It was back in the 16th Century when a story first appeared. Well…to be fair it was actually stated far earlier in other countries, by gods, goddesses, philosophers, and so on. The Fountain of Youth was legend far before Ponce de Leon was brought into the mix, but America ‘captured’ that particular explorer and it’s been history ever since.
Located in St. Augustine, Florida is one of the most amazing sites on our planet. In fact, many of the most historical and interesting sites reign in this particular city, seeing as that it is the oldest one to America’s name. (Nope. Sorry. Plymouth wasn’t it).
Ponce de León was actually charged with discovering the land of Bimini, and this was the only thing he was supposedly after. Much later in history, archaeologists and professors would say that this particular quest came about because of talk about the land that the Mayan had described in Yucatan. Opposite of popular belief, Ponce de León did not mention the supposed ‘fountain’ that stops the aging process in any of his writings throughout his expedition. And even though he may have heard the rumor of the fountain at some point, his name was not associated with the legend until after his death.
It was in 1535 when it was written that he actually was looking for the waters of Bimini to cure a problem of his own. And in 1575, an author placed these ‘restorative waters’ in Florida, mentioning the fact that de León looked for them there specifically. Others say the adventurer was only in those waters to find a missing person. So, you see? History can be come entangled and twisted as a legend grows larger and larger over time.
Now, is the Fountain of Youth true? You would think if it were – especially now with all of the technological wonders that are at our disposable – someone would’ve found it by now and put Oil of Olay out of business. But for those of us (yes, including this writer) who wish to hope, dream and believe that there is a powerful magic far beyond any of own capabilities – the Fountain of Youth is very much a part of our ‘real’ history.
Thankfully we are a nation that truly holds on to the past, especially in the stunning locale of St. Augustine. There you will find the Fountain of Youth National Archaeological Park, which is a true tribute to THE spot where Ponce de León is said to have landed in his quest. Created by a woman named, Luella Day McConnell back in 1904, she was actually known to make up stories here and there and fabricate bits of amusements for all of the city’s residents and any tourists who arrived to enjoy. She was referred to as “Diamond Lil,” and she kept the tales tall until she passed in 1927.
It’s easy to see and prove how much people wish to believe in the unknown or the fanciful, because even though there is no actual evidence that the fountain located in this amazing park has any restorative effects whatsoever, visitors do still flock there every year and drink the water. But the Park does go beyond a fairytale, trust me. Exhibits of native and colonial artifacts are on hand to celebrate St. Augustine’s long heritage.
Another claim that has reached its peak over the centuries comes in the form of a “Da Vinci Code-type’ item that speaks of a St. Augustine-based secret society that claim to be the protectors of the Fountain of Youth (which is why they’ve lasted for so long).
So, I say we look on the side of the ‘improbable;’ that the Fountain of Youth is that legendary spring that reputedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks. Appearing in writings by Herodotus all the way to similar waters being spoken about and supposedly found among indigenous people living in the Caribbean, these powerful waters in the mythical land of Bimini have become legend. But not until Ponce, did it become an absolute truth in many minds.
Recently a tour was taken into the depths of this particular legend. Upon entering, yes, the music of creation – a lot like Epcot Center – announces your arrival into one of the most exciting bits of history ever revealed.
Well, what’s the whole story? In the beginning…
King Ferdinand was a very old man. His wife had son passed away and he remarried in order to have another heir. Ponce de Leon supposedly heard of natives telling stories about an island that held a magic rejuvenating spring. The King told him to find those waters and bring them to the Crown immediately.
The Park actually adds to this by proving that de Leon was the one who set foot on St. Augustine. You see, in the cave you tour there are stones laid in a symmetrical pattern – 15 east to west; 13 north to south. 1513 – the same year as the arrival. Apparently Ponce laid these stones to lay claim to the land. In addition, a container was found next to this artifact and inside was a parchment that offered further proof that he landed there.
This is the original place where he landed when looking for the Fountain of Youth. Do we know this for sure – what he was searching for? No. But what we do know is that if this particular area hadn’t become a protected tourist attraction then this land would have been developed over and we wouldn’t have found out the information we have. In 1985 a dig was commenced by the University of Florida, Gainesville and artifacts were unearthed that truly prove St. Augustine started right where it is and the first Thanksgiving was actually held in 1565 – long before Plymouth. In addition. the average lifespan back then was 40-45 years old, yet the man who founded St. Augustine was in his 70’s when he passed on.
When De Leon fist stepped foot in Florida, seeing the physique of the local natives, he found himself asking about the cause. Such as, why their physicality, strength and basically why their faces didn’t look at all aged by time or stress. Apparently these people pointed at a spring that provided them water, and De Leon thought he had found “The Fountain of Youth.” Simple as that.
Here, all tourists can stroll through the magnificent gardens, watch excavations taking place, and even drink from the fabled fountain. Not only that, but the Historical Park offers guests a chance to observe the very first Spanish settlement in the New World – the one who celebrated this first Thanksgiving – which was founded by Spanish explorer, Pedro Menendez de Aviles. In essence, when you truly think about it, this fountain is very possibly the truth: It sits on the site of the first and oldest continuous European settlement in North America, and long before the Spanish came to ‘la Florida’ the Timucuan Indian village of Seloy had already been established for nearly 3,000 years. In 1513, Ponce De Leon claimed Florida for the Spanish crown, and no other colonies were successful until Menendez came along in 1565.
This stunning 15-acre, waterfront historical attraction offers a multitude of sites. Here you will delve into the Planetarium, the Native Timucua Village, the two-story Discovery Globe which maps out all the Spanish routes, and partake of waterfront property where stunning peacocks roam.
Add to that a free drink that just could make those crow’s feet go away, and you truly have a legend worth seeing!
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