How Much Do You Know About Florida’s History?


By: Gavin Thagard

7 Min Quiz

Image: Pexels by Zachary Newton

About This Quiz

The first state reached by Europeans, Florida has a lengthy history that was shaped quite differently than some of the other colonies established in the New World, as it transferred hands several times. Not to mention, even before Europeans arrived, Native American tribes in the area carved out their own societies that were unique to their counterparts across the continent, often making it difficult for colonial expansion. 

Of course, the merging of these European and Native American societies was only the beginning for Florida, as it quickly became an influential state when it was added to the Union in 1845. The state was instrumental in launching the Civil War and quickly became a destination for resort travel in the decades that followed. However, the progress made by the Sunshine State throughout its history has also been hampered at times due to the violent weather that the state receives during the hurricane seasons. 

Now, it's your turn to see how Florida has progressed over the centuries. From pre-colonial times to modern attractions, what makes the state of Florida so unique? Here's your chance to find out.

Whether you're thinking about heading to Florida to bask in the sun or view seaside attractions, first take this quiz and see how much you know about the state's history. 

When the Mississippian culture emerged in Florida, the natives of this culture were responsible for building what?

Ancient societies built various types of earthworks, including mounds, that are all man-made structures constructed out of earth. These mounds serve different purposes but were commonly used for burials.


The outbreak of which disease in Florida led to the creation of the State Board of Health?

During the early 20th century, rail lines were instrumental in spreading the word throughout Florida about the importance of maintaining good health. However, prior to this dispersal of medical knowledge, trains were one of the main ways that diseases, like yellow fever, moved across the state.


The first man on the moon Neil Armstrong was launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as part of which spaceflight?

The Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida has been the primary launch center for NASA since 1968. Aside from Apollo 11, the center has been responsible for several other launches including Skylab as well as missions under the Space Shuttle program.


Which of these language isolates was spoken by natives living in northern and central Florida?

The Timucua language was one of the first languages learned by Europeans when they arrived in North America. Learning the Timucua language helped these Europeans communicate with future tribes during the early years of exploration.


Florida was home to several Native American tribes when Europeans first made contact including which tribe listed below?

The Apalachee were agricultural based Native Americans who lived along the northwestern border of Florida. This tribe was considered an advanced civilization with a complex social, cultural and political life that included organized labor and ceremonial practices.


After discovering islands in the Caribbean, what was the first European country to find Florida?

Though Christopher Columbus was born in Italy, it was Spain who sent the explorer across the Atlantic to find a route to Asia. Instead, Columbus stumbled upon islands in an entirely new hemisphere that would eventually lead to the discovery of Florida.


Can you identify this explorer who is credited with being the first European to land in Florida?

Juan Ponce de Leon was a man of adventure who couldn't turn down an opportunity to discover riches. When he heard of a rumor describing a "fountain of youth," he set sail for an island known as Bimini but ended up in Florida instead.


Of the 300 men led into Florida on an expedition by Panfilo de Narvaez, how many survived the journey?

With 300 men behind him, Panfilo de Narvaez believed he could fight his way across Florida instead of making allies with the natives. Slowly, their numbers dwindled, and Narvaez himself was killed when a raft he was riding was carried to sea during a storm.


What was the primary cause of death for natives living in Florida when Europeans arrived?

Europeans wiped out nearly 95 percent of the native population within a few generations of arriving in the New World. Warfare, of course, contributed to this massacre, but an even bigger culprit was disease, particularly smallpox, which ravaged native communities.


Do you know the furthest river reached by Hernando de Soto during his expedition of Florida?

In a great deal of debt, Hernando de Soto set sail for Florida in the hopes of finding riches. After starting conflicts with tribes throughout Florida, de Soto traveled north before turning west, where he crossed the Mississippi River only to die of a fever on his search for gold.


Why did the Spanish abandon their first settlement in Florida, Tristan de Luna y Arellano?

Florida has become known for the deadly hurricanes that hit each year, devastating the landscape and population. Hurricane Irma, which hit in 2017, was one of the more recent storms to devastate the Sunshine State, causing power outages and destroying homes.


After being wiped out to extinction, which animal did Europeans reintroduce to Florida when they first arrived?

Since the wild horses in North America today are not native to the continent, they are often labeled as an exotic species. Conservationists argue that this labeling hurts their protection as horses don't receive the same benefits as native species.


In an attempt to gain a footprint in North America, the Spanish founded which colony that became the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the United States?

St. Augustine was founded by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, a Spanish admiral who was named the Governor of Florida by King Phillip II. The settlement was founded when Menendez came ashore at the location of a Native American village, took control and named it St. Augustine.


Jean Ribault explored Florida for which European country?

As the Spanish struggled to establish a colony in Florida during their first few attempts, France sent an expedition of their own, who founded Fort Caroline. Spain then sent forces to capture the fort, which they did easily, and France never regained significant land in the area.


Are you familiar with the religious group that first established missions in Florida?

Father Pedro Martinez was one of the first priests in the Jesuit Society to come to Florida, where he hoped to convert the natives to Catholicism. On a trip into native lands, Martinez was killed by Native Americans who dragged him from his boat and murdered him ashore.


St. Augustine became a hub for slave trading beginning during which period?

Early slave trades took place in St. Augustine under Spanish rule, but Spanish law was more lenient on slaves than English law, which also meant slaves weren't used as often for labor. However, when Britain gained control of Florida, the slave trade in St. Augustine boomed.


Often called a pirate by the Spanish, who was hailed as a hero in England for sacking St. Augustine?

Francis Drake was a problem for the Spanish, and not just in Florida. Drake's history with the Spanish included raiding their ships in open waters as well as a major victory over the Spanish Armada during a battle in 1588.


To protect against raiders, the Spanish first built which fort to protect St. Augustine?

The Castillo de San Marcos is a bastion fortification built out of limestone called coquina, a unique material for such a construction. However, coquina was the only material the Spanish had access to around St. Augustine, and it actually worked better than expected, as the material absorbed cannon fire instead of busting.


During which larger conflict did the Apalachee massacre occur?

Queen Anne's War is sometimes looked at as the North American side of an even larger conflict, the War of the Spanish Succession. In North America, this war played out in a series of proxy wars involving Native American tribes who fought on all sides.


Fort Mose was established as a settlement in Florida for who?

By the end of the 17th century, Spain's numbers in the New World paled in comparison to their British neighbors. To counteract this, the Spanish crown encouraged slaves to flee from the British colonies and find refuge in Fort Mose.


What year did the Spanish trade Florida to Britain for control of Havana?

The transfer of Florida from Spain to Britain came at the end of the French and Indian War, which lasted from 1754 until 1763. The conflict would ultimately result in the American Revolution, as colonists became discontent with the taxes and frontier boundaries placed upon them.


With control of Florida, the British built a road connecting east Florida to Georgia. What's the name of the road?

Built along old Native American trails, the King's Road was constructed from St. Augustine to Colerain, Georgia. The road was built with the intention that easier travel would encourage settlers to move into Florida.


Can you recall which group of Native Americans were primarily part of the ethnogenesis of the Seminoles in the 17th century?

Though white settlers referred to the Native Americans they encountered in Georgia as Creek Indians, the tribe referred to itself as Muskogee. When the Creek formed an alliance with other tribes like the Hitchiti and Oconee people, they became the Seminole tribe.


The end of which war marked the return of Spanish rule in Florida?

At the start of the American Revolution, Florida was split into two colonies of East Florida and West Florida, each with its own capital. When the war broke out, both colonies remained loyal to the British crown, which provided the British with a position on which to launch attacks.


To settle an ongoing border dispute, the United States and Spain signed what treaty that made the 31st parallel the territorial line between the United States and Spanish Florida?

Land disputes along the northern border of Florida caused significant tension between both Spain, the United States and Native Americans living in the area. Facing conflict with France in Europe, Spain agreed to negotiate the territorial boundaries in North America, resulting in the Treaty of San Lorenzo.


Which future president led the United States into the First Seminole War?

When Andrew Jackson gained the presidency, he was determined to remove all Indians living east of the Mississippi River, as he believed they could not live peacefully among white settlers. His viewpoint resulted in the Indian Removal Act, which devastated Native American tribes as they were forced to relocate.


James Madison tried to claim what part of Florida as U.S. territory due to land rights obtained by the Louisiana Purchase?

Prior to 1801, Spain controlled much of the Louisiana Territory but agreed to sign it back over to France, as Spain's influence in the New World had declined. When the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory, U.S. citizens began moving into West Florida, believing it was part of the deal.


When did the United States officially take control of Florida after signing the Adams-Onis Treaty?

By 1819, when the Adams-Onis Treaty was signed, Spain had fallen off as a major European power, especially after the war against Napoleon Bonaparte. Before losing the land by force, Spain agreed to cease Florida to the United States, which took effect in 1821.


Are you familiar with the city established in 1824 as Florida's capital?

The Creek people are responsible for the name Tallahassee, which they began using to describe the area where the city is located around the 18th century. The name comes from a Native American word for "old fields."


Under the Treaty of Moultrie Creek, where were the Seminoles given a reservation?

The Treaty of Moultrie Creek was designed to remove Native Americans living in north Florida and send them to unoccupied lands in central Florida. This relocation allowed plantation slavery to spread into fertile lands in the northern part of the state.


Do you recognize this person who was the first Governor of Florida when it received statehood?

A supporter of states' rights, William Dunn Moseley defeated Richard Keith Call, the former territorial governor, in the state's first election. During his time in office, Moseley went on to promote the spread of agriculture and state-funded public schools.


Refusing to be moved west of the Mississippi River, the Seminoles launched which massacre against the U.S. Army in 1835?

Tensions between the Seminole Tribe in Florida and the U.S. citizens living there were already high before the Dade massacre took place. Fighting relocation, these Seminoles launched surprise raids against whites, which included the Dade massacre where 180 Native Americans ambushed 110 U.S. soldiers.


What was the first university established in Florida after it received statehood?

Founded in 1851, Florida State University was originally named the West Florida Seminary when operations began in 1857. The school merged with the Tallahassee Female Academy in 1858, making it coeducational from that point forward.


On the brink of civil war, how many states seceded from the Union before Florida?

With Abraham Lincoln only a few months away from taking office, Florida seceded from the Union on January 10, 1861. Only the states of South Carolina and Mississippi preceded Florida on this path of secession.


Can you identify this politician who served as the Governor of Florida during the Civil War?

John Milton came into power as the Governor of Florida the same year that the Civil War began. When the war came to a close in 1865, rather than accept defeat, Milton killed himself by a gunshot to the head.


Which Florida newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize for investigating the Florida Turnpike Authority in 1964?

The St. Petersburg Times, renamed the Tampa Bay Times in 2011, has a history of successful journalism, which includes 12 Pulitzer Prize awards. The newspaper won its most recent prize in 2016 for local reporting on a corrupt school board scandal.


Hullam Jones invented the first what in Florida?

The first glass bottom boats were launched at Silver Springs in Ocala, Florida in the 1870s. To this day, the area, which has become Silver Springs State Park, still attracts visitors looking to get a glimpse into the depths of the surrounding waters.


Do you remember what year a hurricane that killed hundreds working on the Florida East Coast Railway hit Florida?

As resorts began to pop up along the coast of East Florida, Standard Oil realized they could take advantage of the traffic into Florida by building the Florida East Coast Railway to connect Jacksonville to Key West. The rail line was eventually completed, but not without troubles like the 1906 hurricane.


Giuseppe "Joe" Zangara attempted to assassinate which president in Miami?

With the Great Depression looming over them, many Americans were discontent with politicians who they believed worked for the rich. Giuseppe Zangara was one such man, whose anger led him to try to assassinate President Franklin D. Roosevelt while he was giving a speech in Miami.


Which amusement park opened in Orlando in 1971, boosting the economy in the area?

Walt Disney World might be one of the best locations to witness the circle of life, preached about in "The Lion King." From children running around to ashes of loved ones spread across the various parks, Walt Disney World truly is a place for people of all ages.


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