present day Lake City on February 20. The Battle of Olustee was one of the highest percentage losses for the Union troops during the entire Civil War, 1,800 of the 5,000 men who fought for the Union were listed as killed, wounded or missing. The Confederate forces won the Battle of Olustee, led by Brigadier General Finegan.
    In March, General John Newton sailed two U. S. Navy ships just offshore of the St. Mark’s lighthouse. Unable to sail upriver, the troops disembarked and marched toward the capitol. Confederate forces met Newton’s men at Natural Bridge on March 4th and successfully repulsed three separate charges. This victory for the Confederacy secured Tallahassee as the only Confederate capitol to evade Union capture.
    General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant on April 4, officially marking the end of the American Civil War. News of the confederate surrender spread throughout the nation. Earlier that month Florida’s Governor, John Milton, committed suicide, very ill and deeply depressed over the military and political situation. Florida officially surrendered on April 26 and the stars and strips were raised over the capitol building in Tallahassee.
    Bishop Verot traveled to his homeland in France in 1866. He visited the Sisters of St. Joseph in Le Puy, requesting that some sisters be sent to Florida to educate the newly liberated blacks. Eight sisters left France on July 28th and arrived in St. Augustine on September 2, 1866. The Father O’Reilly House served as both their convent and school. The school officially opened in 1867, to both black and white students.
    Pope Pius IX created the Diocese of St. Augustine on March 11, 1870. Father Augustin Verot was named Bishop of the Diocese, formerly Bishop of Savannah. Verot was from France and was part of the Society of St. Sulpice, he also brought the Josephine Sisters from Le Puy, to Florida and Georgia for missionary work. Verot was deeply dedicated to spreading Catholicism throughout the south, especially to newly liberated slaves.
    Construction of the St. Augustine Lighthouse was completed, replacing the earlier Spanish Lighthouse built in 1693. The new tower stood 161 feet tall and used a First Order Fresnel Lens, still in use today. The tower is conical in shape and has 219 stairs to the top. Today the Lighthouse is over 131 years old and still aids mariners entering St. Augustine’s inlet.
    John and Francis Wilson started the Free Public Library Association. It was first housed at the Government House, however, in 1896, the Wilsons purchased the Segui- Kirby Smith House and moved the library collection to 6 Aviles Street. St. John’s County built a new public library in the 1980’s and the Segui- Kirby Smith house was vacated. The St. Augustine Historical Society purchased the building in 1986 and moved their collection there in 1995.
    As settlers expanded into the Great Plains, issues with the Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Tribes increased. President Grant sent Lt. Richard Pratt to capture the ringleaders of the tribes. On April 28, Pratt left Fort Still with over 72 prisoners to be brought to Fort Marion in St. Augustine, arriving on May 21st. Pratt, also the founder of the Carlisle Indian School, had the prisoners draw sketches; Doanmoe’s being most famous today.
    Hamilton Disston purchased 4 million acres of land in the Everglades, said to be one of the largest purchases of land made by a single person in the history of America. He was a wealthy Philadelphian, who planned to have engineers drain the Everglades and develop the area. While his ultimate goal was not accomplished, Disston primed Florida for the land-boom that followed and paved the way for railroad and hotel developers like Flagler and Plant.
    Construction on the Florida East Coast Canal began and continued until the 1920s. It eventually evolved into the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway, stretching 1,391 miles from Trenton, New Jersey to Miami, Florida. The Intercoastal Waterway is still in use today for both commercial and pleasure vessels and it is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
    Dr. Milton Waldo, D. DeWitt Webb, and Charlie Johnson officially formed the St. Augustine Historical Society on January 1, 1883. It is the oldest continuously operated historical society in the state of Florida. First called, the St. Augustine Institute of Science and Historical Society, it occupied the old Presbyterian manse on St. George Street. The building and collection were destroyed in a fire in 1914. Today the society operates The Oldest House Museum and a research library.
    On July 5, President Arthur approved an act securing $5,000 for repairs to Fort Marion. A picket fence was built, portions of the sea wall rebuilt, two bastions repaired, interior walls refaced, and portions of the terreplein (platform) were waterproofed. A drain was installed under the sally port, two bridges rebuilt leading in to the fort and a new floor was laid in Casemate number 4. An additional $15,000 was appropriated in 1890 for additional repairs.
    Henry Flagler purchased the stocks and bonds of three Florida Railroads, the Jacksonville, Halifax River and St. Augustine lines. As owner, Flagler modernized the tracks, converting them from narrow gauge to standard gauge width. His purchase of the Florida railroads marked the beginning of the Florida East Coast Railroad and Flagler’s Florida Empire. The development of efficient rail travel ensured that Flagler’s Hotels would become popular tourist destinations.
    Henry M. Flagler builds the Ponce de Leon Hotel.
    On April 13, members of the Apache Nation were brought to Fort Marion in St. Augustine. Geronimo’s wife and son were part of this group; Geronimo himself was imprisoned at Fort Pickens in Pensacola. There were 447 Indian prisoners in total at the fort, 82 of them were men and the rest were women and children. Many of these prisoners were transferred to Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama where they remained incarcerated until 1894.
    Henry Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel was completed after two years of construction. A beautiful example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, the 540 room grand old hotel is now home to Flagler College, a private four-year institution. Flagler incorporated the newest technology of the time including electricity, indoor plumbing, elevators and the first electric clock in a public space. The grand opening took place on January 10, 1888 and the hotel operated until 1967.
    On the morning of April 12 a fire swept through the city of St. Augustine. Originating at the St. Augustine Hotel, the flames took most of buildings north of the plaza including the Cathedral Basilica. As people fled the buildings and into the streets the city's only fire truck attempted to put it out. By the next morning the fire was extinguished but only the walls and façade of the old cathedral remained and the St. Augustine Hotel was a pile of ash.
    A survey of the St. Augustine harbor was conducted between May and June. The surveyors, David DuBose Gaillard and William Murray Black, proposed the construction of jetties extending from both North Beach (Vilano Beach) and Anastasia Island spaced 1,600 feet from each other. Galliard and Black produced a map of their survey, published in 1889. Their proposals led to creation of today’s 16-foot deep channel into St. Augustine’s harbor.
    Boston architect Franklin W. Smith completed the Casa Monica Hotel in January 1888. Built in the Moorish Revival Style, Smith continued the theme he used for his residence Villa Zorayda in 1883. Henry Flagler purchased the hotel three months after it opened, renaming it the Cordova Hotel. The Cordova remained in operation until 1932, later converted into St. Johns County courthouse and annex.
    On January 10, 1888 the first all-Pullman closed vestibule train traveled from Jersey City to Jacksonville in 29 hours and 50 minutes. These new cars were enclosed and had both electricity and heating. This train became called the Florida Special and opened at the same time as Flagler’s Ponce de Leon Hotel.
    The St. Augustine Cathedral is rebuilt after the previous year’s fire.