Florida was settled long before
Europeans had discovered the peninsula. Some estimates suggest
that Native Americans had arrived in Florida as early as
10,000 years before the first Europeans. European voyages
of discovery began when Columbus discovered the islands
of the "New World" in
1492. Spanish exploration of Florida began in 1513 with
expeditions near present day St. Augustine, the Florida
Keys and Tampa.
French settlement of Florida began in 1562 as Huguenots,
French Protestants, established themselves on the St. Johns
River not far from the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine.
This settlement was easily conquered by the Spanish, but
Spain's early dominance of Florida was threatened over
time by the expansion of English colonies from the north
and French colonies from the west. By 1702, the English
had sacked St. Augustine and, by 1719, the French had taken
Pensacola. Americans joined the battles for Florida in
1803, following their purchase of Louisiana from the French.
The history of Florida during this period is one of territorial
gain and loss until 1821, when Spain ceded Florida to the
United States of America.
At the same time, European settlement and conflicts had
a devastating effect on Native Americans and set the stage
for the later Seminole Wars. Spain crusaded for the conversion
of Native Americans within its territory, often brutalizing
populations that did not convert to Catholicism. The British
in Georgia were no less intolerant. However, rather than
convert, the British chose to clear the native populations
from British territory. In 1750, Creek refugees together
with escaped slaves migrated into Florida where they became
known as the "Seminoles".
Text from: A Short History of Florida
Used with the permission of Florida's Division of Historical