A Little Bit of History of Amelia Island
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
There is an old saying that has always seem to stick in the minds of those whom reek of enthusiasm when spinning tales about from where they hail. “You can’t know where you are going, unless you know where you’ve already been.” The context could easily be construed to relate to the history of your home. In this case, our home! Thousands upon thousands of tourists come from around the globe every summer season. Sitting outside the coffee or ice cream shop on Centre St. in historic downtown Fernandina Beach, you will hear passers by speaking many different languages and an array of demeanor. Their mission – to learn about the culture that exist here, and how it differs from their own. We would serve ourselves well to retain that same knowledge.
Fernandina Beach was founded on Amelia Island in Nassau County, Florida. Amelia Island is a part of a tidal chain called the Sea Islands. The chain is located on the southeastern Atlantic Ocean coast of the United States of America. While you may only know a few of the names – like Cumberland and Tiger Island – there are over a hundred islands altogether. The Sea Islands run all the way from Florida up to the coastline of South Carolina. Amelia Island comes from a fairy-tale-like beginning, named for the Princess Amelia, daughter of George III of Great Britain. That is not the only world power to have had the island in pocket. The 8 flags that have flown over the island prove the chaotic nature of politics in earlier times. French, Spanish, Patriot, United States, Mexico, Green Cross, British, and Confederate flags have all had their time in the skies over Amelia Island.
Native Americans settled on the Island, circa 1000. They were bands associated with the Timucua, which – at the time – they call Napoyca. These bands lasted through the early years of the 18th century. Jean Ribault, a French explorer, was the first European to visit the region. He celebrated that accomplishment in 1562. In the late 1600’s, the British raids pillaged through and forced the one tribe of Indians – the Gaulle – to abandon their mission on St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia. They were relocated and missions were abandoned when James Moore, South Carolina Governor, would lead a British-American Indian invasion of Florida. It was when all the dust had settled when Governor James Oglethorpe would rename the island Amelia Island. He showed nerve in doing this, considering the island was technically still a Spanish possession at the time. Through years of progress and headstrong effort, the island has come to be the charming sand box we’ve all come to love!
So, next time you find yourself on Amelia Island, you (hopefully) agree that it would be a great idea to take a gander into the history of the island. Lucky for you, much of the historic value can be seen from the water. Our guided tours are the perfect way to learn about everything from the attacks on the magnificent Ft. Clinch to tales of the social culture of founding times. Come and get your knowledge on!