Several sources claim Ponce de Leon landed in the vicinity of what is now Ponte Vedra Beach while searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. It is reported that on April 2, 1513, at latitude 30 degrees 8 minutes north a landing party went ashore. However, the location did not provide a suitable harbor for his ships, so legend states he sailed further down the coast and landed at the present site of St. Augustine. After the establishment of St. Augustine by the Spaniards to the south in 1565 and the founding of Fort Caroline by the French to the north, French and Spanish
soldiers traveled the sands of Ponte Vedra Beach in bloody forays vying for a foothold in northeast Florida. The area received a certain prominence in World War 1 when many valuable minerals were discovered in the local sands. The most valuable for the war effort were
ilmenite, from which titanium is made, and zirconium, the basis for
zircon. The National Lead Company bought out the original discoverers, and the area was named Mineral City.
Mineral City was a rugged outpost plagued by rattlesnakes, alligators and mosquitoes. Mining operations ceased shortly after the war ended.
In 1922 the National lead Company built the first nine hole golf course for the use of its workers. In 1942 Telfair Stockton Company bought all the National Lead Company holdings and began the development of the present resort community.
World War II brought a sinister moment in Ponte Vedra's history. On the night of June 16th, in a daring exploit four, German soldiers from a German submarine rowed ashore in a rubber boat carrying explosives and United States money. Five days prior to this four other German saboteurs had landed on Long Island in New York. The intentions of the eight men were to blow up defense plants and destroy important transportation arteries. Before any damage was done the eight men were captured by federal authorities. All were tried and six were electrocuted. The other two had collaborated with the United States government and received prison terms. After the war President Truman commuted their sentences, and two prisoners were deported to Germany. A St. Johns County historical Marker is on the site of the Ponte Vedra Beach landing.
Now, most of the rattlesnakes, alligators and mosquitoes are gone, and Ponte Vedra Beach community is considered one of the most luxurious recreational and residential locations in the country. Over the years, more and more people began to visit and move into the area and by the time Gate Petroleum Company purchased the original Inn and Club in 1983, the Ponte Vedra area had blossomed. Today, the area boasts a population of more than 16,000 and offers 153 holes of golf, 60 tennis courts and, of course, miles of beautiful, unspoiled white sand beaches.
It is interesting to note that the name Ponte Vedra, which means old bridge, was taken from a town in northern Spain.
The area in was once inhabited by the native Timaqua Indians who made their home along the banks of the Saint Johns River (known as la Riviere de May ,the River of May) hence "May port". Sounds familiar ! Artifacts are abundant throughout the area and a Tamuqua burial mound can be found close by. On February 18th 1562, Jean Ribault under commission from Admiral Coligny and Catherine de Medici sailed from Harve-de Grace France in three ships for further exploration of the Floridas. It was on May 1st 1562 that the three ships approached the St. Johns River. The next morning a landing party set foot in the river valley, received a friendly welcome by the Tamaqua tribes, and climbed the bluff just to the east of Ft. Caroline , (which is now named as St. Johns Bluff). On this day Ribault claimed the Floridas for France and erected a stone monument with the French coat of arms carved into it. A replica of this monument can be seen at the park site up on St. Johns bluff near the end of Fort Caroline Road. Ribault left and returned to France and later a relative of Coligny , Rene de Laudonniere, returned on June 24th 1564 to establish a colony. He returned to original site and built the fort we know as Ft. Caroline. The exact location of the original fort is in question, but it is known it was at the existing site or very close by.
Papers and Articles
This site has some very interesting papers and articles about the early history of our area. Click on the one you would like to read. They are in PDF format and requires the adobe reader. If you do not have it it can be obtained free from http://www.adobe.com/.1.St. Johns Bluff a brief paper.
2. "St Johns Bluff" an in depth paper in story-like fashion.
Internet Links:Beaches Area Historical Society- Great historical information and photographs
Main Site- http://beachesareahistoricalsociety.com/
Here are some great links to learn
about Ft. Caroline and the Timaqua Ecological and Historic
Suggested reading: If you can find a copy