Florida history is quite a bit more recent than most of the states in the eastern and southern states of the United States of America.
Yes, it's true we have St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States, but development was extremely slow after that historic founding in 1565.
In fact it wasn't until after the U.S. Civil War ended in 1865 that things began to happen in our fair state.
Although it is a relatively young state, there is still a lot of interesting history to learn and heritage sites to be visited.
One of the first things that struck me about Florida when I moved here was how young it was compared to the rest of the country. Most towns and places in Florida (other than Pensacola and St. Augustine) were settled in the years just before and after the Civil War. Before then, it was a barren state that many people considered to be uninhabitable.
I first lived in north Florida, the home of the Florida Cracker. These were true southerners, and I learned a lot about Florida and the southern culture from these people. A good deal of Florida heritage is derived from the Old South, especially in north Florida.
The Florida history timeline begins about 12,000 years ago with the first known human inhabitants. There were several ancient Indian tribes that lived in Florida thousands of years before the Seminoles arrived. These tribes are gone, but are remembered in the history of Florida.
Most historians break Florida history down into at least 11 periods:
1. Early human inhabitants, including ancient Indian tribes that were here long before the Seminoles. Some of these include the Ais, Calusa, Tequesta and Timicua.
2. European exploration and colonization(1513-1565). Pensacola and St. Augustine founded.
3. First Spanish Period(1565-1763). Spanish had total control over Florida peninsula for almost 200 years. During this period the Spanish connected St. Augustine to Pensacola and extended their trail westward to California.
4. British Florida(1763-1784). The British got Florida in 1763 in a swap for Havana, Cuba after the Seven Years War(1756–63), known as the French and Indian war in American history.
5. Second Spanish Period(1784-1821). The Brits left Florida after losing the Revolutionary War. The Spanish came back for another try.
6. Territorial Period(1821-1845). Spain gave Florida back to the United States. Andy Jackson became governor, and Florida became American. Two of the three Seminole Wars took place during this period.
7. Statehood(1845-1861). The Seminoles were finally vanquished, though they never surrendered. In the 1860 Presidential election, no Floridian voted for Abe Lincoln. Florida was deeply Southern in culture and sympathies.
8. Civil War and Reconstruction(1861-1877). Florida was one of the Confederate States of America and was punished for it from 1865-1877 during Reconstruction. The state was physically and financially devastated.
9. Florida Development(1878-1926). Dredges, swamp reclamation, new towns, cities, developments, highways.
10. The Great Depression in Florida(1926-1940). What the sorry economy didn't destroy, the 1926 Miami hurricane did.
11. World War II and the Post-war Boom(1940-2009). Continuous economic growth lasted until about 2008. The first year in which population did not increase was 2009. The boom continues in 2018 with almost 1,000 people moving to the state each day.
There are hundreds of local Florida historical societies ranging from small town operations to major metropolitan organizations. Many of the smaller societies are staffed by volunteers who have an obvious love of history as it relates to their own communities.
The Florida Historical Society is the oldest of these, and is located in Cocoa Village, Florida. It's collections and journal cover the history of the entire state. Even so, there are local societies that have larger collections and more members.
The Cocoa Village office has an excellent resource library and a cadre of volunteers in addition to a very small and efficient professional staff.
Their efforts help keep Florida history and heritage alive; without them we wouldn't know much about what went on before us.
Listed below are a few of the local historical societies.
We choose not to give you the internet links to many of these societies because they are unreliable. Sometimes the website is up and running; other times you won't find a thing. You will have to rely on Mother Google to find a website, if any.
A recent part of Florida history is the demise of so many tourist attractions that existed and flourished in the years before Walt Disney World opened in 1971.