The story of their journey begins with Andrew Turnbull, a Scottish doctor who decided to start a plantation in Florida after it became British territory. He traveled to Italy, Greece, and Minorca looking for people to become indentured servants in the settlement of Smyrnea (modern day New Smyrna Beach). He was only looking for about 400 people. Due to hard conditions like drought in Minorca and Turkish aggression in Greece, Turnbull ended up taking 1400 people to Florida in 1768 as indentured servants. They agreed to work on his plantation for 6-8 years, after which they would receive freedom and land.
Despite Turnbull's intentions, things in Smyrnea did not go according to plan. People still debate whether he truly abused his indentured servants or whether he simply was unequipped to care for the needs of that many people. In any case, a situation that began badly ended in disaster. During the voyage over, 148 people died on the crowded ships. Once they arrived, Turnbull faced an endless string of financial troubles, and his indentured servants sometimes ran out of supplies like food and clothing. The colony faced unexpected challenges in growing indigo and mistrust from the Creek Indians.
Living under harsh conditions took its toll on Turnbull's workers. After a failed revolt only months after their arrival, three of the immigrants were tried and convicted for the uprising. Two were put to death. It would be nearly 10 years before the indentured servants tried again to seek freedom. In 1777, Turnbull returned to England to pursue financial help. After he left, some of the people walked 75 miles from Smyrnea to St. Augustine to ask Florida's governor for help. Governor Patrick Tonyn granted Turnbull's workers freedom and gave them small parcels of land. Many of them traveled to St. Augustine to make their homes.
|Artifacts from the Avero House|
|Photo courtesy of stphotios.com|
If you visit St. Photios, you can also watch a video that shares more of the history of the Minorcans, Greeks, and Corsicans who traveled to Florida. There's also a gift shop with great books and items reflecting Greek culture and the Greek Orthodox faith. And I found out it's okay to ask questions--the staff there is friendly and seems to know just about everything there is to wonder about the site!
St. Photios is open daily from 9am to 5pm. For more information, visit http://stphotios.com/
If you would like to visit a Turnbull site in New Smyrna, check out http://volusiahistory.com/oldfort.htm
To go on your own archaeology fieldtrips all over northeast Florida, get our free map: http://www.fpannortheast.org/guide/documents/ArchaeologyMap_000.pdf