Letter: De Soto landed in St Augustine

Dear Editor:

Where do I begin? I have battled the State of Florida to save a piece of St. Augustine History for over a decade.

It has to do with the only archaeological evidence ever found in your sunshine state with the name of a Spanish Explorer on it.

I found it on Anastasia Island in 1985 and never knew what it was for almost eighteen years. The site on Anastasia Island where this thing was found is located near the beach along the shoulder of the road at Anastasia State Park. No archaeologist has ever attempted to document the discovery.

The name and date may totally surprise you. The Hernando De Soto Expedition explored what was the interior of America for over four years. He landed in the year 1539, and they built a National Memorial for the man in Bradenton.

So what is his landing relic doing in St. Augustine?

There is an obscure theory published by my late friend Mike Leverette who died a couple of years ago. In 1990, he claimed Hernando landed along the Atlantic Ocean instead somewhere near Cape Canaveral.

What amazes me is that no matter what I do or what I say, the State of Florida simply refuses to give history half a chance to speak for itself.

I have to fight your new State Archaeologist on the subject of authorizing a National Memorial to honor the very reason for their existence — no matter where it is found.

De Soto’s own Memorial got paid $240,000 to turn their backs on their own heritage and go build a New State Trail to the man without ever spending a dime of it on the historical truth or even lifting a finger to help preserve it.

I have to meet with your Inspector General, Kirby Mole, in 2008 along with JuDee Dawkins, Director of Florida Cultural Affairs, and try to force the State of Florida to welcome home their own history.

Two simple little words, “welcome home”.

I donated the piece to the Museum of Florida History and the FLBAR and there it sat locked up tighter than Ft. Knox and nobody is publicly permitted to know it even exists.

To sit here and read in your news journal of just how much archaeologists care about the protection of Florida’s Treasures and the protection of historical sites, it is almost insulting to me.

How much they can bad mouth professional treasure hunters for destroying Florida’s cultural resources or exploiting National Historic Treasures so on and so forth, when even they are told to do the exact same thing by pretending history never happened at the same time Florida keeps on commemorating it did.

Viva Florida 500 will be a joke, when your own bureaucrats in charge still refuse to allow a National Memorial to honor their past.

You may place blame for this on the Congress of the United States of America and the National Parks Service for failing to authorize De Soto’s own Memorial to do their jobs and forcing them to shut up about it and no longer to be of any assistance.

Meanwhile the EPA was spending federal funds to illegally dump an eligible national historic site portrayed in the Rotunda of our Nation’s Capital of Hernando’s 1541 discovery of the Mississippi River down a super fund repository without even bothering to conduct the required Section 106 archaeological surveys to determine what impact it had.

So there you have it. Why won’t your state find the courage to stand up for its own historical heritage even that found at St. Augustine? On the other hand, is the discovery of a famous 1539 landing too embarrassing to admit happened if it could be proven to have occurred on the wrong ocean?

There is other archaeological evidence the State of Florida is failing to admit that originated from the De Soto Expedition that points the wrong way, too.

This might not seem like much to you, but to cover up historical truth and pretend Florida History never happened is a total disgrace at the highest levels in Tallahassee. And, nobody is authorized to do anything about it. Silence still says it all. Excuse me for being blunt about your preserving your past and I am all for it, but Fubar is the only acronym I can think of to describe the archaeological injustice being done here.

It all goes back to 1990 again when Mike Leverette published his theory in the second addition of Soto States Anthropologist. That sent shock waves through the ranks of De Soto Scholars all trying to find Hernando’s footsteps. At the same time, the National Park Service was conducting their feasibility study for establishing a De Soto National Historic Trail; canned because these same people could not come up with a consensus on anything.

Death threats were being issued against Mike Leverette and the publishers of Soto States Anthropologist and their families for costing leading scholars headed by Dr. Milanich and Charles Hudson to lose three million dollars in research grants for their own lost trail projects.

Anyhow, if you can make any sense out of all the skeletons in the Florida Archaeological closet perhaps you can do a story to help save a priceless piece of Florida History before it is too late. I mean I hate to make a big deal over nothing but let me tell you straight up, the De Soto 1539 landing relic like it or lump it is an important part of St. Augustine History.

I love Florida History, as a discoverer of lost 16th Century Trails, not only in your state but also Kentucky and Missouri, I feel that your heritage extends beyond the state lines of today.

You should take pride in yourself and support preserving America’s rich, cultural heritage unimpaired. I do not feel like this is asking for too much from our State Archaeologists or the SHPO or the National Parks Service, and the EPA stopped dumping DeSoto and their toxic waste in my own backyard only after filing complaints for two years or more, but it was not until the damage was done.

Now, officially, the State of Florida may try to deny this story, or do all they can to discredit me, but in reality they can’t come out and officially put it on the public record because all the experts on the subject behind closed doors all know it’s true.

I actually did discover De Soto at St. Augustine.

You may have to take my word for it, but why would I lie about something so important?

If it means anything at all to you people at St. Augustine, then help support your history instead of turning a blind eye like everybody else and pretend it never happened.


Loren Blalock
Perryville, Missouri

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News archive photograph

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