CHAPTER 7.  SECOND SPANISH PERIOD, 1783-1821  (including the First Seminole War, 1810-1818)


The Second Spanish Period began in 1783 and continued until Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1821. During these years, Spain was unable to restrain the Americans, as well as foreign adventurers and pirates, from invading East Florida almost at will.  McGirtt became the leader of the Banditti.

1783 -- the Floridas were returned to Spain by Great Britain.

1783-1790 Governor Manuel de Zespedes .

In 1784 Spanish Governor Zespedes arrived in St. Augustine.

In 1785 Patrick Tonyn, the former British governor of East Florida, left the province after a period of transition.

1788 --  William Augustus Bowles and Indian allies began threatening Spanish Floridas. Spanish strengthened fortifications along St. Marys River, Inland Passage and St. Johns River against raids by Georgians.

1789  --  Spanish governor asked to restore ferry service at the cowford. In the 1787 census, moving up the Saint Johns, the inspecting party found another 126 persons in twenty-eight families, plus 240 slaves, on plantations near Cow Ford, present-day Jacksonville. The largest number of slaves was on the plantations of Francis Philip Fatio.

1790-1796 Governor Juan Quesada.

1794 --  Fort San Nicolas at the Cowford was enlarged and strengthened.

1795 --  Bartolome Morales (acting governor).

1795  --  French Republicans captured Fort San Nicolas and held it briefly.

1796-1811 --  Governor Enrique White.

1800 (April 5)  -- William Augustus Bowles met in council with his Indian chiefs at Estifunalga in West Florida and declared war against his Catholic Majesty and his subjects.

1801 (August)  --  planters along the St. Johns River appealed to Governor White against the threat of an invasion by Bowles' Indians.

Work began on Fort San Nicolas on Feb 15, 1802. The site of the fort is the present-day athletic field at Bishop Kenny High School on Atlantic Boulevard. Soon after the reconstruction of the fort was begun, Indians threatened the plantations on the west side of the St. Johns River, as well as on Amelia Island.

1802   --  unrest continued as Bowles returned to East Florida. Fort San Nicolas fortifications further strengthened.

1804  --   John McQueen sold his Fort George Island and San Juan Nepomuceno plantations to John Houstoun McIntosh.

1804  --  Vice President Aaron Burr visited East Florida for an unknown purpose after killing Alexander Hamilton and at Little St. Simons Island in Georgia was almost drowned during a hurricane..

The hurricane that had almost drowned Vice President Burr struck and destroyed the Quesada Battery at the mouth of the St. Johns River.

Payne's Prairie

Located off US 441 between Gainesville and Micanopy.


The dominant Indians in Florida after the obliteration of the Timucauns became Seminole. This actually referred to a mixture of different Indians. The Muskogee-speakers who would be the nucleus of the later "Seminoles" came into Florida from the northeast. There were many tribes that moved south to avoid the pressure of white Americans in the American southeast. Many were members of the Creek Indians. Amongst them were many escaped black slaves. Spanish Florida gave all Indians and escaping slaves freedom and citizenship.

In 1774 the Oconee Creek Indian village, Cuscowilla, established in the 1760s near the edge of a lake just south of present day Micanopy, was visited by Philadelphia botanist William Bartram.  Bartram was entertained by Cowkeeper, the chief.  His son, King Payne succeeded him as chief. His village, Payne's town, was located between Cuscowilla and the eastern end of the basin.

King Payne, the Seminole Indian chief, had told Captain John Forrester that Bowles had sent "a small party of Indians with an intention of plundering the inhabitants of the Province." A few days later, a man named Atkinson informed the governor that there was danger that privateers would try to plunder the seacoast. McQueen was concerned that the Spanish defenses along the St. Johns were "so relaxed and feeble," that Bowles could not be repelled. The planters became increasingly anxious about their exposed position.

First Seminole War (1810-1818)

1796-1811 --  Governor Enrique White.

1811-1812 --  Governor Juan de Estrada.

1812-1815 --  Governor Sebastian Kindelan.

The First Seminole War began out of the complications arising from the Annexation Plot.  This plot to take Florida from Spain was carried out primarily by Georgian "patriots" but with the "secret" backing of the President of the United States.  As the Georgians continued their depredations in Spanish Florida, tensions continued to rise.  The Spanish turned for help to the Seminoles and their associated blacks.  The Seminoles did not want the Americans to move into Florida, but the blacks, with their fear of future enslavement, especially fought hard against the Americans.

The Spanish convinced the Seminole Indians to fight the Patriots -- a situation the Georgians had feared from the beginning. By the end of July, the Seminoles, led by Chief Boleck, were camped four miles from Fort Moosa. Some of the Patriots withdrew to Camp New Hope on the St. Johns River, north of Goodbys Lake. The siege of St. Augustine was lifted. The Seminoles began burning plantations on both sides of the St. Johns and attacking planters, settlers and slaves indiscriminately. In the middle of August, they struck at the New Switzerland plantation of Francis Philip Fatio, their long-time friend. Fatio and ten others escaped by boat and sought protection at the Fort Stallings blockhouse on Davis Creek.

The Seminoles struck at Picolatti, which was garrisoned with 250 soldiers. Gov. Kindelan's Seminole strategy had been successful.

1811 --  Republic of East Florida established by Patriots anxious to annex the province to the United States.

1812 --  During the events of the War of 1812, President James Madison secretly supported Patriots. American troops entered the province to keep the peace. Patriots failed to capture St. Augustine. When war was declared on Great Britain by the United States, there was fear that British would aid the Spanish.

1812 --  Col. Daniel Newnan with the Georgian militia attack the Indians between the present day settlement of Rochelle and the southeast margin of Newnans Lake in Gainesville; the Indians drive the Georgians off with heavy casualties. King Payne, however, was wounded and died several months later. Payne's Prairies would never again be a center of Seminole occupation.  (And yet the Battle of Black Point occurred here on December 18, 1835 when Osceola led an attack on an American supply train.)

1813 --  American troops began occupying East Florida plantations and give tactical assistance to the Patriots.

1815  --  the Treaty of Ghent was signed, briefly ending hostilities in East Florida.

1815-1816 Governor Juan de Estrada.



The visitor center has exhibits on Bartram and Seminole history.  There is an observation platform that gives good overviews of the prairie basin.  There are historical markers honoring William Bartram's travels at the US 441 Observation Platform and in the town of Micanopy (southwest of the prairie).

San Marcos de Apalache State Historic Site

San Marcos de Apalache State Historic Site is located in St. Marks, off  S.R. 363.


Following the end of the War of 1812, hostilities continued in Florida where the British continued to arm their Seminole and black allies. The presence of blacks was a threat to the slave holding southern states and Andrew Jackson was the man to take care of the situation.  The Seminoles and blacks had a stronghold along the Apalachicola River known by the Americans as the Negro Fort.  It was located in Spanish Florida at Prospect Bluff south of the American Fort Scott (later Fort Gadsden).  

1816 (April 8)  --  General Jackson orders Gen. Edmund P. Gaines to move against the blacks and Seminoles.

1816 (April 27)  --  at the start of the battle to take the Negro Fort, American gunboats heading up the Apalachicola River get lucky and their first heated shot hit the ammunition stocks and the fort exploded in a roar killing at once 270 of the fort's 300 defenders.

1817 (November) --  an American military boat commanded by Lt. R. W. Scott and carrying 20 sick soldiers, 7 women, and 20 men fit for duty heads south along the Apalachicola River toward Fort Scott (now Fort Gadsden).

1817  (November 30)  --  a group of black and Seminole warriors open fire on the military boat.  Only 6 men and 1 woman survive the attack.  Some authors take this date as the start of the First Seminole War. 

1818  --  Andrew Jackson moves forcefully against the Seminoles/blacks in Spanish Florida, heading down the Apalachicola River.  From here he split his forces, one heading overland northeast up to Lake Miccosukee and the other heading to the fort at St. Marks at the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers.  


The National Park Service says:  During the past four centuries numerous parties have staked their claim at historic San Marcos de Apalache. Although the history of San Marcos began in 1528 when Panfilo de Narvaez arrived in the area with 300 men, the construction of the first fort at the confluence of the Wakulla and St. Marks rivers did not begin until 1679. The initial fort stood only three years before being burned and looted by pirates. Construction on the first stone fort was begun by the Spanish in 1739. Construction was slow. By 1763, the fort was less than half completed when it was delivered to the English as a result of the War with Spain. By 1787, Spain regained control and reoccupied the fort for 13 more years.

On April 6, 1816 Jackson reached St. Marks and informed the Spanish commandant that he had come to garrison the fortress in order to "chastise" the Indians and the black brigands who were warring against the United States. His action, he said, was totally justifiable on the grounds of self-defense and he anticipated no argument to the contrary from the commandant.

Jackson found St. Marks empty of hostiles, which disappointed him, but he did capture that "noted Scotch villain Arbuthnot who has not only excited but fomented a continuance of the war." At the same time Captain Isaac McKeever, a naval commander cooperating with Jackson's expedition, captured Francis the Prophet (sometimes called Josiah Francis or Hillis Hadjo) and Himollemico, two Creek chieftains. McKeever lured them aboard his ship by flying the English flag. The unlucky Indians thought they had discovered allies and expected to find ammunition and powder.

He hung Francis the prophet and HoemalleeMecko.

Two days after the seizure of St. Marks, Jackson resumed his march. He swung his army toward the town of Chief Billy Bowlegs, on the Suwannee River, a hundred miles to the east. The town was a refuge for runaway slaves, and Jackson believed it also sheltered a strong contingent of Indians. Bowlegs headed the Alachua branch of the Seminoles, one of the more powerful families of the main Seminole tribe. The capture of this town and its inhabitants would speed Jackson's determination to crush all Indian resistance to the American presence in the south.

The route to Bowlegs's town lay through a flat and swampy wilderness, and in many places the army waded through extensive sheets of water. Horses nearly starved for want of forage. On April 16, after two brief skirmishes with some hostiles, Jackson reached the vicinity of Bowlegs's town. Without pausing to catch his breath he formed his lines of attack and sent his men into the Indian town. But the Seminoles had been warned of his approach and had escaped across the Suwanee River. The hostiles suffered the loss of nine blacks and two Indians killed and nine Indians and seven blacks captured.

The Indians had somehow learned of his presence and disappeared into the wilderness.

A few nights later the swaggering former marine, Robert Ambrister, along with a white attendant, Peter B. Cook, blundered into Bowlegs's town unaware that their Indian friends had decamped and that Jackson and his army now occupied the village. They discovered their mistake soon enough. But something worse followed. On the person of one of the black prisoners a letter was found from Alexander Arbuthnot to his son, John, warning him of Jackson's approach. Now Jackson understood how the Indians had managed to escape him, how they had even contrived to slip away with their families and much of their supplies.

After putting more than 300 houses to the torch, Jackson turned around and headed for St. Marks, completing the march in five days. As far as he could tell the war against the Seminoles was over.

This First Seminole War mauled the Indians rather badly. In addition to everything else, Jackson had destroyed Miccosukee, the largest Seminole town (near Tallahassee), and killed Klnache, its chief; he routed the Negroes on the Suwannee River, and he executed Francis the Prophet and a number of other Red Stick chiefs. He had chastised the Indians severely enough that they no longer resisted him. So Jackson declared the war at an end. With St. Marks in his hands -- "the hot bed of war," he called it -- and "foreign" influence on the Indians effectively diminished, he could now address himself to the "great interest" to which President Monroe had ordered him to attend: the seizure of Spanish Florida.

Note: In 1857, the U.S. government began construction of a federal marine hospital here which provided care for victims of yellow fever. During the Civil War confederates took control of the fort and renamed it Fort Ward. To combat this stronghold, Union squadrons blockaded the south of the St. Marks River from 1861 until 1865. The Battle of Natural Bridge eventually stopped the Union force from advancing onto the fort from the rear.



Take I-95 north out of Jacksonville and get off at Yulee heading on A1A east.  The highway takes you over the Amelia River Bridge.  At Centre Street turn left and go down to the end to Britt's Waterway Cafe at the marina where you can park.  There is a sign near here indicating that William Bartram traveled by this area.

Fernandina is located on Amelia Island along the coast, 32 miles north of Jacksonville.  The Island was named by General James Edward Oglethorpe in honor of Princess Amelia, the daughter of King George II of England.  The Island is 13.5 miles long.  

1817 (June 29)  --  the appearance at Fernandina of Gregor McGregor, who landed in the name of the Republics of Venezuela, New Granada, Mexico, and Rio de la Plata. McGregor, an English veteran of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, fought with Miranda and Bolivar to free Venezuela.

He raised an armed invasion force from among discharged veterans of the War of 1812. He assembled his recruits at the mouth of the Altamaha River and moved on Fernandina with such fanfare and advance notice that the Spanish garrison surrendered without a shot when Gregor McGregor arrived on June 29, 1817. McGregor then raised another of the many flags that have flown over Florida, this one the Green Cross of Florida, a St. George Cross in green on a white field.  Fort San Nicolas was abandoned after the fall of Fernandina to General MacGregor.

McGregor clearly expected aid from persons he had visited in Baltimore and Philadelphia, but it never materialized. He got some help via Ruggles Hubbard and this encouraged him to declare the coast of Florida blockaded from Amelia Island to the Perdido River as if to give new life to his projects.

He placed the affair at Fernandina in the hands of Hubbard and Jared Irwin and sailed away. Two days later a new adventurer, the pirate Luis Aury, arrived and on Sept 21 raised the flag of the "Republic of Mexico." There was little pretense of legality about the regime. Privateers and pirates brought their cargoes there to be sold. The now illegal slave trade flourished, and an estimated one thousand of the unfortunates were moved up the Saint Marys River and smuggled into Georgia during his short stay.

On December On Dec 23, 1817, a naval squadron of the US sailed into Amelia River and protected the landing of 200 troops. Aury hauled down his flag and departed without a shot. US. troops held the island in protective custody to the end of the Spanish period.

McGregor sailed from Florida in the company of Colonel Woodbine, the associate of Colonel Nicholls in an earlier venture in West Florida.

Negotiations were underway that resulted in a treaty of cession signed at Washington on Feb 22, 1819, in which the US received the Floridas but accepted a southwestern boundary at the Sabine River, thereby surrendering any claim to Texas as a part of the Louisiana Purchase.


There is a Railway Express Agency with a Visitor Information Center inside.  Here there is an historical marker dealing with the Florida Railroad Company, which was incorporated January 8, 1853 with David L. Yulee as president.  The line received both federal and state grants.  The line went from Fernandina (construction began in 1856) and final trackage was at Cedar Key on the Gulf coast (3/1/1861).  And so Florida had its first cross-state railroad.  

Nearby is another historical marker:  Revolutionary War Invasion of British East Florida

In May 1777, Colonel Samuel Elbert's Continentals landed on the north end of Amelia Island at Oldtown Bluff, approximately 1 mile north of this marker, for a planned invasion of Florida.  A patrol engaged in a skirmish with British troops on the south end of the island. An officer, Lt. Robert Ward, was killed and two of his soldiers were wounded.  In retaliation, Colonel Elbert ordered houses burned and the destruction of all cattle.

A store we love to go into is "Christmas on the River" at 110 Centre Street.  We always like to pick up new Christmas ornaments.

The Palace Saloon, at the corner of 2nd and Centre Streets, is a great place to eat.  (We recently visited, May of 1999, and a fire in the area had closed the eatery.  Don't know when it will reopen.  So we ate at O'Kanes Irish Pub and Eatery at 318 Centre Street.  On the menu they have, among other things, corn beef and Swiss cheese sandwiches, shepherd's pie, and Dublin chick puff, along with myriad beers and ales, a mango beer.  The service was a bit slow, but it is a pleasant enough place.) There are lots of souvenir stores like Sea Jade, Ship's Lantern, and Corner Copia along with the Book Loft: the Bookstore (even though there is another book store across the street).  We always like to stop to eat ice cream and fudge at Fernandina's Fantastic Fudge store.

At the insistence of the slave states Florida was purchased from Spain in 1818, but the Spanish king refused to sign.

1819   --  the Spanish king refused to sign the Florida treaty of cession drawn in Washington, D.C. by American and Spanish diplomats.  Andrew Jackson invaded with his forces to convince the Spanish that they should sign and get out. 

1821 --   the treaty of cession was signed on March 23. Florida became an American possession.


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