Fernandina 200 Bicentennial Celebration
The city of Fernandina was incorporated on January 1, 1825. To celebrate its impending 200th birthday, we are collaborating with local organizations to bring you a series of activities throughout 2024 which culminate with a City-wide party on January 1, 2025.
The City of Fernandina Beach, along with Fernandina Beach Main Street, Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Historic District Council, the Amelia Island Museum of History, and the Amelia Island-Fernandina Restoration Foundation are collaborating to bring you a commemorative year of events.
The Fernandina 200 Steering Committee is looking for a variety of diverse activities that will attract residents and visitors. Possible activity ideas include hosting a scavenger hunt, live performances, creation of a time capsule, artifact displays, children’s events, holiday-centered events, home walking tours, old-time photo booths, musical performances, local culture culinary offerings, genealogy discussions, or art exhibits and competitions.
This steering committee is responsible for coordinating and sanctioning all non-profit and business participation in the Fernandina Beach Bicentennial Celebration.
- Amy Boek, Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Salvatore Cumella, City of Fernandina Beach
- Phyllis Davis, Amelia Island Museum of History
- Lisa Finkelstein (chair), Fernandina Beach Main Street
- Mary Hamburg, City of Fernandina Beach
- Mike Harrison, Historic District Council
- Lorelei Jacobs, Amelia Island Island-Fernandina Restoration Foundation
- Brandy Carvahlo,Nassau County Liaison
Please contact Lisa Finkelstein, Committee Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (904) 624-7147 for additional information.
TIMELINE OF AMELIA ISLAND’s HISTORY
o Circa 1000 A.D. – Native Americans associated with the Timucua People established settlements on the island, which they inhabited on a seasonal basis. The island was called Napoyca in the Timucua language.
o 1562 – French Huegenots led by Jean Ribault explored the St. Mary’s river and surrounding area. The French named the island Île de Mai.
o 1565 – Spanish Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St. Augustine and forced the French out of Florida, initiating the first period of Spanish rule. The Spanish later established the Santa Maria de Sena mission on the island, which they called Isla de Santa Maria. The mission, populated by Yamassee Native Americans, was abandoned by the 1680s.
o 1686 – The Santa Catalina de Guale mission was relocated from St. Catherine’s Island to Isla de Santa Maria. In 1702, South Carolina’s Colonial Governor James Moore invaded Spanish Florida with a joint force of British colonists and Native Americans. Santa Catalina was burned and abandoned.
o 1736 – James Ogelthorpe, founder of the Georgia Colony, attempted to establish theisland as Georgia’s southern border. Ogelthorpe garrisoned troops on the island, built a small fortification, and renamed it Amelia - in honor of King George II’s second daughter, Princess Amelia Sophia Eleanor. Negotiations between Ogelthorpe and Spain were unsuccessful, and the island remained under Spanish control.
o 1763 – At the conclusion of the Seven Years War, the Treaty of Paris (1763) made Florida a British possession. The British Proclamation of 1763 established the territories of East and West Florida, and made the St. Mary’s River East Florida’s northeastern border.
o 1783 – The Revolutionary War ended, and the Treaty of Paris (1783) ceded East and West Florida back to the Spanish, which began the second period of Spanish rule.
o 1807 – The United States Congress enacted the Embargo Act, which effectively crippled U.S. exports and shipping, and made Amelia (the northernmost barrier island in Spanish East Florida) an important port for international ships. The Island was a ideal base for smuggling goods and people (through the illegal slave trade) into the United States.
o 1811 – Surveyor George Clarke platted the Town of Fernandina, according to the Spanish Law of the Indies. Spanish Governor of East Florida Enrique White proclaimed that the town would be named in honor of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, and the area outside the city limits would continue to be known as Amelia Island.
o March 16th, 1812 - A force calling themselves the “Patriots of Amelia Island,” led by Revolutionary War hero General George Matthews and backed by U.S. gunboats, took control of Fernandina and raised their “Patriot Flag.” The next day, that flag was struck and the United States flag was raised over Fernandina. This action created diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Spain. By May 6th, 1813, the Patriot forces had withdrawn and Spanish rule returned to Fernandina.
o 1816 –Fort San Carlos is established overlooking the Amelia River, to protect Fernandina’s harbor. The fort, constructed on the site of earlier, more temporary defenses, was made of wood and earthworks, and armed with approximately 10 guns.
o June 29th, 1817 – Scottish mercenary Gregor MacGregor invaded Amelia Island and took possession of Fort San Carlos. Claiming he acted on behalf of revolutionary governments of South America, MacGregor planed on using the island as a launching point for a planned conquest of the Floridas. By September, Spain had mobilized forces to reclaim island back and MacGregor fled.
o September 13, 1817 – A Spanish force of approximately 300 men, along with two ships, erected a battery east of Fort San Carlos at McClure’s hill and shelled Fernandina. Americans Jared Irwin and Ruggles Hubbard were able to organize Fort San Carlo’s defenses and repel the Spanish attack. This is known as the Battle of McClure’s Hill or the Battle of Amelia Island.
o September 17th, 1817 – French Privateer Luis Aury sailed into Fernandina and ostensibly annexed the island on behalf of the Republic of Mexico. Smuggling and piracy were rampant. In December Aury surrendered the island back to Spain, who were backed by the United States. Spain and President Monroe came to an agreement that the U.S. would hold the island “in trust for Spain.”
o February 22, 1821 – according to the Adams-Onis Treaty Florida officially became a territory of the United States, according to terms of the Adams-Onis Treaty.
o March 3rd, 1845 – Florida became the 27th state in the United States of America.
o 1847 – Construction began on the fortification that would later be named Fort Clinch, in honor General Duncan Lamont Clinch (veteran of the War of 1812 and the First and Second Seminole Wars).
o 1855 – David Yulee began construction on the Florida Railroad, with Fernandina as its east coast terminus. Finding the terrain of Fernandina’s original site unsuitable, Yulee convinced most of the town to move roughly one mile south to its present location.
o 1861 – Confederate Volunteers took control of Fort Clinch, which was abandoned by Federal workers.
o March 3rd, 1862 - Commodore Samuel Dupont led Federal gunboats into Fernandina’s harbor and restored Union authority. The island remained under Federal control for the duration of the Civil War. The island became a haven for former slaves and a recruiting base for the First South Carolina Volunteers, one of the earliest regiments of African American soldiers mustered into the Union Army.
o March 23rd, 1876 – Fire ravaged much of Fernandina’s business district downtown, destroying almost 40 buildings, including the Post Office.
o 1877 – An epidemic of yellow fever struck Fernandina. The Sisters of St. Joseph famously turned their home into a hospital and nursed the town’s sick.
o 1883 – The Fire of 1883 destroyed much of downtown Fernandina, and caused $40,000 worth of damage.
o October 2nd, 1898 – The Hurricane of 1898, with its 90-100 mile per hour winds, devastated much of downtown Fernandina’s waterfront. The storm hurled a two mast schooner all the way from the harbor to Beech and Second Street, and essentially split The Strathmore Hotel at the beach in half. At least four people drowned when their homes were swept away by water.
o 1902 – Shrimping pioneer Sollecito “Mike” Salvador introduced motorized boats to local shrimping, a crucial innovation in the evolution of the modern industry.
o 1935 – Abraham Lincoln Lewis, co-founder of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company established American Beach on the south end of the island as a beach resort community for company executives and employees. During segregation, the community thrived as a destination where African American vacationers and homeowners could enjoy “recreation and relaxation without humiliation.”
o 1937 – The Container Corporation opens the Fernandina Pulp Mill of America start on Amelia Island.
o 1939 – The Rayonier Pulp and Paper Company begins producing cellulose specialties in Fernandina.
o January, 1952 – The City of Fernandina expanded its city limits and officially changes its name to Fernandina Beach.
o June 7, 1964 – The First Shrimp Boat Races were held at Fernandina, which ushered in the first official Shrimp Festival.
o September 9, 1964 - Hurricane Dora battered the shores of Fernandina, with winds reaching over 100 mph. A category 3 storm, Dora did an estimated 10 million dollars damage in Nassau County, which lead President Lyndon B. Johnson to declare a state of emergency.
o 1971 – Development begins on the Amelia Island Plantation. This 1,350 acre resort community balances develop with conservation of Amelia Island’s south end.
o 1991 – The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island opens. This 446 room luxury hotels brings jobs and visitors to Amelia Island.