History of Pensacola


The original inhabitants of the Pensacola area were Pensacola Native Americans as they were called by the Spanish. Although this name was not recorded until 1677, the tribe appear to be the source of the name. Recorded history starts in the 16th century, when the explorers from European colonist arrived. The expeditions of Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando de Soto took place in the 1500's, at which time the area was called the “Bay of Ochuse.”

Eleven ships from Mexico carried over a thousand people in 1559, under the leadership of Tristan de Luna y Arellano. This tragic attempt to settle the area was destroyed by a major hurricane in the same year as their landing. Hundreds were killed by the storm, five ships were sunken, and their supplies were devastated. Survivors were determined to save the settlement, but were hit again with famine and attacks, which led to the abandonment of the area by 1561. With such repeated difficulties the Viceroy's advisers concluded northwest Florida was too treacherous to settle, a view which stood for more than a century.

This left an opening for French explorers in the late 17th century to begin exploring the area. Their goal was to expand the Louisiana region, branching over from the lower Mississippi River. This prompted the Spanish to try to re-secure the area. They then established a fortified city that was located near what is now Fort Barrancas. This laid a enough of a foundation that carries over to what we now know as the city of Pensacola.

The Spanish built three fortified bases in the Pensacola area. Santa Maria de Galve, which is east of present Fort Barranca, Isla de Santa Rosa(which didn't last due to hurricanes), on Santa Rosa Island near Fort Pickens, and lastly San Miguel de Panzacola over what is now the historic district of downtown Pensacola.

As a result of the French and Indian War, the Spanish gave up Florida to the British in 1763 and Pensacola was made capital of the new British colony of West Florida. The British built the Royal Navy Redoubt at the site of San Carlos de Barrancas in 1763, but by 1779 the Spanish recaptured the city in 1781durning the American Revolution in the Battle of Pensacola.

Florida went back into Spanish control after the war. In 1819, under the Adams-Onis Treaty, the United States purchase the Floridas for a mere 5 million dollars, naming Andrew Jackson as governor. This secured the Florida as an official part of the United States of America.