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Florida State History

The original inhabitants in the area of Florida were Native American tribes including the Apalachee, the Calusa, the Mayaimi, and the Tocobaga.

They had lived there for thousands of years.

Related: Florida State Facts


Seal Of Florida

When the first Europeans arrived, they brought various diseases with them, which wiped out many of the people of the original tribes.

De Soto Map

The arrival of the Europeans

The first European to arrive and explore the Florida area was Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish explorer. On his second voyage from Spain in 1521, he brought about 200 settlers with him.  

He hoped to set up a Spanish colony but they were attacked by warriors from the native tribes. During one skirmish, Ponce de Leon was wounded and died.

Juan Ponce De Leon

A French explorer named de Laudonniere led a group of French Protestants to Florida.

They arrived in 1564 and established the first white settlement in Florida called Fort Caroline, which was near today’s Jacksonville.

A Spanish fort was built in 1565 at St. Augustine, which history names the oldest permanent settlement in the United States.

Catholic priests were the next to arrive to build missions throughout the Florida area.


Wars to Rule Florida

Spain ruled Florida until they lost control when they fought the British and lost the Seven Years’ War. From 1763 to 1783, the land of Florida was ruled by the British.  

At the end of the American Revolution in 1783, Spain again ruled.

Escaping To Freedom In The Bahamas

The Seminole Nation was made up of various Native American groups, especially the Creeks, that moved south into the Florida area from what is now Georgia and Alabama.

The Seminoles became very independent and traded with the British and the Spanish from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s.

They also welcomed runaway black slaves.

US Army Troops With A Seminole Guide
US Army Troops With A Seminole Guide

There were three Seminole Wars against the invasion of Florida by British troops, led by Andrew Jackson who later became the first governor of Florida, and later President.

One began in 1818 because the Seminoles were harboring slaves and even helping them to escape, another in 1835, and a third in 1855.


The Seminoles, including the Black Seminoles (former slaves), refused to give up their land and move to a reservation west of the Mississippi River.

They were first confined to a large reservation in central Florida and later evicted and moved to the north.

Statehood for Florida

Flag Of Florida


The Territory of Florida was established when Andrew Jackson and his United States troops took control of Florida from Spain.

The Territory grew substantially over several years. Florida became the 27th state of the United States in 1845.

Andrew Jackson portrait

Florida was a slave state and stayed that way until Abraham Lincoln became president of the United States of America and the Civil War broke out in 1861.

Florida was a supply line for the Confederate Army. When the Civil War ended, Florida rejoined the United States of America and agreed to outlaw slavery.

Quiz Time!

quiz activity for kids


What happened to the original tribes that occupied the area of Florida?

Name two explorers from Europe who arrived in the 1500s.

Who were the Seminoles?

Why did the Seminole Nation war with the British?

Who were the Black Seminoles?

Florida Polytechnic University


The original tribes were almost wiped out by diseases brought by the Europeans.

Ponce de Leon from Spain and Laudonniere from France landed in Florida in the 1500s.

The Seminole Nation was made up of various Native American groups that moved south into the Florida area from what is now Georgia and Alabama.

A Seminole Spearing A Garfish From A Dugout Florida
A Seminole Spearing A Garfish From A Dugout Florida

The Seminoles warred with the British because they did not want to give up their land to the white settlers.

The Black Seminoles were the escaped slaves who were harbored by the Seminole Nation.

US State History


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