The history of Pensacola, Florida, begins long before the Spanish claimed founding of the modern city in The area around present-day Pensacola was inhabited by Native American peoples thousands of years before the historical era. The historical era begins with the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 16th century.
In Tristan de Luna established a short-lived settlement at Pensacola Bay ; it was the first multi-year European settlement in what is now the continental United States but was abandoned after two years. The city's strategic but isolated position, combined with continued European rivalries played out in North America, led to it changing hands among different Western powers a of times. The area was largely devoid of indigenous Native American inhabitants. The best-known Pensacola Culture site in terms of archeology is the Bottle Creek site, a large site located on a low swampy island north of Mobile, Alabama.
This site has at least 18 large earthwork mounds; five of which are arranged around a central plaza, in a pattern typical of many moundbuilding cultures. Its main occupation was from to CE. It was a ceremonial center for the Pensacola people, and a gateway to their society. This site would have had easy access by a dugout canoe, the main mode of transportation used by the people; they traveled primarily by the waterways rather than through the thick vegetation. The Fort Walton Mound archaeological site is located about 40 miles east of downtown Pensacola.
The mound was built about CE by a regional variation of the Mississippian culture. The area's recorded history begins in the 16th century, when the first European explorers came there.
European exploration of the area began in the 16th century. But, weeks later, the colony was decimated by a hurricane on September 19,  which killed an unknown of sailors, sank six ships, grounded a seventh, and ruined supplies. Survivors made their way to Cuba and finally returned to Pensacola, where the remaining 50 at Pensacola were taken back to Veracruz. The Viceroy's advisers later concluded that northwest Florida was too dangerous to settle. They largely ignored it for years. One of the expedition's goals was to determine how flora and fauna in the Pensacola region could benefit the Spanish.
Charged with such a task, Siguenza, prone to exaggeration,  described a veritable paradise,  teeming with food resources and ample economic opportunities. The Mexican savant also wrote detailed descriptions of waterways in the area and described abundant trees on Blackwater River and East River as "lofty and stout, suitable for building ships of any draft". The present city of Pensacola was established by the Spanish in as a buffer against French settlement in Louisiana.
San Marcos de Apalache, another important Spanish settlement, was established in in Wakulla County.
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They brought the Roman Catholic Church and tried to convert the Pensacola, as well as African slaves whom they imported as laborers. Marriages and unions took place among all three peoples, resulting in numerous mixed-race descendants, whom the Spanish classified in ranges. They described children of Pensacola-Spanish unions as mestizo and children of African-Spanish unions as mulattos.
Pensacola Indian identity was recorded by the church authorities, a practice that continued until about The early years of settlement were extremely tenuous; the soil was poor for cultivation of agricultural crops known to the Spanish, and the settlement was irregularly resupplied. It was considered an unpopular military posting due to tropical disease, heat, and the poor conditions.
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French explorers founded Mobile inlocated 59 miles overland to the west, and also on the Gulf of Mexico. This settlement represented competition and a threat to the Spanish, who had opposed the French in the Nine Years' War. The Spanish colonial authorities also discovered that Carolinian traders were entering the colony to trade with the Creek peopleestablishing informal anti-Spanish alliances.
During Queen Anne's WarCreek war parties, aided by Carolinian raiders, launched several raids in the Pensacola region, and besieged the city twice in These raiding parties also raided settlements belonging to the Pensacola people, who responded by retreating into the cities of Pensacola, Mobile, and St.
At four o'clock in the afternoon, he surrendered on the conditions that private citizens and property should not be disturbed, and the garrison should be allowed to march out with honors of war and be transported to HavanaCuba in French vessels. The French, with small settlements further west at Mobile and Biloxiheld Pensacola during this period. Overall, French influences were generally dominant among the Creoles on the Gulf Coast west of Pensacola, with Spanish influences dominant among Creoles in the modern Panhandle.
A hurricane drove the French from Pensacola in and they burned the town before leaving. The Spanish moved the town from the storm-vulnerable barrier island to the mainland. The area was rebuilt, but it was ravaged by hurricanes in and Population growth remained modest during this period, which was characterized by Spanish man work with Indians and the development of Pensacola as an important port and military outpost.
Conflict with French and British interests was common. Spain's informal alliance with France meant that the greatest threat to colonial Florida was from British privateers, smugglers and traders. Their ability to sell goods to the Indians and Spanish colonists more cheaply than companies from Spain did diminished local support for the Bourbon monarchy in Madrid. During the period of British rule, the area began to prosper following establishment of the Panton, Leslie Company inwhich had a trading post attracting Creek people from southern Alabama and Georgia.
Surveyor and engineer Elias Durnford laid out the town in its current form, creating the Seville Square district. He also painted several views of Pensacola during Pensacola British period. Pensacola was becoming something more than a garrison town by the time Gauld made this splendid painting. There were now a of fine houses native structures and an especially impressive Governor's Palace while the fort had been strengthened date made more efficient.
It seems likely the town had over two hundred houses made of timber. Pensacola was still, however, mainly a military and trading outpost, its principal link to the outside world being primarily by sea. They held this area from to At the end of the massive French and Indian War of —, the British gained access to inland areas as far west as the Mississippi River and the French were largely expelled from the North American mainland.
Louisiana was transferred from French to Spanish control. The British colony of West Florida, with its capital at Pensacola, included all of the Panhandle west of the Apalachicola River, as well as southwestern Alabama, southern Mississippi, and the Florida parishes of modern Louisiana.
Inthe British laid out Pensacola's modern street plan. British East Florida, with its capital at Saint Augustine, included the rest of modern Florida, including the eastern part of the Panhandle. During the American Revolution —the state of Georgia ed the Patriot cause, but East and West Florida, like the Canadian colonies, remained loyal to the British. Many Loyalists or "Tories"loyal to the king, relocated to Florida during this period.
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Like the French, the Spanish allied with the American rebels. The British colonists left, but Spain sent only Pensacola few soldiers and settlers to the city. The Spanish recaptured Pensacola in and retained control until excepting three short-lived invasions by American General Andrew Jackson in, and It developed as a frontier garrison town and trading post, where European men took Creek and African women as partners and developed mixed-race families. The United States thought of the Mississippi River and New Orleans as vital to its shipment and trade of such American goods such as cotton, tobacco, and corn.
It gained permission from Spain to use the river, but always subject to Spanish control. American Southern settlers of inland Alabama and riverfront Mississippi were rapidly developing large cotton plantations to meet growing demand for the product.
They wanted to expel the remaining Indians from the entire Southeast east of the Mississippi River. After the transfer of the vast Louisiana Territory from Spain to France at the end of the 18th century, and the subsequent purchase of the region by the United States inSpanish East and West Florida were surrounded by American Southern states and territories. Anglo-American settlement of West Florida increased and the Spanish, busy with growing rebellions throughout Mexico and South America, were not able to focus on fortifying the region.
InAmerican settlers in the part of Date west of the Pearl River today the boundary between Louisiana and Mississippi declared the West Native Republic a state independent from Spain. The region was annexed into the new state of Louisiana in The residents of the prosperous Alabama and Mississippi territories, eager to avoid being trapped in landlocked states without seaports, agitated to annex more of West Florida.
They succeeded in doing so with the military aid of General Andrew Jackson. He captured much of West Florida in the s. He briefly returned Pensacola to Spain but areas further west became part of the new states of Mississippi and Alabama Inthe United States captured Pensacola again, increasing pressure against Spain.
An Spanish census recorded households, with about one third of mixed race: typically a white man with a woman of black or mulatto ancestry, and their man. There were also some mixed-race residents of Creek ancestry.
French and Spanish Creoles were in the majority. Residents voted to become part of Alabama. But, officials in Florida and the US determined that Pensacola, then the largest city and most important port, would remain as part of the new Florida Territory of the United States.
This established the current boundaries of the state. In settlers established the first permanent Protestant congregation First United Methodist Church.
The Pensacola area is home to three historic U. Barrancas National Cemetery is located here. The city and Fort Barrancas were the site of the Battle of Pensacola. Fort Pickens was completed in Andrew Jackson served as Florida's first territorial governor, residing at the capital of Pensacola.
He was noted for his persecution of Indians and Creoles, many of whom left the territory. An increasing of Anglo-American settlers came, including many planters who brought their black slaves. To determine a location for a territorial capital, riders on horseback were sent on the Old Spanish Trail from the territory's two main cities, east from Pensacola and west from St.
The riders met at the Indian village of Tallahasseewhich was deated as the new territorial capital city. In the Panhandle, most slaves outside Pensacola were held by people in Tallahassee and in the plantation counties near the Georgia border, notably Jackson, Gden, Leon, and Jefferson. Near the coast, the soil had more sand and was less useful for plantation agriculture.
On March 3,Florida was admitted to the Union as the 27th state. Its admission had been slowed as the United States struggled to remove the Seminole Indians. After three Seminole Warsit defeated some, forcing their removal to Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma.