The calm, winding Perdido River currently serves as Florida’s western boundary, but that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, for much of the 18th and early 19th centuries, Florida’s territory extended all the way to the Mississippi River!
Sugar is almost as ubiquitous in Florida history as it is in the American diet. For centuries, settlers have taken advantage of Florida’s favorable climate to grow sugar cane for home use or commercial profit.
Sugar cane has been cultivated in Asia since ancient times, but its use in the West was limited until about the 18th century. Honey was the sweetener of choice in Europe before that time. When Europeans began colonizing the Americas during the Age of Discovery, sugar cane was one of the plants they brought to cultivate.
The British only owned Florida for a brief moment (1763-1783), but during that time they did take a stab at turning the territory into a productive colony. In 1764, the British Parliament set aside £500 (British pounds sterling) as a bounty for cultivating silk, cotton, and indigo in East Florida, and authorized generous land grants for citizens who stepped forward to develop these industries.
Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a Scotsman and a physician, convinced a number of his wealthy friends in Britain to take advantage of these offers and start a new colony in East Florida. Turnbull planned to employ a number of Greeks from Asia Minor as laborers for his new venture. He chose a Greek labor force because he felt they would be more accustomed to the warm climate they would encounter in Florida, and because he believed he would be able to convince a good number of them to leave the Ottoman Empire, where labor conditions were tough.
On this date in 1763, King George III of England issued a royal proclamation that, among other things, divided Florida into two provinces, East and West, separated by the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee Rivers.
The British controlled Florida from 1763-1783, when, following the American Revolution, the Treaty of Paris in 1783 returned Florida to Spanish control until it became a territory of the United States in 1821.