Article Title

The End of an Idyll


In the year 1687 a boat arrived in St. Augustine containing ten Negroes-eight men and two women-who had fled slavery in the English settlement of St. George to the north of St. Augustine. If this little group were not the first to flee from the practices of the English settlements of North America, they were among the first for whom documentation is available. The significance of the event is that at an early date Florida began to function as an escape-valve, as an attractive alternative to a life of servitude in the colonies to the north. It might be maintained that this was a relative freedom to which the slaves fled, since the Spaniards in Florida kept slaves also. The question may well have been one of leniency of slave codes involved since there is no record of a Negro slave fleeing from the Spanish to the English. Furthermore, there was an appealing alternative in the Florida forests to the vicissitudes of town dwelling for the runaway Negro. By 1736 the number who had elected the forest alternative had grown to such proportions that they had established settlements with such colorful names as King Hejah, Big Hammock, and Mulatto Girl.