Florida is known as the Sunshine State from its warm climate and tropical weather. Sitting on the Southeastern tip of the United States, the Florida land mass is mostly a peninsula that has the Atlantic Ocean on the East, the Gulf of Mexico on the West, and the Caribbean to the south.
Florida is cited as being the first place, in what is now the United States of America, that European visitors landed. Juan Ponce de León, the Spanish conquistador first spotted the peninsula on April 2, 1513. According to historical records, Ponce de León named the region La Florida (“flowery land”) because it was then the Easter Season, known in Spanish as Pascua Florida (roughly “Flowery Easter”). From then on, the land was known in Europe as La Florida.
For the next two hundred years, Florida was settled by Spanish, French, and then British settlers. The Spanish government granted freedom to ex-slaves that could escape and make their way to Florida also converting them to Roman Catholicism. The first slave freedom settlement in the United States was founded in Florida, Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose. Creek and Seminole Native Americans where encouraged in the same way by the Spanish government to create settlements in Florida.
The English eventually weakened other settlements by arming the local tribes, Creek and others, with firearms and encouraging them to attack and pillage other settlements. In 1763, Britain finally gained control of Florida through the Peace of Paris treaty. With not much time to develop the area before the Revolutionary War, Spain then received Florida back from the new United States of America in the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 after the colonies defeated the British. Spain offered land grants to anyone who settled in the colonies furthering American colonists settlement there.
The late 1700s and early 1800s saw a series of wars between the Spanish government, the United States, and the Native American peoples in the area due to the policy of removing tribes to distant lands when areas became too populated. The United States Army led increasingly frequent incursions into Spanish territory, including the 1817–1818 campaign against the Seminole Indians by Andrew Jackson that became known as the First Seminole War. In 1819, Spain ceded Florida to the United States in exchange for $5 million acquiescence of their demands that the American drop of any claims on Texas that they might have from the Louisiana Purchase.
Florida became the 27th state of the United States of America on March 3, 1845.
Florida continued to develop pushing the local tribes out resulting in two more bloody wars known as the Second and Third Seminole Wars until finally the most of the native people were relocated to lands west of the Mississippi. However, many stayed, hiding the vast Everglades of Florida and their descendants are still there today.
Florida ceded with the South during the American Civil War. By the early 1860s Florida’s land was largely plantations with almost half its population enslaved. After Reconstruction, the reigning power in the Florida government created a new constitution, followed by statutes through 1889 that effectively disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites over the next several years. Provisions included poll taxes, literacy tests, and residency requirements. Disfranchisement for most African Americans in the state persisted until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s gained federal legislation to protect the rights of all people regardless of race, color, or creed.
Today, Florida is one of the most populated states with a high percentage of its residents being retired folk from other states. Florida is a great retirement state as its laws protect the elderly and retired and its warm climate is conducive to year-round outdoor activity.