History of Duval County

History of Duval County – Pleasant Daniel Gold

In this extraordinary book, the author, Mr. Pleasant Daniel Gold, lets us in on the history of Duval County, Florida. From the arrival of the French, through the English occupation, the second Spanish occupation, the republic of Florida, the founding of Jacksonville and the War between the States, he takes us all the way to the Duval County of the early years of the twentieth century. A wealth of information for all people interested in the development of East Florida, too.

History of Duval County

History of Duval County.

Format: eBook.

History of Duval County

ISBN: 9783849660529.


Excerpt from the text:


DUVAL County, named for William P. Duval, the first civil Governor of the Territory of Florida, was established by the Legislative Council of the Territory on August 12, 1822. Its history, however, begins with the earliest known activities within its confines, just as the history of the United States dates from the earliest discoveries and explorations in the thirteen colonies that originally formed it.

In 1564, forty-three years before the English landed at Jamestown, more than a half century before the Dutch built their fort on Manhattan Island, and fifty-six years before the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth, the territory now comprising Duval County was called New France, and a colony of French Huguenots was established therein. Here in 1562 came the first Protestant Colony to arrive in America, and here in 1565 was fought the first battle between white men within the present limits of the United States.

Before the white man came, the country was occupied by savages that may or may not have been the original settlers. Archeologists have found traces of pre-historic man in northern Florida, but scientists disagree as to their origin. There are fewer traces of these in the Duval section than are found along the shores of the upper St. Johns where many large mounds composed of fresh water shell deposits have been uncovered. Along the lower St. Johns River, in the present territory of Duval, these mounds are fewer in number and smaller in size, yet they consist of the same shell formation, and the pattern and implements found therein were of the same character as in the mounds found farther up the river. Along the seashore also, the mounds of salt-water shell deposits are similar to those found along the coast to the south. Undoubtedly the same race of people inhabited all the territory of northern Florida in pre-historic times.

Professor Jeffries Wyman, formerly Curator of American Archeology and Ethnology of Cambridge, Massachusetts, advances the theory that these original inhabitants were not. Indians. He says: ” Whether the builders of the mounds were the same people as those found there by the Spaniards and the French is uncertain. The absence of pipes in all, and of pottery in some of the mounds, and the extreme rarity of ornaments, are consistent with the conclusion that they were different people. To these may be added the negative fact that no indications have been found that they practiced agriculture. “

Dr. Ales Hrdlicka, of the Smithsonian Institution, advances the opinion, however, that Florida’ s only pre-historic man was the Indian. To quote his words: ” As a matter of fact we have no human remains from Florida or any other part of the North or South American continent that could conscientiously be accepted as representing man of antiquity beyond a few thousand years at most, and of other than the ordinary Indian type; nor are there apparent any indications that anything much older may in these parts of the world be yet discovered. “

Passing from the theories of antiquity to the records of history, we find that when the white man first came to this region it was inhabited by a cognate tribe of Indians called the Timucuans, a name spelled in various ways at different periods. This was a powerful nation, occupying the territory from Cape Canaveral on the east coast to the north of the mouth of the St. Johns River, and along the west coast from Tampa Bay tr about the Ocilla River, commanding all the region contained in these boundaries. The nation was divided into local tribes named according to their locations.

The local clan of the great nation of the Timucuans which inhabited the territory of Duval at the time of the coming of the French Huguenots in 1562, was the Saturiwa tribe. They are also referred to as Saturiona and Saturiba, the names evidently derived from the various chiefs that ruled over them during the French occupation. Jacques Le Moyne, the French Chronicler, refers to King Saturiona as a powerful chieftain of this tribe in 1564. The Spaniards seldom speak of this sub-division of the Timucuans in the early days of their occupation. They are referred to later, however, when Donna Maria, their chieftainess, married a Spaniard and embraced the Christian religion, and a letter dictated by her to the King of Spain is still preserved in the Spanish archives. The French also speak of another local tribe called the Thimaguans, who inhabited a village in 1564, on the present site of Mandarin.

Ribault, one of the leaders of the French Huguenots, describes these early inhabitants of Duval as being ” of good stature, well-shaped of body as any people in the world; very gentle, courteous and good-natured, of tawny color, hawked nose and of pleasant countenance. ” The Spaniards later, however, report them fierce and warlike. Both men and women were agile, athletic and good swimmers. They were scantily clothed, the men wearing only a breech cloth of painted deer skin and the women skirts of moss. The men pulled the hair from all parts of the body except the head, where they allowed it to grow long and was ” trussed up, gathered and worked together with great cunning and fastened after the form of a diadem. ” The women wore their hair long unless widowed, when it was cut off just below the ears and scattered upon the graves of the deceased husbands. The widow could not remarry until her hair had grown long enough to cover her shoulders.

As a head dress the men wore long feathers over the middle of the forehead, with the tail of an animal attached to their top knot and hanging down their backs, and a palm leaf hat was the fashion of the women.’ Necklaces, bracelets and anklets were popular with both sexes and bands of metal and pearl from oyster shells were often worn above the elbows and below the knees.

According to Ribault, ” the houses were built of wood, fitly and closely set up and covered with reeds, the most part often the fashion of a pavilion. ” La Challeux, another writer, describes them as ” of a round shape and in a style almost like a pigeon house, the foundation and main structure being of great trees, covered over with palmetto leaves. ” The chief’s dwelling was in the center of the village and built partially underground on account of the heat of the sun. These houses were occupied only about nine months of the year, the three winter months being spent in the forest as a protection against the cold.

In the middle of the houses were hearths where fires were burned almost constantly, and about the walls of the huts were pieces of wood hewn for beds with a hollow to fit the back and a raised place for the head.

With axes made of stones they felled trees and made canoes of a single log hollowed the length desired. Unlike the Seminoles of a later date the bows of their canoes were blunt. Stones and oyster shells were used to make spades and arrow heads, the reed or bamboo supplying material for the shaft.

The dog is the only domestic animal mentioned, but of wild animals Laudonnière speaks of ” deer, leopards and little brown bears. ” Fish and game abounded –” trout, great mullets, plaice, turbols and marvelous stores of other kinds of fish ” were common and wild turkeys were plentiful. Ribault also mentions crabs, oysters and craw-fish as among the articles of diet, while Le Moyne refers to the alligator as an item on the bill of fare.

The early inhabitants of Duval were agriculturists in a way. Le Moyne in his ” Brevis Narratio, ” describes as follows the season of planting: ” The Indians cultivate the earth diligently; and the men know how to make a kind of hoe from fish bones, which they fit to wooden handles, and with these they prepare the land well enough, as the soil is light. When the ground is sufficiently broken up and leveled, the women come with beans and millet, or maize. Some go first with a stick and make holes, in which the others place the beans, or grains of maize.

After planting they leave the fields alone, as the winter in that country, situated between the west and the north, is pretty cold for about three months, being from the 24th of December to the 15th of March; and during that time, as they go naked, they shelter themselves in the woods. When the winter is over, they return to their homes to wait for the crops to ripen. After gathering in their harvest, they store the whole of it for the year’ s use, not employing any part of it in trade, unless, perhaps some barter is made for some little household article. ” Raising of tobacco is not mentioned by early writers, though they refer to the Indians smoking, therefore it is to be presumed it was cultivated.

The Saturiwa clan of the Timucuans were evidently of good character, as savages are rated, and were more provident than the Indians of some other sections of Florida. The Spaniards described some of those living to the south as subsisting mainly on herbs and roots. In their tribal relationship the Saturiwas are described as being honorable in their dealings, quick to resent a wrong and to fight for their ideals, but faithful to an agreement when once made. Their family ties were rigidly respected and according to Laudonnière ” each man could take but one wife, excepting the King, who could have two, but the first was the Queen and only her children could inherit the goods and authority of their father. “

In their worship, the sun and moon were the principal objects of adoration, particularly the sun. Le Moyne gives an insight into this cult in the following account: ” The subjects of the Chief Outina were accustomed every year, a little before their spring — that is, at the end of February — to take the skin of the largest stag they could get, keeping the horns on it; to stuff it full of all the choicest sorts of roots that grew among them, and to hang long wreaths of garlands of the best fruits on the horns, neck and other parts of the body. Thus decorated, they carried it, with music and songs, to a very large and splendid level space, where they set it up on a very high tree, with the head and breast toward the sunrise. They then offered prayers to the sun, that he would cause to grow on their lands good things such as these offered him. The chief, with his sorcerer, stood nearest the tree and offered the prayer; the common people, placed at a distance, made responses. Then the chief and all the rest, saluting the sun, departed, leaving the deer’ s hide there until the next year. This ceremony they repeated annually. “

As an example of their reverence, may be cited Laudonnière’ s version of their treatment of the column erected by Admiral Ribault at the mouth of the St. Johns River. When Laudonnière saw it three years later it was ” crowned with crowns of hay, and at the foot thereof many little baskets full of millet ( corn ). When they came hither they kissed the same with reverence and besought us to do the like. “

Such were the manners and customs of the inhabitants of the territory of Duval when the French Colonists occupied it in 1564 and 1565.


WHEN Duval was New France, the St. Johns River, which has for over three hundred and fifty years played so important a part as an artery of traffic, was called Illaca by the Indians. Admiral Jean Ribault, the leader of the first expedition of French Huguenots, named it Reviere de la Mai, in honor of the day of its discovery by him, May 1, 1562. The Spaniards called it Rio de San Mateo when they first knew it, and later Rio de San Juan. The English anglicized the Spanish name, calling it the St. Johns.

Ribault’ s expedition in 1562, which resulted in the discovery of the river and the establishment of a colony thereon two years later, was the direct result of the civil and religious wars that had raged in France for many years. Admiral Gaspard de Coligny, head of the Protestant party, desiring to find a home in the new world for his followers, fitted out an expedition in 1562 and chose Ribault as its commander. Permission was obtained from Charles IX, King of France, to settle the new territory, claimed by him by virtue of discoveries in 1524, of Juan Verrazani, an Italian navigator in the French service. The King aided Coligny in fitting three vessels, with two smaller ones carried aboard the larger ones while crossing the ocean, and a complement of one hundred and fifty men, including a Huguenot preacher. They sighted Florida April 30, 1562, and sailed north, reaching the mouth of the River of May, now the St. Johns, May 1. He landed and set up a column denoting his possession of the country for his King.

Some writers claim that Ribault proceeded up the river several miles, but this is doubtful for, according to his own statement, he only spent two days in the vicinity and could not have had time for extended explorations. In his account he is enthusiastic over the beauties of the country. The Indians were friendly and gifts were exchanged. The two days’ visit has a significance in the History of Duval County and of Florida in that Ribault’ s discovery of the River of May pointed the way for the establishment of a French Huguenot colony here two years later. He was probably the first white man to come to the present territory of Duval County. Ponce de Leon landed in latitude thirty degrees eight minutes north on April 2, 1512, which is not far south of the River of May but it is in the present limits of St. Johns County.

Ribault, after his sojourn of two days, continued northward and landed a colony on Port Royal Sound, South Carolina. He built a fort there which he named Charlesfort, in honor of his King, and erected another column to substantiate his claim to the territory for his sovereign. Here he left a colony and proceeded homeward, promising to return with supplies within six months; but when he reached France, found it again engulfed in civil war. Readily joining the Huguenot side he was soon engaged in a battle in which his party suffered defeat and he was forced. to flee to England. Here he was thrown into prison. His colony at Charlesfort, reduced to starvation, attempted to reach France in a small ship. Their misery was so great that cannibalism was resorted to among the members of the crew before a remnant reached home. This was the tragedy of the first attempt to colonize New France, a name given to all the territory claimed by France in North America.

In 1563 civil war was temporarily halted and Coligny determined to make another attempt to colonize the Huguenots in New France. Ribault was in prison and the only leader upon whom he could depend was René Gaulaine de Laudonnière. who had accompanied Ribault on his first expedition and was familiar with the territory. After careful consideration the River of May was selected as the proper location for the colony.



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