Florida History Timeline

By: Chelle Koster Walton

A primer on Florida's history from 10,000 B.C. to the present.

Hop aboard the Florida "way-back" machine to visit rousing eras of wooly mammoths, Native Americans, brave conquistadores, pirates, pioneers, geniuses, millionaires, astronauts and heroes.

10,000-8,000 B.C. -- Move over mastodons and gigantic armadillos. Humans are afoot, heading from what is now Georgia to Florida.

8000 B.C.-1500 A.D. -- Tribes from the Caribbean and Mexico join migrants from the north to settle, fish, trade and worship the sun.

1513 -- He came, he saw ... he left. Juan Ponce de Leon makes the first European landfall somewhere in the vicinity of St. Augustine, claiming La Florida for Spain.

1516-1542 -- More Spanish explorers come to see what all the excitement is about. Ponce de Leon returns, this time to the West Coast where natives greet him with poisoned arrows.

1559 -- He came, he saw ... he tried to stay. Tristan de Luna establishes Florida's first settlement at today's Pensacola Beach. Starvation ensues and de Luna departs.

1564 -- Frenchman Rene de Laudoniere comes, sees ... and stays, also in the vicinity of St. Augustine at a settlement known as Fort Caroline. This makes the Spanish very nervous.

1565 -- He came, he fought, he stayed. Spain sends Pedro Menendez de Aviles to rid Florida of the French. He establishes the town of St. Augustine, America's first permanent European settlement.

1600-1700 -- Spain is on a mission to "educate" (convert to Catholicism) Florida's native people. Its priests build more than 30 missions along the northeast coast and westward near Tallahassee and St. Marks.

1698-1723 -- Spain sets up camp in Pensacola, which later gets ping-ponged from Spain to France, back to Spain, back to France, back to Spain.

1738 -- Fort Mose, the nation's first black community, is established near St. Augustine in time to defend it against the British.

1763 -- At the end of the Seven Years' War, England gives Cuba to Spain in exchange for St. Augustine, whose citizens pack up for Cuba.

1776-80 -- Florida, now British, supports the Motherland during the American Revolution, providing a safe haven for thousands of Tories.

1783 -- St. Augustine is again swapped, ending up once more in Spanish hands.

1785-1795 -- Spain relinquishes St. Augustine and Pensacola to England.

1803 -- The United States of America claims West Florida and its capital Pensacola as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

1813 -- England is not so keen on giving up Pensacola and Gen. Andrew Jackson arrives to drive the British out.

1818 -- Jackson's actions spark the first of two skirmishes with the Seminole Indians.

1821-1823 -- Jackson becomes Florida's provisional governor when the U.S. purchases Florida and its capital St. Augustine from Spain. Tallahassee becomes the new capital.

1830-1840 -- Boom! Florida's first flush of settlers arrives by steamboat and the population grows from 15,000 to 34,000.

1835-1842 -- Seminole Wars, the sequel.

1845 -- It's official: Florida becomes the 27th state with 66,500 people.

1861-1865 -- It's official: Florida becomes a non-state when it secedes from the Union. Florida provisions Confederate troops with salt, beef and bacon during the Civil War.

1878 -- Tourism dawns at Silver Springs when Hullam Jones glues a window to the bottom of a rowboat and invents the glass-bottom boat.

1883-85 -- Florida gets railroaded. Henry Plant lays tracks on the West Coast, Henry Flagler on the East Coast. Along with the railroads sprout luxury hotels and a new era for Florida travel.

1887 -- Eatonville becomes the first incorporated municipality in America governed by its own African-American population.

1898 -- Florida prepares for the Spanish-American War with forts and army camps.

1904-1912 -- Flagler rides the rails to the end of the line, extending his tracks the 156 miles from Miami to Key West.

1908 -- Jacksonville becomes Florida's Hollywood, where producers make early movies -- years ahead of Hollywood.

1928 -- Transportation makes another forward lurch with the opening of the Tamiami Trail from Tampa to Miami.

1946 -- Jackie Robinson scores a homerun for his people in Daytona Beach as the first African-American to join an all-white team.

1947 -- Score one for Mother Nature: President Harry Truman dedicates Everglades National Park.

1959 -- Fidel Castro's assumption of power results in the first influx of Cuban immigrants to Florida.

1961 -- Transportation looks skyward as Cape Canaveral sends its first manned vessel into space.

1971 -- The mouse is loose. Walt Disney World opens outside Orlando.

1980 -- Nearly 125,000 more Cuban immigrants arrive in the Mariel boatlift.

1982 -- President Ronald Reagan signs the Miccosukee Constitution, making Miccosukee Indian territory independent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

1984 -- Florida returns to the rails: Miami debuts its $1 billion Metro rail system.

2000 -- Score one more for Mother Nature: President Bill Clinton authorizes a massive project to restore the fragile eco-system of the Everglades, which have existed and nourished life since the beginning of time in Florida.

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