|2nd Spanish Period
The 2nd Spanish period was set with difficulties almost before it began. John Cruden began a plot to
seize control of the colony when the British received the news of the transfer by the Treaty of Paris.
Governor Vizente Manuel de Zespedes
The new Spanish governor was Governor Vizente Manuel de Zespedes. He was a sixty-three year old
veteran of the army commanding an advance force of 500 soldiers. He arrived on June 26 on the San
Matias. Zespedes met with British Governor Patrick Tonyn and gave him the official papers signed by
King George III. The formal ceremony transferring control to the Spanish occurred July 12, 1784. On
July 14 Zespedes issues a proclamation announcing the beginning of his governorship. Arriving with the
convoy was Father Miguel O'Reilly and Father Francisco Traconis. Father Camps celebrated a
thanksgiving mass the next day. By September Father Thomas Hassett reached East Florida. The
transfer took one year. A census was made to determine who would be staying. The last English officials
left in June of 1785. The last of the British subjects were gone in December, 1785. The remaining
English influence was the firm of Paton, Leslie and Company that the Spanish kept to trade with the
Zespedes held his Indian meeting in 1784 with ex-Governor Tonyn. In March Cowkeeper or Secoffee,
the Seminole chief, had died. This made the transition easier since Cowkeeper was anti-Spanish.
An Opportunity of Freedom - Zespedes Proclamation of July 26, 1784
This proclamation prohibited any of the departing ships from taking passengers of any color status
without a license from Zespedes. Blacks had twenty days to clarify their status and obtain a work
permit. At least 251 of these were made to the Spanish government. The British protested but to no
This attitude carried over into the return of runaway slaves from Georgia with the governor affirming that
East Florida would not cooperate with Georgia on the return of runaway slaves because Georgia had
not seen first to cooperate prior to 1763. "One of the provisions of the old rule is that no fugitive Negro
from Georgia be returned , as the London court refused to reciprocate." Vincente Manuel de Zespedes
to John Houstoun Governor of Georgia November 28, 1784.
Thomas Bell - Pirates
January 24, 1785 a pirate attack took place at Jesse Fish's home on Anastasia Island. Four men
anchored west of the island and rowed to shore. After looting the house they returned to their boat
except for Thomas Bell who fell wounded. He died on the town plaza and his body was shown on the
gallows of the Castillo the next day.
Return of Slaves
May 17, 1790 a royal order was issued directing the Governor of East Florida to apprehend and lock
up all Negroes escaping from the United States and return them to after those claiming ownership had
proved their ownership and paid costs.
The probable date for the building of the current Tovar house is post 1791 when Geronimo Alvarez
bought the property.
Father Thomas Hassett
Father Thomas Hassett was a new priest for St. Augustine in 1783. Father Miguel O'Reilly was another
Irish priest who had trained in Spain. Father Francisco Troconis y Rosas was appointed by Governor
Zespedes "to teach the poor without charge." He was the chaplain of the Royal Hospital. In 1791 Father
Troconis was promoted to Cuba. Father Hassett started (or continued) the school from 1787. To see
how busy the Fathers were see the baptism list for 1800. Another important Irish person in the city was
Carlos Howard, the secretary of the government.
The original parish church was located where A1A Alehouse is today. It was called Nuestra Senora de
los Remedios. The second parish church was located on St. George Street south of the plaza. On
February 13, 1788 government officials, at the urging of Father Hassett, ordered work to begin on a
suitable Catholic Church. The Spanish crown approved the plans in March of 1790. The Cathedral was
started in 1793 in Spanish mission style. It represents the oldest Catholic congregation in the United
States with records dating back to the 16th century. The original architect was Mariano de la Rocque.
The contractor was Don Miguel Ysnardy (who acquired the title of Steward of the building).
The Cathedral (picture) was dedicated on December 8, 1797 the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
There are three people buried inside the Cathedral: Father Camps, Don Miguel Ysnardy, and Father
Font who died within a year of his arrival in St. Augustine (January 13, 1793). The Cathedral has parts
of the old Numbre de Dios, Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Tolomato, and Nuestra Senora de la
Soledad within its building stones as they were all torn down for the building of the Cathedral. (Deaths
from 1784 - 1809)
16 Feb 1800
Penalver to White
Don Miguel Ysnardy, Captain of Militia, Coucilman and general Depositary has served for years as
Steward of Building of St. Augustine wih zeal and honor acording to the information given me by
Privisor the Don Thomas Hassett.
He has petitioned me to dispatch him the formal title and desirous of doing so without prejudice to the
regalia of the Royal Patronage which you exercise I propose it to you so that with your consent I am
executing it. God guard you many years.
Don Manuel Solana House
This house at 20 Charlotte Street was located on the site of much earlier houses including a tabby house.
Manuel Solana built the house after 1788. The house later became the home of Oliver Bronson, Jr. a
county commissioner after the Civil War. The house stands as a good example of Spanish Colonial
architecture of the 2nd Spanish period. The main section of the house was constructed of coquina. This
house has a loggia built on the rear (visible from Aviles Street). The flooring is all wood.
Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada and the Rebellion of 1795
1790 saw the arrival of a new Governor --- Juan Nepomuceno de Quesada. In June of 1795 East
Florida was invaded by Georgians and unhappy Floridians. The invaders were able to capture Fort
Juana (June 30) on July 9 the invaders who were comprised of former British subjects, American
transplants into Florida and Georgians crossed the St. Johns River. They were lead by Richard Lang, a
local trouble maker. San Nicholas was overrun and Lieut Ignacio Lopez and 28 members of the Catalan
Light Infantry were captured. The San Simon, a Spanish gunboat, and its crew were also captured.
They flew the French flag over the forts. By August 2 the captives were abandoned and the rebels had
retreated north of the St. Mary's River. 67 people were considered rebels by the Spanish government.
Daniel Hogans, Richard Malpas, Solomon King, and George Arons died in the Castillo as prisoners.
Francis Goodwin went insane. None of the sentences were carried out.
Chapel in the Castillo
This time period also saw the building of the Chapel in the Castillo. This was also engineered by
Mariano de la Rocque.
Because the Georgians did not comply with the terms of the 1791 agreement on runaway slaves with the
Georgians trying to show legal claims with simply a sworn statement. The agreement was officially
St. John's Eve
St. John's Eve, June 23, was a one observer described it, "the great drama of this light-hearted people,"
a time of general merrymaking based on the ancient summer solstice celebration. Maskers delighted in
dressing up as highborn persons of the opposite sex -- the women representing the ancient chivalry on
gaily comparisoned steeds, and the men wearing the trappings of the ancient dames. This small carnival,
which sometimes stretched to three days, featured posey dances, parades and heavily decorated altars
set up all over town where young dark-eyed girls offered bouquets to male passersby who took their
State of Muskogee
In 1795, along with the Seminoles, William August Bowles formed a short-lived state in northern
Florida known as the "State of Muskogee", with himself as its "Director General". In 1800, declared war
on Spain. Bowles operated two schooners and boasted of a force of 400 frontiersmen, former slaves,
Spain offered $6,000 and 1,500 kegs of rum for his capture. He was transported to Madrid Charles IV
of Spain's attempted to make him change sides. He then escaped, commandeering a ship and returning
to the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1803, not long after having declared himself 'Chief of all Indians present' at a trial council, he was
betrayed and turned over to the Spanish and died in prison in Havana two years later.
The United States took note (From Carlos Martínez de Yrujo in St. Augustine):
18 May 1803. James Madison knows how much trouble “the Adventurer Bowles” has given Spain.
Was assured in his conference with James Madison and Dearborn that the U.S. would take efficacious
measures to apprehend Bowles whenever he was in U.S. territory. Encloses a copy of a letter just
received from Henry White, governor of East Florida, reporting that “the Incendiary Bowles” is within U.
S. territory. Friendship and the shared interest of Spain and the U.S. in cutting the thread of the intrigues
and machinations of “this daring Adventurer,” as well as the spirit of the [Pinckney] treaty, require the U.
S. government to take the most active measures to apprehend Bowles. Does not doubt that James
Madison desire to promote the peace and welfare of U.S. citizens and harmony between the U.S. and
Spain will lead to his giving this request the attention it merits and that Bowles, if within the U.S., will be
Enrique White and General Jorge Biassou
.On June 5, 1796 Enrique White became the governor. He would remain governor through 1811. Don
Enrique White was a Dublin-born man before he became the Governor. He was born in 1741 and from
the age of 22 spent his life in the service of the Spanish Crown. He served some time as an officer in the
Louisiana Regiment. He never married and owned no real estate. He owned several slaves Jorge
purchased in 1789 from Brigadier Don Eugenio O'Neill, Col of the Irish Regiment. Josefa Simona
(female) purchased in St Augustine from Antonio Berta. Gracia purchased the same year from his
predecessor in office Brigadier Don Juan Nepomuceno Quesada. They were all freed at his death.
In January of 1796 General Jorge Biassou, his wife Romana Jacobo and twenty-three of his followers
arrived in St. Augustine from Havana, Cuba. General Biassou was given command of a black militia unit
in the summer of 1800 to reconnoiter and provide intelligence south of St. Augustine at the plantation of
Josiah Dupont near Matanzas. On July 14, 1801 General Biassou died at his home in St. Augustine and
was buried in the Tolomato cemetery. (See Reconstructed Houses for information on General Biassou's
Treaty of Friendship with the United States
On August 2, 1796 the United States and Spain proclaimed a treaty of friendship. One point that would
be used against East and West Florida was article 5 which talked about controling the Indians within the
American and Spanish borders. This would be used to justify invasions of East and West Florida and
the First Seminole War. (See Treaty)
In 1800 a congress of Seminoles and Lower Creeks elected adventurer, William Augustus Bowles,to be
the director of their new State of Moskogee, which promptly declared war on Spain. For the next three
years, Bowle's followers wreaked havoc in Florida. They raided plantations and supplies outside St.
Augustine, and abducted and killed slaves and settlers.
A Small fire in the Church
7 Nov 1800
White to O'Reilly
I find very convenient the proceeding that in your letter of yesterday you intimate should be used to find
out if there was any delinquency in the unfortunate fire which reduced to ashes the Altar of this Church
where the Image of Our Lady of the Rosary was located and who is culpable of it. But for that it will be
necessary for you to be pleased to inform me if in addition to the Sacristan, whose carelessness inclines
one to believe he was careless of the misfortune, there is any other person who severs in the Church
could give the reason for it, so that with this news I may be pleased to govern and institute the
proceeding which I am going to begin without prejudice to the Ecclesiastical jurisdiction which I will aid
as the circumstances require.
1800 Illness of Governor White
Lieutenant Colonel Morales and royal auditor Zamorano held positions of leadership in 1800 due to the
illness of Governor White from 1800-01.
Governor Don Enrique White died in the city of St. Augustine on April 13, 1811. Lorenzo Capo for 40
years the sexton of the church was appointed the director of the funeral ceremonies and a catafalque of
wood covered with black cloth was built by Antonio Llambias who also made the wooden coffin. The
body was prepared for burial by Andres Pacetti, the barber, and Maria de la Luz and Maria Molla, who
also made a pair of back cloth shoes for the corpse. Preparation for the burial included an 8 pecos
shave for the corpse. The ladies also bathed and dressed the corpse.
The priest was Father Miguel Crosby. A gravestone was to be made measuring 6 feet long by 3 feet
wide and 2 inches thick. This should be somewhere in Tolomato Cemetary.
Attack by the Miccouskee Indians on Dupont and Boelli Plantations
In 1802 an attack was made on the plantations of Dupont and Bonelli 30 miles south of St. Augustine.
The elder son, Thomas Bonelli, was killed in the attack and his body was taken to St. Augustine. Joseph
Bonelli's wife and family were held captive by the Mioccouskees for almost two years (see Slave Claims
for full depositions.) The Miccouskee band would later become part of the Seminole nation.
Father Felix Varella
Father Felix Varella (picture of St. Augustine sculpture) spent his boyhood in St. Augustine at this time
with his grandfather, an officer in the Castillo. He went to Spain and participated in the creation of the
1812 Spanish Constitution. He was buried in the Tolomato Cemetery but later removed to Cuba
Geronimo Alvarez and the 1812 Constitution Monument
The monument in the plaza was built in 1813 by the Constitutional City Council of St. Augustine with
Geronimo Alvarez (owner of the Oldest House) as mayor under the superintendence of Don Fernando
de la Maza Arrendondo. In response to the new constitution as were monuments over Latin America.
The King was restored to the throne, the constitution was disregarded, Father Varela fled to New York
under sentence of death. The monument in the plaza survived the transfer of Spanish Florida to America
because of the refusal of Alvarez to allow it to be torn down and it may be the only surviving monument
in honor of the March 9, 1812 Constitution. Father Varela returns to St. Augustine and lived in what is
today the courtyard of the Cathedral not far from the Constitution monument.
Father Miguel O'Reilly
Father Miguel O'Reilly held school in St. Augustine. His house on Aviles Street was restored and
opened as a museum by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
The 2nd Spanish period saw the building of the City Gate . The gate was built in 1808. This replaced the
wooden opening that had been placed there in 1739 called La Leche Gate. The engineer was Captain
Manuel de Hita who recommended a masonry replacement of the wood guard houses. The new gate
was called the "Land Gate". . The two four foot square coquina pillars frame an opening 12 feet wide.
Each pillar is 14 feet high. The twin towers of white masony were trimmed with red plaster and each
roof was capped with a pomegranate the symbol of fertility.
Patriot Rebellion (See Defenses of St. Augustine)
Another threat to Spanish control occurred in the Patriot Rebellion that started on March 13, 1812.
John Houston McIntosh was the leader of this rebellion that was supported by the U.S. Government.
Governor Juan de Estrada stopped them at Fort Mose (almost the gates of St. Augustine). In June of
1812 the new governor, Sebastian Kindelan worked with the Seminoles to enlist them in a fight against
the invaders. After an ambush of Captain John Williams (U.S.M.C.) by Seminoles and blacks the
Americans pulled back to the St. Johns River. By May, 1813 the American troops were gone. Prince
Witten (Juan Bautista) the son-in-law of Biassou was the leader of the black militia that defeated
Captain Williams. Whitten was an excaped slave from Georgia in 1786. His family was baptized in 1792
and his marriage was blessed by the Catholic church.
St. Augustine will soon fall (New Hampshire Patriot, 5/12/1812)
St. Augustine, by the last accounts, was in possession of the Spaniards. All the young soldiers had
deserted from the garrison, leaving about 60 or 70 old men, who it was expected could not long hold
out, as they were in possession of but little provision. The U. S. brig Vixen had lately arrived at Amelia
Island from before St. Augustine. While our gunboats were at St. Augustine, there were in the harbor
two or three small English armed vessels. While cruising off that place the Vixen fell in with the British
brig Colibri, of more than equal force, with who it was expect she might have a brush. Everything was
prepared on board both vessels for an engagement. The finally passed each other without hailing.
On January 1814 the Constitucion Monument was placed in the Plaza de la Constitucion. While the
Spanish constitution was overturned the monument and its tablets remained.
A new governor, Jose Coppinger arrived in St. Augustine in 1815.
Green Flag Republic
In 1817 at Fernandina, Gregor McGregor would proclaim the Green Flag Republic. When this failed
Luis Aury raised the flag of Mexico over Fernandina and declared himself the head. Finally the U.S. sent
troops and they would remain in Fernandina until the end of the 2nd Spanish period.
In 1817 the church had Father Crosby from Wexford, Ireland and a Franciscan priest for the garrison.
Reinforcements (American Daily Advertiser, July 13, 1818)
Capt. Bateson, of the sloop Frolic, who arrived here yesterday morning (Charleston), left St. Augustine
on Thursday. He informs us, that a Spanish corvette of 26 guns, a brig of 20 guns and an hermahrodite
brig of 18 guns, arrived off that place on Sunday last in a short passage from Havana, having under
convoy the schooners Barbarita and Santo Rosa, loaded with munitions of war, clothing, provisions, and
about 20,000 dollars in doubloons, for the use and pay of the soldiers at that post.
Carnival (Fairbanks, The Spaniards in Florida)
Masks, dominoes, harlequins, punchinellos, and a great variety of grotesque disguises, on horseback, in
cars, gigs, and on foot, paraded the streets with guitars, violins, and other instruments; and in the
evenings, the houses were open to receive masks, and balls were given in every direction. I was told that
in their better days, when their pay was regularly remitted from the Havana, these amusements were
admirably conducted, and the rich dresses exhibited on these occasions, were not eclipsed by their more
fashionable friends in Cuba; but poverty had lessened their spirit for enjoyment, as well as the means for
procuring it; enough, however, remained to amuse an idle spectator.
1819 Description of St. Augustine from New England Palladium & Commercial Advertiser
Boston, MA 7/6/1819
A letter from a gentleman in the South, to his friend in Washington City , gives the following description
of the town and fortress of St. Augustine :
As I have just returned from St. Augustine , (on a jaunt of curiosity,) I presume a description of the
place will not be uninteresting to you
St. Augustine is situated on the Main , about two miles within the bar, immediately opposite the inlet ; it
is not passable for vessel drawing over fifteen feet of water. The Island of Matanzies runs nearly parallel
with the ocean, and forms a point of the south end of St. Augustine inlet. This is principally solid rock,
composed of the concretion of shells, and is what is generally made use of for building in the city, and is
hewn out in large blocks. It is better calculated for the construction of fortification than any other material
I am acquainted with and with proper cement, forms a solid mass of rock.
Fort St. Marks is built of this rock, and presents a most formidable appearance upon entering the
harbour. It is situated on the northern extremity of the City of St. Augustine , commanding the entrance
of the harbor, and is sufficiently elevated to secure the city from attacks from that quarter. In the rear of
the city in an impenetrable marsh, nearly encircling it ; on the margin of which are erected six redoubts.
The fort is twenty feet high and the walls twelve feet thick; it mounts 36 guns ; it is four square, with a
bastion at each corner, each mounting eight 24 pounders with a glacis encircling the work.
The city contains about 500 houses, built of the kind of stone before described ; has a population of
5,000 souls, principally Minorcans and natives of the province. There are the remains of a convent and
government house the latter occupied by black troops. The Catholic Church resembles an old Gothic
building. The city exhibits the remains of ancient splendor, but is now evidently going to decay.
The situation of the country contiguous is very low, but exceeding well adapted to the cultivation of
vegetables of every description in the southern country. The atmosphere is perhaps less humid than any
country I have been in, and is, I conceive, better calculated for northern constitutions than any southern
station I have visited.
Fish in great abundance is to be caught in the harbor, but, owing to the indolence of the inhabitants, the
market is badly supplied. Oranges are indigenous in this section of the country, also many other delicious
The lands on the river St. Johns are considered the most fertile, and most advantageously situated for
planters ; after passing twenty miles up, it changes its direction, and runs parallel with the ocean for 150
miles. I am under the impressions that the port of St. Johns will be particularly well calculated for
commercial men, and men of enterprise, as the bar is much better, and after passing the bar, vessels may
go one hundred and fifty miles without the least impediment.
A Posey Dance (A Brief Account of St Augustine and its environs, John Whitney 1873)
The females of the family erect in a room of their house a neat little arbor, dressed with pots and
garlands of flowers, and lit up brightly with candles. This is understood by the gentlemen as an invitation
to drop in and admire the beauty of their decorations. In the meantime, the lady who has prepared it,
selects a partner from among her visitors, and in token of her preference, honors him with a bouquet of
flowers. The gentleman who receives the bouquet becomes then, for the once, king of the ball, and leads
out the fair donor as queen of the dance; the others take partners, and the ball is thus inaugurated, and
may continue several successive evenings. Should the lady's choice fall upon an unwilling swain, which
seldom happened, he could be excused by assuming the expenses of the entertainment. These
assemblies were always informal, and frequented by all classes, all meeting on a level; but were
conducted with the utmost politeness and decorum, for which the Spanish character is so distinguished.
Another tradition was on Good Friday a man representing St. Peter dressed in rags delighted groups of
boys lying in wait around town by throwing his mullet net to capture them.
Houses built during 2nd Spanish period that are still part of St. Augustine today: Canova - de Medicis
House, Ximenez-Fatio House , Segui-Smith House, Gaspar Papy , Pedro Fornells, Manuel Solana
House and the Huertas-Canova House (Prince Morat House).
Why the United States was worried about Florida
To James Madison from Edmond Kelly, [ca. 30] October 1817
I do not like to dwell on the weakness of the country but a little attention to east Florida by a majority of
Congress (not like Marrt of this District orangemen) would be desirable & a purchase of it at double the value
preferable to any aggression on Spain Direct or indirect—one Gibtr is sufft for England for unless all the
republic from Savanna to Pittsburgh is abandoned you Cannot permitt her to occupy east florida—as to what I
recommend respecting the Estabt of Manufactures of Cotton Woollen cloths Delf & Hardware it is
unnecessary for me [to] argue to a Statesman that self preservation require them—british monopoly is the
sword which murders freedom & what freeman would not break it—it is a good Example which others may
follow—as my ruin is Identified with the success of british Intrigues I hope you will excuse this obtrusion of
my sentiments I seek no confidence or Emolument & anxious only to defend myself no traitors Censures can
affect your obt st
However another version would be the safe haven it gave escaped slaves. The First Seminole War was
basically a war against escaped slaves. British Florida would have been well defended by the British Empire.
Spanish Florida was a lawless state.
Letter from Adams to Onis
The pressure had been on Spain since 1805 to turn Florida over to the United States. See copy of letter from
Adams to Onis over the state of affairs of East Florida and especially Fernandina.
The end of the 2nd Spanish period came with the Onis-Adams Treaty on February 22, 1819. The cost
would be 5 million dollars which was the same amount that the United States claimed that Spain owed
because of the capturing of American ships in the quasi war with France in the 1790s. James Monroe
was President of the United States and John Quincy Adams was his Secretary of State. The treaty was
ratified and the flags were exchanged on July 10, 1821.
At 5:00 A.M. the Spanish flag was raised over the Castillo de San Marcos for the last time. 3:00 p.m.
The Tartar crossed the inlet. After the governor signed the official document transferring East Florida to
the US the Spanish flag was lowered and the American warships Tartar and Revenge gave a 21 gun
salute. 338 Spanish soldiers with 67 wives and children set sail for Cuba along with 173 government
employees with their wives and children. 68 free blacks and 94 slaves, 205 residents and 17 military
prisoners also left.
Spanish and some Timucuan vocabulary help
Go to American Territorial
|Dr. Bronson's St. Augustine History
2nd Spanish Period
1784 - 1821
ab urbe condita - 219 to 256
"Oblectat me, Roma, twas spectare ruinas;
Ex cujus lapsu gloria prisca patet."
|Constitution Monument and Government House
St. Augustine, Florida. Monument
Creator(s): Cooley, Sam A. (Samuel A.), photographer
Date Created/Published: [between 1861 and 1869]
St. Augustine, Florida. Catholic Church
Creator(s): Cooley, Sam A. (Samuel A.), photographer
Date Created/Published: [between 1861 and 1869]
St. Augustine, Florida. Entrance gate
Creator(s): Cooley, Sam A. (Samuel A.), photographer
Date Created/Published: [between 1861 and 1869]
|Chapel of St. Marks at Castillo
Library of Congress HABS
|U. S. Map
|William Augustus Bowles
|President James Monroe
|John Quincy Adams
Secretary of State
|John Houston McIntosh
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