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April 1 to April 15
History Matters
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On April 2, 1513, Ponce de Leon arrived in the New World, focused on finding the elusive Fountain of Youth. He landed near what is now of St. Augustine, Fla., and claimed it on behalf of the Spanish monarchy. Because his arrival coincided with Easter he named--what he thought was an island--La Florida, or “Land of Flowers”. 

He returned eight years later to establish a Spanish colony, but the Native Americans wouldn’t have it, and de Leon immediately set sail for home. It wasn’t until 1565 that Spain was able to create the settlement of St. Augustine and, begin to colonize it. 

By 1819, the entire territory was ceded to the U.S. under the terms of the Florida Purchase Treaty between Spain and America. 

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends the exciting, “1513: Ponce de Leon Discovers Florida” by E. H. Haines.   

In the 1850s, it took nearly a month for a letter to reach California; the Pony Express was created to hasten postal service. 

On April 3, 1860 the inaugural relay team of horsemen--Pony Express riders—was assigned the task of delivering packets of mail: a bundle from St. Joseph, Mo. to Sacramento, Calif. and another traveling the same route, but in the opposite direction. It took the group headed for California ten days to make their delivery; the eastbound riders required 12.   

America in its “adolescence” was a particularly important period, says the Grateful American Book Prize; the panel suggests “Pony Express: The Great Gamble” by Roy S. Bloss. 

John Rolfe was a tobacco planter who married a Native American princess named Matoaka, on April 5, 1614.  

She is better known by her nickname: Pocahontas. And, their story was full of love, adventure and excitement. 

The first English settlement in America was Jamestown, founded in May of 1607 along the shores of the James River in Virginia. The 100 colonists who settled there, survived famine, disease, and attacks by the Powhatan confederacy of 30 local Native American tribes under the leadership of Chief Powhatan, but the swashbuckling John Smith, came to the rescue, before he was taken prisoner--and then released-- when Powhatan’s young daughter, Pocahontas, took a liking to him. 

But the hardships continued for the English settlers, and Smith, ailing from injuries suffered in a fire, eventually returned to England, while Pocahontas developed friendships among the settlers, and often provided them with gifts of food. 

In 1610, John Rolfe arrived in Jamestown, to build a tobacco plantation. Three years later he met Pocahontas, who had been taken hostage by the British as a bargaining chip with the Native Americans. They fell in love and married. It was a union that brought peace between the tribes and the British colonists.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Camilla Townsend’s page turner, “Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma.”