Nassau County's Rich History Tributary

The Ever-Changing History of Nassau County

Posted on: March 10, 2020

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Did you know the area of northeast Florida we call Nassau County is one of the oldest counties in Florida with a fascinating history that dates back to the mid-16th century? Being the only county in the U.S. that has been occupied by the French, Spanish, British, and Americans, Revolutionary War and Civil War action, Nassau County tells the outstanding story of industry, agriculture, and life in early days of Florida.

We are proud to be situated in such a remarkable locale – here’s a glimpse of the old days of Nassau County.

Discovery of Nassau County

In 1562 the French took first possession of Nassau County inhabited by Native Americans, but only for a short time. Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez drove out the French in 1565. Under the occupation of Menendez, the Spanish influence dominated the island and mainland Nassau County throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, which was the first of two Spanish colonial periods in Florida history.

American Revolution and After

Florida was transferred to the British by the Treaty of Paris in 1763 along with all of the east coast. Under the rule of the British, they brought the plantation system that would survive for nearly 100 years and a program of development and construction to Nassau County.

By 1783, Florida had again transferred back to the Spanish re-establishing a land-grant system and plantation system and fostering the first real land boom. With the beginning of pirates and slave runners, Amelia Island and Fernandina became a slave smuggling port with the rapid growth of population and sailing vessels anchored in the harbor. In 1821, Florida was ceded to the United States and Nassau County became a part of Duval County until 1824 when Nassau County would break away.

The American Civil War

The American Civil War broke out in Charleston harbor in 1861 which, in return, brought a Union invasion of Amelia Island the following year. Union troops commenced destroying the railroads, offices, rolling back and removed the rails up to the mainland. With so many wealthy landowners leaving the area, slaves were released from bondage and scattered to their own settlements such as Franklintown on the south end of Amelia Island.

Significant Economic Development

The significant economic boom began with the paper industry in the late 1930s. Container Corporation of America (today’s WestRock) planted its roots in Fernandina, establishing a paperboard mill, which began production in 1937. This changed the course of history here in Nassau County. Today, WestRock’s Fernandina plant produces 155,000 metric tons of softwood cellulose specialties per year. It contributes $35 million annually to Florida’s wages and salaries and $2 million to Florida’s property and sales taxes. Ranked among the nation’s top 50 exporters, the plant ships products to five continents and 80 ports around the world.

Understanding the significance of Nassau County’s history and nature, today’s settlers value these tributaries for their natural state, rich history and tradition. They appreciate the opportunity to explore these untouched, protected areas with generations to come. As the newest community in Nassau County, Tributary recognizes the history and the importance of preserving this dynamic land, with much of the land being preserved within and around the community. Tributary is where people will celebrate the natural surroundings as part of the community’s vision and design.

It’s a model lifestyle for tomorrow, waiting to be discovered today. The perfect place to call home. Within the 1,550-acre master-planned community, residents will enjoy the outdoor lifestyle, resort-style pool, fitness center and activities at the fun-filled Amenity Center. New modern-rustic homes will be offered from the $200s, interested homebuyers can join the VIP list at TributaryLiving.com to ensure they are first to learn of any updates as we approach the grand opening of model homes late this summer.


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