Amelia Island recalls its past by Barbara Gavan staff writer, Jacksonville.com As people from Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia come to Amelia Island for the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival this weekend, they know one thing: There will be plenty of shrimp to eat. But what about the other part of the festival name? Why is it called the Isle of Eight Flags? A history lesson is available at the Amelia Island Museum of History.
"The next island, the fairest of this province, I call Amelia," wrote James Oglethorpe to the Duke of Newcastle, in a letter dated April 17, 1736. Today, Amelia Island, with its 13 miles of unsullied beaches and 40-foot dunes, lush golf courses and old Victorian homes, retains much of its charm. "Amelia Island has not forgotten its past," said Marlene Schang, associate director/curator of the museum. "We live with our history and celebrate it."
The museum introduces visitors to the history of the "Isle of Eight Flags" through narration and live interpretation, personalized by museum artifacts.
As the only territory in the U.S. under the dominion of eight flags during the past five centuries, it absorbed much from each culture. Before the first flag flew above the island, the Timucua inhabited the area they called Napoyca. From around 2500 B.C. to 1562 A.D., they lived with an abundance of vegetation and shellfish. They had no written language, but are believed to have lived long, healthy lives, due in part to their diet but primarily because of the absence of European diseases.
Their way of life continued for centuries, until the arrival of a company of Frenchmen, led by Jean Ribault, on May 3, 1562. Ribault had sailed for the New World in search of a site for a Huguenot colony. When he came upon the island, he claimed it for France and named it the Isle de Mai, for the month in which he discovered it. The French lived in relative harmony with the Timucua until they were bloodily defeated by the Spanish troops of Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565.Download Our Full History