Florida was the last settled of the eastern states. Its settlement and pioneer period was actually contemporary with the states of the west. The peninsula was controlled by the Spanish, though the French and the British both tried to control the area. The earliest colonies of North America were settled here but died out quickly as they insisted on massacring each other. Eventually, the Americans bought it/won it through treaty from the Spanish.
Harsh clashes between the Seminole Indians and the Americans marked the early history of Florida. The Seminoles harbored free and run-away slaves making the struggle even more bitter . . . GO SEMINOLES! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist). The Seminoles did not win this one in the end however and they were mostly forcibly removed from their lands.
By the time of the Civil War, there were cotton plantations worked by black slaves in Florida plus a few small struggling family homesteads, but the population of the state was very small. So though they seceded with the rest of the southern states their distance and small population prevented the state from taking a very large role in the Civil War.
In the 1920’s tourism took off in Florida and the state gained a new economic base to grow from. Today Florida is the fourth most populous state in the union, inhabited by retirees and Hispanics, especially from Cuba and other Caribbean islands, in large numbers.
Fun Facts about Florida
- Florida is basically a big sandbar. It rains a lot but is still parched because the water just pours straight through the soil.
- Alligators wander through some neighborhoods at will. Some people have fences that completely enclose their yards, roofs and all, to keep these pests away.
- Space Program launches have always been based in Florida at Cape Canaveral.
- St. Augustine, FL is the oldest European settlement in North America.
- The states official stone is the “moonstone” which is not native to Florida, nor does it come from the moon. I guess they thought it sounded cool.
- Swamps like the Everglades clean water, provide habitat for plants and animals and prevent flooding.
- Lots of people go waterskiing in Florida with the alligators. If you fall, you have to curl up in a ball and play dead until the boat comes to pick you up.
- There are two different Withlacoochee rivers in Florida. Same name, different places.
Map of Florida Exploration
Color a Florida Map.
Here are some things to add to your map:
- St. Petersburg
- The Florida Keys
- The Everglades
- Atlantic Ocean
- Gulf of Mexico
You can add other features and cities depending on the ages of your children.
- Learn more about the Seminole Indians.
- Many people aided runaway slaves in the years preceding the Civil War. Learn more about them. Do you think it was right for them to break the law in this case? Why? When is it okay to break the law?
- The earliest European settlements were in Florida. Find out more about the wars and massacres that took place between the French and Spanish during this time.
- The illusory Fountain of Youth was thought to be in Florida for a time. Learn more about Ponce de Leon and his ill-fated expedition.
- One of the biggest tourist draws in Florida is Disney World. Find out the history of this hugely successful company and its founder, Walt.
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