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Discover Florida Resources



This timeline places selected documents and pages from the Florida Memory Project in the context of Florida history. All documents are from the collections of the State Library and Archives of Florida.


 12,000 B.C.

The first people move into Florida. Referred to today as PaleoIndians, they moved into the peninsula in search of new food sources. These sources included mastodons, giant armadillos and horses. At that time, the end of the last ice Age, Florida was twice the size it is today.



5,000 B.C. dash

The PaleoIndian culture evolved into the Archaic culture. They established the first permanent settlements, primarily on the coast, and were dependent upon shellfish and plant gathering.



500 A.D.

The Woodland culture emerges. It included year-round settlements, reliance on hunting deer and birds, and the first farmers.



1200  dash

Emergence of the powerful Mississippian culture, ruled by religious-political leaders called chiefdoms. Involved intensive agriculture (especially corn), large earthen mounds, and continent-wide trade connections.



1492 dash

Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing in the employ of Spain en route to India, accidentally lands in North America. Results in wide-spread European exploration and colonization of the "New World."




There were three large Native American cultures in Florida: the Timucua in Northeast and Central Florida, the Apalachee in the Big Bend area, and the Calusa in South Florida.



1513 dash

Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León and his expedition were the first documented Europeans to land on the Florida peninsula. He landed on the East Coast, near present-day St. Augustine. Ponce de León named the peninsula "Florida" as the season was "Pascua Florida" (Flowery Easter). He then sailed to South Florida, where he was wounded in a fight with the members of the Calusa.



1521 dash

After serving time as governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de León returns to Florida in search of gold. Contracted by the Spanish crown to colonize and Christianize the native peoples, Ponce de León was killed in South Florida.



1526 dash

Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón founded the ill-fated colony of San Miguel de Gualdape on present-day Georgia's east coast.




Spanish explorer Pánfilo de Narváez led a second expedition into Florida. Numbering over 600, the expedition was a notorious failure. Alienating Florida's native cultures, the expedition was repeatedly attacked. By 1528, Narváez was dead, and the expedition was grounded due to hurricanes. Four survivors eventually walked to Mexico City, arriving in 1536. Despite the failure, their fantastical tales of mythical cities of gold inspired future expeditions to North America.




Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, having gained experience invading the Incas in Peru, landed in Florida with an 800-man expedition. After wintering in present-day Tallahassee, the expedition traveled throughout the Southeast (covering eleven present-day states), and crossed the Mississippi River twice. After De Soto was killed in 1542, the expedition, now only 300 strong, left for Cuba.



1540s dash

European diseases decimate Florida's native peoples. Within a century 90% had died.



1559 dash

Tristán de Luna y Arellano, with 1500 participants, attempted Florida's first settlement, Puerto de Santa Maria (today's Pensacola Naval Air Station.) Within a year, the remaining colonists left to return to Cuba.



1562 dash

The French, under Jean Ribault, first explore Florida.



1564 dash

French settlers establish Fort Caroline.


1565 dash

Spain established St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in North America, located within Timucua territory. In the process, the Spanish expelled the French.



1560s dash

The Jesuits established Spanish missions in the Southeast.




The first African slaves were brought to St. Augustine.



1586 dash

Sir Francis Drake, British seafarer, sacked and burned St. Augustine.



1596 dash

The Franciscans take over the Spanish missions, eventually establishing over 100 missions in Florida and Georgia.







1633 dash

Missions established in Apalachee territory.



1656 dash

Timucua peoples rebel against Spanish authority; Mission San Luis established in what is today Tallahassee.




Castillo de San Marcos built by Spanish in St. Augustine, using native and slave labor.



1698 dash

Pensacola established by the Spanish.






The English destroy the Spanish missions.



1738 dash

Free black settlement, Fort Mose, established.



1740 dash

English general, James Oglethorpe, invades St. Augustine.


BRITISH PERIOD, 1763 - 1783

1763 dash

The end of the French and Indian (Seven Years War) results in the transfer of Florida from Spain to England. The colony was divided into East and West Florida. British colonist expanded Florida agriculture, especially cotton, rice, and indigo. St. Augustine remains the capital of East Florida, with Pensacola the capital of West Florida. James Grant appointed Governor of British Florida.



1760s dash

By this time, Native peoples from Georgia and Alabama, most members of the Creek peoples, were moving into Florida. Eventually called the Seminoles from the Spanish word cimarron, meaning "outsiders" or "runaways."



1771 dash

Patrick Tonyn replaced an ill Grant as governor.



1776 dash

The American Revolution begins. Florida did not join its fellow thirteen English colonies in the revolution and remained loyal to England. Its previously sparse population swelled overnight as Tories escaped into loyalist Florida, mostly settling in St. Augustine.



1783 dash

Florida's first newspaper, the Tory-run East-Florida Gazette, starts publishing. Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution. In return for its assistance to the colonies, the treaty allowed Spain to reoccupy Florida. Most of the English settlers in Florida left for England and the Bahamas.



1783 dash

The reassumption of Spanish control of Florida.





1814 dash

Patriot’s War, when several Americans attempted to conquer Florida.



1816 dash

Andrew Jackson invades Florida in pursuit of Seminole Indians. Start of the First Seminole War.



1817 dash

From 1817-1818, U.S. settlers, Spanish citizens, British agents and Creek Natives clashed in West Florida. Andrew Jackson, regardless of the international border, burned native villages, hanged two British subjects, and captured St. Marks and Pensacola.




Transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States, finalized by the Adams–Onís treaty.


1821 dash

Florida becomes a US Territory, with Andrew Jackson as its first governor. Hand-colored Spanish land grant maps were among the documents used to establish ownership of land in Florida. Florida's first American newspapers begin: Florida Gazette in St. Augustine, and the Floridian in Pensacola.



1822 dash

Florida government established on 20 March by Congressional act. First Act of the state legislature. William Duval elected Florida's first non-military governor; serves until 1834.



1824 dash

Tallahassee established as Florida capital; State legislature meets.



1830 dash

First Florida census: population 34,730 (white 18,395, nonwhite 16,335).




John Henry Eaton serves as Florida's second territorial governor.



1835 dash

Beginning of the Second Seminole War.



1836 dash

Richard Keith Call elected the third territorial governor of Florida, serves again 1841-1844.



1838 dash

Fifty-six commissioners elected from Florida's 20 counties gathered at St. Joseph to draft a constitution in anticipation of statehood.



1842 dash

Second Seminole War ended by U.S. Government decision, without treaty or capitulation.





1845 dash

The Act establishing statehood for Iowa and Florida was approved on March 3, 1845 by the second session of the 28th Congress. Continued expansion of the plantation system, with its heavy dependence upon enslaved African Americans.



1847 dash

First state seal adopted.



1851 dash

Legislature passes bill to create two colleges, the West Florida Seminary (later became Florida State University) and the East Florida Seminary (later the University of Florida).



1850s dash

Rising political and cultural tensions stemming from the national slavery debate.




Third Seminole War.



1861 dash

On January 10, the Secession Convention voted 62-7 to adopt an Ordinance of Secession and withdraw Florida from the United States. On April 12, the Civil War begins. In October, Confederate forces attack Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island in Pensacola.



1862 dash

Union forces occupy Fernandina, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine.




The Union deploys units of black troops for the first time during operations along the Georgia/Florida coast.



1864 dash

Confederates defeat Union forces at OlusteeFlorida Times-Union begins publishing in Jacksonville.



1865 dash

Home Guards and Cadets from West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University) saved Tallahassee from capture at the Battle of Natural Bridge. The Civil War ended with Tallahassee the only Confederate state capital east of Mississippi to escape capture during the war. Governor John Milton committed suicide and Florida fell under Federal control. Slavery ended. Emancipation Day is celebrated on May 12th.



1866 dash

Brown Theological Institute (later Edward Waters College) was founded to educate newly freed slaves.



1868 dash

New federally-mandated state constitution. Attempt to impeach reconstruction governor Harrison Reed; a second attempt in 1872. Board of Commissioners of State Institutions created. Second state seal adopted.



1876 dash

Florida played a decisive role in the controversial presidential election between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford Hayes. Florida was one of three states with disputed elector votes. After much political maneuvering, which led in large part to the end of Federal Reconstruction, Hayes was elected president.



1877 dash

End of Reconstruction.


1877 dash

Florida State Hospital established in Chattahoochee; State Prison moved to Raiford.

1878 dash

Hullam Jones constructs Florida's first glass-bottom boat, at Silver Springs. 


Florida Memorial University was founded in 1879 as the Florida Baptist Institute in Live Oak, Florida.

1884 dash

St. Petersburg Times debuts as a weekly.

1885 dash

New state constitution; replaced the 1868 constitution. Served as framework for government until 1968.

The first Confederate pensions in Florida were authorized and granted to veterans the sum of $5.00 per month.

Rollins College was founded.

1887 dash

Florida A&M University begins as State Normal College for Colored Students.

1888 dash

Railroad baron Henry Flagler completes the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine.

1889 dash

State Board of Health created, in response to the recent yellow fever outbreak.

1891 dash

Developer Henry Plant opens the Tampa Bay Hotel (after 1933, the University of Tampa).

1898 dash

The Spanish-American War saw embarkation camps at Tampa, Miami and Jacksonville. Thousands of soldiers and other who entered the state during the war returned afterwards as permanent residents.


James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson, faculty members at the Florida Normal and Industrial Institute (later Florida Memorial University), wrote the words and music to what has become known as the Negro National Anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.”

1901 dash

Everglades drainage begins, undertaken to create more farmland.

1902 dash

Start of construction of Henry Flagler's railroad to Key West; opens in 1912.

1904 dash

Mary McLeod Bethune opened her school in Daytona Beach.

1905 dash

The Buckman Act consolidated and reorganized the seven state supported institutions of higher learning into three institutions, segregated by gender and race. The seven (the University of Florida at Lake City, the Florida State College at Tallahassee, the White Normal School at De Funiak Springs, the East Florida Seminary at Gainesville, the South Florida College at Bartow, the Florida Agricultural Institute in Osceola County, and the Negro Normal School at Tallahassee) became the University of Florida for men, the Florida State College for Women, and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes.

1906 dash

Hundreds of workers on the Florida East Coast Railway's Overseas Extension were lost when a hurricane swept the Keys and battered Miami on October 18th.

1910 dash

Miami Herald newspaper begins publishing.



1915 dash

Zena B. Dreier became the first women in Florida (and the South) to vote in a local election, which was cast on 19 June in Fellsmere.



1916 dash

Sydney Catts successfully campaigns for governor on the Prohibition ticket. Out-going governor Park Trammell was elected to the U.S. Senate.



1917 dash

From 1917-1918, Florida was the scene of training for World War I fighting men, particularly aviators, as weather permitted year-round activity.

The World War I service cards provide the name; age; serial number; race; place of birth; and residence; for service men and women who were either from Florida or who entered service in Florida.



1918 dash

1918 Florida votes to ratify the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the purchase and consumption of alcohol.


BOOM AND BUST, 1920-1940

1920 dash

Beginning of Florida land boom.



1922 dash

WDAE in Tampa became Florida’s first radio station.



1923 dash

Leasing of state convicts to timber companies and other interests was abolished as a result of the death of a prisoner in a private camp.

Racial violence leads to the destruction of the town of Rosewood, a predominantly African American community.

Nathan Mayo elected Commissioner of Agriculture; becomes Florida's longest serving public servant (37 years - died in office in 1960).

State Livestock Board created; begins mandatory cattle dipping for ticks.



1924 dash

Silver Springs opens for business.



1925 dash

State Library Board created.



1926 dash

Hurricane strikes Florida. Thrusts Florida into an economic depression. The University of Miami enrolled its first class.



1927 dash

State Board of Public Welfare created in response to depression.

Florida Forestry Service created to control fires and promote timber growth.



1928 dash

Another hurricane struck South Florida. Effectively ends the land boom.




Tamiami Trail opens in South Florida.



1929 dash

Mediterranean Citrus fruit fly discovered; results in massive loss of citrus crops.

Bok Tower opens in Lake Wales; begins golden age of roadside attractions.



1930 dash

Population 1,468,211 (white 1,035,390, nonwhite 432,821) .



1933 dash

Assassination attempt on President-elect Franklin Roosevelt by Joseph Zangara in Miami.

Dave Sholtz inaugurated as governor. He involves Florida with the Federal New Deal program, with CCC, PWA, and CWA projects in the state

Board of State Conservation created.

Start of construction of the Cross-Florida Barge Canal.



1935 dash

Florida Park Service created.

The Labor Day Hurricane makes landfall in the middle Florida Keys.

Claude Neal lynched in Marianna; creates nation-wide outcry.

WPA and the NYA begins work in the state.

Florida Citrus Commission created.

"Old Folks at Home" named State Song.



1936 dash

Two U.S. Senators, Duncan Fletcher and Park Trammell, pass away. They are replaced through special elections by Claude Pepper and Charles Andrews, respectively.

Cypress Gardens opens in Winter Haven.



1937 dash

On June 1, Amelia Earhart took off from Miami on the first over water leg of a round-the-world flight. She and her navigator disappeared over the Pacific on July 2.

Fred Cone inaugurated as governor.

State Welfare Board created.

The State legislature ended the poll tax.



1938 dash

Zora Neale Hurston began working for the Florida division of the Work Projects Administration (WPA). At the time, Hurston had already published Jonah's Gourd Vine and Mules and Men.

Marineland opens as a tourist attraction and movie studio.



1939 dash

State Highway Patrol began.



1940 dash

Banana River Naval Air Station opened; later would become Cape Canaveral Space Center.


1941 dash

Spessard Holland inaugurated as governor; later elected U.S. Senator.

On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and on December 8 the United States entered the Second World WarFlorida mobilizes. Florida is an important location for the training of American soldiers, sailors, and airmen.



1942 dash

Four German agents land on Ponte Vedra Beach, south of Jacksonville. Fishermen discover the agents, who were then captured by the FBI.



1943 dash

The Wainwright shipyard in Panama City builds over 100 Liberty Ships for the U.S. war effort.



1945 dash

World War II ends; returning GI's fuel Florida's modern boom period.



1946 dash

President Harry S. Truman begins visiting Key West for rest and relaxation. The house he stayed in becomes known as the "Little White House" and is used by subsequent presidents as well.



1947 dash

Everglades National Park established.

Weeki Wachee Springs amusement park opened.

Chipola College in Marianna opened.



1948 dash

Florida State College for Women goes co-ed as Florida State University.



1949 dash

WTVJ-TV (NBC), Florida's first television station, begins broadcasting. WJXT-TV (CBS) in Jacksonville was the second station, also began in this year.



1950 dash

Stephen Foster Memorial opened.



1951 dash

The Inter-American Center Authority (Interama) created.



1953 dash

The first Florida Folk Festival presented in White Springs

Governor Dan McCarty died in office; replaced by Senate president Charley Johns.



1954 dash

Leroy Collins elected governor.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Brown v. Board of Education case that school segregation was unconstitutional. Many in the State of Florida resisted the decision, prolonging desegregation until well into the early seventies. The Tallahassee bus boycott began to desegregate that city’s public transportation. One of the first public protests in what became known as the Civil Rights movement, eventually comprising numerous demonstrations and protests throughout the state to end racial segregation in places such as stores, schools, theaters, and public beaches.



1955 dash

Legislature passes legislation for a state turnpike.

Florida's first non-commercial television station, WPBT-TV in Miami, begins.



1956 dash

University of South Florida founded.

1956-1964 The Johns Committee - named for Senator Charley Johns; investigated Communists and homosexuality in the state and university system.



1957 dash

Legislature passes an interposition (HCR 174) to reject Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court; rejected by Governor Leroy Collins.

Seminole tribe of Florida formed as a political entity.



1959 dash

Cuban Revolution launches wave of Cuban immigration to Florida.



1961 dash

Civil War Centennial Commission created.

On May 5, the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, was launched into space from Cape Canaveral Space Center (later called Cape Kennedy).



1963 dash

Cape Canaveral renamed Cape Kennedy by President Lyndon Johnson, who also established the Kennedy Space Center at the site, located in Brevard County. The name was changed back in 1973.



1962 dash

Cuban Missile Crisis.



1964 dash

St. Augustine race riot.

Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and the University of West Florida in Pensacola began operations.



1965 dash

400th anniversary of St. Augustine celebrated.

Governor Haydon Burns announces Walt Disney is opening a theme park in Orlando.

The nine-member Board of Regents took control of Florida’s colleges and universities from the Board of Control.

Florida International University in Miami begins operations.



1966 dash

Claude Kirk elected Florida's first Republican governor since Reconstruction.



1968 dash

Complete revision of the state constitution, which consolidated the numerous boards and commissions into more streamlined Departments and Divisions, such as Departments of Natural Resources, Environmental Regulation, Education, State, Agriculture, Commerce, and Transportation.

Florida is the scene of the nation's first statewide teachers' strike.

Florida Technological University opens near Orlando (later renamed University of Central Florida).



1969 dash

On July 16, Apollo 11, with astronauts Neil ArmstrongEdwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins lifted off at Cape Kennedy on the journey to the moon. Four days later Armstrong advised the Earth: "The Eagle has landed."

Roxcy Bolton successfully challenged the practice that many restaurants had of keeping a separate "men only" section.

University of North Florida opens.

Florida State Archives created.



1970 dash

Reuben Askew elected governor.

Population 6,789,443 (white 5,719,343, nonwhite 1,070,100).



1971 dash

Walt Disney World opens in Orlando; transforms Florida's economy and surrounding Central Florida.



1972 dash

Both the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions are held in Miami.

The 1972 Miami Dolphins play a perfect season, winning every game they played that year, including the Super Bowl.



1974 dash

Askew becomes first governor to be successively re-elected.



1976 dash

Florida Folklife Program started.



1978 dash

Bob Graham elected governor; in 1986 he was elected U.S. Senator.

Old Capitol saved from destruction; opens as museum in 1982.



1979 dash

Florida's first execution since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing them to resume.



1980 dash

Mariel boat lift; increase in Cuban immigration to Florida.



1981 dash

The first space shuttle launches began at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.



1982 dash

Florida was one of fifteen states to fail to ratify of the ERA Constitutional Amendment.

Florida News Service begins in Tallahassee.

Walt Disney World opened its second attraction in Orlando, EPCOT.



1985 dash

New state seal created to correct inaccuracies dating back to 1868.

TV show Miami Vice became a cultural phenomenon.



1986 dash

Space shuttle Challenger exploded over Cape Canaveral shortly after take-off. Halted the NASA shuttle program for several years.



1987 dash

State archaeologist Calvin Jones discovered Hernando De Soto’s winter encampment near the Florida capital.



1988 dash

The state lottery began operations, selling its first tickets in January.



1991 dash

Governor Lawton Chiles created the Dept. of Elder Affairs.

Miami awarded Florida’s first Major League Baseball team, the Florida Marlins.




Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida on 24 August, with the town of Homestead suffering the worst damages. At the time, it was the costliest disaster in U.S. history.



1993 dash

Dept. of Environmental Protection created, uniting DNR and DER.

Former State Attorney for Dade County Janet Reno was appointed the first female U.S. Attorney General by President Bill Clinton.



1998 dash

Former U.S. Senator and governor Lawton Chiles died in office; replaced by Buddy McKay

Son of U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush, elected governor.

Voters passed constitutional amendment to shrink the Executive Cabinet to four elected officers: Governor, Agricultural Commissioner, Attorney General, and Chief Financial Officer (a new position that combined the State Treasurer and State Comptroller).



2000 dash

Presidential election crisis; focus settles upon Florida's courts and voting ballots.



2002 dash

Jeb Bush becomes first Republican governor to be re-elected.

Department of Financial Services created out of the Department of Insurance, Treasury and State Fire Marshal and the Department of Banking and Finance.



2007 dash

Charlie Crist inaugurated as 44th governor.

2011 dash

Rick Scott inaugurated as 45th governor.

    Sources include:
      The Florida Handbook, compiled by Allen Morris and Joan Morris
      Used with the permission of Joan Morris.

     The Florida Memory Project