1768 - 1777
The story of New Smyrna's first immigrants is one of hardship, endurance and survival by a group of religious colonists of several nationalities who came to the New World seeking freedom and a better life. After Spain ceded Florida to the British in 1763, the British offered large land grants to encourage colonization.
Dr. Andrew Turnbull, Sir William Duncan and Sir Richard Temple formed a partnership agreement April 2, 1767, securing land grants of 20,000 acres each. This venture became the largest British attempt at colonization in the New World. It was named New Smyrna, after the city of Smyrna, Asia Minor, the birthplace of Dr. Turnbull's beautiful Grecian wife, Maria Gracia.
Dr. Turnbull recruited 1,403 colonist-Greek, Corsican, Italian and Minorcans-who pledged up to 10 year of labor for passage and grants in New Smyrna.
Having buried the 148 colonists they lost during the three-month voyage from Mahon, Minorca in March, 1768, the colonists arrived to find preparations for 500, instead of the 1,255 who survived. Everything was in short supply. Food was rationed as the colonists were barely a month away from starvation. The colonists began the hard labor of building huts, digging wells and creating miles of irrigation canals in the swamp
mosquitoes were merciless. Death was a daily occurrence; 450 died the first year.
After their arrival, the colonists sensed they had been deceived. A rebellion involving the Greek and Italian colonists erupted August 19, 1768. After the three-day uprising was subdued, a trial was held in St. Augustine by Gov. Grant for three of the leaders. Found guilty, two were hung by the third, who was pardoned, serving as executioner.
The colony, established for monetary benefit, not for philanthropic or religious purposes, proved to be a clash of colonial politics which involved people of different languages, religious beliefs and cultures. Under guidance of Fr. Camps and Rev. Frazier, who baptized, married and buried them, the colonists' religious faith allowed them to endure and survive.
In April 1777, ninety colonists, led by Francisco Pellicer, walked to St. Augustine and gave Governor Tonyn depositions of cruelty, ill-treatment and murder by the overseers. They were freed from their indentures, and within a month 600 more deserted en masse to St. Augustine.
Over time, they became merchants, fishermen and farmers. Although the New Smyrna Colony failed, the colonists endured.
History compiled by:
T.C. Wilder, Chairman
Jo Anne Sikes