Ponce De Leon 


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Ponce de LeonPonce de Leon, JUAN, discoverer of Florida; born in San Servas, Spain, in 1460; was a distinguished cavalier in the wars with the Moors in Granada. Accompanying Columbus on his second voyage, Ponce was made commander of a portion of Santo Domingo, and in 1509 he conquered and was made governor of Porto Rico, where he amassed a large fortune. There he was told of a fountain of youth - a fountain whose waters would restore youth to the aged. It was situated in one of the Bahama Islands, surrounded by magnificent trees, and the air was laden with the delicious perfumes of flowers; the trees bearing golden fruit that was plucked by beautiful maidens, who presented it to strangers. It was the old story of the Garden of the Hesperides, and inclination, prompted by his credulity, made Ponce go in search of the miraculous fountain, for his hair was white and his face was wrinkled with age. He sailed north from Porto Rico in March, 1513, and searched for the wonderful spring among the Bahama Islands, drinking and bathing in the waters of every fountain that fell in his way. But he experienced no change, saw no magnificent trees with golden fruit plucked by beautiful maidens, and, disappointed but not disheartened, he sailed towards the northwest until westerly winds came laden with the perfumes of sweet flowers. Then he landed, and in the imperial magnolia-trees, laden with fragrant blossoms, he thought he beheld the introduction to the paradise he was seeking.

It was on the morning of Easter Sunday when he landed on the site of the present St. Augustine, in Florida, and he took possession of the country in the name of the Spanish monarch. Because of its wealth of flowers, or because of the holy day when he first saw the land (Pascua de Flores), he gave the name of Florida to the great island (as he supposed) he had discovered. There he sought the fountain of youth in vain Sailing along the coast southward, he discovered and named the Tortugas (Turtle) islands. At another group he found a single inhabitant - a wrinkled old Indian woman - not one of the beautiful maidens he expected to find. Abandoning the search himself, but leaving one of his vessels to continue it, he returned to Porto Rico a wiser and an older man, but bearing the honor of discovering an important portion of the continent of America. In 1514 Ponce returned to Spain and received permission from Ferdinand to colonize the "Island of Florida," and was appointed its governor; but he did not proceed to take possession until 1521, having in the mean time conducted an unsuccessful expedition against the Caribs. On going to Florida with two ships and many followers, he met the determined hostilities of the natives, and after a sharp conflict he was driven back to his ships mortally wounded, and died in Cuba in July, 1521. Upon his tomb was placed this inscription: "In this Sepulchre rest the Bones of a Man who was Leon by Name and still more by Nature."




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