The Spanish Crown Grants Juan Ponce De Leon The Title Military Governor of Bimini And Florida

On September 27, 1514, the Spanish crown granted explorer Juan Ponce de Leon the title Military Governor of Bimini (an island in the Bahamas) and Florida.

With this title and the implied permission it contained to colonize those regions, Ponce de Leon sailed for Florida in 1521.

He landed with 200 men and two ships near Charlotte Harbor on Florida's west coast. His arrival did not go unnoticed. Soon the party was attacked by Seminole Indians. During the assault an arrow struck and mortally wounded Ponce de Leon. He returned to Cuba where he died that same year.

This fatal trip was the Spanish explorer's second visit to Florida. In April 1513, Ponce de Leon landed at the site of modern day St. Augustine and named the region Florida because of the lush, florid vegetation which grew there. Thinking he had found the island of Bimini, he searched for the mythical Fountain of Youth which was said to rejuvenate those who drank from it.

Subsequent Spanish incursions in North America led to the founding of a permanent settlement at St. Augustine in 1565. While a fountain of youth was never found, many Americans today enjoy rejuvenating vacations and retirement in Florida.

Juan Ponce de León was born in the village of Santervás de Campos in the northern part of what is now the Spanish province of Valladolid. Although early historians placed his birth in 1460, more recent evidence shows he was likely born in 1474. His family genealogy is extremely confusing and poorly documented. There is no consensus on who his parents were but it seems that he was a member of a distinguished and influential noble family. His relatives included Rodrigo Ponce de León, the Marquess of Cádiz and a celebrated figure in the Moorish wars.

Ponce de Leon was also related to another notable family, Núñez de Guzmán, and as a young man he served as squire to Pedro Núñez de Guzmán, Knight Commander of the Order of Calatrava. A contemporary chronicler, Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdes, states that Ponce de León became an experienced soldier fighting in the Spanish campaigns that defeated the Moors in Granada and completed the re-conquest of Spain in 1492.