Here Comes… Columbus?

At this very moment, two 15th-century Spanish caravels are tied up at St. Marks about 20 miles south of Tallahassee. Most folks will recognize their names – the Niña and the Pinta – because these were two of the ships used by Christopher Columbus and his crew to sail that proverbial ocean blue in 1492.

You can put down the phone, though – there’s no need to raise the alarm. The Spanish haven’t come for a third colonial occupation of Florida. Rather, these ships are replicas created by the Columbus Foundation as floating museums dedicated to educating the public about Christopher Columbus and the ships he used to explore parts of the Western Hemisphere.

The Columbus Foundation's replicas of Christopher Columbus' ships Nina and Pinta. Photo courtesy of the Columbus Foundation.

The Columbus Foundation’s replicas of Christopher Columbus’ ships Nina and Pinta. Photo courtesy of the Columbus Foundation.

The two ships and their crews are currently on a tour of the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Seaboard this winter and spring. At each port of call, they offer tours of the ships, which describe how the ships were sailed in the 15th century, what life was like for the sailors, and how the ships operate today in their replica form.

The Niña and the Pinta will remain in port at St. Marks until February 22nd, and will then sail on to Marco Island, where they will be in port from February 27th to March 1st. The ships will be anchored at Vero Beach on the Atlantic Coast from March 6-11, and then at Ponce Inlet from March 13-17. These dates are subject to change, of course – we recommend you visit the Columbus Foundation’s website at thenina.com for full details about the ships, their schedule, and tours.

With this fine-looking pair of Spanish caravels in port so close by, we at the State Library and Archives cannot help but think about some of the excellent resources we hold from the Spanish colonial era, several of which are available through Florida Memory. The oldest object in the State Archives, for example, is a 1589 map depicting the English privateer Sir Francis Drake’s 1586 raid on St. Augustine. This hand-colored map is the earliest-known depiction of a European settlement in what is now the United States. It was created by Baptista Boazio, an Italian cartographer working for the English at this time.

Baptista Boazio's map of Sir Francis Drake's 1586 raid on St. Augustine. This is the oldest item held by the State Archives of Florida (1589).

Baptista Boazio’s map of Sir Francis Drake’s 1586 raid on St. Augustine. This is the oldest item held by the State Archives of Florida (1589).

The Archives also holds a large collection of original records used by settlers to defend their titles to their land following the official transfer of Florida to the United States in 1821. One of the conditions of the treaty between Spain and the U.S. was that the United States government would honor existing land grants given by the Spanish Crown. The U.S. Board of Land Commissioners was established in 1822 to review claims and verify titles to these land grants, which claimants supported through deeds, correspondence, maps, and other materials establishing their ownership. These dossiers of material were retained by the Commission, and are now in the possession of the State Archives. The colorful maps and drawings alone make the collection worth a look, but for families with ties to these original claimants they can be great for genealogical research as well. Florida Memory has digitized the Spanish Land Grant collection in its entirety, and the images are available online.

Map from the land grant of John Bolton, part of the collection of Spanish land grants at the State Archives of Florida (Series 990). These grants are also available in digital form on Florida Memory.

Map from the land grant of John Bolton, part of the collection of Spanish land grants at the State Archives of Florida (Series 990). These grants are also available in digital form on Florida Memory.

Students of the Spanish colonial era will also find the East Florida Papers a very useful resource. A complete copy of the original records of East Florida held by the Library of Congress is available at the State Archives, along with an index. The documents include an index to Royal Decrees, financial records, and correspondence between Spanish officials on matters such as runaway slaves, the militia, religious authorities, and the transfer of the Florida Archives to the United States. The collection’s catalog record contains a fuller description of the contents.

These are just a few of the resources on the Spanish colonial era available to you through the State Library and Archives. Check out the State Library’s bibliography of resources relating to the Spanish colonial era, and  contact us with any questions about the Archives’ holdings.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine

Every Sunday, worshipers belonging to the oldest Catholic parish in the United States file into the St. Augustine Cathedral Basilica, where mass has been celebrated in some form or fashion for nearly 450 years. As timeless as this sturdy building may appear to the visitor, however, its history bears witness to many instances of warfare, disaster, and change that have shaped the city of St. Augustine.

This is an engraved, hand-colored map drawn by Baptista Boazio in 1589, depicts a raid on St. Augustine by the English navigator Sir Francis Drake. Boazio lived in London from about 1585 to 1603, illustrating accounts of English expeditions and campaigns.

This engraved, hand-colored map drawn by Baptista Boazio in 1589 depicts a raid on St. Augustine by the English navigator Sir Francis Drake. Boazio lived in London from about 1585 to 1603, illustrating accounts of English expeditions and campaigns.

In this zoomed portion of the Boazio map, notice the location of the parish church, marked "O" in the original and indicated with a green arrow.

In this zoomed portion of the Boazio map, notice the location of the parish church, marked “O” in the original and indicated with a green arrow.

St. Augustine was established in 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles. He had carried with his expedition four priests who immediately began preparing to minister to the Spaniards who would settle in the new outpost. The map above shows the location of the first parish church at the southeast corner of the old plaza.

Depiction of the first mass celebrated in St. Augustine on September 8, 1565. This painting, dated 1919, is an exact copy of the version that hung on the wall of the St. Augustine Cathedral for many years before the building burned in 1887.

Depiction of the first mass celebrated in St. Augustine on September 8, 1565. This painting, dated 1919, is an exact copy of the version that hung on the wall of the St. Augustine Cathedral for many years before the building burned in 1887.

In addition to serving as the principal port and administrative center of Spanish Florida, St. Augustine was also the headquarters of the Catholic Church’s effort to minister to the Native Americans living in the surrounding area. Two lines of Franciscan missions extended outward from the town, one heading west as far as Tallahassee, and another stretching into present-day South Georgia as far as St. Catherine’s Island.

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Drake In Detail

On May 28 and 29, 1586, Sir Francis Drake attacked St. Augustine.

Drake’s raid was part of a larger expedition led by the English privateer against Spanish settlements in the Caribbean. An Italian cartographer named Baptista Boazio created this map in order to illustrate Drake’s successful campaign. Boazio’s hand-colored map is the earliest known depiction of a European settlement in what is now the United States; it is also the oldest item in the collections of the State Archives of Florida.

Map of Drake's raid on St. Augustine, by Baptista Boazio, published in 1589

Map of Drake’s raid on St. Augustine, by Baptista Boazio, published in 1589

Boazio, who never visited St. Augustine, included fine details in his map derived from first-hand accounts of English exploits. Join us as we take a look at Drake in detail.

Detail of a galleon, the largest of the 43 vessels portrayed by Boazio

Detail of a galleon, the largest of the 43 vessels portrayed by Boazio

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Francis Drake Attacks St. Augustine

On May 28 and 29, 1586, Sir Francis Drake led an attack on the Spanish city of St. Augustine. The Englishman commanded a fleet of 25 ships commissioned by Queen Elizabeth to conduct a series of raids against Spanish settlements in the Americas. Drake also attacked Cartagena, Columbia, and Santo Domingo, on the island of Hispaniola, during his expedition.

Baptista Boazio, Saint Augustine Map (1589)

Baptista Boazio, Saint Augustine Map (1589)

Baptista Boazio, an Italian cartographer, created this map in 1589 in order to illustrate the exploits of Drake. This map is the oldest document in the collections of the State Library and Archives of Florida. Boazio’s map of St. Augustine is the earliest known visual depiction of a European settlement in what is now the United States.