First Coast’s unique history highlighted at NEFAR breakfast


History was the topic at hand during the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors quarterly breakfast meeting Sept. 12 at The Plantation Beach House in Ponte Vedra Beach.

And not only was it history, but guest speaker Doug Milne, focused on local history of the area of Northeast Florida.

As a local attorney and Ponte Vedra historian, Milne took a quick but deep dive full of historical factoids some of which are very well known and others not so much.

“I’m going to try and cover about 12,000 years in about 20 minutes,” Milne chuckled.

According to Milne, the exact location may never be known, but Ponce De Leon landed somewhere between Ponte Vedra Beach and Daytona Beach.

But before his own adventures, Ponce De Leon was the cousin of Christopher Columbus and served on the crew on Columbus’ voyage to America years before.

“History is an amazing thing,” Milne said. “Without a sense of history, we lack a sense of identity, and no where in the country has a more rich and colorful history than we have here in Northeast Florida.”

Milne stated that in 1880 there were 6,000 people living in Jacksonville, which was the hub of the state.

“Jacksonville was Florida at that time, because it was where the railroads ended and where the river came through,” Milne said.

He also added that Jacksonville was the site of the first of many Subtropical Expositions, which were designed to promote the region and all the unique things it had to offer and serve as a marketing campaign against a newly founded place out west called California.

President Grover Cleveland even came twice to visit Jacksonville during his time in office.

“However, yellow fever tragically took effect and led to the end of Florida’s first tourist attraction,” Milne said.

In 1788, Florida was still a property of Spain with the United States of America located to the north.

The various times that Florida has switched hands of ownership throughout the years is one of the things that makes it so unique, as well as having a significant Native American presence.

“Six flags would fly over the land of Florida over the years,” Milne said. “And the most significant Indian concentration on the First Coast was the Timucuans, which settled in the Mill Cove area near the Dames Point Bridge.

Signs of French activity in the area are very prevalent as well over the years, with Fort Caroline being a French outpost, and according to Milne, the first European child born on American soil was born at the fort.

He could not end his presentation without mentioning the St. Johns River which is such an iconic part of the history of the First Coast, and it has been that way for some time now, although he stated that it is not an old river in comparison to others in the world.

“It has been covered by the ocean at least three times and probably 23 times,” Milne said.

His love of history was developed at an early age, but he understands that passion can be lit at any age.

He wrapped up his presentation by handing out shards of Timucuan pottery that he has found along the banks of the St. Johns River over the years, a common hobby he and his friend would do while growing up in the area.