Do any of you remember learning about this gentlemen way back in primary school? You don't recognize him? Neither did I, frankly. Let me introduce you to Juan Ponce de Leon. Yup that's him, the fellow who, supposedly, discovered the Fountain of Youth! And then apparently lost it because nobody seems to know where it is now but that's another story.
The whole Fountain of Youth thing supposedly took place on the other Florida coast. There is no actual proof of the whole mythical fountain of youth/Ponce de Leon connection by the way. The fact is that he was exploring, seeking new lands, it was an adventure. And when, what turned out to be Florida was discovered, he actually initially believed it was just another pretty island. He named it La Florida for the lush flowers and trees.
There is some dispute over precisely where that first landing site was but generally it is believed to have been what is now St. Augustine which has the distinction of being the oldest continual settlement in the United States. Seriously. That's correct. It's not the pilgrims in New England, it's Spanish settlers in Florida and 1513. I'll repeat that 1513. I've not yet been to St. Augustine, but it is on my list! It's a city rich with history and that is my cuppa tea!
And they didn't stop their exploration there! Juan Ponce de Leon continued exploring the coastline of the entire peninsula and eventually made his way around to the gulf side in the general vicinity of Charlotte Harbor. And it seems he really liked that area because returned in 1521 with a plan for colonization, bringing with him some 200 men including priests, farmers, artisans, farms implements and animals. It was a good plan other than the fact that the Calusa Indians already lived there and took issue with the idea. Negotiations were attempted but tempers flared, followed by weapons. Juan Ponce de Leon took an arrow to the leg. His compatriots loaded him back onto the ship and took him to Cuba where he died. I assume from infection though there is speculation that the arrow tip was poisoned.
An inauspicious beginning. Still, on Charlotte Harbour today exists the Ponce de Leon park which is where that statue lives. It is a charming park right on the water with a tiny beach, a board walk through the mangroves, pretty trees and flowering things and grassy areas with bench swings and loads of historic signage.
There is also a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center there which can be toured, but only if you are there when it's open and we were not. But that's a darned good reason to return. And return we shall! And unlike Senior de Leon, with no arrows to the leg.
Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.