Greetings and salutations,
Welcome to the last post in my series of our Thanksgiving travels to southeastern Georgia and northeastern Florida. This week we’ll visit the Fort Caroline National Memorial located on the banks of the St. Johns River north of Jacksonville, Florida. Fort Caroline is within the boundaries and is a unit of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. You may recall that I wrote an article a month or so ago about the Kingsley Plantation also a part of the Preserve.
Fort Caroline was an attempt by the French to establish a foothold in the New World. They (mostly persecuted protestant French Huguenots) arrived in 1564 and were soon in conflict with the Spanish located at Ft. Augustine just down the coast. At it’s beginning, the French soldiers and settlers set about building a fort and village on banks of the St. Johns River. The settlement had a tough first year, their friendly relations with the Timucua Native American tribe soon turned adversarial, they were short on food and nearly starved, and some soldiers committed mutiny and left for greener pastures. At the same time when the outlook was dire, more French ships arrived bringing even more settlers. Learning that the French were trying to grow their presence in Florida, the King of Spain sent a fleet to put a stop to their plans. They attacked the weakly guarded Fort Caroline early in the morning massacring all but 50 women and children who were taken prisoner. After destroying Fort Caroline by fire, the Spanish built a fort on the same location. A few years later, the French extracted their revenge by attacking the new fort with a large force, burned it and then slaughtered all the Spanish soldiers. The French then returned home very satisfied! Spain constructed a new fort but later abandoned it. The Spanish ruled la Florida for the next 200 years or so. The National Park Service acquired Fort Caroline in 1953 and built a replica fort. Here’s some photos of that replica.
After completing our tour of Fort Caroline and stamping our National Parks Passports, we drove down the road to hike one of the trails in the Theodore Roosevelt Area of the Timucuan Preserve.
This 600 hundred acre Area of woodlands and wetlands was donated to the Nature Conservancy by Wille Browne who lived his entire life on this property. As a 16 year old young man, Willie was given the land by his parents and told to nurture and care for the property. He took this responsibility seriously living off the land by farming, commercial fishing, running a sawmill and selling the very plentiful oyster shells. He also did odd jobs to supplement his income. He and his brother Saxon, lived in a one room cabin and led a very simple lifestyle. In 1960, Willie gave land to the Campfire Girls for a campground and periodically would give lots to people in need who he knew would take care of the land and preserve its natural beauty. He struggled in his later years to hold on the property. Developers offered him millions but he told them “money can’t buy happiness and this place makes me happy.” In 1969, he gave the land to the Nature Conservancy with the condition that it be preserved in its natural state. He wanted the area named after his hero, Theodore Roosevelt. A year later Willie died alone in his cabin. I think he is the real hero, someone who lived his values and gifted them for us to enjoy in perpetuity. Mr. Browne is buried in a small cemetery on this property alongside his parents and brother.
Our hike in the Theodore Roosevelt Area took us along a path that led to an observation tower overlooking a wetland. Here are some photos from our hike. We spotted a lot of birds on our hike including the one below. I wish I knew what kind of bird this is if anyone knows, let me know in the comments.
Again, it was a fun and relaxing visit to a historical and natural preserve. I find it very enjoyable to learn more about the early history of the development of the US as it gives us a glimpse of where we’ve come from. Not all of it is pretty such as the removal and treatment of the indigenous peoples from the time of colonization. I’ll leave that topic for another time.
Thanks for following along with my travels. Hope you’ve enjoyed this series. Next up is the trail to the southwest. Stay tuned!
Until next week, travel safe.