Historical Events in Florida From 10,000 B.C. to the Present
By Chelle Koster Walton
A primer on the history of Florida 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. Here are a few of the most significant historical events in Florida.
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.