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Florida was settled long before Europeans had discovered the peninsula. Some estimates suggest that Native Americans had arrived in Florida as early as 10,000 years before the first Europeans. European voyages of discovery began when Columbus discovered the islands of the "New World" in 1492. Spanish exploration of Florida began in 1513 with expeditions near present day St. Augustine, the Florida Keys and Tampa.

French settlement of Florida began in 1562 as Huguenots, French Protestants, established themselves on the St. Johns River not far from the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine. This settlement was easily conquered by the Spanish, but Spain's early dominance of Florida was threatened over time by the expansion of English colonies from the north and French colonies from the west. By 1702, the English had sacked St. Augustine and, by 1719, the French had taken Pensacola. Americans joined the battles for Florida in 1803, following their purchase of Louisiana from the French. The history of Florida during this period is one of territorial gain and loss until 1821, when Spain ceded Florida to the United States of America.

At the same time, European settlement and conflicts had a devastating effect on Native Americans and set the stage for the later Seminole Wars. Spain crusaded for the conversion of Native Americans within its territory, often brutalizing populations that did not convert to Catholicism. The British in Georgia were no less intolerant. However, rather than convert, the British chose to clear the native populations from British territory. In 1750, Creek refugees together with escaped slaves migrated into Florida where they became known as the "Seminoles".


Text from: A Short History of Florida
Used with the permission of Florida's Division of Historical Resources

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