Picolata,
St. Johns County, Florida
St. Augustine Defenses
St. Johns River
Picolata is located 44 miles south of Jacksonville and 18 miles west of St. Augustine. The size of the town today is not
an indication of its importance to the Spanish, English and Americans. It is located at a place in the St. Johns river
where the wide river narrows.

Spanish Period
For the Native Americans it was called Salamatoto. For the Spanish it was the gateway west to the Apalache Missions
(Mission San Luis). It was also a back door to St. Augustine. The site was an early Spanish mission known as San
Diego de Salamatoto. A ferry would be operating before the end of the 1600s. The area was already garrisoned by
1680. Troops were withdrawn after an English raid that was reported to the King by Governor Pablo de Hita Salazar.
Captain Don Franco Ligarroa was the recipient of a land grant for the area. This ownership would last till the end in
of the first Spanish period in 1763.

In 1708 Governor Martinez reported an attack by the English on the palisaded "Castle" at Salamatoto. In 1734 the
Spanish authorized the reconstruction of the two forts (also
Fort Pupo) at the river crossing. In 1737 with Arredondo's
recommendation Gov. Francisco del Moral Sanchez ordered the construction of a blockhouse, barracks, storehouses
and batteries.   On either side of the river was a small fort used by the Spaniards – Picolata to the east, and a
matching fort directly across the river, near Bayard (
Fort San Francisco de Pupo).  Fort Picolata was destroyed by
the English in 1740. It was an important fort during the 1st Spanish and the British periods It was destroyed in 1813
during the Patriot War.

Franciscan priest Juan Joseph Solana's 1760 Description
A square tower, eight varas in height, with a moat four feet wide and three feet deep, a covered walk, loopholes, and
a palisade. The tower had a flat roof and was surrounded by a parapet. There was a second building used for
supplies.

Col. James Moncrief's Drawing
His drawing (right) shows a 3 story, square tower made of coquina and with a wood hip roof. The first and second
stories with loopholes The blockhouse was surrounded by a wood palisade with a moat on three sides.

The British Creek Congress
In November 15 1765, John Bartram and his son William attended the first Indian Congress held with British officials
in East Florida.  “A lovely cool day...never was A finer day to travail.”  “...toward St Johns ye soil...seems very sandy
yet ye pines is much larger & grows thicker & ye grass is much better covering ye ground middle leg deep or more....”
Father and son slept inside the fort chamber that night and woke to a “fine lovely day.” The schooner had been sent
from St. Augustine to sail up the St. Johns River loaded with gifts for the Indians.
Governor James Grant distributed
the gifts during the treaty conference. John Bartram wrote that the fort had walls "near two foot thick & 4 paces
square within side, ye entrance of ye chamber is by A ladder on one side & A window on each other 3 sides with
convenient port holds. Ye floor is terraced; ye garret or chamber over it is also ascended by A ladder;...ye
perpendicular wall is carried near 3 foot high on which 4 swivel guns is placed. A space is about two foot left between
ye wall & roof which is pointed at top; ye lowest room is kept for their magazine & provisions. They have also A
kitchen within ye stockade which surrounds ye main stone fort Just described. All this is within 40 yards of ye flow of
St wans, which river or bay at high tide flows about A foot..."

On the 18th of November the Creek headmen met with Governor Grant and Superintendent John Stuart outside of
Fort Picolata. An open pavilion of pine logs covered by pine boughs had been prepared, essentially "two poles...
wraped round with blankets for ye Indian chiefs to sit upon." Grant and Stuart were seated at a table which faced the
Chiefs and the open end of the pavilion.

The Creek Chiefs, “about 50 in number,” gathered in the plain between the river and the fort before advancing in
columns of six, with two men marching on one side carrying dressed deerskins. Two others carried "A pipe dressed
with eagle feathers by which ye interpreter marched & a rattle box. They marched with an easy pace, sometimes
dancing, singing, & shouting, & every now & then halting. But when they came within 20 paces of ye pavilion, they
halted 4 or 5 minutes, then ye 2 chiefs advanced pretty fast with A kind of dance to ye Governor & superintendent,
which they stroked alternately all over their faces & heads with their eagle feathers surrounding their pipes, then
retired backward dancing to ye entrance of ye pavilion."

When the chiefs returned they shook hands with Grant and Stuart and took seats while the other Chiefs came
forward. The deerskins were presented as gifts, "ye pipe of peace...[was] smoked," and negotiations commenced.
Stuart spoke first, reminding the Chiefs of similar negotiations held the previous spring with headmen of the western
Creeks. Grant then gave "A long & very ingenious talk...after which one of ye cunning chiefs talked in ye name of ye
rest shewing their uneasiness concerning some articles ye superintendent had formerly proposed to them."

Discussions resumed the following day at the same site. The Creeks had proposed a treaty ceding "ye lands up ye
rivers as far as ye tide ran, but that gave ye English no satisfaction." On the second day, Grant and Stuart made
alternate proposals. They finally agreed upon "A fine concession of above 25 mile deep, from above fort barrington
cross St. Marys to A point of St. Johns 60 miles above Picolata, several hundred miles in length, as much or more
than ye governor expected."

The signing was then concluded and the governor and the headmen "smoked in ye pipe of friendship. Ye Indian
chiefs according to their dignity each [were given] A fine silver medal, some as big as ye palm of my hand, others
bigger than A dollar, hung in a fine silk ribbon two yards long, which ye governor hung about each chiefs neck while
ye drums beat & ye guns fired from ye fort & vessel. Then ye governor &...[John Stuart, the King's superintendent of
Indian Affairs in the South], otherwise called ye beloved man, shaked hands with them all." The Picolata Congress
concluded November 19th, as presents of guns, kettles and blankets were distributed to the Creek headmen.

Second Congress
A second congress was held at Picolata from November 21-23, 1767 by Governor Grant.

Bartrams Description
The Bartrams would later describe the Fort as "a small shallow entrenchment filled up with the length of time some
twenty yards square, twenty yards back from the river." A few yards inland from the first fortification was another
"twice as big." The area was covered with orange trees and live oaks." William Bartram would buy an indigo
plantation six miles above Picolata.

On Bartrams second expedition in 1774 he described Fort Picolata with the thirty foot coquina tower still standing and
the breast high wall without bastions with loopholes for weapons. A ditch surrounded the entire structure. The upper
story contained cupolas which had housed eight four-pounders, two on each side.

Fort Picolata in the Second Spanish period
Engineer Mariano de la Rocque gave a report to Governor Zespedes in 1789 on the fort:
"the cited tower is of Masonry six yards square, eight yards and two feet high, and its wall a half yard thick, which
Walls are in good condition. It is where the Spaniards formerly had a Cavalry Guard to receive the Indians that came
to the Place for crossing the main road from their Village in front of the said Tower, and whence this road continues
to St. Augustine twenty-one miles distant; the Tower does not require other construction than to restore it as it was,
building its height which is entirely destroyed, and around it forming a Stockade with its ditch and Gate, in order to
avoid in part any assault. Having at the same time a Tender, or Boat equipped for whatever might happen: by the
rest of the River there is no need to fear any surprise of Attack, for the impracticality of its Terrain, and long distance.

In January 1803 the tower at Fort Picolata was repaired. Jose Belasco Romero, a forced laborer was sent to Picolata
to caulk the tower floor. In 1807 Philip Robert Yonge reopened the Panton, Wesley trading store in Picolata.

In the 1812 Patriots Rebellion U. S. Colonel Richard Ashley took possession of Fort Picolata. He had twenty men at
Picolata and other troops up and down the St. Johns River. The Seminoles attacked Picolata and while not
succeeding burned the trading houses and what supplies were in them.

In 1815 after the rebellion was over Governor Juan de Estrada gave a grant of 300 acres to Edward M. Wanton in
Picolata. He would stay in Picolata until 1820.

Captain John Eatton Le Conte, U. S. Army Topographical Engineers 1822
At Picolata the Spaniards and the English in their time kept a garrison which was strengthened and supported by a
fortification on the West side, but both these have long ago fallen to decay, and of the last nothing is not remaining.
They were undoubtedly constructed to keep the Indians in awe and to protect the inhabitants, especially such as
were situated below. They must have essentially answered this purpose and it is therefore somewhat surprising at
the close of the revolutionary war, should have deserted them and then left the whole country open to the incursions
of the Seminoles, then a powerful nation. (
LeConte's Report on East Florida)

Vignoles Observations 1823
A few miles above the mouth of Black Creek stands the old block house of Picolati: nothing remains of it except two of
the shattered walls, through which loop holes and meutrieres are pierced: it stands on a low bluff and half concealed
by the luxuriant branches of surrounding trees, it reminds the visitor who views it from the river, of the deserted
castellated residence of some ancient feudal lord. On the opposite or west side of the St. John's was fort Poppa, of
which scarce a vestige remains.

Spanish Land Claims
In 1824 the U. S. Land Commission would confirm Edward Wanton's 300 acre claim at Picolata.

Canal
Around 1832 the Legislative Council authorized the building of a canal from Six Mile Creek below Picolata to St.
Augustine. This canal would have been twelve miles long. It was not built.

Picolata House
By 1834 the Picolata House a boarding house was open owned by a Captain Hill. Rooms were rented daily, weekly,
or monthly. The hotel also had an eating establishment.
For board and lodging by the day $1.50, the week $7, the
month $25. For breakfast 37 1/2 cents, for dinner 50 cents, for supper 57 1/2 cents. For a nights lodging 25 cents.


The St. Augustine and Picolata Rail Road Company
The rail road company was organized in 1836 but no railroad was ever built.

Steamers
By 1839 the steamer Florida ran twice a week between Savannah and Picolata. This also meant that St. Augustine's
mail came through Picolata.

Col John Lee Williams
Picolata was once called Picolati. In the early 1800s it was home to Col. John Lee Williams. Captain Williams was one
of the two men charged with selecting a capital for the Florida. He wrote
Territory of Florida or Sketches of the
Topography, Civil and Natural History
while in Picolata. Williams would buy Edward Wanton's 300 acres and own the
ferry and old fort remains at Picolata. During the Seminole War he was one planter who continued to live in his
plantation house even after the burning of Picolata. He was buried in Picolata on November 8, 1859 at the age of
eighty.

Daniel Garrison Brinton in his Guide-Book of Florida and the South say: "I now return to Picolata on the St. John.
About a mile north of the landing, on the bank of the river, lived Col. John Lee Williams, the author of "The Natural
and Civil History of Florida," and "View of West Florida," and in many ways conspicuous in the early history of the
State. He died in 1857, and was buried in his own garden. I had the melancholy satisfaction of visiting his grave the
day after his burial, having reached Picolata without learning his death. I was told that the river here had materially
altered its course within the memory of those now living. I am certainly unable to account in any other way for the total
disappearance of the Spanish fort which, a century ago, existed here. The traveller Bartram describes it as built of
coquina stone brought from Anastasia island. The main work, a square tower, thirty feet high, with battlements
allowing two guns on each side, was surrounded by a high wall, pierced with loop-holes and a deep exterior ditch.
Even at that time he speaks of it as "very ancient."

Seminole War
Picolata was the starting point for the war for many volunteers from the north, who decamped there before heading
off to points in the interior. On the first of January 1836, Major Stephens arrived with twenty volunteers from
Savannah with two fine brass field pieces. The next week forty more volunteers arrived from Georgia. Throughout the
winter more and more volunteers arrived. Supplies from Picolata were sent by trains of wagons to Fort King, Fort
Drane and Micanopy.

General Scott met the South Carolina volunteers at Picolata toward the end of February 1836. Lieutenant Taylor was
the commanding officer at Picolata. Another commanding officer was Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman.
Lieutenant Colonel James Bankhead was also a commander. The garrison except for troop transfers did not have
enough people to protect the general area and the Seminoles took advantage of this by raiding area plantations
along the St. Johns river.

Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman's Description
I have here an independent command, have a large good house, and what is better than all, mails twice a week...
Picolata was an old settlement before this war, consisting of a large frame building intended for a hotel for invalids,
with barracks, outhouses, guardhouses, stables, etc., but since the war, also a family of citizens who keep a kind of
board house for passers by...In fact, I would prefer being here to St. Augustine for 'till like being in the country with all
the advantages of both town and country, for with a good horse I can ride over at any time in a couple of hours, get
books, see ladies, etc.

Death of Dr. Philip Weedman
"November 25, 1839.—Shortly after the mail wagon left the city Dr. Philip Weedman, Sr., accompanied by his little
son, a lad about twelve years of age, both in an open wagon, with Mr. Graves, on horseback, left for the purpose of
visiting his former residence, now occupied as a garrison by a part of Captain Mickler's company. On arriving at the
commencement of Long Swamp, without any previous warning, he was fired upon and killed, having received two
balls in his breast; his little son was wounded in the head, baring his brain; also cut with a knife. The mutilated youth,
with the remains of his dead father, were brought in town today. The express returned for medical aid, causing the
Indians to run, as the wagon containing the mail was fired into, wounding Captain Searle and killing a Polander who
was riding horseback."

"Tuesday, November 26, 1839.—The funeral of Dr. Philip Weedman took place today, attended by all of our citizens,
who sympathize deeply with his numerous family."

East Florida (Southern Patriot, November 5, 1841)
death has been busy within a short time since with Uncle Sam's officers. Capt. H. Garner, 3d Artillery, died at Picolata
on the 23d inst. Maj. Jacob Brown, Paymaster, son of the late distinguished Maj. Gen. Jacob Brown, died at St.
Augustine on the 25th inst.; and 2d Lieut. Thomas B. Gannett, of the 7th infantry, died at Pilatka on the 30th inst.; all,
I believe, with the yellow fever, or, as the natives call it about these parts, the Congestive fever. Each and all of these
gentlemen were greatly beloved and respected.

The news from Tampa Bay is still encouraging and cheerful. The Indians belonging to Tiger Tail's party are on the
road, and no doubt ere this have arrived at that post--where no doubt Colonel Worth will pay every respect to their
comfort and safe keeping.

Armed Occupation Act of 1842
The act sponsored by Governor Richard Keith Call  was made to encourage settlement of Florida. It would give any
family head 160 acres of land: 1. If it was south of a line running three miles north of Palatka 2. The land was two
miles of a military post. Picolata was north of the line and was a military base.

Picolata Hotel (Henry Benjamin Whipple)
"Jan 27th (1844) Left St. Augustine today and after a tedious ride of four & a half hours arrived at Picolata 18 miles
from that city. We had a very quiet time, no danger being apprehended from rapid driving, & the caution appended to
the head of the way bill, 'all running of horses strictly prohibited on this line,' seemed to me quite a farce. Jog, jog
along more like an old scow than a northern stage coach. We were not troubled by changes of horses and drivers by
grog stations hotels or anything of the kind and very demurely walked up to the (what shall I call it) Hotel!...Of one
thing I am certain, the inn keeper wisely concluded no man ever stopped at his house twice & so he made the most of
his charge."

* * *
At Picolata (a city in the parlance of speculators) we found 3 or 4 houses and as desolate a looking place as can be
seen. It resembles the Eden of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewitt. From Picolata we went to Black Creek in the St. Mathews
and here we found another of these Florida cities only famed for their desolate looking houses.

Master Edward C. Anderson, commander of the U. S. S. General Taylor
There are at present standing in Picolata one large hotel, in a dilapidated condition & another smaller dwelling
occupied by an old man named Williams, with his family. These two houses, with an old government stable form the
town of Picolata. During the Indian war there were several companies of soldiers stationed here & the large hotel was
used as sort of Barracks for both officers & men.

B. F. Carr
In 1848 John Lee Williams sold to B. E. Carr four acres of the "fort and ferry" parcel he had acquired from Wanton in
1834. In 1857 Carr sold this property to James Riz. Ritz was licensed to operate a ferry and began to improve
Picolata by adding a residence, boarding house, warehouse and several other buildings.

James Riz
The next owner of the ferry was James Riz who bought the fort and ferry in 1857 from B. F. Carr. He already owned
640 acres of Picolata. He built a new wharf, residence, boarding house, and warehouse. He also built a road
northeast to the Bellamy Road.

The Civil War
Picolata resumed its role at the protector of the back door to St. Augustine after the reestablishment of Federal
control in 1862. By 1864 a post was established at Picolata. On April 8, 1864 companies of the Third New Hampshire
moved up the St. Johns river to take possession of Picolata. The
34 USCT was also assigned Picolata. This may
have been a homecoming to many of the men. Part of the 34th was raised in the St. Johns River area and among the
Key West men were many former St. Augustine slaves. At the time Picolata consisted of two houses, a wharf and
some earthwork defenses. The final troops that would be placed at Picolata were the 17th Connecticut.

Lieutenant Albert Pect would describe Picolata as consisting of an "old two story building which we used for storing
our commissary stores--and a small building which was formerly used for a post office. Our commissary stores were
kept downstairs and I used the room upstairs for my office and sleeping room...We had about 160 enlisted men and
six or two ten pounder brass cannon...We are in a rather dangerous position although we can hold it against an
equal force of the enemy as we have a very good Stockade here."

Real Estate for Sale at Picolata (St. Augustine Examiner, September 21, 1867)
A lot of fourteen acres one hammock with several sweet orange trees upon it. Bounded South by land of Watson,
West by the
St. Johns River and North by the land of D. Bravo. A very desirable location for a homestead and orange
grove. For particulars apply to Joseph G. Ferrella.

Conditions in 1869
By 1869 boarding was with Mr. T. F. Bridier. It was the station where the passengers landed. The hotel was gone
leaving only the house owned by the Picolata Stage company.
Picolata Stage no longer held the monopoly on the trip
to St. Augustine and another company helped lower the fare from $3 to $1.

A Winter in Florida by Ledyard Bill, 1869
To Picolata from Green Cove is but a couple of hours' sail; fare, one dollar. The only impression made by this short
trip on the river was its lake-like appearance. Picolata figures conspicuously on most of the maps as an important
town; but the reality is so absolutely nothing, that it is truly laughable to think that it should ever have had any name
beyond, perhaps, "Brown's Farm," or "Smith's Stables." An inventory is as quickly given as anything: one beer-shop,
one comfortable farm-dwelling, and a few rude stalls constructed and occupied for the use of the stage-lines to St.
Augustine is all. Beyond being the nearest point on the river to that old city, and the place where passengers
destined for St. Augustine disembark, it is of no importance. We doubt whether a respectable pauper at the North
would take the whole thing as a gift, and be obliged to stay upon it.

Picolata Stage
The Picolata Stage had its final run in 1870.

Florida It's Scenery, Climate, and History by Sidney Lanier 1876
Ten miles above [Hogarth's Landing], on the same side, is Picolata, a place formerly of some importance as the
landing for passengers bound to St. Augustine, but now of only historic interest. Here in the old Spanish days was the
crossing of the river on the thoroughfare from St. Augustine over towards St. Marks; and the remains of an old
defensive work are still to be found on the opposite bank. Picolata was a considerable commercial Spanish
settlement; and the Franciscans are said to have once erected a church and monastery here, of much architectural
merit.

Drowned in Florida (The Sun, January 19, 1886)
The
Jackonsville Herald reports the drowning recently near Picolata, Florida, of Sydney Peacock, a young
Englishman, and Douglas Corse, son of Major W. D. Corse, of Alexandria, Virginia. Young Corse, whose father owns
an orange grove at Picolata., had a contract with the steamboat companies to light the beacons on the river every
evening, and these lights are quite a distance from the shore. Friday evening the water was very rough, but Corse,
accompanied by Peacock, started a rowboat for the beacons. The lights did not appear, and the young men did not
return. Saturday morning their boat was discovered, bottom up, in a cove not far from Picolata, but no signs of the
bodies could be found. It is supposed that the heavy sea and wind capsized them, and that the young men held on to
the boat as long as they could, and eventually let go from exhaustion and cold.

Picolata loses its importance
Picolata lost its big share of the riverboat traffic to Tocoi. However, Tocoi's victory was shortlived. With the coming of
the direct rail line from Jacksonville to St. Augustine and Flagler's decision to bypass Tocoi the era closed on this
route to St. Augustine.

Memories of Picolata
Today to experience the old Picolata of the 19th century one must travel a strange route. In 1884 Frederick Delius a
famous composer spent about a year at its families farm at Solano citrus grove south of Picolata. He would eventually
return to Europe where he composed
Florida Suite influenced by the African American melodies of the workers along
the river. The
Florida Suite was composed in 1887 and part of this was used in his opera Koanga.

Peter Sanks
All person's having claims or demands against the estate of Peter Sanks, deceased, including legatees or
distributees, are hereby notified to present same to me within time prescribed by law; and all persons indebted to
said estate will please make prompt settlement with me.

F. H. Sanks
Administrator of the Estate of Peter Sanks, deceased.
Picolata, Fla, September 28, 1903

Potatoes (St. Augustine Evening Record, May 5, 1904)
Robert Colee of Picolata brought a sample of his potato crop to the Record office this morning. The tubers are of
enormous size and apparently perfect in every respect. Mr. Colee says he planted ten acres this year, and the crop
is so satisfactory he will increase his acreage next year. He is still digging the last potatoes unearthed are the best.
Picolata evidently can hold its own as a potato growing section with
Hastings or any other place.)
1837
St Augustine Defenses
St. Johns River
St. Johns County
St. Johns County 1889 (Flagler a part of St. Johns County)
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Site of an old Fort - Fort Picolata (1880s
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
http://floridamemory.com/items/show/146240
Fort originally was an Indian settlement. The Spanish fort was captured
by Gen. Oglethorpe in 1740. The name refers to the ground on which the
fort was situated - "Broad Bluff."
Frederick Delius
General Winfield Scott
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