About Fort Mose
In 1996 the State of Florida purchased a 2.5 acre Fort Mose site strategically located on the Tolomato River (a part of the Intracoastal Waterway) which not only provides the county residents with an opportunity to access this water body, but provides St. Johns County with the opportunity to become interconnected with Duval County to the north and the City of St. Augustine and Flagler County to the south. In 2003, with the assistance of the Trust for Public Lands (TPL) and the Florida Community’s Trust (FCT) program, St. Johns County purchased the 8 acre site north of the original Ft. Mose site. Access to this site is from US 1 via Isla Drive.
The site is comprised of three distinct Vegetative Communities, characterized by their Florida Land Use Cover Forms Classification System (FLUCFCS) as Maritime Hammock, Estuarine Tidal Marsh and Ruderal (common plant species). The maritime hammock community dominates the site. The dominant plants species within this community includes live oak, red bay, and yaupon holly. The estuarine tidal marsh community ranges from intertidal marsh dominated by cordgrass. (Spartina alterniflora) to high marsh dominated by saltgrass (Distichlis spicata). Traversing the marsh are numerous tidal creeks and rivulets. Common plant species observed on this site include Red Maple, Southern Magnolia, Laurel Oak, Saw Palmetto, Cabbage Palm, Pignut Hickory, Loblolly Pine, Southern Red Cedar, Wax Myrtle, Horrible Thistle, Stinging Nettle, Black Needlerush, Smooth Cordgrass, Sea Oxeye, and Saltwort.
Wildlife observed on this site include White ibis, Little blue heron, Tricolored heron, Florida sandhill crane, Wood stork, Great blue heron, and Great Horned Owl. This site also contains an established Great Heron rookery and Wood Stork feeding grounds.
The Historic Significance of the Fort Mose site to the African-American cultural history is tremendous. In 1738, Garcia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, known as Fort Mose, (mosay) was established as the first legally sanctioned community of freed slaves in what is now the United States. At that time the site was located approximately two miles north of the Spanish Fort at St. Augustine, Fort Mose served as the northern defense line to the garrison town. Most of the community of Fort Mose consisted of escaped or runaway slaves from the British colony of South Carolina. The Spanish government gave them freedom in exchange for their conversion to Catholicism and their allegiance to the Spanish crown. In 1740, English forces attacked Fort Mose captured and destroyed many inhabitants. However, some inhabitants of Fort Mose escaped and moved to the safety of St. Augustine’s Spanish Fort - Castillo de San Marco. At the urging of Spain, Fort Mose was rebuilt just north of the original site as a packed earthen fort, surrounded by a six-foot moat. Fort Mose thrived as a separate community from St. Augustine until 1763 when Spain ceded Florida to the British.
The British occupied Fort Mose until 1775, then the Minorcan farmers sporadically inhabited the site until 1821. The site was abandoned until 1986, when it was relocated according to modern-day historic research.
From 1986-1996 this site was extensively researched and an archaeological investigation was completed. A traveling museum exhibit, Fort Mose: America’s Black Fortress of Freedom, was developed and opened at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville in February 1994. It is currently on display at the Ponce de Leon Mall in St. Augustine until a permanent home can be built on the site.
In 1997, the Fort Mose Historical Society was established as a citizen support organization to the site. Since its establishment, the Society has worked closely with the Florida Park Service to increase the opportunity for experiencing and appreciating the story of Fort Mose.
Recreation, Preservation, and Protection
A Master Plan was commissioned for the site which includes plans for an 8,000 square foot Interpretative Museum building to provide a permanent home for the Black Fortress of Freedom Exhibit. There are opportunities for historical and natural interpretation, hiking trails, boardwalks, picnicking, observation platform, canoe/kayak platform, entrance road, parking lot and site security.
Because this project site is located on the Intracoastal Waterway, this site is just another piece of a massive puzzle that interconnects federal, state and local initiatives to preserve, protect and maintain the natural resources (vegetative communities, wildlife habitat, improve water quality and protect shellfish harvesting areas) along the Intracoastal Waterway. The federal initiative is being pursued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and this administered through the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in the implementation of the Guana, Tolomato, Matanzas (GTM) National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) Management Plan. Other State initiatives being pursued by DEP and the SJRWMD include the GTM Water Quality Task Force and Northern Coastal Basins Program, respectively.
In addition, Duval County’s Northeast Blueway Phase I – Pablo Creek CARL application approved by the ARC in 2000 as a Category A project and the St. Johns County recent Northeast Blueway Phase II - Tolomato and Matanzas Rivers Florida Forever (FF) application all helped provide further protection to the natural resources along the Intracoastal Waterway. Through these programs and initiatives the federal, state and local agencies are coordinating to implement the mutual goal of preservation, protection and maintenance of the natural resources along the Intracoastal Waterway. Click for scaleable PDF of the Site Plan.