On Feb. 22, 1821, Florida became a territory of the United States. A territory is an area of land belonging to, and under the dominion of, the U.S. government but not admitted to the union as a state. Examples of U.S. Territories are Puerto Rico and Guam.
In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon became the first European to look upon the land we call Florida today. He claimed the land for Spain and named it La Florida. It is possible other Europeans may have explored this area prior, but no documented evidence has been discovered.
On Ponce de Leon's second voyage in 1521, his two ships landed on the southwestern coast of the peninsula of La Florida. That site could possibly be an area on or around Pine Island. He was accompanied by 200 men of various occupations and trade skills in an attempt to settle the area. His ships also transported horses and cattle. This was the very first livestock released onto American soil. Bison were in America then, but not livestock.
In 1763, Britain took control of La Florida from Spain in exchange for Cuba. Earlier that year the British had captured Cuba from the Spanish during what was called the Seven Years' War.
During the American Revolutionary War that lasted from 1776 to 1783, Florida remained loyal to Britain. Spain participated in this war as an ally of France, which was assisting the Continental Army. In 1781, Spanish forces captured the fort at Pensacola from the British. In 1784, Spain was given control of the rest of Florida as part of the peace treaty that ended the American Revolutionary War.
The relationship between the newly formed United States and the Spanish controlled Florida did not go well. These problems led to the First Seminole War. Andrew Jackson led military operations into Florida against the Seminoles. Jackson also attacked the Spanish fort at Pensacola, whom he believed were aiding the Seminole Indians.
In 1819 Spain transferred Florida to the United States in exchange for $5 million with America relinquishing any claims resulting from the Louisiana Purchase. In 1821 Andrew Jackson returned to Florida to establish a new territorial government on behalf of the U.S.
On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the United States. The first elected governor of the state of Florida was William D. Moseley, who served from 1845-49.
On Jan. 10, 1861, Florida became the third state to secede from the Union and joined other southern states in the Civil War. The Civil War ended April 9, 1865, and Florida was fully restored to the United States July 25, 1868.
So this Saturday, Feb. 22, please join me to celebrate the state's 193rd anniversary.
Note: Readers may recall from a recent column that research on Lee County's Clerk of Court web site revealed an Indenture between two parties for the purpose "turpentining the pine trees" [sic] on Pine Island. Recent research revealed there was a turpentine camp at Pineland. More investigation is necessary to determine what impact it had on our island.
For more history of Pine Island, visit the Museum of the Islands, Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sunday, 1-4 p.m.
The museum is conveniently located next to the Pine Island Library at 5728 Sesame Drive off Stringfellow Road. Call 239-283-1525.
Tim Knox is museum historian at the Museum of the Islands.