Your history book got it
The true story of
Ponce de Leon
An 1584 map of Florida
Quote of the Day:
We've got plenty of youth. What we need is a fountain of smart!
Ponce de León :
Florida's First Spanish Explorer
Juan Ponce de León
was the first Spanish explorer to arrive in Florida. Early Spanish
explorers were known as conquistadors or
"conquerors." While there are no official records, historians believe that
Ponce de León was born in 1460 in San Tervas de Campos, Spain. Pictured at
left is how one artist envisioned his coming ashore in La Florida.
In 1493, Ponce de
León sailed with Christopher Columbus on Columbus' second voyage to the
Americas. He and his family settled on an island in the Caribbean named
Hispaniola (Dominican Republic). He became a military commander at this
post and was appointed deputy governor.
In 1506, Ponce de
León discovered a nearby island named Boprinquen. While there, he found
large deposits of gold. Soon after his discovery, he left the island. He
returned in 1508 on orders from the king of Spain to explore and colonize
the island. He renamed the island Puerto Rico. He was the island's
governor for two years until the king replaced him with Columbus' son.
Hurt by the King's
action, Ponce de León sailed again, this time north through the Bahamas
heading towards Florida. He was in search of new lands and treasures. He
had also heard of a mythical fountain of youth. Indians spoke of a
legendary, magical spring whose water was believed to make older people
young again. Ponce de León explored many areas, including the Bahamas and Bimini, for both gold and the mythical fountain, but he never found
either. That historical fact didn't stop enterprising folks in St
Augustine from concocting a Fountain of Youth tourist trap!
In late March of
1513, his ships landed on Florida's east coast near present-day St.
Augustine. He claimed this beautiful land for Spain. Since he had
discovered this country of lavish landscape and beautiful beaches, he was
entitled to name it. He named it La Florida (LAH flow REE dah) or "place
He decided to
continue his exploration of this land and sailed down the coast. He
encountered some rough currents at one point and named the area Cape
Canaveral which means “Cape of Currents”.
Ponce de León
continued down the east coast of Florida and along the keys until he
arrived at an island that had many
turtles. He named the island Dry Tortugas because there was no fresh water
on the island and “tortugas” means “turtle” in Spanish.
Ponce de León and
the Calusa Indians
Continuing up the
west coast of Florida, Ponce de León entered the Charlotte Harbor area. As
he and his men explored inland for wood and fresh water, they saw the Calusa tribal village at Mound Key. They discovered that the Calusa were
an unfriendly tribe. The explorers fled back to their ships and decided to
leave the area. They sailed back to Puerto Rico.
Return to Florida
In 1521, Ponce de León returned to Florida again to build a colony. He landed on the gulf
beaches between Charlotte Harbor and Estero Bay with over 200 settlers,
horses, tools, and seeds. The plan was to set up a farming colony. As they
went inland for fresh water, the Calusa ambushed them. Ponce de León was
shot in the thigh by an arrow and was seriously wounded. The settlers
decided to abandon the settlement and sail back to Cuba.
As a result of his
wound, Ponce de León died at the age of 61 in Cuba. He will always be
remembered as the brave conquistador who first explored many parts of
Florida and searched for the mythical fountain of youth.