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17 de jul. 2013

Minorcans in Florida

British Florida Food History: Andrew Turnbull’s New Smyrna Colony
"The New Smyrna settlement was the product of British attempts to populate Florida with colonists who would benefit the Crown. Britain had obtained Florida and the Mediterranean island of Minorca from Spain in 1763, following a global war involving several European powers.
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Britain’s desire to colonize Florida was spurred by the need to offset her costly dependence on imported commodities such as indigo, silk, cotton, rice, cochineal, wine, and oil. To encourage agricultural development, land grants were offered to prospective plantation owners at easy terms, and financial rewards were bestowed if planters grew cash crops for export to England. Dr. Andrew Turnbull, a Scottish-born physician and wealthy member of London society, was one who accepted the challenge.
For workers he turned to the island of Minorca, where a three-year crop failure had left many farmers destitute. He was able to recruit about 1,100 Minorcans as indentured servants (see below for definition) and added 200 more laborers from Greece and about 100 from Italy, France, Corsica, and Turkey. The colony experienced a cycle of bad and good years during its short history.
The end of the New Smyrna colony came in 1777 when the plantation was virtually abandoned by most of the surviving colonists who fled to the safety and security of St. Augustine. Turnbull raised cattle and grew rice, corn, sugar, hemp, cochineal (a native parasite of the prickly pear cactus that was used to manufacture a red dye), and cotton." ...
"Indentured servants"
Farmers, planters, and shopkeepers in the American colonies found it very difficult to hire free workers, primarily because it was so easy for potential workers to set up their own farms. Consequently, a common solution was to transport a young worker from England or Germany, who would work for several years to pay off the debt of their travel costs. During the indenture period the servants were not paid wages, but were provided with food, accommodation, clothing and training. The indenture document specified how many years the servant would be required to work, after which they would be free. Terms of indenture ranged from one to seven years with typical terms of four or five years.

More information
You can read, in Catalan, longer article (in Catalan) about what became of the few survivors: 964 of the members of the colony died before the survivors fled to St. Augistine, where the Minorcan heritage is remembered in plaques, buildings and traditions.

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