1819 - The United States Receives Florida Territory from Spain

1819 - The United State Receives Florida Territory from Spain

   During the American Revolution, the Florida territory had been under British control until it was given back to the Spanish.
   In 1819, Spain agreed to cede Florida to the United States with the signing of the Adams–Onís Treaty. The official transfer taking place in 1821.

   Under Spanish rule, Florida was divided by the natural separation of the Suwanee River into West Florida and East Florida.
   U.S. military authorities took official possession during two “transfer of flags” ceremonies on July 10, 1821, in St. Augustine and July 17, 1821, in Pensacola.
   Col. Robert Butler represented the U.S. military at the ceremony in St. Augustine. The transfer was said to be peaceful, but it did not exactly spark jubilation . Likely, as many St. Augustinians could still remember when the U.S. had invaded the territory of northeast Florida, during the War of 1812 and had burning much of the countryside, though the city itself was spared.
   Andrew Jackson, who had also invaded Florida during the first Seminole War (1817-18), was present at the July 17 ceremony 400 miles away in Pensacola.
   The ceremonies featured the lowering of the Spanish flag and the raising of the U.S. flag.

   Upon the receiving the Florida Territories, by the United States of America, West Florida and East Florida became two counties: Escambia County and St Johns County, each named for Florida rivers. At this time, almost 8,000 residents were counted as living in Florida.
   Andrew Jackson was appointed as Governor, by President James Monroe, to lead and establish Florida’s first territorial government. Jackson “quickly grew disenchanted with being governor of Florida” and was in office for about five months in 1821.
   However, during his brief time, Jackson moved quickly to make Florida part of the United States, causing the Red Stick Creek leader Neamathla and other Native American leaders to conclude that the man they called “Sharp Knife” would not respect Florida’s native peoples.
   On March 30, 1822, the Territory of Florida became an organized incorporated territory of the United States.
   Within a few years, Jackson, now the U.S. President, would sign the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the resettlement of native peoples to lands west of the Mississippi River and setting the stage in Florida for the Second Seminole War (1835-42), now considered the longest and most costly of the Indian conflicts of the United States.

   The Territory of Florida remained an organized incorporated territory of the United States from March 30, 1822, until March 3, 1845, when it was admitted into the Union as the state of Florida and officially became our 27th state.

   According to the terms of the 1823 Treaty of Moultrie Creek, between the United States and Seminole Nation, the Seminoles were removed from Northern Florida to a reservation in the center of the Florida peninsula.
   Much of the land for this first Seminole reservation was located in modern day Lake County.

   The United States began building forts and trading posts throughout the Gulf coast and the East coast, then known as Mosquito County, in order to enforce the treaty and defend the settlers against the Seminoles.
   This new United States territory offered an invitation for more white settlers to come South.

   Many of our ancestors came to this area from South Carolina and Georgia. Since there were no established roads, the pioneers traveled by horseback or wagon over the previiously established Native trails.

   At the time, Florida had three land offices, one of which was located in Newnansville (near present day Gainesville).
   The pioneers migrating to this area could acquire land through:
       Acts of Congress,
       U. S. Land Patents,
       payments for military service (if they could prove they had fought in any wars up until that time),
       or private purchase made directly through the government or through an individual land owner.

[Contributors: Mary Helen Myers, Jason Brown]

Next Article: 1830 - Indian Removal Act