You’d think after about 500 years, people in Greater Jacksonville would know for sure that the Fountain of Youth is actually in St. Augustine.
The theme park, the passion play, the free, stinky sulfur water . . . .
Your Examiner is guiltily happy to report that Florida history vis-à-vis the Fountain of Youth is not so clear cut.
What The Indians Actually Said
According to 16th-century Spanish historian Francisco Lopez de Gomara, Indians living on the island of Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic) told him of a fountain with healing waters north of Cuba and Haiti.
They used words like “river” and “waterfall” and “spring” to describe this magical place.
What they didn’t do is tell him where it is.
And Then There’s The Matter Of Juan Ponce De León
Juan Ponce de León was 39 by the time he sailed to the New World. Undoubtedly he’d heard of the Indians’ mystical waters.
In fact, there are at least two clear-water springs named for Ponce De León – De Leon Springs north of Deland in Volusia county and one in Holmes county just west of I-10 – both of which claim to be the Fountain of Youth.
Between taking land in the name of Spain and hunting for gold, Ponce De León had a lot on his plate, but his main claim to fame in the history texts is not as conquistador.
In the early days of Spanish exploration, everybody got to be famous for something.
“Discoverer of the Fountain of Youth” is what stuck to Ponce de León.
Top Contenders For “Fountain Of Youth”
So besides the spring in St. Augustine and the two de Leon springs, there are surprisingly many and not just because Florida has more springs than any other state.
- The mineral springs at Spring Park in Green Cove Springs
- Six separate mineral springs in Safety Harbor (Hillsborough county northeast of Clearwater)
- Wakulla Springs (“place of mystery waters”) south of Tallahassee in Wakulla Springs county, the deepest spring in the world at 200 feet
- Silver Springs, “sun-glittering waters” near Ocala in Marion county, considered a sacred place of “life-giving waters”
And, believe it or not, there are others, even in GreaterJax™.
The Judgment Of History
Except for purposes of tourism, it flat doesn’t matter where the Fountain of Youth is, or if there is one, much less who discovered it – and it’s even money most days whether or not it was Ponce de León.
The park in St. Augustine is fun. It’s tacky and quirky and all those other fine qualities that make GR8RJax™ tourist attractions unique.
As one wag has observed, the healing-mystery-Indian-mineral water must not be that great because all the Indians and conquistadors died.
Perhaps what’s meant is they looked good doing it.
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years, most recently in Texas, is a successful grant writer, knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design and wants to work in the public sector. Contact: email@example.com