Ponce de Leon came to Florida 500 years ago in search of the Fountain of Youth and landed in St. Augustine: True or False?
Maybe both, William F. “Rick” Crary II writes in an article titled “Treasure Coast Landing?” for the January-February issue of Indian River Magazine.
“I was hoping to find some type of Ponce de Leon connection to the Treasure Coast,” said Crary, a partner at The Crary Buchanan Law Firm in Stuart. “I was trying to find proof that he set foot in our region after he landed in St. Augustine.”
He found a 1913 article that disputed the textbook version of history. “It opened my eyes to the fact that there’s no clear proof where he landed,” Crary said. “A lot of early research has been disputed by other historians. The first landing could have actually been here.”
When he started his research, Crary was also skeptical about the Fountain of Youth story. “But then I delved into contemporaneous accounts from the 1500s ,” he said. “and I came away believing that the legend is true; that was one of the things he was searching around for. It wasn’t necessarily a fountain, but a spring or a river.”
Where does the truth lie? The article offers tantalizing possibilities and is accompanied by a tracing of an obscure map thought to have been made around 1515 using information collected by Ponce de Leon. Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville gave Crary permission to use its famous paintings by Thomas Moran to beautifully illustrate the article.
Crary is a regular contributor to Indian River Magazine. One of his most recent articles was about how Pelican Island in the Indian River Lagoon came to be America’s first national wildlife refuge. He has written about Henry Flagler’s impact on the Treasure Coast; Grover Cleveland’s “Stuart Love Affair”; the assassination of Charles T. McCarty; and how Martin County got its name.
Crary has a passion for writing articles on regional history. It’s also part of his life. His late grandfather, Evans Crary, Sr. Evans Crary, Sr. opened a law firm in Stuart in 1927, served in the Florida legislature for 18 years, and became Speaker of the House in 1945. A bridge connecting Stuart with Sewall’s Point was named for him.