History of St. Augustine Module

I am one of the lucky trees to have been around for this long. Since the 16[th] century, I have been rooted in this same position and I have seen seasons come and go and numerous generations. I have stood here and marveled at the changes that have taken in St Augustine. My fellow trees in this area have not been as lucky as me. They have been cut down to pave for a number of developments in the area (St. Augustine History and Culture, 2013). Me and my fellow trees have been witness to some of the most gruesome and violent activities of human beings. This however was to come later. The native Indians, Timuca, were somehow more appreciative of the environment and harvested tress and made use of them in a sustainable way. Most of them were hunters and gatherers and thus did not have need to clear huge tracts of land. However, their colonial masters, the French were more eager to clear land for farming. They even used them for labor in a number of plantations established.
When I was around seventeen years old around 1565, I witnessed a change in guard. Some strange men who I later learnt were from Spain landed at the coast. They waged war on the French colonizers and won. They killed a large number of them by hanging them on trees and those who surrendered were spared and were used as slaves. With full control of the land, the Spaniards renamed it St. Augustine. The head of the expedition was one man, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (Professor class lecture). It was obvious he commanded a lot of respect from fellow soldiers. The men were definitely catholic. Menéndez even helped set up the first Catholic Church and mission in the area in 1615. The mission was named Mission de Nombre de Dios. However, the first mass was conducted on September 8[th] 1565 by Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales in makeshift rustic structure (Gioa, 2007).
The missionaries set up many churches and schools. Majority of the structures were made from wood. They taught the local Indians the Latin language for mass purposes and Spanish for communication. The interactions with Spain and specifically the sister Aviles, led to many Spanish arts being used in decorating the streets and buildings. One good example is the set of masks at the Fuente de los Canos de San Francisco which were a gift from Aviles which was the birthplace of Pedro Menendez, founder of St. Augustine (Site Visit St Augustine). They even established other settlements such as Fort San Mateo (formerly St Caroline). Making inroads in the areas was necessary as the Spaniards intended to use St Augustine as a military base to invade and explore other neighboring areas. However, not all tribal chiefs were open to that idea. For instance, the Saturiwa tribe was very hostile and even at one time burned down the settlement forcing the Spaniards to relocate. I also watched pitifully as local tribesmen gave false information to the Spaniards sending them to the everglades which were dominated by sawgrass and watched as they bled to death as a result of the sawgrass (Professor Class note).
They also faced a number of invasions from the French and the British. To avert such invasions, the Spaniards constructed a fort, the Castillo de San Marcos (later renamed Fort Mark by the British). The fort was made of coquina, which is closely similar to limestone, mined from the King`s Quarry` at the Anastasia Island. Because the Spaniards had intended to use St Augustine as a military outpost, unlike the other European powerhouses which had used their colonies as plantations with plenty of slaves, there were no slaves to provide labor hence the fort took 25 years to construct (professor class lecture). The labor was sourced from locally and from Havana. This fort still remains as the oldest fort in the Americas and is also one of the major tourist attractions in St. Augustine today (St. Augustine site visit).
With time, I witnessed many African slaves who had rebelled against the British in their plantations in the north get hanged. They were hanged on many trees without mercy. I happened to be at the focal point of this gruesome act led by Governor Grant (City of St. Augustine, 2013). The Spaniards welcomed these slaves so long as they converted to Catholics and swore their allegiance to the King of Spain. On the other hand, the British plantations and settlement in the north continued to expand downwards. The close proximity between the two colonizers created a lot of tension. The king of Spain therefore created a buffer zone in the north by establishing a community of ex-slaves in the north of St. Augustine. This came to be known as forth Mose (Goodman & Rakar, 2007). This move proved vital as the British waged a wave of attacks in 1740. The British collaborated with some Indian tribes that were hostile to the Spaniards and waged an attack (Sappington, 2011). The ex-slaves defended St. Augustine very well in the knowledge that they would be free men as long as St. Augustine remained. The battleground was thus named in their honor as a National Historic Landmark (Professor class lecture).
By the 1760`s, the Americas were subdivided amongst European colonizers in the treaty of Paris and St. Augustine was given to the British. Majority of the Spaniard left and only a few remained. However, they left behind evidence of their presence in form of artworks, monuments and architecture. The reign of the British added to the rich artwork in St. Augustine. The most notable addition is The King`s Bakery (Florida Museum, 2013). However, they sought out to actively remove evidence of the Spaniards. For instance, some monasteries were converted to army barracks for the British soldiers. The British army generals were rewarded with huge tracts of land and established plantations brought in additional slaves. However, the second treaty of Paris of 1783 gave the northern territories independence and ceded the Florida to Spain. There was little Spanish settlement in this second reign. However, a monument in recognition of the Spanish constitution was made in 1813 (Site Visit St. Augustine). The Spanish reign was to last up to 1821. The Spaniard ceded Florida to the US through the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819.
Amid all this, I have come to appreciate and acknowledge the history of Florida as narrated by historians. This is the place, which I have known all my life. Today, I see American of all walks of life and people from all over the world marvel at some of the structures I have watched with my eyes being made and renovated while I have stood here in a corner watching silently.
References
City of St. Augustine (2013). The Nation`s Oldest City. Retrieved online on 25[th] Sep from
http://www.staugustinegovernment.com/visitors/nations-oldest-city.cfm
De Vega. Fuenteovejuna.
Florida Museum of Natural History (2013). St. Augustine: America`s ancient city. Retrieved
online on 25[th] Sep from http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/staugustine/intro.htm
Gioa, R. (2007). America`s Real First Thanksgiving: St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565.
New York. Pineapple Press Inc.
Goodman, K. & Rakar, S. (2007). A Guide to Historic St. Augustine, Florida. New York:
History Press
Professor class lecture (2013)
Sappington, D. (2011). Hidden History of St. Augustine. New York: The History Press
Site Visit St Augustine (2013)
St. Augustine History and Culture (2013). Retrieved online on 25[th] Sep from
http://www.oldcity.com/history-and-culture.php

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