Settlers Push Southward

When the Spanish first settled Florida in the early 16th century, they kept largely to coastal areas such as St. Augustine and Pensacola. Later, as settlers began moving into central areas of Florida to homestead plantations, they would come into conflict with native people as well as the Spanish authorities.


These conflicts would spur the First Seminole War, when Spain ceded Florida to the United States and white settlement of the interior of Florida increased.

 

As settlers pushed southward and moved into areas already inhabited by the Seminole, tensions grew. Despite this, trade did occur between the U.S. settlers and native people in Florida. These transactions often took place around established settlement sites such as Fort King. The U.S. government tried to regulate this trade by prohibiting the sale of firearms or alcohol to native people, but frontier trade was difficult to police effectively.


By the 1830s, the U.S. policy of Indian removal had gained momentum and land prospectors were eager to see new tracts of land become available. Many settlers welcomed the removal of their native neighbors against whom they often felt a certain level of antipathy and distrust.


The Florida Armed Occupation Act of 1842 encouraged the settlement and development of lands in central and southern Florida. The Act granted settlers 160 acres provided they built a house and cultivated the land. The legislation also stipulated that the permitted land be at least two miles from the nearest military post.


Florida’s rapidly growing population led to statehood in 1845.


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