The Constitution might never have been ratified if the framers hadn’t promised to add a Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments to the Constitution gave citizens more confidence in the new government and contain many of today’s Americans most valued freedoms.
Were it not for James Madison, who opposed the Bill of Rights before supporting it, we would probably have neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights. By rechanneling public opposition to the Constitution into acceptance for a Bill of Rights, he staved off the Anti-Federalist attempts to rewrite the Constitution. Madison is therefore rightly viewed as both the father of Constitution and the father of the Bill of Rights.
The small town of Palatka, Florida, is about 60 miles south of Jacksonville, 45 miles east of Gainesville, and 29 miles southwest of St. Augustine. It’s the home of St. Johns River State College and the Florida School of the Arts, headquarters of the St. Johns Water Management District, and the site of Ravine Gardens State Park. A quiet little town today, Palatka has a rich and colorful history. “I’m a fifth generation on my mother’s side, born and raised in Palatka,” said Larry Beaton, historian of the Putnam County Historical Society. “My great-great grandfather was Robert Raymond Reid, who was the son of the fourth territorial governor, and he came here to Palatka in the early 1850s.”
A PBS documentary about Florida’s earliest settlers scheduled to premier later this month will feature a host of University of Florida researchers who helped uncover the real story of America’s Spanish colonists. “Secrets of Spanish Florida – A Secrets of the Dead Special” airs Dec. 26 and is narrated by Jimmy Smits. It includes the story of St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in the United States, founded in 1565 — two generations before the settlements in Jamestown and Plymouth — not by English Protestants but by the Spanish and a melting pot of people they brought with them from Africa, Italy, Germany, Ireland and even converted Jews, who integrated almost immediately with the indigenous tribes. UF has a long legacy of involvement in St. Augustine and in uncovering and preserving its history. In 2007, the Florida Legislature authorized UF to manage some three dozen historic properties there, and in 2010 UF Historic St. Augustine was formed to oversee and develop support for the properties.
For a taste of the seasons without the inconvenience of snow, go no farther than Florida’s Panhandle, especially during the autumn and winter months as snowbirds and tourists gravitate toward Central and South Florida. Our goal this fall was to escape wretched humidity in advance of the cold fronts that take the sting out of summer. So we packed our travel trailer and set out on a camping and kayaking safari, seeking a cool breeze in Florida’s Panhandle.
In the old days, lighthouses provided a navigational beacon. After renovations to the St. Marks Lighthouse are complete, there is hope its light will shine again.The lighthouse’s 82-foot tall white tower juts starkly out of the salt marsh of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The structure, built in 1842, three years before Florida became a state, is a symbol of the forgotten coast. It holds history in its ailing bones. Damaged by moisture, termites and 175 years of sitting on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, the lighthouse is undergoing its second phase of restoration, which focuses on bringing the keeper’s house into the 21st Century. For John Roberts, this isn’t just any restoration project. His mother was one of eight children who lived in the lighthouse. His grandmother was born there. His grandfather, the longest serving lighthouse keeper, stood watch from 1918 to 1949.