What if Ponce de Leon had ventured inland?
By European heritage he is credited with discovering Florida, the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon (a man obsessed with youth) having desires live long. His passion for that immortality led him to Florida fueling his quest for what the indigenous people claim to be "crystal waters flowing from living springs in which he who bathed would be instantly endowed with eternal youth and great beauty."
Tales of his quest for the "Fountain of Youth," sailing from island to island, beach to beach, bathing in small streams or lakes are numerous. It is said that at the time of the spring equinoxes (Easter morning), 1513, de Leon and his crew came ashore, near the site of St. Augustine. However, they did not forge inland, beyond coastline, but turned south -- no treasures -- or youth.Local legend has it, if Ponce de Leon had traveled inland twenty plus miles -- westward -- crossing over the majestic north flowing river, towards the cove, then ventured to the high emerald green western banks perhaps... just perhaps he would have bathed in our very own Green... Cove... Spring...Green Cove Springs, Florida
History reveals that people tend to give communities a nick name. This is very true for our neck of the woods. Green Cove Springs located on high ground at a wide spot on the St. Johns River. We are on the west bank, mid-way between Jacksonville aka "Cowford" and Palatka. We are in a cove south of Magnolia Point and Green Cove Point and north of Red Bay Point. We have a "boil" also known as a spring, ours is a warm (78 degrees) mineral spring the water flows into a pool then on to the "run" as it makes a contribution to the north flowing St. Johns River while renders nutrients creating emerald green foliage on the banks and wetlands. The people in Green Cove still "take the waters"... For many of us that live here this is Paradise... a great place to End Your Search and The Original Fountain of Youth...A large percentage of our early visitors and settlers arrived via our water ways.
Legend has that we were once known as "Pirates Cove", with tales that Blackbeard buried his gems in the area surrounding the spring. Our first recorded name is "White Sulfur Springs". As we progressed through the Spanish and British colonial periods were known to be Timber Land and Green Cove Springs was the place to set up Lumber Mills and later Cattle Land.
We became a "Haven for Yankees" that did not want to return north after the war between the states. Clay County (named for our Nations 9th Secretary of State Henry Clay, (1777-1852) "The Great Compromiser") was carved out of Duval County in 1858 by 1871 Green Cove Springs was the "The County Seat" and still has that title today.As the tour boats arrived with more northerners we celebrated our most widely known name "Saratoga of the South" Green Cove Springs, Florida was to the St. Johns River what Saratoga, New York was to the Hudson River. We were a "Water Hole" for wealthy northerners and the "Parlor City of the South".
Green Cove became a prime tourist attraction, famous for the warm, therapeutic springs. The sulfur springs, or the "boil" as it was called brought wealthy visitors down the St. Johns River by steamboat to vacation at the grand hotels like the Clarendon, Riverside, St. Elmo and later the Qui-Si-Sana. The visitors drank from the spring believing in its medicinal values.More tourists arrived by train... fewer by the river... the tourist where carried south to new Florida frontier.
Green Cove took a nap and woke up, in the land boom of the 1920's and the arrival of J.C. Penney. The stock market crashed, followed by a depression, we became a "WPA Town" (Work Progress Administration). We began to see more planes over Green Cove and more automobiles traveling our sandy roads. The Navy Base had ships and airplanes, making us a "Navy Town" and later the "Home of the Atlantic Moth Ball Fleet." The progress continued with jobs. Families were in need of personal transportation. Car dealers flocked to Green Cove... we became know as "Little Detroit".
During the 1960's Walt Disney and the National Space Program (NASA) had their eyes on Green Cove Springs. However, we did not make the selection.... YES, we are not home of Disney World and or the Houston Space Center. Mark my word, you have never heard the phrase "Green Cove Springs We Have Problem" repeated over and over again. Some folks claim Green Cove Springs is home of the "The Good Old Boys" and then reference a politician that has "done wrong" Well'.. Thank God and/or the "Good Old Boys" because we are not Houston, Texas or Orlando, Florida. We are the "Downtown of Clay County, an American Heritage River Community.
Charles E. Merrill (1885-1956) From Green Cove Springs to Wall Street: If you are an investor in stocks, you have Charles Merrill to thank. Born on Palmetto Avenue in 1885, Merrill settled in New York City and in 1914 co-founded Merrill Lynch, a stock brokerage firm. He became very successful underwriting large retail store chains, such as Safeway, S.S. Kresge (the forerunner of K-Mart) and J. C. Penney. (Makes you wonder if, perhaps, Charles Merrill told J.C. Penney about Green Cove Springs.) Merrill warned his investors to get out of the Stock Market before the Crash of 1929. Taking his own advice, for the next 10 years he used his money to build the Safeway stores into a large chain, and also founded Family Circle Magazine. He returned to the stock market in 1939 with the fervent belief that the small investor was the foundation of the stock market. Charles Merrill, perhaps more than anyone, made America a “shareholder nation”.
Augusta Fells Savage (1892-1962) From Green Cove Springs to Harlem and Paris: Born February 29, 1892 at the site of the old Dunbar High School; at an early age that she wanted to become a sculptor. Like so many blacks living in the South during this era, Savage’s effort to establish herself in the Arts was unsuccessful. She lived and worked in other parts of Florida, but by 1921 she moved to New York City, there, she was recognized as a Sculptor. She created her art for many famous African-Americans, the likes of W.E.B. DuBois and Marcus Garvey. Commissioned to do a sculpture for the 1939 World’s Fair, she was inspired by a song, the Negro National Anthem – “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. 2008 Augusta Savage was inducted into the Florida Artist Hall of Fame.
So what are we today? A BED ROOM COMMUNITY!
So what is our claim to fame today? "The Gem of the First Coast
"Home of: the Clay County Traveling Parade of Flags, and the Virtual Parade of Heritage.
People have been visiting this area for more than 10,000 years.
The Village of Green Cove Springs, was incorporated November 1874 and soon became the County Seat for Clay County. The Village or Town of "Green Cove" is now registered as a City, yet it has the characteristics of a small town, approximately six square miles with just over 6,000 residence.
On this high ground - our heritage is notably connected to - Florida's natural beauty, the agriculture industry, and military heritage. Located on the western banks of a north flowing river - our early heritage is dovetailed with the exploration of an American Heritage River - The St. Johns River. We are famous for our warm water natural Mineral Spring. Our natural features served as the principal attractions for the first inhabitants of the area, who hunted and fished here 10,000 years ago, long before Juan Ponce de Leon (1513) claimed to have discovered Florida, and long before northern venture capitalist (early to mid 1800's) came harvest timber and free range cattle.
GREEN COVE SPRINGS, FLORIDA AKA:
"The Original Fountain of Youth"
"White Sulfur Springs"
"The Saratoga of the South"
"Parlor City of the South"
"Watering Hole for the Wealthy"
"Home of the Navy's Mothball Fleet"
"The Gem of the First Coast"
We are an American Heritage River Community
Birthplace of Augusta Savage (1892-1962) a Florida Artist Hall of Fame, Sculptor and Charles E. Merrill (1885 - 1956) with his friend Edmund Lynch they formed the Merrill Lynch & Co. He is also known for the development of Safeway grocery.
Your Key to Applied Heritage:
Showcasing our Clay County, our St Johns River, our Florida, and our American Heritage --- One-Tribute-At-A-Time