A Hurricane Damaged His Floor, Revealed Bit of History

Remains of some of America's first colonists possibly found in St. Augustine
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2017 10:17 AM CST
Some of First Colonists' Remains Possibly Found
The excavation.   (City of St. Augustine press release)

Florida's St. Augustine was founded decades before Jamestown and Plymouth, and now the remains of some of those very first American colonists have likely been found. Credit Hurricane Matthew, reports First Coast News: After the hurricane descended on the city in October, David White decided to redo the resulting damaged floor of a commercial building he owned. A press release from the city explains that St. Augustine's archaeologist was doing excavations on an adjacent street, and so White suggested Carl Halbirt take a look at his floor, too. Halbirt and his team—"who typically find pottery, not people," per the St. Augustine Record—found an elbow.

Further excavation revealed it was part of a complete skeleton; the remains of three other people have been found, and Halbirt believes more graves are present, as evidenced by discolored soil. Catholic practice at the time was to bury the dead under a church floor, and the Record reports that Halbirt's finds have him thinking this is the site of what he says is "the oldest parish church that has been documented" in the US: Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, which was established in 1572. It was destroyed three times, the first in 1586 at the hands of Sir Francis Drake. Ceramic artifacts located near the bones suggest the burials occurred between the two aforementioned years. As St. Augustine itself was founded in 1565, "this definitely could be some of the first Europeans to settle in North America," says an architectural historian. (A Roanoke Island mystery may finally be solved.)

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