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FACT versus FICTION
for the new
Historical St. Augustine
A review in support of Dr. Verne E. Chatelain's declaration: "The program at St. Augustine must be absolutely sound historically without any flimflams or phoney stories"
By CHARLES B. REYNOLDS
Member Florida Historical Society and Florida State
MOUNTAIN LAKES, N. J.
PUBLISHED BY THE AUTHOR
The history of the town's beginnings current in St. Augustine today is of a dual nature. On the one hand it is as chronicled by contemporary writers some of whom had personal part in the events recorded. On the other hand it has been invented within the past thirty years by persons ignorant of or contemptuous of the original contemporaneous records.
The two elements are discrepant, contradictory and irreconcilable. To believe one is to disbelieve the other. To accept one is to reject the other. One being true and the other different one being therefore necessarily untrue, to accept the true is to be informed; to accept the untrue is to be deluded.
Both elements are considered in the following pages. The purpose of their presentation is to assist readers to distinguish between them, and by the evidence here afforded to determine for themselves what is "absolutely sound historically" and what is "flimflam and phoney story", and thus to be informed and not suffer themselves to be deluded.
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Title page (reduced) of the 1601 edition of Herrera's History, in which is recorded the voyage of Ponce de Leon. %wA~I
Fact vs. Fiction for Historical St. Augustine
The National Committee
The project of a Preserved and Restored Historical St. Augustine has been hailed with wide acclaim. Mayor Walter B. Fraser has associated with himself a National Committee, with President John C. Merriam of the Carnegie Institution of Washington as chairman, to direct and sponsor the undertaking. The committee membership of men distinguished in their special fields and the scientific, educational and other institutions represented afford reason for confidence that the planned city will be a truly historical St. Augustine. The committee consists of the following members: Dr. John C. Merriam, President Carnegie Institution of Washington, Dr. B. F. Ashe, President University of Miami. Dr. Herbert E. Bolton, Professor of History, University of California. Most Reverend Patrick Barry, D.D., Bishop of St. Augustine. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Virginia.
President Joshua C. Chase, Florida Historical Society. Dr. E. Conradi, President Florida State College for Women. Dr. Verne E. Chatelain, late National Park Service, now Carnegie Institution.
E. Carlos, Vice-Consul of Spain, Jacksonville. Judge David R. Dunham, President St. Augustine Historical Society. Rev. P. W. Du Bose, President Palmer College, De Funiack Spgs., Fla. Dr. H. K. Eckenrode, Director Division History and Archives, Virginia. Hon. Wilbur C. Hall, Chairman Virginia State Commission Conservation and Development.
Dr. Herbert E. Kahler, Head Southeastern Division, National Park
Dr. A. V. Kidder, Chairman Historical Research, Carnegie Institution. Dr. Waldo G. Leland, Permanent Secretary Council of Learned Societies, Washington.
Dr. William E. Lingelbach, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania.
Scott M. Loftin, former U. S. Senator from Florida, Past-President
American Bar Association.
Very Rev, James Nunan, D.D., Vicar-General Diocese of St. Augustine. Leonard Outhwaite, Archaeologist, New York. Dr. Matthew W. Stirling, Chief Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian
Rt. Rev. Abbot Francis Sadlier, D.D., President St. Leo Academy, Branch Spalding, Acting Director Division of Historic Sites and Buildings, National Park Service.
Dr. John J. Tigert, President University of Florida.
The Rule Controlling the National Committee
In a public address, Jan. 21, Dr. Verne E. Chatelain, director of the preliminary survey, declared:
"The program at St. Augustine must be absolutely sound historically without any flimflams or phoney stories."
This expresses the spirit and rule of action controlling the National Committee. The restored historical St. Augustine will not contain anything which is.not absolutely sound historically. There will be in it no flimflam, no phoney story, no mercenary duping the unsuspecting visitor.
Even had not Dr. Chatelain stated the rule it would have been taken for granted. A genuine historical city cannot be other than absolutely sound historically. Men of the caliber and character of the National Committee members and the institutions they represent would not stand for flimflams and phoney stories in a St. Augustine they were called upon to sponsor as absolutely sound historically. An intelligent public would not respect nor have confidence in a so-called historical St. Augustine were it a hybrid of fact and fiction.
There are in St. Augustine certain objects and institutions which are reputed to be of historical interest and are represented to tourists as such, but the real history of which has been perverted because of popular ignorance of their past. Such are the State Arsenal and the former Post Office. Others are declared flimflams, pure and simple, concocted by cupidinous women for the mercenary hoaxing of tourists. Such are the Oldest House in the United States and the Fountain of Youth. It is manifest that the questioned features of both these classes may not be incorporated in the restored historical St. Augustine of the future unless and until investigation shall have relieved them of the charges made against them and shall have proved them to be genuinely historical. The making of such an investigation rests with the National Committee as a foundation of its findings. It was an obligation incurred when the members assumed the undertaking to create a St. Augustine absolutely sound historically. The inquiry is dictated by prudence for their own protection, lest unwittingly they may be committed to deception of the public. The truth should be determined for the protection of the institutions they represent and in behalf of those who coming here as tourists shall be entitled to receive only the facts of history. President Merriam would not commit himself and the Carnegie Institution of Washington to endorsement of the "Oldest House in the United States," President Tigert would not commit himself and the University of Florida to the endorsement of the "Fountain of Youth," President Chase would not commit himself and the Florida Historical Society to the endorsement of the "Slave
Market"-unless each of these should have been proved absolutely sound historically.
If these things now characterized as hoaxes were to be carried over into the new St. Augustine they would still be characterized as hoaxes there, and the purpose of achieving a genuine historical St. Augustine would end in futility.
The Fact-Finding Committee
A National Committee investigation would not be the first of this nature. In 1930, at the instance of Mayor Geo. W. Bassett, Jr., the City Commission provided a Historical Fact-Finding Commission (later called Committee) to investigate all historical spots and points of interest and report the truth concerning them. The reports were to be officially adopted by the City Commission and filed in the City Hall as the "legal" history of each subject. The findings were to be promulgated by brass markers, and an ordinance was drafted to make the disputing of any such legal history an unlawful act.
The City Attorney wrote, Sept. 25, 1930: "The Fact-Finding Committee has made its report to the City. The City Commission has not yet examined this report and therefore is not in a position to bring a suit against anyone. The City Commission has not passed any Ordinance so I do not know whether or not they intend to attempt to make the' 'action civil or penal . Nothing has been legalized by Ordinance nor will it be until it is thoroughly understood by the City Commission."
The Fad-Finding Commission appointed July 7, 1930, consisted of: Harold Colee, President St. Augustine Historical Society. Herbert Felkel, Editor St. Augustine Evening Record, Chairman. Morton Matting, M.D., Tourist. Nina Hawkins, Member D.A.R. Robert Ranson, Historian. Geo. W. Bassett, Jr., Mayor. (Of these Felkel, Ranson and Bassett are no longer living.) Subsequently the Historical Society was joined to act with the Committee, and the markers are authorized by both. The method adopted by the Committee, as afterward explained, was that by direction of the chairman the members were to accept without question whatever was told them by the historian. Thus the marker legends throughout are the arbitrary and irresponsible assertions of one man.
The Cordova Street Marker
One of the first markers was set up on Cordova Street at the west end of the Post Office Park. It reads:
"For three hundred years up to 1885 this street, then called Tolomato, was the west boundary of St. Augustine, protected by seven redoubts.
"On this site stood El Rosario built of stone defending the Governor's residence ."
The term of 300 years back from 1885 extends to 1585, the year before Drake's raid. Whether there was a street here then and what relation its line had to the west boundary of the town of that day is unknown and unknowable, because beyond the realm of historical research.*
Nor need it be known, for the National Committee will find in recorded history evidence showing. that the marker is false. The evidence is in the act of the Legislative Council incorporating the city and defining its boundaries as follows: Act of Dec. 28, 1824:
"... That all the free white male inhabitants of the County of St. Johns, residing within the limits of the City of St. Augustine, bounded east by the waters of the harbour, south and west by the river St. Sebastian, and on the north by a line fifteen hundred yards north of the gate of Fort St. Mark's (sic) ; and their successors, be and remain for the term of eight years a body politic and corporate ..."
This was repealed in 1831 by an act making the northern boundary "a line drawn east and west, commencing at low water mark on the North Beach, and running west to the river St. Sebastian, so as to indude Bar Creek; thence along the western shore of said river to its mouth."
Surveyed on the line of King Street Cordova Street is approximately 1,000 feet west of the seawall. From Cordova Street west to east side of the San Sebastian is about 2,700 feet. Thus, the FactFinding Committee and the Historical Society with their brass marker blotted out two-thirds of the land area of St. Augustine prior to 1885 as ruthlessly as Drake had burned the entire town in 1586. The City Commission has legalized the finding and made lawful our belief in the marker. But legalizing it does not make it true.
The so-called redoubt El Rosario was a lunette of the coquina wall which at one period surrounded the area now the Post Office Park. It was taken down some time prior to 1873. Report at the time said this was done to open a view for the Sunnyside House west of Tolomato street. The entire wall was removed in 1873 at the time the south wing of the Court House was demolished.
*The Fact-Finding Committee could not have traced a Tolomato street by this name back to Drake's tune, for the name was not given to the street until about 1661, after the Indians of Tolomato a village in Guale (now a part of Georgia) had moved down to St. Augustine. They established a village near the city, and gave it the name of the Guale Tolomato from which they had come. (See John Tate Lanning: The Spanish Missions in Georgia, p. 210; and Rev. Michael Kenny: The Romance of the Floridas, p. 347. The Franciscan martyr Father Corpa was murdered in the Guale Tolomato in 1597. By a confusion of the two villages bearing the name, the Guale Tolomato tragedy is sometimes erroneously said to have occurred in the St. Augustine Tolomato.
The Old Plaza Market
The open pavilion at the east end of the Plaza bears a marker reading:
"From 1603 to 1765 there stood on this site the Guard House and Watch Tower. Under British Possession it became the Mal*ket and Place of Public Auction ever since called the Slave Market."
"This tablet authorized by the following committee appointed by the City of St. Augustine, Florida, July, 2, 1930. Harold Colee, Prest., St. Augustine Historical Society. Col. Herbert Felkel, Editor, St. Augustine Record. C. Morton Matting, M.D., Tourist. Nina Hawkins, Member D.A.R. Robert Ranson, Historian. Geo. D. Bassett, Jr., Mayor."
This marker, like that on Cordova street and others, is an example of the way men and women will unhesitatingly put their names to a false statement purporting to give the history of something concerning which they have not the slightest knowledge. The sense of responsibility impelling one to determine the truth or the untruth of a proposed marker legend seems to have been entirely lacking, and the result is that their names are cast in brass as sponsors of such a misleading statement as the one here.
If the National Committee, seeking to learn the facts were to interrogate Messrs. Colee and Matting and Miss Hawkins, it would be disclosed that not one of these had any knowledge to justify his or her subscription to the marker as authentic history.
"Ever since called" means ever since "British possession" ending in 1783, through the second Spanish occupation ending in 1821, and
THE PLAZA MARKET FALSELY CALLED "SLAVE MARKET."
thence down through our own times to the present. But the building was not erected until 1840 and before that date could not have been "called" by any name whatever because it was non-existent.
The implication of the marker is that in 1840 the people of St. Augustine erected the building here on this conspicuous mid-town site intending it for a slave market and naming it "The Slave Market." St. Augustine never had a "slave market" in the proper sense in which the term is used. Sales of slaves were occasional and infrequent. There was no commerce in them calling for a slave market, such as the institutions in New Orleans and elsewhere. And such sales as there were, The Florida Herald files show, were customarily "in front of the Court House" at the other end of the Plaza. Further the records demonstate conclusively that even when used in connection with slaves the name of the market was the "Public Market," and that this was the official designation and the one employed in legal documents.
The Plaza Market was designed, built and used for the sale of food supplies-meat, vegetables (and perhaps originally fish, though at a later period there was a fish market near the basin). Not until after the Civil War, when tourists from north of Mason and Dixon's Line came to St. Augustine, avid for things savoring of what they had read about in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," was the market dubbed "Slave Market," much to the astonishment and indignation of the Hopkins, Anderson, Peck, Sanchez, Hernandez, Pellicer, Lopez and other old families. An enterprising photographer adopted the title to stimulate his sales, and gradually the fake has grown until today it has the endorsement of the very ones whom Mayor Bassett commissioned to discover the truth and publish it and has been legalized by the City Commission.
Never called a slave market when slavery was in force, falsely called a slave market after slavery had passed away, the unique structure cannot historically be preserved in the restored city of the future as a reminder of the "Old unhappy far off things" of slavery years, nor otherwise than as what it actually was in the city's life.
Mr. Harris's School House
In 1920 W. J. Harris, business manager of the Historical Society, was selling shingles from the roof of the hoax oldest house in the United States. In 1937 he is selling postcards of the hoax "oldest frame house in U.S.A." The Historical Society and the Fact Finding Committee have marked the house as "The oldest building of wood in the city," and as built in 1776 by Juan Genoply who came from New Smyrna in 1775. Mr. Harris expanded this into the "Oldest Schoolhouse in the United States." (One of New York City boroughs
has a frame schoolhouse built in 1697.) The next step by Mr. Harris was to raise the claim to that of the postcards, "Oldest Frame House in U.S.A." More ancient, that would be, than the frame houses still standing which were built in the 1700's prior to 1776 and still further back to the 1630's.
Even this was not the limit. A leaflet tells us: "A replica of this Cradle of American Education was exhibited in comparison with the most modern school building at the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition." This is to say that the schoolhouse on St. George street, claimed to have been built in 1776, "cradled" the school established here in St. Augustine by Bishop Cabezas in 1606, the Colonial schools of the early 1600's, John Harvard's College of 1638, the College of William and Mary in 1693, King William's School (now St John's College) at Annapolis in 1696, and Yale College in 1701--in short American Education in all its myriad and multifarious phases of development to the present day.
The only thing the Juan Genoply house has cradled is "the oldest frame house in the U.S.A." invented and operated for the flimflamming of visitors in St. Augustine.
"The Huguenot Cemetery"
This name is applied by the negro drivers, writers of advertising matter and pseudo-historians to the cemetery just beyond the City Gates.
Dr. Andrew Anderson told the truth about it in his Armistice Day Address of 1921: "In those days before the Civil War I never heard of the existence of a burning spring, nor of an oldest house, nor of a slave market, nor of a Huguenot Cemetery. The cemetery just outside the City Gates was deeded to the trustees of the Presbyterian Church, of whom my father was one, by the Rev. T. Alexander in 1832, for the us; of the Protestants of the City."
From 1832 until 1887, when interments were discontinued, this was the only Protestant Cemetery here. To it for more than fifty years the people of St. Augustine brought their dead.
One might think that a decent respect for the resting places of the dead and consideration for the sensibilities of the living would restrain from profanation of the spot by applying to it the negro drivers' hoax title which is their stock in trade.
Inasmuch as the appellation "Huguenot Cemetery' is absolutely unhistorical the National Committee will undoubtedly so construe it and will not sanction its usage in the new St. Augustine.
The State Arsenal
A tablet on the State Arsenal, presumably placed there by the State after the reconstruction of the building in 1922, reads in part:
"St. Francis Barracks. State Arsenal. Erected about 1600. Burned December 13th, 1915. Reconstructed 1922."
This would indicate to a person reading it that the building was erected about 1600, had stood here for 315 years until burned in 1915, and was reconstructed in 1922. History, however, shows that no such antiquity attaches to the building.
The date 1600 corresponds with the 1597-1603 date assigned to the former Post Office building. A survey of conditions prevailing "about 1600" demonstrates that structures on the scale of the Arsenal and the Post Office would not have been undertaken at that period. St. Augustine was then only a garrison post with few inhabitants other than soldiers and missionaries. The houses were of boarding with inflammable palmetto thatching, the inhabitants alert to scuttle into the wooden fort at alarm of hostile Indians or Corsairs.
Governor Gonzalo M6ndez de Canzo arrived June 2, 1597. In January, 1598, he reported to the Casa de Contratacion that "the needs of the friars were very great. They were living in penury; their monastery was in need of repairs since it had only a roof of palm and was in danger of fire." In March of 1599 fire swept the town destroying the monastery and the chapel. In September of that year the sea overwhelmed the town demolishing many houses.
In February 1600 Canzo feared that a poor harvest would bring a famine because the ration given to the soldiers was insufficient for those who had wives and children. The permanence of the St. Augustine settlement was uncertain. There was constantly recurring talk of abandoning the post.
Jeannette Thurber Connor, authority on Florida's Spanish Colonial times, wrote of the period: "Perhaps the fundamental trouble was the state of mind of St. Augustine. Many people thought the settlement and fort should be situated farther north where the harbors were better. Moreover, the arrival of the government's annual subsidy was often delayed for years, salaries remained unpaid, graft existed among those in power, and indifference and inertia often prevailed-when it was not despair!"*
Feb. 25, 1601, Fray Bias de Montez, petitioning the King for funds to rebuild the monastery and chapel burnt in 1599, wrote: "The 700 ducats required to repair and cover the house, which we hope you will send us, will be placed in deposit with the treasurer of this province until a decision has been reached regarding this place. On
*Florida Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. IV, No. 4, p. 172.
ST. FRANCIS BARRACKS IN THE 1870S, NOW STATE ARSENAL.
account of its ruin and burned condition it is incapable of maintaining as many inhabitants as there are. Many seem to think they will order this garrison removed to another part more advantageous."
In 1602 Fray Pedro Ruiz, responding to a demand by the King for information, testified that St. Augustine houses were only of palm with the result that there was always danger of fire. "If the meanest Indian in this land were so minded he could burn down the town by waiting for a slight wind and applying fire to the first house (at hand) so the entire town would be devasted." Therefore he advised the removal of the presidio to Guale. (Geiger, p. 152.)
Of this time Dr. James Alexander Robertson, Archivist of Maryland, Secretary of the Florida State Historical Society, and a scholar deeply versed in early Florida history wrote (Catholic Historical Review, XVIII, p. 155):
"Until 1763, when Florida became an English possession, the colony was never self-supporting. Nay, more, it was actually poverty stricken. Alarmed by the continual outlay and the paucity of return, even in a protective way-St. Augustine was burned, it will be remembered, by Drake in 1586-it was proposed in 1602 that the colony be abandoned. Wiser arguments, partly material, partly religious, however prevented and the colony was maintained." When the subsidies "failed to reach St. Augustine, much suffering ensued."
In October, 1603, Pedro de Ybarra succeeded Governor Canzo, and Jan. 8, 1604, described for the King conditions in the settlement.
The fort was of wood built on sand. He "was aware that royal permission had been given for the construction of a stone fort, but he complained that this could not be realized because there were neither stone cutters nor an engineer in Florida."* In this same year Father Bermejo, appealing to the King to rebuild the monastery and chapel burned in 1599, declared that "the buildings would have to be of wood because of the scarcity of stone."*
Again in 1605 wooden monastery and church were burned. Dec. 26 of that year Ybarra wrote the King, "I have now built another good church and house for these good fathers." Roofs were still of palmetto; Ybarra was much concerned about their inflammable nature and the fire peril. In the same letter he described the hospital built by his predecessor, Governor Canzo, as a palmetto house in peril of destruction by fire. "There is another matter," he wrote, "to which I give much attention, that is to be able to make lumber shingles with which to cover the roofs of the houses."
This year 1605, when Ybarra was concerned to make wood shingles, was two years later than 1603, the year when the King had purchased for him the Canzo residence, which the Post Office plaque tells us "from that time on was officially recognized and known as the Governor's Mansion," by which it means the former Post Office shown on a following page.
In 1606 Bishop Cabezas of Cuba, on visitation here, wrote to the King: "The parochial church I assure your majesty is very good to be of wood and boards." The people were miserably poor. "Here at St. Augustine, as I have seen, the people suffer greatly for want of food."
Of the year 1607, Dr. John Gilmary Shea wrote (History of the Catholic Church in the United States, vol. 1, p. 159): "The reports from Florida had been so discouraging that King Philip III proposed to abandon all idea of settling the country, intending merely to maintain a fort and to remove the Christian Indians to the island of St. Domingo."
No one who reads these records of the years "about 1600" can believe that a coquina monastery having the dimensions of the Arsenal, or a Governor's residence of dimensions of the former Post Office, could have existed in St. Augustine at that time.
*Rev. Maynard Geiger, O.F.M.: The Franciscan Conquest of Florida, pp. 166, 187. The product of extensive research in original source material, this is the first work in English giving in detail the conditions existing in St. Augustine during the early years of the first Spanish occupation. It records the extreme destitution and hardships of settlers, soldiers and friars alike, and the ever-present expectation that the site of the city was to be abandoned. The chapters constitute a wealth of evidence demonstrating that the Canzo house could not have been such a great stone building as the former Post Office or the Arsenal. The Conquest is indispensible to one who would have a true understanding of conditions in St. Augustine between 1573 and 1618.
A century later in 1702, Governor Moore of South Carolina raiding the Florida Indian Christian missions burned the monastery. The King sent funds for its restoration, but many years elapsed before anything was accomplished.
Dr. Shea wrote of the situation in 1735: "As we have seen, money had been sent from Spain to rebuilt the Franciscan convent; but official dishonesty prevailed, the money was misapplied. Indeed up to this time,  nothing had been done except to run up a wretched chapel with four stone walls and a palmetto roof, while nearby stood huts like those of the Indians to serve for a convent." (History Catholic Church, I. p. 471.)
At some period following, the erection of a coquina structure was undertaken. "For years the Apalachian Indians, as well as convicts from Mexico," writes Abbot Mohr,* "were employed in the construction of the Fortress San Marco and St. Francis Monastery. Hundreds were needed to cut the coquina rock found on Anastasia Island, transport it to the water and ferry it across the bay. Both buildings were completed during the administration of Governor Don Alonzo Fernando Hereda, who was appointed in the year 1755." The Fort escutcheon date is 1756. The stone Monastery was not "Erected about 1600," but a century-and-a-half later in 1756.
The British quartered their troops in it. When Spain came back the Franciscans petitioned for its return, but Governor Zespedes told them that "the edifice which formerly served them as a convent was completely transformed and had lost all appearance of such a habitation for Religious and that in the event of their return it would be necessary to rebuild the Convent." (Letter of Zespedes, (1786) quoted by Mohr). The barracks were rebuilt by the War Department in 1867. The main building was gutted in December, 1915. Little of the 1756 structure can be left, though a St. Augustine explorer in 1926 wrote that she had "discovered the cells of the monks in the old Franciscan Monastery."
*Abbot Charles H. Mohr, O.S.B.: "St. Francis Barracks," Florida Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. VII, No. 3.
The "Spanish Governor's Palace" Post Office
Unlike the Oldest House and Ponce de Leon Fountain hoaxes deliberately contrived for the deception of tourists and to take their money, the Spanish Governor's Mansion myth was the product of misconception due to ignorance, prevailing at the time the belief arose, of events which had occurred in earlier years of the American occupation.
In 1915 Mrs. Annie Averette published a pamphlet entitled Facts about St. Augustine, in which she wrote: "Governor's Mansion, Present Post Office. First built of logs. In 1591 it was replaced by the present stone or coquina, completed in 1593."
In March, 1921, Postmaster Charles H. Hopkins, planning to put a tablet on the building and relying on Mrs. Averette's dates and statement that the Post Office was a former Governor's Mansion, applied to our Embassy in Madrid for information about the "Spanish Governor's Mansion in St. Augustine," and received from the Consul at Seville the following document extracted from the "Archives of the Indies":
"Secular Audience of Santo Domingo-Letters and Dispatches of the Governors of Florida seen in Council From the Years 1568 to 1610."
"To His Majesty from Governor Pedro de Ybarra on the 8th of January, 1604," "In this city they have never had a house for the Governor and when I arrived they lodged me in a house which was built over the sea, and was so cold and damp that two Governors have died here. Even the owner himself has never been well in it, nor have I been so since my arrival. For this reason, there being no house here in which to live, Gonzalo M6ndez de Canzo decided to build one and this he did in a good location, the land being his. Since he has had it, it has prevented much sickness which had been prevalent before. I am ailing and with the bad air and gnats cannot improve as I have just come from Flanders with impaired health caused by my long services in that country. It is proposed by the officials of your Majesty here, that Your Majesty purchase said house of Gonzalo Mindez as a dwelling for the Governors."
The petition was granted and the house was purchased for Governor Ybarra's residence. The date in the letter is practically that given by Mrs. Averette, and the historical fact is established that a dwelling was then provided for a Spanish governor's dwelling. But no effort was made by Mr. Hopkins or by anyone else to trace the history of the Ybarra house or otherwise to identify it with the Post Office building of 1921. No identification would have been made because the Post Office was built more than 200 years later than the Canzo house. Nevertheless, Mr. Hopkins raised a fund for a tablet which was affixed to the building in April, 1922, with the following legend: 14
"Spanish Governor General's Palace. Original building on site was of logs. Present structure built by Gonzalo Mindez de Canzo, 1597-1603. Purchased by King of Spain 1603 as a Dwelling for the Governor of Florida at a cost of one thousand ducats. From that time on it was officially recognized and known as the Governor's Mansion. Under Spanish flag over 200 years. Under British flag 20 years. Under American flag since July 10, 1821."
Of the memorial in place the Record said: "There with its brief history of the building and its dates which have been duly authenticated, the tablet, cast in enduring bronze, will tell to hundreds and to thousands of people every year the true story of the ancient coquina structure which was the palace of the Spanish Governor-General in the olden times."
The Record was in error. The tablet told a false story. The true story had been told long before. The National Committee will find it in The Florida Herald, a St. Augustine newspaper, the files of which may be consulted in the Library of Congress. The issue of June 5, 1834, contains the following report of the dedication of the building then completed and put to use as a court house:
"The Superior Court of East Florida for the counties of St. John's and Mosquito commenced its session in this city on Monday last in the building recently erected by the United States under the superintendence and direction of Elias Wallen, Esq., the Hon. Judge Reid, presiding. Previous to proceeding to the preliminary business of the term the building was solemnly dedicated to the uses for which it was erected with appropriate services and a discourse upon the occasion by the Rev. David Brown of the Episcopal Church. In the course of the religious exercises the following well written original hymn was sung [we give two stanzas]):
"Lord, it is meet these walls we raise Should echo first with notes of praise
To Thee from whom all blessings spring,
Of nature's wide domain the King.
"Unless Thy bright approving smile
Shall bless and sanctify this pile,
All, all, in vain our hands prepare The abode of law and justice here."
"The building thus dedicated as a Temple of Justice is placed on the site of the Old Government House [italics ours], pointing on the public square, or as it used to be called in Spanish times, 'Plaza de la Constitucion' . The hall set apart for the purposes of the Superior Court is sixty feet by forty, well furnished and fitted up.
"THE OLD SPANISH GOVERNMENT HOUSE"
From the "Magazine of Useful Knowledge", June, 1835.
"Another hall in the building is constructed for the use of the county according to the original adopted by the Treasury Department at Washington. Several offices are also constructed for the offices of the District, of the County and of the United States."
The Herald's characterization of the building as "the abode of law and justice" and its specifications of the structural parts are descriptive of a court house but could not apply to a dwelling.
The hymn writer would not have written nor would the assembly have sung for a residence the hymn so worded; nor would they have sung that the walls were to echo first with songs of praise to the Lord, if previously they had echoed to the Danza Creolla and other sounds of Spanish revelry by night.
Further evidence was recorded by John Lee Williams, Florida historian and at one time resident of St. Augustine, who wrote in The Territory of Florida, published in 1837: "On the west side of the public square, where the old government house formerly stood, in the centre of the botanical gardens enclosed by high walls, a neat court house has been erected. It is two stories high, in form of an L."
Of the L the Record once said: "The wing on the south side was used for many years as a residence for the Spanish Governor." This wing which extended south to King street and at one period housed the Post Office, was demolished in 1873. At that time the main building was enlarged thirty feet west, the Post Office was installed in the St. George street end, and the coquina wall enclosing the entire plot was removed. (Letter of Rev. C. O. Reynolds to his son Erskine, Aug. 1, 1873.)
THE COURT HOUSE (POST OFFICE) BEFORE THE WING WAS TAKEN DOWN IN 1873.
This is not the structure shown on the opposite page.
The foregoing is the true history of the Post Office building as it was before the present building dedicated Feb. 22, 1937, was erected. Nowhere exists any historical record to contradict this.history Whatever has purported to controvert it has originated in St. Augustine. Even the Government's alleged endorsement of the 1597-1603 date and of the Governor's Palace appellation has been a giving-back to St. Augustine of mis-statements which St. Augustine had previously given to the Government. Three instances demonstrate this.
In 1901 the Treasury Department issued a History of Public Buildings under control of the Treasury Department, in which was a report on the "Court House and Post Office, St. Augustine, Florida." The data for this were in part furnished by Postmaster Henry J: Ritchie, who wrote of the Post Office:
"It was constructed by the Spanish Government prior to the acquisition of the State of Florida by the United States in 1821, and was used originally as a Governor's Palace."
And ever since, Postmaster Ritchie's unsupported statement emanating from St. Augustine has been quoted as Governmental authority for St. Augustine's Governor's Palace myth.
The second instance occurred so recently as the dedication of the new Post Office last February, on which occasion the Government was represented by a spokesman for Postmaster General Farley.
In 1932 H. G. Cutler published his History of Florida containing a prodigious store of town histories. For his material the editor drew largely from local sources and took what was given him.
In the chapter on St. Augustine Mr. Cutler wrote (vol. 1, p. 509): "During this period of turmoil and religious propaganda, Gonzalo Caruso (sie) commenced the erection of a large building of coquina, which at its completion a few years later was purchased by the king of Spain for the governor's residence. That was known as the governor's mansion. More than three centuries afterward and when the American flag had waved over it for more than a hundred years, a bronze tablet was unveiled which had been erected on the massive coquina walls of the old Governor's Mansion, which had become the Federal Building. [The inscription is given.]
"This tablet which was unveiled with such impressive and instructive ceremonies on April 6, 1922, marked the oldest public building in America, and in many respects the most interesting. The data for the inscription had been verified by correspondence abroad and by reference through the United States consul at Seville to the official records of Old Spain."
Internal evidence shows that this was of St. Augustine origin. From no other source could it have come. Emanating from St. Augustine it was destined like the Ritchie misinformation to find its way through Government channels back to St. Augustine.
When J. A. Latimer, Special Assistant to the Postmaster General, was chosen to represent Postmaster General Farley at the dedication of the new Post Office last February, he applied to the Library of Congress for material for his address. The Library sent him the Cutler History in which he found the passage relating to the Spanish Governor's Palace and the tablet text dating the building 1597-1603. He accepted this for authentic history, as any reader who did not know the facts would have done, and deceived by it used it in his speech. The Record reported in its account of the dedication:
"Mr. Latimer pointed out that the structure dedicated today is the oldest public building in America-that before the United States acquired it in 1821, it had a history of 200 years as the Spanish Governor's Mansion and twenty years under British rule."
What the Record should have said would have been that the misinformation given to Mr. Latimer through the medium of the Cutler History Mr. Latimer had brought back to give to St. Augustine in his dedication address.
On the following day the Record announced that Postmaster Manucy was anxious to get the office furniture back into "the Spanish Governor's Mansion."
THE UNHISTORICAL TABLET IN THE POST OFFICE.
A third instance of St. Augustine's misleading of Washington is of current happening in connection with the new Post Office. The builders were wheedled into retaining portions of the 1834 walls as a pretended remnant of a wall of 1597-1603. While all the other exterior wall surface has been finished with a cement coating, certain parts of the 1834 coquina have been left uncoated to serve as a fake relic of antiquity, gazing upon which the history-minded but deceived tourist may experience a thrill as he is told that it is the wall of the Spanish Governor-General's Palace of 1597-1603.
The deception may strike one as humorous, as perhaps it is. But it has another aspect. The Post Office is a Federal building. A Federal building should not contain a falsely worded bronze tablet nor bear on its outer wall a deceptive device such as this. It is incredible that the authorities of the Post Office Department and the Treasury Department will permit the deception when they shall know the inscription to be unhistorical.
"The Oldest House in the United States"
In 1905 Prof. D. Y. Thomas, then of the University of Florida, while engaged in a survey of the town's antiquities visited this house on St. Francis street, and in the American Historical Association Annual Report for 1906 wrote:
"There are many houses in St. Augustine built of coquina which present an ancient appearance. Several claim very ancient foundations, one going so far back as the sixteenth century. The owner claimed to have documents proving this, but when requested to show them she answered that they were in Spain. Credat Judaeus Apella, non ego. [The Jew Apella believes, not I.] At the door was a fee, inside, furniture."
The house passed to other ownership and in 1918 the St. Augustine Historical Society and Institute of Science bought it and took over the business of oldest house in the United States. Concerning the transaction the Society published this statement:
"After a careful investigation extending over more than a year, of records, data and maps, from Spain, the British Museum and the archives at Washington, the antiquity of this building was established to the satisfaction of the Historical Society and Institute of Science, and in order that it might be properly preserved for future generations, was purchased by it on November 15, 1918."
No such investigation had been made. As to the house the Society at the same time gave out the following claims: 20
The Society's Claims for its House
"The Oldest House was erected in the year 1565 by the Franciscan monks."
"It was used by the monks who came with Pedro Menendez, the founder of St. Augustine, in 1565, and was occupied by them until the completion of the larger coquina monastery across the stre& in 1590."
"In 1590 it came into possession of a deputy of the Spanish Government and descended in the same family until 1882. The present owner has documents proving this."
A sign on the wall in the large upper room read:
"This room was the chapel used by the Franciscan monks from 1565 to 1590. The floor and ceiling are original and of cedar."
"At the rear of the upper floor is a small room in which the monks slept." (The lecturer added that the monks contemplated the coffinshaped ceiling for penance.)
"It is recorded in the archives of the Church that this-house was occupied by the monks of St. Francis from 1565 to 1590. The chapel they used can still be seen."
There was shown a prie dieu or prayer bench which the souvenir booklet explained "was used by the Franciscan monks during their occupancy of this house."
"The old circular well at the rear of the house, blessed by -the Franciscan monks, has a never-ending interest for the tourist. There is a tradition that he who makes a wish while looking into this well will have it granted within a year."
Every one of these statements was false; The Society added: "The walls of the house are coquina and the lower floors of coquina mortar."
The Claims Disputed
The claims were disputed by a-skeptical critic who pointed out that a house built in 1565 could not have been constructed of coquina because as stated in a booklet sold at the house the coquina building stone had not been discovered in 1565 nor until fifteen years later in 1580. Further he cited contemporary accounts by companions of Menendez on the expedition-Mendoza his chaplain, Meras his brother-in-law and official chronicler of the enterprise, both of whom recorded that no Franciscans had reached Florida with Menendez. Also he cited a letter of Menendez himself written a year later (Oct. 15, 1.566) to a Jesuit friend, in which he said:
"I felt lost on finding that no members of the Society had arrived .. I am sure that members of the Religious orders could accomplish
more in one month teaching the Doctrine than military men can accomplish in many years ... I have sent a few boys and soldiers to teach them the Christian Doctrine . It has been a great mistake that none of your Order nor any other Religious have come to teach them."(For full letter see Ruidiaz: La Florida, Vol. II, page 154; and for translation by D. G. Brinton Historical Magazine, October, 1861.
To these citations were added others of similar import from Barrientos, friend of Menendez, who wrote an account based on Menendez's official report to the King; and from Barcia who also used original source material.
In this situation the Society, being a historical society with a point of history involved, would have produced its confirmatory documents to prove the truth of its questioned statements. Being a business concern with its business methods publicly questioned, it would have taken the customary measures to vindicate its integrity. The Society adopted neither of these courses. It engaged Miss Emily L. Wilson to handle its case. This was a confession that the investigation extending over more than a year, which had established the antiquity of the house to the satisfaction of the Society, was fraudulent. /
Miss Wilson was a winter resident who had imbibed the monk* story as told her by the operator of the house interviewed by Professor Thomas. She volunteered on behalf of the Society, without compensation and "as another civic duty," to defend the Society's claims. She was appointed Librarian and official Historian, and shortly presented her report. In it she declared that the critic had written "without any careful consideration of the records and facts." The citations from Mendoza, Meras, Barrientos, Barcia and Menendez himself she characterized as "a few odd paragraphs in old Spanish books hunted up to use as evidence," and she contemptuously dismissed them as the critic's "opinions."
Inability to differentiate between a writer's textual quotations from a historical work and that writer's own personal opinions does not manifest a special aptitude for historical research. But the Society was satisfied and the tourists continued to pay quarter-dollars for the privilege of seeing the inside of a hoax oldest house in the United States. In the first two winter seasons 42,000 visitors were "ground through the house" as the guides expressed it. Other and continuous thousands came with the seasons, and the Society prospered. In his presidential address at the annual meeting in the Ponce de Leon,
*The term "monk" is employed because used by the Society in its trade jargon. The proper designation is "friar" or "fray," meaning "brother," a member of a fraternal religious order. The Franciscans were known as the Little Brothers of St. Francis. Those who came to Florida were not to be cloistered monks. They were missionaries. St. Augustine was the gateway through which they passed to their widely scattered mission fields.
ST. FRANCIS STREET.
Showing the Society's house and the palm which was killed by the freeze of 1886.
Feb. 23, 1926, Chauncey Depew declared: "Providence certainly has taken excellent care of this old organization". Mr. Depew believed all the Society told him about its claims for the house even to the wishing well blessed by the monks. He was thoroughly deceived. His annual addresses were pathetic.
At some later time the year 1565 was abandoned for various other building dates and the guides were taught by the Librarian and Historian to say when telling the monk story that "Tradition," instead of "History," says that the house was built for the Franciscans who came with Menendez. Tradition and History had the same meaning to the average hearer, who accepted the tale with unquestioning trust because told by a historical society. Both terms as used here are in equivalent measure deluding because untrue.
In Historical Houses of America (1927), chapter "The Oldest Surviving House in the United States," Elise L. Lathrop wrote of the St. Francis street house: "Even after investigation the Society is unable to fix definitely the exact date of its building. Tradition ascribes at least a portion of this attractive building to monks who came with Menendez in 1565, and asserts that the house was the chapel and hermitage.of these monks. Miss Wilson herself, and she has made extensive in23
MIABPW SHOWING IN FOREGROUND PRIE DIEU USED BY THE MONKS IN THIS ROOM.
ANTIQUE FORMERLY SHOWN IN THE CHAPEL.
From the booklet "Souvenir of the two oldest relics in the United States--Oldest House and Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Fla. Published under the auspices of the Historical Society and Institute of Science."
vestigations, believes that this house was indeed built as early as 1571* for the monks who came with Menendez, and that the coquina was put in about 1600. The-Society is now trying to get documents from Spain which will establish the ownership of the house prior to 1763."
Miss Wilson reported to the Society that what Miss Lathrop had written "contains the information received from the Librarian of the Historical Society," that was from herself. This brings into the list of dates three new ones, 1571, 1600 and 1763. There is still anotherthe "said age," which unfortunately no one knows. In 1930 President David R. Dunham wrote: "The Society does insist that the evidence which it has, documentary and otherwise, is sufficient to support the contention made by the Society as to the said age of the Oldest House."
Asked to tell what the "said age" was as expressed in numerals, he replied June 17, 1930: "I do not think that the Historical Society claims any specific date that the oldest house was built. I call your attention to the statement by Miss Wilson in her reports, that any special date given out by a guide at the Oldest House is without the sanction of the librarian and the historian, as the statement authorized is, 'That according to tradition it was built for the Friars or Monks
*Miss Wilson wrote (St. Augustine Tribune, May 1, 1928): "One of the houses survived Drake's attack, because when the English took possession in 1763 they found many old houses, one with the date 1571." But a house built in 1571 would have been of wood (coquina was not discovered until 1580) and would have been consumed in Drake's bonfire in 1586.
The Log of Drake's ship "Primrose" now in the British Museum records: "There was 500 houses here of which we left not one standing." Romans, who told of seeing the 1571 house was mistaken, or perhaps he was fooled as so many thousands in after years were to be fooled by the date of 1565 for the St. Frances Street house.
This is a photo reproduction (reduced) of a section of a map sent to the King in 1593--"Mapa del Pueblo, Fuerte y Cafio de San Augustin de la Florida y del Pueblo y Caio de San Sebastian." The section here given covers the portion of the town just south of the Fort. There are shown the Church (Iglesia), the Guard,House (Cuerpo de Guardia), arid the General's House (Cassa de General). The sketch was evidently intended to indicate for the King the principal buildings in his Florida town. Its significance for us lies in theta' formation it gives of the style and material of construction employed at the peri d. The houses were of boarding with palmetto roofing. The date 1593 was three years later than 1590, when, the Society says, the monks moved from its house into a larger coquina monastery across the street.
who came with Menendez.' From the above you will see that no exact date is claimed and therefore I cannot give you 'said age' expressed in numerals."
In response to further inquiry President Dunham wrote, August 26, 1930: "I may say again that no specific date is claimed by the Historical Society as the date of the building of said house. Various documents and writings in the possession of the Society might be said to indicate its age as dating from about the year 1590, but the only authoritative statement which can be attributed to the Society as to the age is that which I quoted in my letter of June 17th: 'That according to tradition it was built for the Friars or Monks who came with Menendez'."
What all this confession means is that having abandoned the false claims made when it took over the house and the business in 1918all except the Menendez monks claim, the Society still holds to this as giving a nebulous air of antiquity to its show house. There is not now and never has been in St. Augustine or elsewhere, in manuscript or book or in peoples' minds, any direct or inferential basis for the fabricated monk tradition. Miss Wilson is its sole proponent and exponent. When she told the guides to recite "Tradition says," this meant "Miss Wilson says." When Judge Dunham writes "Tradition says," this means "Miss Wilson says." In this one woman's ipse-dixit, unsupported and unsupportable, consists the Society's claim for the oldest house in the United States. It is a fabrication as tenuous and flimsy as the gossamer on the grass the spider spins at nightfall, the night bedecks with dew, the morning sun shrivels and the wind blows away. It cannot stand the light of truth.
When the claim is made for a house-any house-that it is the oldest in the United States there is a way to determine the facts concerning it. This is first to establish the date of its building and then to prove that no other house exists which was built at an earlier date.
If it should apply this method to the St. Francis street house the National Committee would call on President Dunham to produce the date of the construction of the house and to verify it. Then the Committee would require him to show that no other house exists which was built at an earlier date than that proven for the St. Francis street house. This is simple. But it is the only way.
Unless President Dunham should meet these conditions, the National Committee would rule that the house is not absolutely sound historically and can have no place in the restored historical St. Augustine of the future. The verdict so rendered would bring to a close the period of over thirteen years during which the St. Augustine Historical Society, recreant to its duty as a historical society to purvey only the historical truth, and in violation of the intent of its charter, has maintained its hoax Oldest House in the United States.
The Franciscans in Florida
The earliest recorded Franciscans in Florida were the five friars who came to the gulf coast with Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528 and perished in the ill-fated expedition; and the friar who came with De Soto in 1539 and likewise succumbed. It was not until 1573 that others followed on the east coast.
Professor Herbert E. Bolton wrote of Menendez in his second year in Florida: "Conversion of the Indians was an essential part of Menendez's scheme to pacify and hold the country. He had as yet, no missionaries, so he detailed some of his soldiers to the work, and in 1566, by much urging, he induced Philip to equip and send three Jesuits to Florida." (The Spanish Borderlands, p. 153.) In The Debatable Land, page 14, he wrote that the place of the Jesuits was taken by the Franciscans. "The first band of the Little Brothers came to Santa Elena in 1573. Most of their work centered around San Augustin."
In his recently published volume The Franciscan Conquest of Florida (1573-1618) Rev. Maynard Geiger, O.F.M., says that some Franciscans actually arrived in Florida before the end of the year 1573.* And he cites Jeannette Thurber Connor's Colonial Records I, 331, which relates that when Pedro Menendez Marquez visited Santa Elena in 1573, "There he met nine new religious sent to Florida by the Adelantado Pedro Menendez."
The first Franciscans to arrive in St. Augustine were the Rev. Alonzo de Renoso with a number of other priests and lay brothers, toward the end of 1577 (Abbot Charles H. Mohr, O. S. B. in Quarterly of the Florida Historical Society, Vol. VII, page 216.
In Dominicans in Early Florida Very Rev. V. F. O'Daniel says, pp. 204, 206, that after Jesuit, Dominican and Theatine missionaries had come and gone from Florida: "The next messengers of the Gospel. were the Franciscans, who came in 1577."
In the booklet History of Nuestra Seiiora de la Leche y Buen Parto, published by the Cathedral Parish of St. Augustine, page 10, is this statement: "The original missionaries to Florida were Jesuits. They were soon martyred by the Indians. As the Society of Jesus was young at the time, it was unable to supply their place, and the mission was handed over to the Franciscans."
On page 35 is found this: "Menendez, founder of St. Augustine, came to these shores with several priests, and awaited eagerly the ar*Maynard Geiger's Conquest is a moving story of the Franciscan missionaries in Florida-their high purpose to bring the light of the Gospel to a New World in darkness, their devotion, sacrifice and fortitude even in martyrdom, and the glorious conquest that was theirs in winning tens of thousands to the Faith.
rival of regular missionaries. Until they should arrive he appointed qualified soldiers as religious instructors to the Indians."
It is further stated that three Jesuit missionaries were sent over in 1566 and ten in 1568. "Thus it was that the Jesuits were the first to enter the missionary field in this new land after the first permanent settlement was accomplished." And further, "Toward the end of 1577 the Franciscans arrived in St. Augustine." This was three years after the death of Menendez in 1574.
All the above is in line with the statement in Torquemada's Monarquia Indiana (1615) as translated by Miss Spofford of the Library of Congress for Miss Wilson. It reads: "In the beginning soon after the Spaniards had settled themselves in this place [St. Augustine] came with them certain Religious of the Order of my Father San Francisco." This does not jibe with the Society's pretense made when it took over the house in 1918: "It is recorded in the archives of the Church that this house was occupied by the monks of St. Francis from 1565 to 1590."
If any fact in Florida history is well attested, it is that no Franciscans reached Florida with Menendez in 1565.
It may be considered that this point is unduly labored. But the purpose is to show that with all these sources of knowledge open to it the Society must have learned that no Franciscans came with Menendez and it must then have known that a manufactured tradition that Franciscans had come with Menendez was false, and because it was false was not to be given endorsement by a historical society. Under such circumstances to tell its dupes "Tradition says" was as much a historical deceit as to use the locution "History says".
The Fountain of Youth Park
Mayor Fraser's Fountain of Youth Park was formerly the Williams place within the city north of the City Gates bordering Hospital Creek. From 1868 to 1890 it was used by H. H. Williams for the cultivation of fruit and flowers. Appurtenant to the dwelling house was a well, dug about 1875 by Philip Gomez and Philip Capo of St. Augustine. The well was curbed with coquina, a shell-rock quarried on Anastasia Island across the bay opposite the town and not discovered by the Spaniards until 1580, sixty-seven years after Ponce came to Florida. It was an ordinary well such as was common in the town before the introduction of artesian water.
That the well was built about the year 1875 by Philip Gomez with Philip Capo and Gabriel Gomez (son of Philip Gomez) as assistants, is stated on the authority of Mr. Bartolo Genovar (son-in-law of Philip Gomez), Mrs. Theo. Pomar (daughter of Philip Capo) and Mr. Christopher Pomar, all of whom are (November, 1937) living in St. Augustine. Mr. Christopher Pomar recalls that as a boy he watched the 28
THE HOAX PONCE DE LEON CROSS.
From the photo by Harris sold at the Society's Webb Memorial.
building of the well, and fixes the date as "approximately the time Mr. Reynolds has in mind," 1875; also that he was living on adjoining property when Mrs. McConnell first began to exploit the well as the Fountain of Youth; and he saw the house moved from near the well in order that the place might be arranged as desired.
Further an affidavit of March 8, 1934, by Gabriel Peter Gomez (son of Philip Gomez and now residing at New Smyrna) states: "When I was a small boy my father was employed by Henry H. Williams, the owner of a large tract of land north of the City of St. Augustine, to build up the side walls of a surface well. The well was of a type of which there were many in St. Augustine. This well built by my father is the same well that is now known as the Fountain of Youth."
The testimony of these witnesses is incontrovertible. It establishes the origin of the Williams well as a well. The well has been a well from the beginning; its nature was not changed by the faking by Mrs. McConnell, nor by the showman's device of camouflaging it in an endeavor to make it look like a spring. It being a well, to speak or to write of it as a spring is to violate the truth and to deceive.
In 1902 the property came into the possession of Luella Day McConnell (called Mrs. Day by the Record), who conducted it as a recreation park called Neptune Park. In 1909 when a tree near the well was uprooted by a storm, Mrs. McConnell gave out the fantastic story that she had discovered in the hole left by the upturned roots
what proved to be a cross formed of chunks of coquina, disposed 15 in the upright and 13 in the cross-beam, having been placed thus by Ponce de Leon to commemorate the year 1513 of his discovery. Further excavation, she said, disclosed beneath the cross a Spanish casque, which being examined revealed a parchment deposited by Ponce recording that he had drunk of the "fountain" (the Williams well) and charting the point where he had landed on Hospital Creek. She also asserted that she had identified the site of a mission chapel built by Ponce de Leon and some of the coquina building blocks still remaining to mark the site.
This story told by Mrs. McConnell of the Ponce de Leon coquina cross and its discovery by her was the origin of the hoax that Ponce de Leon landed at Hospital Creek.
Her ingenious invention found immediate acceptance and endorsement by the Evening Record and the Historical Society. Of the discovery of the cross, which it pronounced one of "the priceless heirlooms of the nation," the Record afterwards said: "On the memorable day that an old coquina cross was accidentally unearthed on the Fountain of Youth property under the regime of the late Mrs. Day, the curator of the St. Augustine Historical Society and Institute of Science hurried to the site of the excavation and made photographs of the unusual relic, and these pictures are sold to this good day by the hundreds to tourists each summer and winter."
The photos labeled "Fountain of Youth, Old Cross, 1513," were sold at the Historical Society's "Oldest House in the United States" and later at the Society's Webb Memorial. The validation thus given the cross by the Society and the Society's subsequent assertions that Ponce de Leon landed on Hospital Creek have ever since been strong factors in promoting the Fountain of Youth business of Mrs. McConnell and her successors.
The tourists came, looked, listened, believed and dispersed to the four quarters of the continent to tell the tale to the folks at home. The fame of the Williams well fountain has spread as did that of the fountain of Bimini, until as the Record tells us: "It has been estimated that, with one possible exception of Old Fort Marion, more people come to St. Augustine to see this fabled well than any other one of the numerous fascinating spots that make St. Augustine differently interesting and increasingly attractive to travellers."
After Mrs. McConnell's death the show place was bought by Walter B. Fraser and by him it has been expanded into the Fountain of Youth Park of today. The upper structure of the Williams well has long since been dismantled and an elaborate setting has been created to give the semblance of a spring--the Santatan of the Caribs as Mrs. Corse has discovered was the name. A stone tablet proclaims;
"The Fountain of Youth. This spring was discovered in 1513 and was recorded a landmark in a Spanish grant."
The guide tells the visitor that Ponce de Leon drank of the water, and was convinced that the Fountain of Youth was a myth. Near the well is the Ponce de Leon coquina cross with 15 and 13 chunks of coquina by which, the guide avers, Ponce recorded the year 1513 of his discovery. Within the current year visitors have been told that Ponce de Leon himself laid the cross.
A Fact-Finding Committee marker identifies the pretended place of landing on Hospital Creek:
"On March third, A. D. 1513, Don Juan Ponce de Leon left Porto Rico. On Easter Sunday, March 27th he sighted this land and named it Florida. On April 3rd, 1513, he landed here and look possession in the name of God and of Their Catholic Majesties Ferdinand and Isabella of Castile and Aragon, Spain.
"This tablet authorized by the following committee appointed by the City of St. Augustine, July 2nd, 1930: Harold Colee, Prest. St. Augustine Historical Society; Col. Herbert Felkel, Ed. St. Augustine Record; C. Morton Matting, M. D., Tourist; Nina Hawkins, D. A. R.; Robert Ranson, Historian; Geo. Bassett, Jr., Mayor."
Isabella had been dead for more than eight years.
Visitors find on sale a booklet written by Carita Doggett Corse for Mayor Fraser, entitled The Fountain of Youth, in which, by a perversion of the Herrera text recording that from latitude 300 8' Ponce sailed north in a direction away from St. Augustine, she makes the historian say that Ponce sailed south in a direction which brought him to the site of St. Augustine. On such contradiction of the Herrera record rests the claim that Ponce entered the harbor. (See my paper: The Landing Place of Ponce de Leon. A Historical Review.)
For the well established historical fact that Ponce de Leon first landed at a point many miles north of the St. Augustine inlet, see the original source authority, Antonio de Herrera's "Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas i Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano." (1601), Decada I, Libro IX, Cap. X. Herrera is presumed to have had access to the log of Ponce de Leon. He records that the discoverer landed somewhere north of latitude 300 8', which point is approximately eighteen miles north of St. Augustine Inlet.
On the following page is reproduced from a photostat of the original the passage in the Herrera 1601 edition recording the landing of Ponce de Leon in Florida. The expedition sailed from San German, Porto Rico, March 3rd, 1513, and on March 14th reached Guanahani, the island which was the first land discovered by Columbus, and which he renamed San Salvador. The text reads: 31
los Lucayos.Effa ifla Guanahant fuc la primera quc dcfcubrio cl Almirante don Chriifoual Colon, y a donde en fu primer viaje falio a tierra,y la llamb fan Saluador. Particron de aqui corri6 do por cl Noruece,y Domingo avein te y fictc, quc era dia de Pafqua de Refurecion, que comunmente dizen de Flores,vieron vna ifla,y no lareconocicron y el Lunes a veinte y ocho corrieron quinze legtias por la mifma via, v el Miercoles anduuieron de la mifna mancra,v dcfpues con mal titpo haifa dos de Abril,corticndo aLudc noruclfc,ycndo difGinuyendo cl agua ha a nucuc biaas,a vnalegua de ticrra, quc cltaua en tcyntagrados y ocho minutos,corricron por luE go dc colta, bufcando pucrto, y la nochc fhrgicron ccrca de tierra a ocho bragas de agua. Y pelfando quc c la tierra era illa la ilamaron la Florida, porquc tenia muy linda villa do muchas y frcfcas arboledas, y cra llana, y parea:y porque ramnbicn la def'cubricron cn tiempo de Paiqua Florida,fe quifo luan Ponccc6 formar en cl nombre, con eftas dos razoncs.Salio a ricrra a tomarlengu, y poll sion. Viernes a ocho hizicron vcla,corrieron por la mifma via: y Sabado naucgaron alSur, quarraalSucfitc:y naucgando por cl mfirno Rumbo,hafa los veynte de Abril, defcubrieron vnos Bolios de Indios,a donde furgicron:y el dia figuicnte,yendo
Photostat of the Herrera text, Decada I, Libro IX, Cap. X, recording the landing of Ponce de Leon.
"They set out from here [San Salvador), running northwest, and on Sunday the 27th, which was the day of the Festival of the Resurrection, which commonly they call 'of Flowers', they saw an island and did not examine it, and Monday the 28th they ran fifteen leagues in the same direction, and Wednesday they proceeded in the same way, and afterward with bad weather until the 2nd of April, running to west-northwest, the water lessening to nine fathoms, at one league from land, which was in thirty degrees and eight minutes, they ran along the length of coast, seeking harbor, and at night they anchored near the land, in eight fathoms of water. And thinking that this land was an island, they named it La Florida, because it had a beautiful view of many and cool woodlands, and it was level and uniform. And because moreover they discovered it in the time of the Flowery Festival [Pascua Florida) Juan Ponce wished to conform in the name with these two reasons. He went on land to get information and take possession.
"On Friday, the 8th, they made sail; they ran in the same direction, and Saturday they sailed to the south a quarter by southeast; and sailing by the same rhumb up to the 20th of April they discovered some huts of Indians, where they anchored." (L. D. Scisco Translation.)
On Friday the 8th they ran "in the same direction." The same direction can mean only the direction last previously mentioned, i. e., the west-northwest of April 2nd. This shows that from April 2nd up to the time of the landing and beyond that to the turning south on April 9th the sailing course had been continuously in a northerly direction from 300 8'. However far "they ran along the length of coast", it was in a direction northerly from latitude 300 8'.
For the latest and most complete study of the Herrera account see the Florida Historical Society Quarterly, July, 1935, containing the paper, "The Voyages of Ponce de Leon to Florida," by the Florida historian T. Frederick Davis. Equipped by long service in the Weather Bureau at Jacksonville, Mr. Davis brought to his study of the Herrera account a knowledge of the coastal conditions, tides, ocean currents and meteorological agencies affecting navigation. He locates the landing place as being somewhere on the stretch of coast between eighteen miles north of St. Augustine Inlet and six miles south of the mouth of the St. Johns River.
Professor Herbert E. Bolton wrote (Spanish Borderlands, page.7): "with a fleet of three Vessels, on March 3, 1513, Ponce sailed from Porto Rico and anchored a month later on the coast of the northern mainland, near 'the mouth of the St. Johns River. Here he landed, took formal possession of the 'island,' and named it La Florida . "After sailing northward for a day, Ponce turned south again."
In fixing the landing north of St. Augustine Herrera has been followed by other American historians: Irving (Life of Columbus, V. 3, p. 235), Bancroft (History of the United States, V. 1, p. 23), Shea (Winsor's Narrative and Critical History of America, V. 2, p. 233), Fiske (Discovery of America, V. 2, p. 486), Darby (History of Florida),
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. 513
THE WILLIAMS WELL IN MRS. MC CONNELL'S TIME.
Weise (Discovery of America, p. 233), Avery (History of the United States, V. 1, p. 638), Bourne (American Nation, edited by Hart, V. 3, pp. 134-35), Brevard (History of Florida, for schools, p. 19).
A conspicuous object in the Park is an edifice pretended to *represent a chapel and purporting to occupy the site of the first Shrine of Nuestra Sefiora de la Leche, destroyed in 1728. It bears the FactFinding Committee's marker:
"On this site was built the first chapel dedicated to Maria Santisima de la Leche." "This tablet authorized by the following committee appointed by the City of St. Augustine, Fla., July 2nd, 1930: Harold Colee, Prest. St. Augustine Historical Society. Col. Herbert Felkel, Ed. St. Augustine Record. C. Morton Matting, M. D., Tourist. Nina. Hawkins, D. A. R. Robert Ranson, Historian. Geo. W. Bassett, Jr., Mayor."
The guides have been taught to say that the present chapel was designed to resemble as closely as possible the first Chapel of Nuestra Sefiora de la Leche, and that the material of its construction was the coquina of that first chapel which had lain here unused through the two centuries intervening between 1728 and the present. The stone is reputed to be some of the coquina brought here by Mr. Fraser from the old sugar mill on the St. Joseph plantation south of St. Augustine and used also for the camouflaging of the Williams well.
THE WILLIAMS WELL EMBANKED IN COQUINA AND EARTH WITH THE CROSS IN THE BACKGROUND.
Photo by Wolfe.
The 1728 claim affronts the religious sensibilities of a large class of the community. Members of the Catholic Church who venerate the true Shrine of Nuestra Sefiora de la Leche on Ocean Street-the true shrine in a spiritual sense-resent the presence here of this showman's parody chapel with its imitation religious furnishings and the representations made concerning it. The Church authorities have protested without avail the pretenses of any relationship of this stageproperty chapel with the sacred original.
From Mrs. McConnell's conversion of the Williams well into the fake spring discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513, and the wooden chapel which she claimed was the original Shrine of Nuestra Sefiora de la Leche, Dr. Nunan has witnessed the development of the Fountain of Youth hoax through the years to the elaborate camouflaging of the well and the erection of the coquina mock chapel on the site of the
ivsionnell woou ct...., .--- r on behalf of the Church and of the public.
Elsewhere in the Park the simulation of a fort has a Fact-Finding Committee marker with the following bit of perverted history duly legalized by the City Commission:
"Site of the first Fort San Juan de Pinos built by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, ao di 1565. Destroyed 21 years later by Sir Francis Drake, 1586."
The site of San Juan de Pinos is indeterminable. The fort was not built in 1565. It was not built by Menendez. It was not built until 1586, after Menendez had been dead twelve years. It had not been completed even in May, 1586, when Drake burned it. In A Summarie and true Discourse of Sir Francis Drakes West Indian Voyage, published in 1589 by Thomas Cates, one of Drake's officers, the chronicler of the expedition wrote (pp. 43-45) that after landing on Anastasia Island, "going a mile up or somewhat more by the river side, we might discerne on the other side of the river over against us, a Fort, which newly had bene built by the Spaniards, and some mile or thereabout above the Fort was a little towne or village without walles, built of wooden houses". And again, "When the day appeared we found it built all of timber .. without anie ditch as yet made, but who intended with some more time, for they had not as yet finished all their worke, having begun the same some three or fower moneths before: so as to say the truth, they had no. reason to keepe it, being subject both to fier and easie assault ... The Fort thus wonne, which they called S. Johns fort . we essayed to goe to the towne."
Of the several features of the Fountain of Youth Park here noted, the National Committee will find no one absolutely sound historically. The spring discovered in 1513 is today the same hoax it was when Mrs. McConnell dug up her planted coquina cross and told the world Ponce de Leon had drunk of the Williams well (thus inventing the only "original source" on the subject), and when W. J. Harris had hastened to the spot for a photo of the cross to be sold at the Society's house. Because it is a hoax and is not absolutely sound historically, it will come under Dr. Chatelain's rule and can have no place in the restored historical St. Augustine.
The Chatelain Rule and the New St. Augustine
It is to be regretted that while St. Augustine rightfully puts such stress on its historical associations as an attraction for tourists it does not give tourists the truth of its history but foists on them these fictions concocted by ignorant women and developed into large commercial enterprises for deceiving tourists, which deceptions are sanctioned by prevailing public approbation because bringing revenue to the town.
The plan of the restored St. Augustine involves a complete change of these conditions. Under the program prescribed by Dr. Chatelain no place can be found in the new city for a landing place of Ponce de Leon in 1513, for a Williams well labeled a spring discovered in 1513, for a house built for the monks who came with Menendez, a house labeled the oldest frame building in the United States, a produce market labeled a slave market, Post Office walls pretended to be remains of a Spanish Governor's palace of 1603, an Arsenal called Franciscan Monastery "erected about 1600," a Fact-Finding Committee marker labeling a mid-town street the city's western bound until 1885.
Were the National Committee to acquiesce in the carrying over of these features from the present city into the new one for perpetuation there, this would be to vitiate the historical integrity of the restored St. Augustine, and to defeat the purpose of the entire grandiose restoration scheme. Dr. Chatelain's idealized St. Augustine "absolutely sound historically without any flimflams or phoney stories" would have been unattained. The funds however generous contributed for the provision of a truly historical city would have been given in vain.
If the National Committee shall fail to take effective measures to prevent the continuance of the commercial deceptions of tourists in the new St. Augustine, the operators will claim, and logically, that these have been endorsed by the Carnegie Institution, the Smithsonian, the National Park Service, the Florida Historical Society, the University of Florida and all the institutions and individuals of Mayor Fraser's chosen list of sponsors of the Preserved and Restored Historical St. Augustine.
As they are the most widely advertised features now so will they be then; and as they now have the endorsement and promotional agencies of the Chamber of Commerce so will they then. In short, the Historical St. Augustine will be as deceptive with its visitors then as it is today.
It is for the National Committee to determine the event.
CHARLES B. REYNOLDS.
Mountain Lakes, N. J., November, 1937.