Ethnic Diversity in our History

Remarks by Albert J. Hadeed  at United Methodist Church September 30, 1998

Thank you for that kind introduction. And consistent with the theme of my presentation about ethnic diversity and achievement, I think one of our great achievements is our dinner to celebrate our ethnic foods and cultures, a wonderful time to get together and enjoy a wonderful meal. It really is a tribute to our diversity and the respect we have for one another. [applause]

I wanted to talk about ethnic diversity in the context of our history. The history of Flagler County, of our entire region, is very interesting. And many folks do not realize it. We are beginning to discover it ourselves. The region we are in has been a crossroads for world powers. We have been the site of very significant civilizations. And many of us know a little about that. We know that St. Augustine is the oldest permanent settlement in North America. So we know we have that kind of distinction, but we have more, a very rich and varied history. It is a very unique and remarkable history that points out a lot about our current strengths and about the direction we are moving as a society and as a community.

When we think about our history, we think about the European colonization of America. We learned about it, those of us who went to American schools, that this was the New World. This really was not a new world here when the European colonists came. A better description was that this was a meeting of two worlds. When the Europeans arrived, those two worlds merged. And, of course, I am speaking about the Native American culture and civilization that existed here. The Native Americans came into Florida about 15,000 years ago. They migrated across the Bering Strait, over the land bridge to Alaska, and made their way throughout North America and eventually, some settled in Florida. They were called Indians by the English and Spanish because they thought they were from the Asian Indies, that they had arrived at the Asian Indies.

The culture the Europeans found here was very sophisticated. The Native Americans were different than Europeans in many respects. One, they were very highly adapted to the natural environment. In Europe, they attempted to conquer and exploit the natural environment, for economic reasons, for reasons of war. This was not the approach of the Native American civilization that was here. They were instead very adapted to the environment. They had developed very complex social systems, building towns and cities here. Ordinarily, in our history lessons, we do not learn about the degree of that sophistication. They were very advanced in astronomy. They were advanced in matters relating to medical practices. There were medical practices here by the Native Americans that were far superior to medical practices from Europe. Many of their agricultural methods were also superior to agricultural methods in Europe.

If we go back 15,000 years ago, the east coastline was about 80 miles out into the ocean from where it is presently today. This was during the Ice Age. The climate here was much cooler. It was much drier. There were more savannahs and prairies, and not the swamp, hardwood hammocks that we see today. The Native Americans came into this area to forage and hunt. They hunted the mammoths and the mastodons as their main meat source. They would hunt these animals at the places where these animals crossed the river. And that is how we know so much about those Native Americans during that time period. Many of their weapons and other artifacts are found at the bottoms of these ancient rivers.

We have St. Augustine as the oldest permanent European colony. We have only recently discovered, however, that the oldest known permanent year-round settlement in North America of Native Americans, around 3,700 years B.C., was in Atlantic Beach in Duval County. The oldest permanent settlement of native people. The oldest in North America is at our doorstep, in our region. This was after the Ice Age. Conditions changed. The coastal estuary emerged. We had a very abundant, semi-tropical, tropical forest. Food was abundant permitting them to settle in a permanent colony.

It would interest you to know that the National Geographic Society is financing the archeological and historical work related to this recent discovery. Now I want to place in context how this history relates to the larger history of the world. This settlement of Native Americans existed 1,000 years before the Egyptians built their first pyramid. This gives you some sense of what was happening in the eastern hemisphere. Over time, the Indian culture grew, became much more sophisticated and within Florida, the people were known as the Timucuans. They spoke the Timucuan language. Some of you are familiar with Tomoka State Park. Tomoka is a mangling of the original word Timucua. It was recorded that way by a Spanish soldier and you know how names change over time. Now the Timucuan Indians, when the Europeans found them, were very large people. They also were tattooed, very artistic, head-to-toe, very colorful. As I said, they were extremely organized as a society with cities and towns. At Tomoka State Park, there was a city there Nocoroco. The men wore their hair very long, pulled up on top. You know what they used it for? A quiver for their arrows when they hunted. The Spanish were very impressed by the Timucuan Indians and they wanted to Christianize them. So missionaries were set up. They also wanted to introduce what Europe had provided which America didn’t have – the horses, cows, sweet oranges. All that came from Europe.

Because the Spanish really didn’t have the wherewithal, the endurance, the capability to live in this wild land, the Indians became our first cattle ranchers. Many people do not realize that. The irony was that the Spanish who brought the cattle let them become free-range cattle. There weren’t fences or things of that sort. They would roam wild and the Indians would herd them and sell the beef back to the Spanish. Now the problem was that as Spain was caught up in its “development of Florida”, they enslaved some of the Timucuan Indians in order to work. But the most disastrous impact to those people and the rich culture that they had was that European diseases drove them to extinction. They did not have smallpox, measles, or bubonic plague before European colonization. These kinds of diseases were non-existent in America. Europeans brought them and the Timucuans had no immunities and within 200 years of Columbus landing in the Americas, millions of Native Americans perished. And a culture was wiped out. And this pattern of a culture being wiped out repeats itself in Florida. And this is what makes our history so unique because we have such a land of great struggle. This is truly a land of momentous struggle.

As the Timucuans were dying out, the Spanish were the primary influence. Let’s look at how the Spanish came to Florida.

The Spanish came to oust the French. When the French had come to Florida it was a Spanish Territory, and they established a settlement. Fort Caroline. This offended the Monarchy of Spain. Plus, they were Calvinists. They were heretics. They were not Catholics. So in the name of religion and in the name of the Monarchy, they came to destroy the French. One of the names that you know of our area which speaks that history is a very interesting name,. Matanzas – the Matanzas River, the Matanzas Inlet. The word Matanzas means slaughter, massacre. At Matanzas Inlet, the Spanish basically killed the French prisoners they had taken. So we have an area that was born of violence, a violence that changed the shape of this region. Now the Spanish did leave some obviously valuable contributions: horses, cattle, sweet oranges, and the trade relationships developed with the Indians.

Once the Timucuans had passed, in the American colonies north of Florida there was a strong anti-Indian sentiment. Different Indians, not Timucuans. And they drove many of those Indians of different tribes into Florida. Many American Indians migrated into Florida. It was a haven. There was more of a tolerance for Indians. Some of the names you may know. How many of you have heard of the town of Micanopy? That is a town named for Chief Micanopy, a Seminole Indian from the families that migrated down from Alabama and the Carolinas. And they became very important parts of our economy at the time.

When the Spanish were first ousted from Florida, that would have been in 1763 by the British, the British came to Florida and what they wanted to do was to commercialize Florida to make money, to make a lot of money. That was the imperative of the Crown at that time. And the way they did it was by bringing in African slaves. The British built the plantation system here not only on the labor but the talent of Africans. The British really did not know how to cultivate these agricultural products. They really did not know how to realize the agricultural potential in the field and they relied on the Africans to do it for them.

When the British came, most of the means of transportation within this region was by water on the Matanzas River. The British knew this was a hindrance to the economy,

to exploitation, to plantation production, so they wanted to build a road along the coastline so all the plantations could more easily ship goods and have commerce. That gave birth to the Kings Road. We know it today as the Old Kings Road. I don’t know how many of you know this but the Kings Road, the remnant of it that exists in Flagler county today is the longest existing segment of the Kings Road built in the United States. It is for the most part, with some exceptions, on the original alignment of the Kings Road.

I’m going to tell you a little story about how the Kings Road came to be. At that time, when they built the Kings Road, they stopped it at what is today the Flagler County line. We weren’t Flagler County then, of course. They stopped it at the Flagler County line because the British engineers did not know how to take it through Flagler. We were then known as the Matanzas Swamp. They were unable to traverse the swamp. I mean no insult to anyone here who is an engineer, but engineers like to do things in straight lines. And so, the Kings Road north of Flagler County is a straight line. They built causeways, bridges but when they got to Flagler County you couldn’t just do a straight line. So the British Governor went to his Indian friend, Grey Eyes. After years of trying, the British engineers could not build the rest of this road which was vital to the commercialization of Florida. So he asked Grey Eyes to plot the road for him. And of course, we all know today what Grey Eyes did. He used his eyes. He followed the game trails. He followed the ridges. And that is why the Kings Road curves through Flagler County because of that Native American’s contribution.

What was grown then was sugar and indigo. Indigo was a very important plant dye. It was extremely valuable in Europe. Do you know what else they coveted here? Our timber. Our live oaks. Live oaks are great for boats. And of course, what was happening in Europe and the Americas? Naval engagements. Naval wars. Shipping, commerce. So they wanted our live oaks. In fact, there was a sawmill built close to where U.S. 1 crosses Pellicer Creek. In fact, Pellicer Creek used to be called Woodcutter’s Creek during the time of the English. There was. a mill site there and they clear cut the forest in Flagler County for the live oak used in the Americas and Europe for shipbuilding.

During this time, one of the most remarkable events, I think, in Florida’s history and America’s history, the largest emigration into the Americas was carried out by Dr. Andrew Turnbull. Dr. Turnbull was a Scot and he went to the British with some ideas about how he could really create a very productive agricultural enterprise. This was to be done in New Smyrna in present-day Volusia County. Dr. Turnbull went to Greece, Minorca, and Italy. The Greeks were oppressed by the Turks.

The Minorcans and. Italians were suffering economically. He said to them, ‘Come to the Americas, I will give you land, and you can work for me for seven years and when you’re done, I’ll give you a parcel of land and a new life.’ Throngs wanted to go, more than Trumbull had envisioned. In preparing for the trip, he had only outfitted for 500 people to land in the Americas. He ended up with 1,400 on eight ships.

To give you a sense of this migration, it was three times the size of the British attempt to colonize Jamestown. So when they came to New Smyrna. they didn’t have enough supplies. They were treated cruelly and out of that comes our own local legacy, Francisco Pellicer. Francisco Pellicer was one of those indentured servants and they had reached a point where they had had enough of the oppression on this plantation.

After the Spanish came back, we have some very interesting historical figures, and one of them is indicated there at the display, Joseph Hernandez. And if you’re interested, you certainly can look at the display afterward. I have a handout there. Joseph Hernandez lived in Flagler County. He lived at Bings Landing Park where his plantation house was. General Hernandez was the first representative from Florida to the United States Congress. He was the first presiding officer of the Florida legislative assembly. He was the first Hispanic mayor of a United States city. He was the mayor of St. Augustine. He was the first president of the Agricultural Society in Florida. And by the way, this is one of the reasons that we were able to springboard over a lot of the . other competing counties to get recognition for our agricultural heritage.

Now during this time, new plantations came into existence because the King of Spain was providing land grants. And during this time, Africans again were used as slaves. The Seminole Indians in the area also had slaves but an interesting part of that was there were also free Africans in Florida during this time. I’m not sure I understand how all of that worked. It was a much more benign attitude or approach to slavery. The journals record, for . instance, that Joseph Hernandez himself was very kind and generous to his slaves. This certainly doesn’t excuse slavery.

Many of you have been to the Bulow Plantation Ruins. That was a plantation during the same time period. We are talking about the early 1800s. It was the largest sugar plantation of its time. It also had the largest number of African slaves in Florida at the time, here in Flagler County.

For whatever interest it may hold for you, one of the other major products that some plantations grew during that time was sea island cotton, which was very prized.

Sea island cotton was a long staple and very fine cotton. Flagler County and this region were very economically productive with their agricultural products at that time, including sugar and rum, and sea island cotton.

Florida then made its transition to a United States colony. Andrew Jackson was as you know a military leader during this time and became a United States President. This began another era in Florida’s history. Andrew Jackson did not like Indians. He hated Indians. If you read an American history book, he is known as the Indian fighter. He really was the Indian hater. What he wanted to do in Florida was to take all of the Native Americans that existed here and expel them west of the Mississippi. Now, Floridians had lived in relative peace with the Native Americans. They had traded with them. They related with them socially. General Hernandez, who at that time was a very significant, leader in Florida appealed to the Secretary of War and to the President of the United States not to expel the Native Americans; that this was wrong.

There were a number of meetings by United States representatives that occurred with Native Americans to convince the Indians to move. One stands out in my mind that I read about. One of the Seminole chiefs said, ‘We are like a flower. We may be growing in very poor soil now but if you were to move this flower to where the soil is very rich, the flower will die. You cannot move us, we will die.’ Andrew Jackson insisted on their removal and engaged in a war against them. Now something about Flagler County’s spirit. John Bulow who had the Bulow plantation also did not agree with Andrew Jackson’s goals and when the federal troops came to his plantation as a part of their engagement with the Indians and to use the plantation for rest and rehabilitation, he fired his cannon on the federal troops as a symbolic gesture.

He was arrested by the federal troops and imprisoned in his outhouse during that time. The result of that war, of course, you know. The Seminole Indian culture was decimated. The United States never won that war because the Seminoles moved deep into the Everglades where federal troops could not follow them into the unknown swamps.

After the Seminole Indian War, Florida went into great economic decline because of the Indian wars and Andrew Jackson’s desire to change the racial makeup, the ethnic makeup in Florida. The wars doomed the plantations because they were burned, destroyed and abandoned. That’s why you see only the bare ruins of General Hernandez’ plantation at Bings Park. Another cultural era is eliminated from Flagler. So Flagler and Florida became very poor after the Indian Wars.

Now let’s fast-forward to today. Here we are in Palm Coast. We are a new community. We share common ground. We have a common struggle. We struggle for enduring values, for equality of opportunity, for the ability to create a community that imparts values to our children, grandchildren, our heirs. We have a common future. We have taken from our ancestors those attributes of strength and tried to build on them. An example being the foods of our ethnic origins we share tonight. We indeed have a legacy to leave. A legacy of freedom, opportunity, respect, and caring for others – those of us who are here and those of us to come. I think that at a community dinner like this many years from now, we will continue to celebrate the joy of our ethnic diversity. 

Thank you.

Author: FCHS