First Coast

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First Coast

Northeast Florida.PNG

Location in the state of Florida


Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau, St. Johns; sometimes including Flagler and Putnam

Major cities

Fernandina Beach
St. Augustine
Palm Coast
Jacksonville Beach

Florida's First Coast, or simply the First Coast, is a region of the U.S. state of Florida, located on the Atlantic coast of North Florida. The First Coast refers to the same general area as the "directional" region of Northeast Florida. It roughly comprises the five counties surrounding Jacksonville: Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns, largely corresponding to the Jacksonville metropolitan area, and may include other nearby areas such as Putnam and Flagler counties in Florida and St. Mary's, Georgia. The name originated in a marketing campaign in the 1980s, and has since emerged as one of Florida's best known vernacular regions.


As its name suggests, the First Coast was the first area of Florida colonized by Europeans, but as with several other of Florida's vernacular regions, a popular identity covering the whole area originated with the tourism industry before being adopted by the community at large.[1] The concept of the First Coast was developed for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce by the William Cook Advertising Agency in 1983. Jacksonville already had other nicknames, but local officials wanted a comprehensive marketing campaign for the entire metropolitan areaDuval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties – to better promote the region without overshadowing the identities of the particular localities involved. The term "Florida's First Coast" was coined by William Cook staff members Kay Johnson, Bryan Cox, and Bill Jones, and was officially introduced in the "First Coast Anthem" at the 1983 Gator Bowl.[2]

In 1763, Spain traded Florida to the Kingdom of Great Britain for control of Havana, Cuba, which had been captured by the British during the Seven Years' War. It was part of a large expansion of British territory following the country's victory in the Seven Years' War. Almost the entire Spanish population left, taking along most of the remaining indigenous population to Cuba. The British divided the territory into East Florida and West Florida.[3][4] The British soon constructed the King's Road connecting St. Augustine to Georgia. The road crossed the St. Johns River at a narrow point, which the Seminole called Wacca Pilatka and the British named "Cow Ford", both names ostensibly reflecting the fact that cattle were brought across the river there.[5][6][7] The British government gave land grants to officers and soldiers who had fought in the French and Indian War in order to encourage settlement. In order to induce settlers to move to the two new colonies reports of the natural wealth of Florida were published in England. A large number of British colonists who were "energetic and of good character" moved to Florida, mostly coming from South Carolina, Georgia and England though there was also a group of settlers who came from the colony of Bermuda. This would be the first permanent English-speaking population in what is now Duval County, Baker County, St. Johns County and Nassau County. The British built good public roads and introduced the cultivation of sugar cane, indigo and fruits as well the export of lumber. As a result of these initiatives northeastern Florida prospered economically in a way it never did under Spanish rule. Furthermore, the British governors were directed to call general assemblies as soon as possible in order to make laws for the Floridas and in the meantime they were, with the advice of councils, to establish courts. This would be the first introduction of much of the English-derived legal system which Florida still has today including trial-by-jury, habeas corpus and county-based government.[8][9]

A Scottish settler named Dr Andrew Turnbull transplanted around 1,500 indentured settlers, from Minorca, Majorca, Ibiza, Smyrna, Crete, Mani Peninsula, and Sicily, to grow hemp, sugarcane, indigo, and to produce rum. Settled at New Smyrna, within months the colony suffered major losses primarily due to insect-borne diseases and Native American raids. Most crops did not do well in the sandy Florida soil. Those that survived rarely equaled the quality produced in other colonies. The colonists tired of their servitude and Turnbull's rule. On several occasions, he used African slaves to whip his unruly settlers. The settlement collapsed and the survivors fled to safety with the British authorities in St. Augustine. Their descendants survive to this day, as does the name New Smyrna.

The British gave control of the territory back to Spain in 1783. Americans of English descent and Americans of Scots-Irish descent began moving into northern Florida from the backwoods of Georgia and South Carolina. Though technically not allowed by the Spanish authorities, the Spanish were never able to effectively police the border region and the backwoods settlers from the United States would continue to migrate into Florida unchecked. These migrants, mixing with the already present English-speaking settlers who had lived in Florida since the British period, would be the progenitors of the population known as Florida Crackers.[10] The Spanish also accepted slaves from the newly created United States if they converted to Catholicism.

Between 1812 and 1814 during the War of 1812 between the US and Britain, the US Navy assisted American settlers in Florida in "The Patriot War", a covert attempt to seize control of Florida from the Spanish. They began with invasions of Fernandina and Amelia Island.[11] Spain sold the Florida Territory to the United States in 1821 and, by 1822, Jacksonville's current name had come into use, to honor General Andrew Jackson. It first appears on a petition sent on June 15, 1822 to U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, asking that Jacksonville be named a port of entry. The city is named for Andrew Jackson, military governor of the Florida Territory and eventual President of the United States. U.S. settlers led by Isaiah D. Hart wrote a charter for a town government, which was approved by the Florida Legislative Council on February 9, 1832. Remembered as the city's most important founding father, Hart is memorialized with the Isaiah D. Hart Bridge over the St. Johns.

The First Coast is similar to Florida's various other "Coast" regions such as the Space Coast and the Gold Coast that emerged as a result of marketing campaigns.[1] The name refers to both the fact that this is the "first coast" many visitors reach when entering Florida, as well as to the region's history as the first place in the continental United States to see European contact.[12] Juan Ponce de León may have landed in this region during his first expedition in 1513, and the early French colony of Fort Caroline was founded in present-day Jacksonville in 1563. Significantly, the First Coast includes St. Augustine, the oldest continuously inhabited European-established city in the continental U.S., founded by the Spanish in 1565.[2]

A 2007 survey by geographers Ary J. Lamme and Raymond K. Oldakowski notes that the term "First Coast" has superseded two earlier geographical appellations for the region: "Florida's Crown" and "South Georgia", attested in earlier surveys. The former term refers to the area's northern location and the shape of the Georgia border, while the latter emphasizes that the local culture was considered more similar to that of Georgia and the South in general than to the lower Florida peninsula. A conscious push to supplant potentially uncomplimentary connotations may have led to the decline of "South Georgia" in favor of "First Coast"; this coincides with a waning of terms such as "Old South" and "Dixie" in much of the state. The name "First Coast" reinforces the region's connection to the rest of Florida, an important perceptual tie-in for attracting residents, businesses, and tourists.[12]

The term "First Coast" became very popular through the 1980s, surprising even its creators. By 2002 nearly 800 organizations and businesses included "First Coast" in their name.[2] Lamme and Oldakowski found that in 2007 18% of Floridians surveyed were familiar with the First Coast, making it one of the best known vernacular regions by Floridians.[13] The First Coast identity has spread to other nearby areas, being found as far south as Flagler Beach in Flagler County, Florida and Palatka in Putnam County, Florida, and as far north as St. Mary's, Georgia.[14][15] In 2013, the Florida Times-Union noted that within the area, St. Johns County had begun to brand itself as the "Historic Coast".[14]

Northeast Florida[edit]

The "directional" region of Northeast Florida refers to largely the same area as the First Coast. Lamme and Oldakowski's 2007 survey noted that "North East Florida" had emerged as one of six common directional regions, along with North Florida, Central Florida, South Florida, North Central Florida, and South West Florida.[16] The survey found that the term was primarily used in the north-easternmost parts of the state – Nassau and Duval Counties.[17]

However, Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency, identifies "Northeast Florida" as one of eight economic regions used by the agency and other state and outside entities. This definition includes all five counties of the Jacksonville metropolitan area (Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns), as well as Putnam and Flagler counties to the south.[18] Other organizations such as the Florida Department of Transportation, JaxUSA Partnership (the regional business development wing of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce), and the Northeast Florida Regional Council also use this definition.[19][20] Similarly, in June 2013, the state established the Northeast Florida Regional Transportation Commission, which covers all these counties besides Flagler.[21]


  1. ^ a b Lamme & Oldakowski, pp. 330–331.
  2. ^ a b c Christopher Calnan (November 6, 2002). "The birth of the 'First Coast'". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved January 4, 2015. 
  3. ^ Florida Center for Instructional Technology. "Floripedia: Florida: As a British Colony". Retrieved 2009-10-02. 
  4. ^ A History of Florida By Caroline Mays Brevard, Henry Eastman Bennett page 77
  5. ^ Wood, Wayne (1992). Jacksonville's Architectural Heritage. University Press of Florida. p. 22. ISBN 0-8130-0953-7. 
  6. ^ Beach, William Wallace (1877). The Indian Miscellany. J. Munsel. p. 125. Retrieved July 12, 2011. 
  7. ^ Wells, Judy (March 2, 2000). "City had humble beginnings on the banks of the St. Johns". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved July 2, 2011. 
  8. ^ A History of Florida By Caroline Mays Brevard, Henry Eastman Bennett
  9. ^ The Land Policy in British East Florida by Charles L Mowat 1940
  10. ^ Ste Claire, Dana (2006). Cracker: Cracker Culture in Florida History. University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-3028-9
  11. ^ "Jacksonville Historical Society". Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Lamme & Oldakowski, pp. 332–333.
  13. ^ Lamme & Oldakowski, p. 333.
  14. ^ a b Drew Dixon (July 28, 2013). "Historic Coast latest in a growing number of Florida coastal monikers". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved February 28, 2012. 
  15. ^ Delaney, Bill (February 8, 2015). "Jaxlore: Folklore, Urban Legends, and Regionalisms". Metro Jacksonville. Retrieved February 5, 2015. 
  16. ^ Lamme & Oldakowski, p. 229, 334–335.
  17. ^ Lamme & Oldakowski, p. 229.
  18. ^ Charting the Course, p. 2.
  19. ^ "Northeast Florida". JAXUSA Partnership for Regional Economic Development. 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Regional Information". Northeast Florida Regional Council. 2013. Retrieved June 17, 2013. 
  21. ^ Carole Hawkins (June 14, 2013). "Gov. Scott signs two transportation bills into law". Jacksonville Business Journal. Retrieved June 14, 2013.