A Brief History of Amelia Island
The Original Home of Timoti’s, Meet Amelia Island
The proud home of our location in historic Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island is also the home of beautiful beaches, food and music festivals, and a very rich history of war, conquest and even pirates. The northernmost point of Florida’s eastern barrier islands, this island was supposedly settled in the year 1000 by Timucuan Native Americans, which they called “Nopoyca.” In the 1019 years since, over eight countries have claimed Amelia Island as their own, earning it the nickname, the “Isle of the Eight Flags.”
How Amelia Island Got Her Name
Around 1562, the French Huguenot explorer Jean Ribault raised the first flag and named the island Île de Mai (the “Island of May”). Just three years later, though, Pedro Menendez de Aviles and his Spanish troops chased them out, raising the second flag and renaming the area Isla de Santa Maria (the “Island of Santa Maria”). In fact, they colonized what is known now in Fernandina Beach as “Old Town,” not ten minutes away from Timoti’s Seafood Shak. Finally, in 1702, James Oglethorpe, a British soldier and the founder of Georgia, negotiated for control of the island and raised the third flag – the British flag. He gave the island its final name – “Amelia Island” – in honor of Princess Amelia, the daughter of King George II. Our island has royal beginnings!
A History of Rebels, Pirates and Ghosts
After ceding the land to the British, the Spanish had second thoughts. Following the American Revolution, Spain was able to control of the area again– until the “Patriots of Amelia Island” seized it and raised the fourth flag, the Patriot Flag of the Republic of Florida 1812. With weak troops and few resources, this didn’t last long. Spain regained control of Amelia Island for the third time – until the Scottish soldier Sir Gregor MacGregor arrived and hoisted the fifth flag, white with a large green cross, over his the new “Republic of Floridas” 1817. That same year, pirates led by Luis Aury invaded, conquered, and raised the sixth flag, the flag of the Republic of Mexico. The island had already had a fascinating history with pirates, with smugglers and thieves trafficking liquor, slaves, and treasure up the St. Mary’s River. Today, some legends say that Aury’s ghost lingers at the Third Street jailhouse and that buried treasure lays underground in historic Fernandina Beach, marked by a chain hanging from a tree. In 1817, though, this did not help.
Amelia Island into the Present
In 1821, the United States forced out Aury and the pirates and raised the American flag – the seventh flag. During the Civil War, the Confederate flag was the eighth and final flag to fly over Amelia Island before the Union regained control. Amelia Island has since belonged to the United States, and it has thrived. In the nineteenth century, the government constructed Fort Clinch and a cross-state railroad and the shipping, shrimping, and tourism industries boomed. It founded the first Customs House in the U.S. and the oldest newspaper in Florida. Hordes of visitors from the north, including the Vanderbilts and the Carnegies, visited during this time. And we believe they would have stopped by Timoti’s for a quick bite during their trip!
Today, you can see the history of Amelia Island right in Fernandina Beach, just down the road from our location. You can watch war reenactments at Fort Clinch State Park, visit Florida’s oldest tavern on Centre Street, or search for buried treasure in downtown Fernandina Beach. When you get hungry, you’ll find hidden treasures like our fresh catch fish sandwiches and our baja box with coconut rice and avocado. Or if you’re in a hurry to learn and explore the town more, take one of our party platters on the go!