The History of Jacksonville

The founding of Jacksonville was a rather informal moment. Historians trace it to a petition dated June 15, 1822, and addressed to then U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams asking him to designate “Jacksonville,” in the U.S. Territory of Florida, as a port of entry. Sixty-one residents along the St. Johns River signed the request. Adams denied their petition, but the name “Jacksonville” began to supplant previous references to “the cow-ford,” or “cowford.” In August 1822, the territorial legislature created Duval County, and referred to the place called the cowford. But, within two years, Governor William DuVal signed an act establishing a ferry across the St. Johns River at Jacksonville, legitimizing its identity. Seven years later, in 1831, Jacksonville residents began lobbying the legislature to pass an act authorizing a charter of town government for Jacksonville. The legislature obliged the following year, in February 1832.

Photos courtesy of Jacksonville Historical Society

The development of Jacksonville, by people using that name, began June of 1822, so that’s the date and evidence that historians cite as its founding. The practice is similar to that of St. Augustine (and other cities), which claims with ample authority to have been “founded” in 1565, although its charter as an incorporated city in the U.S. territory came along a couple of centuries later.