History of Nassau County FL

“No man would immigrate into Florida — no, not from Hell itself,” stated John Randolph of Roanoke in the United States House of Representatives. He declared that the newly annexed territory in 1821 was nothing more than a “land of swamps, of quagmires, of frogs and alligators and mosquitoes.”

But prior to the annexation of Florida by the United States, settlers had moved to Florida for any number of reasons: some to find land in less crowded circumstances; some to escape persecution for their beliefs, either political or religious; and, some for the adventure of being here. The area that is now Nassau County was a buffer zone between the groups which kept trying to wrest control of Florida from each other. Fernandina was a “free port” and, during the early 19th century, was the center of smuggling, piracy, and intrigue. The little town was important because of its close proximity to Georgia and provided a base of operations for businessmen and politicians.

The only permanent settlements in Florida in 1821 were at Fernandina, St. Augustine and Pensacola with a population of less than 5000. During the Spanish Period, the territory had been divided into East Florida and West Florida which became the original counties of St. Johns and Escambia on 21 July 1821. Duval County was formed in 1822 from a part of St. Johns County and Nassau County was cut from Duval County on 29 December 1824 as the tenth Florida county.

By 1993, the “swamps and quagmires” of Nassau County were home to about 49,000 people!

History of Nassau County

This material was written and compiled by “Workers of the Writers’ Program of the Works Projects Administration in the State of Florida, Sponsored by the Florida State Planning Board, and copyrighted by the City Commission of Fernandina in 1940.” There were no subsequent copyrights on this material and the material entered the public domain in 1968, or 28 years after the publication of material. Note: This material uses phraseology and words which may be considered offensive to readers today....

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1900 Nassau County Map

Heyday for Pirates, 1817-1818

What peace was gained by the Patriots in 1816 was dashed upon the shores of Amelia Island when “General” Gregor McGregor sailed into Fernandina and the Spanish authority hastened retreat. This occupation by English forces was ended by the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1818. Finally, in 1821, without the exchange of actual cash, America purchased the rights to Florida, and the Spanish flag was lowered while the 23 starred flag of the United States was raised at Fernandina.

1862 St. Mary's River and Fernandina harbor, Florida

The Semblance of Spanish Authority, 1785-1816

After the English government ceded control of Florida over to the Spanish, Amelia Island citizens found themselves under control of yet another government, with their titles to land in question. All that Spain required was a change of allegiance from England to Spain. Out of this question of land title, and the Patriots refusal to change allegiance was born the Republic of Florida.

Pigeon Creek Primitive Baptist Church

History of Pigeon Creek Primitive Baptist Church

When Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, the Pigeon Creek Baptist Church was the only known Protestant Church within it's territory. This article provides a brief history of the founding of the church by Nassau County residents, It's original organizational document and a list of those who signed it, minutes from the early meetings, and a few tombstone readings from it's picturesque cemetery.

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