Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida's First Fairytale: The Fountain of Youth

Professor J. Michael Francis captivated the members of the North Florida Regional Planning Council last night with his story of the beginnings of Florida.

LAKE CITY, FL - Last night to help celebrate the 500th birthday of Florida the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, with the help of the Florida Humanities Council, welcomed Professor J. Michael Francis, one of the nation’s leading experts on the Spanish colonial experience in Florida to be its guest speaker at its monthly meeting. Professor Francis captivated North Central Florida's leaders with his discussion of the discovery Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513 and Florida's first fairytale, the discovery of the Fountain of Youth.

Prof. Francis began his talk by telling the group, "Where ever I go I hear people say, 'Gosh, it's about time for the rest of the country to appreciate this Florida story.'"

 • Florida Humanities Council
 • Professor J. Michael Francis

Prof. Francis explained that just about nobody could name anyone who lived in Florida between 1513 and 1763 and the history of Florida is one of the nation's and the world's great untold stories.

He said the narrative of Florida began before both Jamestown and Plymouth.

Prof. Francis explained that presently there is a dispute between, Ponte Verde Beach, St. Augustine, and Melbourne on Juan Ponce de Leon's first landing spot.

Florida's First Fairytale - The Fountain of Youth

Prof. Francis showed a slide of the Fountain of Youth Park in St. Augustine. A sign in the park stated, "Refresh from the prehistoric Indian Spring Ponce hoped was his fountain of youth."

While the sign is not there anymore, Prof. Francis asked, "Is that true or false?"

The audience pondered the question for a moment. Barely audible, one person volunteered a meek, "False?"

Prof. Francis asked, "Why is that false?"

There were no more volunteers.

The Professor continued, "Well, Juan Ponce de Leon was never, ever, ever, ever or ever looking for the Fountain of Youth, never."

"The story was invented more than a decade after his death and it became taken as true as more and more people repeated it."

According to Prof. Francis, one of chronicler's of the time said, ""I can only think of one person who is stupid enough to believe such a ridiculous story and his name was Juan Ponce de Leon.'"

The chronicler's story continued, "He was a credulous man, probably impotent. He was aging and he wanted to find this magical spring that would restore his youth and his health. He wasted all of his money and eventually it cost him his life."

Prof. Francis explained that this was written 15 years after Ponce's death and there is not a shred of evidence, not a single record from Ponce's life that connects his expeditions to any kind of quest for the fountain of youth. "None - zero."


Florida continues to lead the nation in federal indictments of public officials.

After the meeting the Observer spoke with one of the attendees who was captivated and enlightened by Professor's presentation.

The Observer said, "Wouldn't you know it. The country's first scam came from Florida."

The reply came with a resigned shrug, "Figures."

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