During the St Augustine City Commission meeting last night, Monday, February 28th, Historic City News subscribers watched as the commission proclaimed March 2022, to be Minorcan History and Culture Month in St Augustine.
The Minorcan presence along Florida’s Historic Coast is traced back to 1768, when Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a Scottish speculator, cast his sight on an indigo plantation in New Smyrna. Over 1400 people, the largest single group of European settlers to immigrate to the New World, left the Mediterranean and set sail for British East Florida.
“Among this group was Minorcan, Greek, Italian, Corsican, and French peoples,” according to the text of the newly signed proclamation. “The courageous efforts of the group to tame the wilderness and settle a portion of Northeast Florida represents a major contribution to early American history.”
The Minorcans spent the first nine years toiling under harsh conditions and they endured even harsher treatment. Their numbers were decimated by disease and starvation.
In the fall of 1777, after years of strife, the remaining settlers totaled less than 700. The Greeks and Minorcans working on the Turnbull Plantation set out on foot, walking to St Augustine. They petitioned the British governor, Patrick Tonyn, and he granted them a space in the northwest section of the old walled city.
Since coming to the city, and for the more than two centuries that followed, the Minorcan colonists and their descendants have been an integral part of St Augustine and St Johns County. The vibrant Minorcan community has fortified the culture of the nation’s oldest city.
The nexus of Spanish island culture, disparate Mediterranean traditions, and New World adaptations has long intrigued visitors.
The St Augustine City Commission encouraged citizens to participate in the many activities planned to highlight the Minorcan Experience throughout the month of March.