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History a la Movies

"On Easter Sunday, 1513, Florida was discovered by Ponce de Leon." "Fifty-one years later, a band of French Huguenots, seeking religious liberty in the new world, settled on the banks of the St. Johns river."

Portait of Pedro Menendez de Aviles

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The plaza at St. Augustine with commemorative monumement for the Spanish constitution.

"Menendez, the bloody conquistador and colonizer, came to St. Augustine in 1565 to set up the banner of Spain and the cross of Catholicism in Florida and butcher in the name of King Phillip II and Pope Pius V."

"The booming guns of Sir Francis Drake's ships sent the Spaniards fleeing to the swamps in 1586 when the English burned the town."

"In 1665 the torch again was applied to St. Augustine, John Drake, the English pirate, attacking and sacking the town."

"St. Augustine was reduced to ashes for a third time in 1702, when the war between England and Spain spread to the American colonies and Governor Moore of South Carolina laid siege to the town and burned it."

"After 91 years of incessant labor, San Marco castle, now known as Fort Marion, was completed in 1756, and St. Augustine was secure from sea attacks." Florida Loyal to England

"During the revolutionary war Florida remained loyal to England, and after the fall of Charleston sixty-one of the leading residents of South Carolina, believed by the British to be promoters of the conflict, were sent as prisoners to St. Augustine and treated with great indignity and contempt."

"After being ceded to England in 1763 and retroceded to Spain in 1783, Florida was purchased by the United States in 1821 and the stars and stripes were .raised over St. Augustine."

Close up view of Spanish Monument

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The shaft raised in 1812 to commemorate the signing of the Spanish constitution, the only monument of its kind in existence.

"Osceola, chief of the Seminoles, was captured under a flag of truce and brought to St. Augustine, with two of his warriors, Coacooche and Hadjo, as captives in 1835. The two minor chiefs fasted until they were thin enough to squeeze through the barred window of their cell in the old fort and escaped, but Osceola would not follow them, declaring 'The Americans have put me here, I will wait until they set me free.' "

"At the outbreak of the Civil war, the old fort was seized by the Confederate troops of Florida, but in 1862 it surrendered without resistance to Commodore Rogers, and remained garrisoned by blue-clad soldiers until the close of the conflict."

There you have the most dramatic episodes in the dramatic history of St. Augustine. If you have any imagination at all, you can supply the action. In your mind, you can cast the film play—warriors in suits of mail and uniforms of blue and grey, pirates with rags around their heads and great leather boots wrinkled about their legs, Indians dressed in blouses and knee-length skirts of gayly striped material, Franciscan friars in coarse brown robes—and collect the properties—the flags, the ships, the chains, the torches. St. Augustine a Bit of Spain

Founded and settled by Spaniards and for more than three centuries a jealously guarded possession of Castilian royalty, it is no wonder that St. Augustine of 1915 is Spanish in atmosphere and architecture. It is exotic, so much like Seville that it is difficult to believe that it is an American city. The streets are narrow. You can measure the breadth of one of them, Treasury street, with outstretched arms. All the old buildings, and many of the new ones, are featured by the overhanging balconies, the pillared porches and towers so common in Spain and so foreign to the United States. In the plaza, you instinctively listen for the tinkling bells of tiny donkeys that should be there but are not, and the imperious screech of the motor horn seems both a sacrilege and an anachronism. A portion of the native population, distinguished by their dark eyes and swarthy complexion, are descendants of the Minor-cans, who, during the British occupation of Florida, were brought from their picturesque island in the Mediterranean to New Smyrna, on the Indian river south of St. Augustine, by an unprincipled English planter, Turnbull. He subjected them to gross privation and cruelty until finally they rose in revolt, came to St. Augustine, received an allotment of land in the town and built palmetto-thatched cottages there. Have you ever found an old book, itscovers musty and green and its pages yellow and worn, in an old leather trunk in the damp cellar of an old house? If you have, you know how ancient, damp St. Augustine smells. There are walls there that look as if they would crumble to bits underneath your touch; houses that have stood for generations and defied the elements which have destroyed structures of a more youthful vigor. Although Ponce de Leon failed to find a fountain of youth there, he would be convinced that age is well preserved in St. Augustine could he return to the ancient city today.

The two oldest landmarks of the patriarch of American municipalities are the Spanish fort, called San Marco castle under Spanish rule, but renamed Fort Marion, in honor of the revolutionary war hero, General Francis Marion, when the United States took possession of Florida, and the old city gates, the former built to repel attacks from sea and the latter the entrance to a wall of logs, set up on end, which served as a protection against hostile forces making an invasion by land.


 
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