|History of Florida|
The history of Florida can be traced to when the first Native Americans began to inhabit the peninsula as early as 14,000 years ago. They left behind artifacts and archeological evidence. Florida's written history begins with the arrival of Europeans; the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León in 1513 made the first textual records. The state received its name from that conquistador, who called the peninsula La Pascua Florida in recognition of the verdant landscape and because it was the Easter season, which the Spaniards called Pascua Florida (Festival of Flowers).
This area was the first mainland realm of the United States to be settled by Europeans. Thus, 1513 marked the beginning of the American frontier. From that time of contact, Florida has had many waves of colonization and immigration, including French and Spanish settlement during the 16th century, as well as entry of new Native American groups migrating from elsewhere in the South, and free blacks and fugitive slaves, who in the 19th century became allied with the Native Americans as Black Seminoles. Florida was under colonial rule by Spain from the 16th century to the 19th century, and briefly by Great Britain during the 18th century (1763–1783) before becoming a territory of the United States in 1821. Two decades later, on March 3, 1845, Florida was admitted to the Union as the 27th U.S. state.
Florida is nicknamed the "Sunshine State" due to its warm climate and days of sunshine. Florida's sunny climate, many beaches, and growth of industries have attracted northern migrants within the United States, international migrants, and vacationers since the Florida land boom of the 1920s. A diverse population, urbanization, and a diverse economy would develop in Florida throughout the 20th century. In 2014, Florida with over 19 million people, surpassed New York and became the third most populous state in the U.S.
The economy of Florida has changed over its history, starting with natural resource exploitation in logging, mining, fishing, and sponge diving; as well as cattle ranching, farming, and citrus growing. The tourism, real estate, trade, banking, and retirement destination businesses would develop as economic sectors later on.
The foundation of Florida was located in the continent of Gondwana at the South Pole 650 million years ago (Mya). When Gondwana collided with the continent of Laurentia 300 Mya, it had moved further north. 200 Mya, the merged continents containing what would be Florida, had moved north of the equator. By then, Florida was surrounded by desert, in the middle of a new continent, Pangaea. When Pangaea broke up 115 mya, Florida assumed a shape as a peninsula. The emergent landmass of Florida was Orange Island, a low-relief island sitting atop the carbonate Florida Platform which emerged about 34 to 28 million years ago.
When glaciation locked up the world's water, starting 2.58 million years ago, the sea level dropped precipitously. It was approximately 100 meters (330 ft) lower than present levels. As a result, the Florida peninsula not only emerged, but had a land area about twice what it is today. Florida also had a drier and cooler climate than in more recent times. There were few flowing rivers or wetlands.
Paleo-Indians entered what is now Florida at least 14,000 years ago, during the last glacial period. With lower sea levels, the Florida peninsula was much wider, and the climate was cooler and much drier than in the present day. Fresh water was available only in sinkholes and limestone catchment basins, and paleo-Indian activity centered around these relatively scarce watering holes. Sinkholes and basins in the beds of modern rivers (such as the Page-Ladson site in the Aucilla River) have yielded a rich trove of paleo-Indian artifacts, including Clovis points.
Excavations at an ancient stone quarry (the Container Corporation of America site in Marion County) yielded "crude stone implements" showing signs of extensive wear from deposits below those holding Paleo-Indian artifacts. Thermoluminescence dating and weathering analysis independently gave dates of 26,000 to 28,000 years ago for the creation of the artifacts. The findings are controversial, and funding has not been available for follow-up studies.
As the glaciers began retreating about 8000 BC, the climate of Florida became warmer and wetter. As the glaciers melted, the sea level rose, reducing the land mass. Many prehistoric habitation sites along the old coastline were slowly submerged, making artifacts from early coastal cultures difficult to find. The paleo-Indian culture was replaced by, or evolved into, the Early Archaic culture. With an increase in population and more water available, the people occupied many more locations, as evidenced by numerous artifacts. Archaeologists have learned much about the Early Archaic people of Florida from the discoveries made at Windover Pond. The Early Archaic period evolved into the Middle Archaic period around 5000 BC. People started living in villages near wetlands and along the coast at favored sites that were likely occupied for multiple generations.
The Late Archaic period started about 3000 BC, when Florida's climate had reached current conditions and the sea had risen close to its present level. People commonly occupied both fresh and saltwater wetlands. Large shell middens accumulated during this period. Many people lived in large villages with purpose-built earthwork mounds, such as at Horr's Island, which had the largest permanently occupied community in the Archaic period in the southeastern United States. It also has the oldest burial mound in the East, dating to about 1450 BC. People began making fired pottery in Florida by 2000 BC. By about 500 BC, the Archaic culture, which had been fairly uniform across Florida, began to fragment into regional cultures.
The post-Archaic cultures of eastern and southern Florida developed in relative isolation. It is likely that the peoples living in those areas at the time of first European contact were direct descendants of the inhabitants of the areas in late Archaic and Woodland times. The cultures of the Florida panhandle and the north and central Gulf coast of the Florida peninsula were strongly influenced by the Mississippian culture, producing two local variants known as the Pensacola culture and the Fort Walton culture.
Continuity in cultural history suggests that the peoples of those areas were also descended from the inhabitants of the Archaic period. In the panhandle and the northern part of the peninsula, people adopted cultivation of maize. Its cultivation was restricted or absent among the tribes who lived south of the Timucuan-speaking people (i.e., south of a line approximately from present-day Daytona Beach, Florida to a point on or north of Tampa Bay.) Peoples in southern Florida depended on the rich estuarine environment and developed a highly complex society without agriculture.
At the time of first European contact in the early 16th century, Florida was inhabited by an estimated 350,000 people belonging to a number of tribes. (Anthropologist Henry F. Dobyns has estimated that as many as 700,000 people lived in Florida in 1492.) The Spanish Empire sent Spanish explorers recording nearly one hundred names of groups they encountered, ranging from organized political entities such as the Apalachee, with a population of around 50,000, to villages with no known political affiliation. There were an estimated 150,000 speakers of dialects of the Timucua language, but the Timucua were organized as groups of villages and did not share a common culture.
Other tribes in Florida at the time of first contact included the Ais, Calusa, Jaega, Mayaimi, Tequesta and Tocobaga. Early explorers such as Alvaro Mexia wrote about them; other information has been learned through archeological research. The populations of all of these tribes decreased markedly during the period of Spanish control of Florida, mostly due to epidemics of newly introduced infectious diseases, to which the Native Americans had no natural immunity. The diminished population of the original natives allowed outside groups, such as the Seminoles, to move into the area starting about 1700.
At the beginning of the 18th century, when the indigenous peoples were already much reduced in populations, tribes from areas to the north of Florida, supplied with arms and occasionally accompanied by white colonists from the Province of Carolina, raided throughout Florida. They burned villages, wounded many of the inhabitants and carried captives back to Charles Towne to be sold into slavery. Most of the villages in Florida were abandoned, and the survivors sought refuge at St. Augustine or in isolated spots around the state. Many tribes became extinct during this period and by the end of the 18th century.
Some of the Apalachee eventually reached Louisiana, where they survived as a distinct group for at least another century. The Spanish evacuated the few surviving members of the Florida tribes to Cuba in 1763 when Spain transferred the territory of Florida to the British Empire following the latter's victory against France in the Seven Years' War. In the aftermath, the Seminole, originally an offshoot of the Creek people who absorbed other groups, developed as a distinct tribe in Florida during the 18th century through the process of ethnogenesis. They have three federally recognized tribes: the largest is the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, formed of descendants since removal in the 1830s; others are the smaller Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.
Main article: Spanish Florida
Juan Ponce de León, a famous Spanish conqueror and explorer, is usually given credit for being the first European to sight Florida in 1513, but he probably had predecessors. Florida and much of the nearby coast is depicted in the Cantino planisphere, an early world map which was surreptitiously copied in 1502 from the most current Portuguese sailing charts and smuggled into Italy a full decade before Ponce sailed north from Puerto Rico on his voyage of exploration. Ponce de León may not have even been the first Spaniard to go ashore in Florida; slave traders may have secretly raided native villages before Ponce arrived, as he encountered at least one indigenous tribesman who spoke Spanish. However, Ponce's 1513 expedition to Florida was the first open and official one. He also gave Florida its name, which means "full of flowers." Another dubious legend states that Ponce de León was searching for the Fountain of Youth on the island of Bimini, based on information from natives.
On March 3, 1513, Juan Ponce de León organized and equipped three ships for an expedition departing from "Punta Aguada", Puerto Rico. The expedition included 200 people, including women and free blacks.
Although it is often stated that he sighted the peninsula for the first time on March 27, 1513 and thought it was an island, he probably saw one of the Bahamas at that time. He went ashore on Florida's east coast during the Spanish Easter feast, Pascua Florida, on April 7 and named the land La Pascua de la Florida. After briefly exploring the land south of present-day St. Augustine, the expedition sailed south to the bottom of the Florida peninsula, through the Florida Keys, and up the west coast as far north as Charlotte Harbor, where they briefly skirmished with the Calusa before heading back to Puerto Rico. From 1513 onward, the land became known as La Florida. After 1630, and throughout the 18th century, Tegesta (after the Tequesta tribe) was an alternate name of choice for the Florida peninsula following publication of a map by the Dutch cartographer Hessel Gerritsz in Joannes de Laet's History of the New World.
Further Spanish attempts to explore and colonize Florida were disastrous. Ponce de León returned to the Charlotte Harbor area in 1521 with equipment and settlers to start a colony, but was soon driven off by hostile Calusa, and de León died in Cuba from wounds received in the fighting. Pánfilo de Narváez's expedition explored Florida's west coast in 1528, but his violent demands for gold and food led to hostile relations with the Tocobaga and other native groups. Facing starvation and unable to find his support ships, Narváez attempted return to Mexico via rafts, but all were lost at sea and only four members of the expedition survived. Hernando de Soto landed in Florida in 1539 and began a multi-year trek through what is now the southeastern United States in which he found no gold but lost his life. In 1559 Tristán de Luna y Arellano established the first settlement in Pensacola but, after a violent hurricane destroyed the area, it was abandoned in 1561.
The horse, which the natives had hunted to extinction 10,000 years ago, was reintroduced into North America by the European explorers, and into Florida in 1538. As the animals were lost or stolen, they began to become feral.
In 1564, René Goulaine de Laudonnière founded Fort Caroline in what is now Jacksonville, as a haven for Huguenot Protestant refugees from religious persecution in France. Further down the coast, in 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded San Agustín (St. Augustine) which is the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in any U.S. state. It is second oldest only to San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the United States' current territory. From this base of operations, the Spanish began building Catholic missions.
All colonial cities were founded near the mouths of rivers. St. Augustine was founded where the Matanzas Inlet permitted access to the Matanzas River. Other cities were founded on the sea with similar inlets: Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Pensacola, Tampa, Fort Myers, and others.
On September 20, 1565, Menéndez de Avilés attacked Fort Caroline, killing most of the French Huguenot defenders. Two years later, Dominique de Gourgue recaptured the settlement for France, this time slaughtering the Spanish defenders.
St. Augustine became the most important settlement in Florida. Little more than a fort, it was frequently attacked and burned, with most residents killed or fled. It was notably devastated in 1586, when English sea captain and sometime pirate Sir Francis Drake plundered and burned the city. Catholic missionaries used St. Augustine as a base of operations to establish over 100 far-flung missions throughout Florida. They converted 26,000 natives by 1655, but a revolt in 1656 and an epidemic in 1659 proved devastating. Pirate attacks and British raids were unrelenting, and the town was burned to the ground several times until Spain fortified it with the Castillo de San Marcos (1672) and Fort Matanzas (1742).
Throughout the 17th century, English settlers in Virginia and Carolina gradually pushed the boundaries of Spanish territory south, while the French settlements along the Mississippi River encroached on the western borders of the Spanish claim. In 1702, Governor of Carolina James Moore and allied Yamasee and Creek Indians attacked and razed the town of St. Augustine, but they could not gain control of the fort. In 1704, Moore and his soldiers began burning Spanish missions in north Florida and executing Indians friendly with the Spanish. The collapse of the Spanish mission system and the defeat of the Spanish-allied Apalachee Indians (the Apalachee massacre) opened Florida up to slave raids, which reached to the Florida Keys and decimated the native population. The Yamasee War of 1715–1717 in the Carolinas resulted in numerous Indian refugees, such as the Yamasee, moving south to Florida. In 1719, the French captured the Spanish settlement at Pensacola.
The border between the British colony of Georgia and Spanish Florida was never clearly defined, and was the subject of constant harassment in both directions, until it was ceded by Spain to the U.S. in 1821. The Spanish Crown, beginning with King Charles II in 1693, encouraged fugitive slaves from the British North American colonies to escape and offered them freedom and refuge if they converted to Catholicism. This was well known through word of mouth in the colonies of Georgia and South Carolina, and hundreds of enslaved Africans escaped to their freedom, which infuriated colonists in the British North American colonies. They settled in a buffer community north of St. Augustine, called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, the first settlement made of free blacks in North America.
During this period, the British (including their North American colonies) repeatedly attacked Spanish Florida, especially in 1702 and again in 1740, when a large force under James Oglethorpe sailed south from Georgia and besieged St. Augustine, but was unable to capture the Castillo de San Marcos. Creek and Seminole Native Americans, who had established buffer settlements in Florida at the invitation of the Spanish government, also welcomed any fugitive slaves which reached their settlements. In 1771, Governor John Moultrie wrote to the Board of Trade that "it has been a practice for a good while past, for negroes to run away from their Masters, and get into the Indian towns, from whence it proved very difficult to get them back." When British colonial officials in Florida pressed the Seminole to return runaway slaves, they replied that they had "merely given hungry people food, and invited the slaveholders to catch the runaways themselves."
In 1763, Spain traded Florida to the Kingdom of Great Britain for control of Havana, Cuba, which had been captured by the British during the Seven Years' War. It was part of a large expansion of British territory following the country's victory in the Seven Years' War. Almost the entire Spanish population left, taking along most of the remaining indigenous population to Cuba. The British divided the territory into East Florida and West Florida. The British soon constructed the King's Road connecting St. Augustine to Georgia. The road crossed the St. Johns River at a narrow point, which the Seminole called Wacca Pilatka and the British named "Cow Ford", both names ostensibly reflecting the fact that cattle were brought across the river there. The British government gave land grants to officers and soldiers who had fought in the French and Indian War in order to encourage settlement. In order to induce settlers to move to the two new colonies reports of the natural wealth of Florida were published in England. A large number of British colonists who were "energetic and of good character" moved to Florida, mostly coming from South Carolina, Georgia and England, though there was also a group of settlers who came from the colony of Bermuda. This would be the first permanent English-speaking population in what is now Duval County, Baker County, St. Johns County, and Nassau County. The British built good public roads and introduced the cultivation of sugar cane, indigo, and fruits, as well the export of lumber. As a result of these initiatives northeastern Florida prospered economically in a way it never did under Spanish rule. Furthermore, the British governors were directed to call general assemblies as soon as possible in order to make laws for the Floridas and in the meantime they were, with the advice of councils, to establish courts. This would be the first introduction of much of the English-derived legal system which Florida still has today, including trial-by-jury, habeas corpus, and county-based government.
A Scottish settler named Dr Andrew Turnbull transplanted around 1,500 indentured settlers, from Menorca, Majorca, Ibiza, Smyrna, Crete, Mani Peninsula, and Sicily, to grow hemp, sugarcane, indigo, and to produce rum. Settled at New Smyrna, within months the colony suffered major losses primarily due to insect-borne diseases and Native American raids. Most crops did not do well in the sandy Florida soil. Those that survived rarely equaled the quality produced in other colonies. The colonists tired of their servitude and Turnbull's rule. On several occasions, he used African slaves to whip his unruly settlers. The settlement collapsed and the survivors fled to safety with the British authorities in St. Augustine. Their descendants survive to this day, as does the name New Smyrna.
In 1767, the British moved the northern boundary of West Florida to a line extending from the mouth of the Yazoo River east to the Chattahoochee River (32° 28′north latitude), consisting of approximately the lower third of the present states of Mississippi and Alabama. During this time, Creek Indians migrated into Florida and formed the Seminole tribe.
When representatives from thirteen North American colonies declared independence from Great Britain in 1776, many Floridians condemned the action. East and West Florida were backwater outposts whose populations included a large percentage of British military personnel and their families. There was little trade in or out of the colonies, so they were largely unaffected by the Stamp Act Crisis of 1765 and other taxes and policies which brought other British colonies together in common interest against a shared threat. Thus, a majority of Florida residents were Loyalists, and both East and West Florida declined to send representatives to any sessions of the Continental Congress.
During the American Revolutionary War, some Floridians actually helped lead raids into nearby states. Continental forces attempted to invade East Florida early in the conflict, but they were defeated on May 17, 1777 at the Battle of Thomas Creek in today's Nassau County when American Colonel John Baker surrendered to the British. Another American incursion into the same area was repelled at the Battle of Alligator Bridge on June 30, 1778.
The two Floridas remained loyal to Great Britain throughout the war. However, Spain, participating indirectly in the war as an ally of France, captured Pensacola from the British in 1781. The Peace of Paris (1783) ended the Revolutionary War and returned all of Florida to Spanish control, but without specifying the boundaries. The Spanish wanted the expanded northern boundary Britain had made to West Florida, while the new United States demanded the old boundary at the 31st parallel north. This border controversy was resolved in the 1795 Treaty of San Lorenzo when Spain recognized the 31st parallel as the boundary.
When the Floridas returned to Spain in 1783 there was a nearly complete exodus of the few English colonists and the many Tories who had fled there from the revolted colonies, and made East Florida more populous and prosperous than it ever was as a Spanish colony.
Main article: Spanish Florida § Second Spanish period
Spain's reoccupation of Florida involved the arrival of some officials and soldiers at St. Augustine and Pensacola but very few new settlers. Most British residents had departed, leaving much of the territory depopulated and unguarded. North Florida continued to be the home of the newly amalgamated black–native American Seminole culture and a haven for people escaping slavery in the southern United States. Settlers in southern Georgia demanded that Spain control the Seminole population and capture runaway slaves, to which Spain replied that the slave owners were welcome to recapture the runaways themselves.
Americans began moving into northern Florida from the backwoods of Georgia and South Carolina. Though technically not allowed by the Spanish authorities, the Spanish were never able to effectively police the border region, and a mix of American settlers, escaped slaves, and Native Americans would continue to migrate into Florida unchecked. The American migrants, mixing with the few remaining settlers from Florida's British period, would be the progenitors of the population known as Florida Crackers.
Main article: Republic of West Florida
Ignoring Spanish territorial claims, American settlers, along with some remaining British settlers, established a permanent foothold in the western end of West Florida during the first decade of the 1800s. In the summer of 1810, they began planning a rebellion against Spanish rule which became open revolt in September. The rebels overcame the Spanish garrison at Baton Rouge and proclaimed the "Free and Independent Republic of West Florida" on September 23. (None of it was within what is today the state of Florida.) Their flag was the original "Bonnie Blue Flag", a single white star on a blue field. On October 27, 1810, most of the Republic of West Florida was annexed by proclamation of President James Madison, who claimed that the region was included in the Louisiana Purchase and incorporated it into the newly formed Territory of Orleans. Some leaders of the newly declared republic objected to the takeover, but all had deferred to arriving American troops by mid-December 1810. The Florida Parishes of the modern state of Louisiana include most of the territory claimed by the short-lived Republic of West Florida.
the U.S. annexed the Mobile District of West Florida to the Mississippi Territory in May 1812. The surrender of Spanish forces at Mobile in April 1813 officially established American control over the area, which was eventually divided between the states of Alabama and Mississippi.
Main article: Republic of East Florida
In March 1812, Americans took control of Amelia Island on the Atlantic coast declared that they were a republic free from Spanish rule. The revolt was organized by General George Matthews of the U.S. Army, who had been authorized to secretly negotiate with the Spanish governor for American acquisition of East Florida. Instead, Matthews organized a group of frontiersmen in Georgia, who arrived at the Spanish town of Fernandina and demanded the surrender of all of Amelia Island. Upon declaring the island a republic, he led his volunteers along with a contingent of regular army troops south towards St. Augustine.
Upon hearing of Matthews' actions, Congress became alarmed that he would provoke war with Spain, and Secretary of State James Monroe ordered Matthews to return all captured territory to Spanish authorities. After several months of negotiations on the withdrawal of the Americans and compensation for their foraging through the countryside, the countries came to an agreement, and Amelia Island was returned to the Spanish in May 1813.
The unguarded Florida border was an increasing source of tension late in the second Spanish period. Seminoles based in East Florida had been accused of raiding Georgia settlements, and settlers were angered by the stream of slaves escaping into Florida, where they were welcomed. Negro Fort, an abandoned British fortification in the far west of the territory, was manned by both Indians and blacks. The United States Army would lead increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory, including the 1817–1818 campaign against the Seminole Indians by Andrew Jackson that became known later as the First Seminole War. Jackson took temporary control of Pensacola in 1818, and though he withdrew due to Spanish objections, the United States continued to effectively control much of West Florida. According to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, this was necessary because Florida had become "a derelict open to the occupancy of every enemy, civilized or savage, of the United States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post of annoyance to them."
Main article: Adams-Onis Treaty
After Jackson's incursions, Spain decided that Florida had become too much of a burden, as it could not afford to send settlers or garrisons to properly occupy the land and was receiving very little revenue from the territory. Madrid therefore decided to cede Florida to the United States. The transfer was negotiated as part of the Adams–Onís Treaty, which also settled several boundary disputes between Spanish colonies and the U.S. in exchange for American payment of $5,000,000 in claims against the Spanish government. The treaty was signed in 1819 and took effect in 1821, and the United States formally took possession of Florida on July 17, 1821.
Main article: Florida Territory
See also: Seminole Wars
Florida became an organized territory of the United States on March 30, 1822. The Americans merged East Florida and West Florida (although the majority of West Florida was annexed to Territory of Orleans and Mississippi Territory), and established a new capital in Tallahassee, conveniently located halfway between the East Florida capital of St. Augustine and the West Florida capital of Pensacola. The boundaries of Florida's first two counties, Escambia and St. Johns, approximately coincided with the boundaries of West and East Florida respectively.
The free blacks and Indian slaves, Black Seminoles, living near St. Augustine, fled to Havana, Cuba to avoid coming under US control. Some Seminole also abandoned their settlements and moved further south. Hundreds of Black Seminoles and fugitive slaves escaped in the early nineteenth century from Cape Florida to The Bahamas, where they settled on Andros Island.
As settlement increased, pressure grew on the United States government to remove the Indians from their lands in Florida. Many settlers in Florida developed plantation agriculture, similar to other areas of the Deep South. To the consternation of new landowners, the Seminoles harbored and integrated runaway blacks, and clashes between whites and Indians grew with the influx of new settlers.
In 1832, the United States government signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing with some of the Seminole chiefs, promising them lands west of the Mississippi River if they agreed to leave Florida voluntarily. Many Seminoles left then, while those who remained prepared to defend their claims to the land. White settlers pressured the government to remove all of the Indians, by force if necessary, and in 1835, the U.S. Army arrived to enforce the treaty.
The Second Seminole War began at the end of 1835 with the Dade Massacre, when Seminoles ambushed Army troops marching from Fort Brooke (Tampa) to reinforce Fort King (Ocala). They killed or mortally wounded all but one of the 110 troops. Between 900 and 1,500 Seminole warriors effectively employed guerrilla tactics against United States Army troops for seven years. Osceola, a charismatic young war leader, came to symbolize the war and the Seminoles after he was arrested by Brigadier General Joseph Marion Hernandez while negotiating under a white truce flag in October 1837, by order of General Thomas Jesup. First imprisoned at Fort Marion, he died of malaria at Fort Moultrie in South Carolina less than three months after his capture. The war ended in 1842. The U.S. government is estimated to have spent between $20 million ($561,586,207 in 2021 dollars) and $40 million ($1,123,172,414 in 2021 dollars) on the war; at the time, this was considered a large sum. Almost all of the Seminoles were forcibly exiled to Creek lands west of the Mississippi; several hundred remained in the Everglades.
On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the United States of America. Its first governor was William Dunn Moseley.
Almost half the state's population were enslaved African Americans working on large cotton and sugar plantations, between the Apalachicola and Suwannee rivers in the north central part of the state. Like the people who owned them, many slaves had come from the coastal areas of Georgia and the Carolinas. They were part of the Gullah–Geechee culture of the Lowcountry. Others were enslaved African Americans from the upper South who had been sold to traders taking slaves to the deep South.
In the 1850s, with the potential transfer of ownership of federal land to the state, including Seminole land, the federal government decided to convince the remaining Seminoles to emigrate. The Army reactivated Fort Harvie and renamed it to Fort Myers. Increased Army patrols led to hostilities, and eventually a Seminole attack on Fort Myers which killed two United States soldiers. The Third Seminole War lasted from 1855 to 1858 which ended with most of the remaining Seminoles, mostly women and children moving to Indian Territory. In 1859, another 75 Seminoles surrendered and were sent to the West, but a small number continued to live in the Everglades.
On the eve of the Civil War, Florida had the smallest population of the Southern states. It was invested in plantation agriculture, which was dependent on the labor of enslaved African Americans. By 1860, Florida had 140,424 people, of whom 44% were enslaved and fewer than 1,000 were free people of color. Florida also had one of the highest per capita murder rates prior to the Civil War, thanks to a weakened central government, the institution of slavery, and a troubled political history.
Following Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860, Florida joined other Southern states in seceding from the Union. Secession took place January 10, 1861, and after less than a month as an independent republic, Florida became one of the founding seven states of the Confederate States of America. During the Civil War, Florida was an important supply route for the Confederate Army. Therefore, Union forces operated a naval blockade around the entire state, and Union troops occupied major ports such as Cedar Key, Jacksonville, Key West, and Pensacola. Though numerous skirmishes occurred in Florida, including the Battle of Natural Bridge, the Battle of Marianna and the Battle of Gainesville, the only major battle was the Battle of Olustee near Lake City.
During the Reconstruction era that followed the Civil War, moderate Republicans took charge of the state, but they became deeply factionalized and lost public support. Florida was a peripheral region that attracted little outside attention. The state was thinly populated, had relatively few freedmen, had played no great role in the war and saw little violence, and increasingly became a haven for sunshine-hunting Northerners.
The moderate regime plunged into complicated maneuvering and infighting. It drafted a conservative constitution. The extended contest between liberals and radicals inside the Republican Party alienated so many voters that the Democrats took power. They rigged elections, disenfranchised Black voters, and made the state a reliable part of the "Solid South".
A state convention was held in 1868 to rewrite the constitution. After meeting the requirements of Congress, including ratification of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, Florida was readmitted to the Union on June 25, 1868. This did not end the struggle for political power among groups in the state. Southern whites objected to freedmen's political participation and complained of illiterate representatives to the state legislature. But of the six members who could not read or write during the seven years of Republican rule, four were white.
After Federal troops left the South in 1877, conservative white Democrats engaged in voter suppression and intimidation, regaining control of the state legislature. This was accomplished partly through violent actions by white paramilitary groups targeting freedmen and their allies to discourage them from voting.
From 1885 to 1889, after regaining power, the white-dominated state legislature passed statutes to impose poll taxes and other barriers to voter registration and voting, in order to eliminate voting by blacks and poor whites. These two groups had threatened white Democratic power with a populist coalition. As these groups were stripped from voter rolls, white Democrats established power in a one-party state, as happened across the South.
In this period, white violence rose against blacks, particularly in the form of lynchings, which reached a peak around the turn of the century.
The Great Freeze of 1894-5 ruined citrus crops, which had a detrimental ripple effect on the economy of Central Florida in particular.
By 1900 the state's African Americans numbered more than 200,000, roughly 44 percent of the total population. This was the same proportion as before the Civil War, and they were effectively disenfranchised. Not being able to vote meant they could not sit on juries, and were not elected to local, state or federal offices. They also were not recruited for law enforcement or other government positions. After the end of Reconstruction, the Florida legislature passed Jim Crow laws establishing racial segregation in public facilities and transportation. Separate railroad cars or sections of cars for different races were required beginning in 1887. Separate waiting rooms at railroad stations were required beginning in 1909.
Without political representation, African Americans found that their facilities were underfunded and they were pushed into a second-class position. For more than six decades, white Democrats controlled virtually all the state's seats in Congress, which were apportioned based on the total population of the state rather than only the whites who voted.[dubious ]
In 1900, Florida was largely agricultural and frontier; most Floridians lived within 50 miles of the Georgia border. The population grew from 529,000 in 1900 to 18.3 million in 2009. The population explosion began with the great land boom of the 1920s as Florida became a destination for vacationers and a southern land speculator's paradise. People from throughout the Southeast migrated to Florida during this time, creating a larger southern culture in the central part of the state, and expanding the existing one in the northern region.
By 1920, Florida had the highest rate of lynchings per capita, although the overall total had declined. Violence of whites against blacks continued into the post-World War II period, and there were lynchings and riots in several small towns in the early 1920s. Florida had the only recorded lynching in 1945, in October after the war's end, when a black man was killed after being falsely accused of assaulting a girl.
In the 1920s, many developers invested in land in the southern part of the State in areas such as Miami, and Palm Beach attracting more people in the Southern States. When the Crash came in 1929, prices of houses plunged, but the sunshine remained. Hurt badly by the Great Depression and the land bust, Florida, along with many other States, kept afloat with federal relief money under the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration.
After World War II, the state would grow dramatically going from having a population of 2.7 million in 1950 to 16 million by 2000. It would go from being the 27th most populated state in 1940 to being the 4th by 2000 and 3rd by 2014. Florida's strong population growth would follow other states in the southern and western United States. It would follow the same trend as many residents moving to the state were from the Midwest and Northeastern US. Many new residents in Florida were elderly and as a result the average age in Florida would increase from 28.8 in 1950 to 39.3 by 2000. Technological reasons behind Florida's growth included air conditioning and DDT.
After World War I, there was a rise in lynchings and other racial violence directed by whites against blacks in the state, as well as across the South. It was due in part from strains of rapid social and economic changes, as well as competition for jobs, and lingering resentment resulting from the Reconstruction after the Civil War, as well as tensions among both black and white populations created by the return of black veterans.
Whites continued to resort to lynchings to keep dominance, and tensions rose. Florida led the South and the nation in lynchings per capita from 1900 to 1930. A second incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan, from WWI until 1925, encouraged suppression of blacks and other minorities.
White mobs committed massacres, accompanied by wholesale destruction of black houses, churches, and schools, in the small communities of Ocoee, November 1920; Perry in December 1922; and Rosewood in January 1923. The governor appointed a special grand jury and special prosecuting attorney to investigate Rosewood and Levy County, but the jury did not find sufficient evidence to prosecute. Rosewood was never resettled.
To escape segregation, lynchings, and civil rights suppression, 40,000 African Americans migrated from Florida to northern cities in the Great Migration from 1910 to 1940. That was one-fifth of their population in 1900. They sought better lives, including decent-paying jobs, better education for their children, and the chance to vote and participate in political life. Many were recruited for jobs with the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Main article: Florida land boom of the 1920's
The 1920s were a prosperous time for much of the nation, including Florida. The state's new railroads opened up large areas to development, spurring the Florida land boom of the 1920s. Investors of all kinds, many from outside Florida, raced to buy and sell rapidly appreciating land in newly platted communities such as Miami and Palm Beach. Led by entrepreneurs Carl Fisher and George Merrick, Miami was transformed by land speculation and ambitious building projects into an emerging metropolis. A growing awareness in the areas surrounding Florida, along with the Northeast about the attractive south Florida winter climate, along with local promotion of speculative investing, spurred the boom.
A majority of the people who bought land in Florida hired intermediaries to accomplish the transactions. By 1924, the main issues in state elections were how to attract more industry and the need to build and maintain good roads for tourists. During the time frame, the population grew from less than one million in 1920, to 1,263,540 in 1925.
By 1925, the market ran out of buyers to pay the high prices, and soon the boom became a bust. The 1926 Miami Hurricane, which nearly destroyed the city further depressed the real estate market. In 1928 another hurricane struck Southern Florida. The 1928 Okeechobee hurricane made landfall near Palm Beach, severely damaging the local infrastructure. In townships near Lake Okeechobee, the storm breached a dike separating the water from land, creating a storm surge that killed over 2,000 people and destroying the towns of Belle Glade and Pahokee.
Tourists continued to arrive in Florida by train. The introduction of the automobile resulted in an increased number traveling on sometimes macadamized, sometimes dirt roads. The destination was usually Miami or Miami Beach. Roadside attractions included orange shops and alligator wrestling. Tourism was confined to the winter months. Summers were uncomfortably hot for visitors.
Prohibition had been popular in north Florida, but was opposed in the rest of the south, which became a haven for speakeasies and rum-runners in the 1920s. During 1928–32 a broad coalition of judges, lawyers, politicians, journalists, brewers, hoteliers, retailers, and ordinary Floridians organized to try to repeal the ban on alcohol. When the federal government legalized near beer and light wine in 1933, the wet coalition launched a successful campaign to legalize these beverages at the state level.
Floridians subsequently joined in the national campaign to repeal the 18th Amendment, which succeeded in December 1933. The following November, state voters repealed Florida's constitutional ban on liquor and gave local governments the power to legalize or outlaw alcoholic beverages.
The Great Depression began with the Stock Market crash of 1929. By that time, the economy had already declined in much of Florida from the collapse three years earlier of the land boom. During the late 1920s and early 1930s Florida would face a variety of problems with some of them stemming from the collapse of the Florida Land Boom and the Great Depression. Two hurricanes with one occurring in 1926 and another in 1928 would hurt the state further economically. The state government would be in debt which was then a violation of Florida's Constitution and over 150 municipalities would also be in debt as they had defaulted on their municipal bonds which had mainly been issued as a way to pay for infrastructure during the Florida land boom. Many property owners often owed taxes to local governments which further worsened the situation. A separate issue would be with Florida's virgin timber crop being virtually cut down by the 1930s.
During the New Deal (1933–40) a variety of projects would be built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). There would be work camps for the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Apart from the New Deal being implemented, Florida would see David Sholtz become elected as Governor in 1932. As governor, he would manage to implement social welfare programs while simultaneously expanding the amount of tax revenue received by the state government and getting it out of debt. He would also be strongly aligned with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was a personal friend of his. Toward the end of Sholtz's tenure his reputation among Floridians which was previously positive would decline as his ethics became questioned. As a result Fred P. Cone would become elected as governor in 1936. While being governor he would be incredibly hands-off and had a fiscally conservative approach.
From 1930 to 1935, college students selected Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, and Panama City Beach as great places to take a spring break and party. The 1960s film Where the Boys Are increased attendance in Fort Lauderdale to 50,000 annually. When this figure increased to 250,000 in 1985, the city began to pass laws restricting student activities. As a result, students moved to Daytona Beach from 1980–1990s. The figure for Fort Lauderdale dropped to 20,000; 350,000 visited Daytona Beach. Daytona Beach passed laws constraining underage drinking. Students then began patronizing Panama City, where 500,000 visited in 2013.
Florida legalized gambling in 1931 allowing a Parimutuel betting establishment. By 2014, there were 30 such establishments, generating $200 million in state taxes and fees.
Anticipating war, the Army and Navy decided to use the state as a primary training area. The Navy chose the coastal areas, the Army, the inland areas.
In 1940, the population was about 1.5 million. Average annual income was $308 ($5,957.35 in 2021 dollars). 
In the years leading up to World War II, 100 ships were sunk off the coast of Florida. More ships sank after the country entered the war.
About 248,000 Floridians served in the war. Around 50,000 of these were African Americans.
The state became a major hub for the United States Armed Forces. Naval Air Station Pensacola was originally established as a naval station in 1826 and became the first American naval aviation facility in 1917. The entire nation mobilized for World War II and many bases, especially air bases, were established in Florida, to include:
Numerous others were also established that exist today as military installations/facilities, civilian airports, or other facilities under different names.
Present day Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field, and MacDill Air Force Base (now the home of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command) were also developed as U.S. Army Air Forces installations during this time. During the Cold War, Florida's coastal access and proximity to Cuba encouraged the development of these and other military facilities. Since the end of the Cold War, the military has closed some facilities, including major bases such as NAS Sanford, McCoy AFB, NAS Cecil Field, and NTC Orlando, and realigned others such as Homestead AFB being transferred to the Air Force Reserve Command and realigned as Homestead Air Reserve Base, or NAS Saufley Field realigned as NETPDC Saufley Field, but their presence is still significant in the state and local economies.
Apart from military bases, Florida would also be home to 22 prisoner of war camps. Starting in May 1943, the Allied powers would sent captured Nazi soldiers to the United States with about of 10,000 of them going to 22 camps in Florida. Many of these camps would be located in or near military bases.
The population increased by 46% during the 1940s.
Because of Cape Canaveral's relative closeness to the equator, compared to other potential locations, it was chosen in 1949 as a test site for the country's nascent missile program. Patrick Space Force Base and the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station launch site began to take shape as the 1950s progressed. By the early 1960s, the Space Race was in full swing. As programs were expanded and employees joined, the space program generated a huge boom in the communities around Cape Canaveral. This area is now collectively known as the Space Coast and features the Kennedy Space Center. It is also a major center of the aerospace industry. To date, all manned orbital spaceflights launched by the United States, including the only men to visit the Moon, have been launched from Kennedy Space Center.
Florida's population mix has changed. After World War II, Florida was transformed as the development of air conditioning and the Interstate highway system encouraged migration by residents of the North and Midwest.
Prior to development, Florida salt marshes were capable of producing large numbers of mosquitoes. The salt marsh mosquito does not lay its eggs in standing water, preferring moist sand or mud instead. Biologists learned to control them by "source reduction", the process of removing the moist sand needed by the mosquitoes to breed. To achieve this goal, large sections of coastal marshes were either ditched or diked to remove the moist sand that the mosquitoes required to lay eggs on. Together with chemical controls, it yielded a qualified success.
In 1950, Florida was ranked twentieth among the states in population; 50 years later it was ranked fourth, and 14 years later was number three. Due to low tax rates and warm climate, Florida became the destination for many retirees from the Northeast, Midwest and Canada.
The Cuban Revolution of 1959 resulted in a large wave of Cuban immigration into South Florida, which transformed Miami into a major center of commerce, finance and transportation for all of Latin America. Emigration from Haiti, other Caribbean states, and Central and South America continues to the present day.
Like other states in the South, Florida had many African-American leaders who were active in the civil rights movement. In the 1940s and '50s, a new generation started working on issues, emboldened by veterans who had fought during World War II and wanted to gain more civil rights. Harry T. Moore built the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Florida, rapidly increasing its membership to 10,000. Because Florida's voter laws were not as restrictive as those of Georgia and Alabama, he had some success in registering black voters. In the 1940s he increased voter registration among blacks from 5 to 31% of those age-eligible.
But the state had white groups who resisted change, to the point of attacking and killing blacks. In December 1951 whites bombed the house of activists Harry Moore and his wife Harriette, who both died of injuries from the blast. Although their murders were not solved then, a state investigation in 2006 reported they had been killed by an independent unit of the Ku Klux Klan. Numerous bombings were directed against African Americans in 1951–1952 in Florida.
In the early postwar period, the state's population had changed markedly by migration of new groups, as well as emigration of African Americans, 40,000 of whom moved north in earlier decades of the 20th century during the Great Migration. By 1960 the number of African Americans in Florida had increased to 880,186, but declined proportionally to 18% of the state's population. This was a much smaller proportion than in 1900, when the census showed they comprised 44% of the state's population, while numbering 231,209 persons.
Main article: 2000 United States presidential election in Florida
Florida became the battleground of the controversial 2000 US presidential election which took place on November 7, 2000. The count of the popular votes was extremely close, triggering automatic recounts. These recounts triggered accusations of fraud and manipulation, and brought to light voting irregularities in the state.
Subsequent recount efforts degenerated into arguments over mispunched ballots, "hanging chads", and controversial decisions by Florida secretary of state Katherine Harris and the Florida Supreme Court. Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Bush v. Gore to end all recounts, allowing Harris to certify the election results. The final official Florida count gave the victory to George W. Bush over Al Gore by 537 votes, a 0.009% margin of difference. The process was extremely divisive, and led to calls for electoral reform in Florida. Florida has the strictest laws penalizing and disenfranchising felons and other criminals, even if they have served their sentences. Together with other penalties, it excluded many minorities who may have voted for the Democratic candidate.
Long-term scientific attention has focused on the fragility of the Everglades. In 2000 Congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) at $8 billion. The goals are to restore the health of the Everglades ecosystem and maximize the value to people of its land, water, and soil.,
Hurricane Andrew in August 1992 struck Homestead, just south of Miami, as a Category 5 hurricane, leaving forty people dead, 100,000 homes damaged or destroyed, more than a million people left without electricity, and damages of $20–30 billion. Much of South Florida's sensitive vegetation was severely damaged. The region had not seen a storm of such power in decades. Besides heavy property damage, the hurricane nearly destroyed the region's insurance industry.
The western panhandle was damaged heavily in 1995, with hurricanes Allison, Erin, and Opal hitting the area within the span of a few months. The storms increased in strength during the season, culminating with Opal's landfall as a Category 3 in October.
Florida also suffered heavily during the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season, when four major storms struck the state. Hurricane Charley made landfall in Charlotte County area and cut northward through the peninsula, Hurricane Frances struck the Atlantic coast and drenched most of central Florida with heavy rains, Hurricane Ivan caused heavy damage in the western Panhandle, and Hurricane Jeanne caused damage to the same area as Frances, including compounded beach erosion. Damage from all four storms was estimated to be at least $22 billion, with some estimates going as high as $40 billion. In 2005, South Florida was struck, by Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. The panhandle was struck by Hurricane Dennis.
Florida has historically been at risk from hurricanes and tropical storms. These have resulted in higher risks and property damage as the concentration of population and development has increased along Florida's coastal areas. Not only are more people and property at risk, but development has overtaken the natural system of wetlands and waterways, which used to absorb some of the storms' energy and excess waters.
Environmental issues include preservation and restoration of the Everglades, which has moved slowly. There has been pressure by industry groups to drill for oil in the eastern Gulf of Mexico but so far, large-scale drilling off the coasts of Florida has been prevented. The federal government declared the state an agricultural disaster area because of 13 straight days of freezing weather during the growing season in January 2010.
Oranges have been grown and sold in Florida since 1872. Production dropped 59% from the 2008–9 season to the 2016–7 season. The decline was mostly due to canker, citrus greening disease, and hurricane damage.
In 2009–2010, "there were hardly any fish off Florida...they are finding fish all over Florida" in 2016. The federal government believes this is due to federal restraints on fishing.
Consistent with usage throughout the country, more than 51% of homes in Florida in 2015 use mobile phones or wireless only.
During the late 19th century, Florida became a popular tourist destination as Henry Flagler's railroads expanded into the area. In 1891, railroad magnate Henry Plant built the luxurious Tampa Bay Hotel in Tampa; the hotel was later adapted for use as the campus for the University of Tampa.
Flagler built the Florida East Coast Railway from Jacksonville to Key West. Along the route he provided grand accommodations for passengers, including the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, the Ormond Hotel in Ormond Beach, the Royal Poinciana Hotel and the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, and the Royal Palm Hotel in Miami.
In February 1888, Florida had a special tourist: President Grover Cleveland, the first lady, and his party visited Florida for a couple of days. He visited the Subtropical Exposition in Jacksonville, where he made a speech supporting tourism to the state; he took a train to St. Augustine, meeting Henry Flagler; and a train to Titusville, where he boarded a steamboat and visited Rockledge. On his return trip, he visited Sanford and Winter Park.
Flagler's railroad connected cities on the east coast of Florida. This created more urbanization along that corridor. Development also followed the construction of Turnpikes I-95 in east Florida, and I-75 in west Florida. These routes aided tourism and urbanization. Northerners from the East Coast used I-95 and tended to settle along that route. People from the MidWest tended to use I-75, and settled along the west coast of Florida.
Florida's first theme parks were developed in the 1930s and included Cypress Gardens (1936) near Winter Haven, and Marineland (1938) near St. Augustine.
Disney selected Orlando over several other sites for an updated and expanded version of their Disneyland Park in California. In 1971, the Magic Kingdom, the first component of the resort, opened and became Florida's best-known attraction, attracting tens of millions of visitors a year. It stimulated the development of other attractions, as well as large tracts of housing and related businesses.
The Orlando area became an international resort and convention destination, featuring a wide variety of themed parks. Other area theme parks include Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld.
In 2017, 50,000 vessels were damaged by Hurricane Irma. This resulted in about $500 million worth of damage, predominately in the Florida Keys.
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