Ponce de Leon

de Leon

Ponce de Leon is best known as the explorer who discovered Florida during his quest for a "Fountain of Youth." He also played a part in the pacification of Hispaniola, and was the first governor of Puerto Rico. Overall he was considerably more subdued than some of the other conquistadors, and although he participated in a pacification program against the natives, his inclinations more peaceful than some of his brethren. He was a competent administrator as well as an adventurer, and greatly trusted by the Spanish crown.

Ponce de Leon was born to a noble family, his uncle by the same name being one of the most notable heroes of the Reconquista. De Leon accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to the new world and eight years later settled in Hispaniola under the governorship of Nicholas Ovando. During the pacification of the natives of that island, he was a voice of restraint, particular in regard to the fate of women and children, but nontheless followed orders to put down rebellion.

After four years of governing the Higuey province of Hispaniola, Ponce de Leon led an expedition to the island of Puerto Rico and shortly thereafter was appointed governor of that island by Ferdinand. His original settlement was near the present day location of San Juan Bautista. Within a few years he was encouraged by Ferdinand to conduct further explorations of Florida, and in 1513 fitted an expedition at his own expense. The legend of the Fountain of Youth originated from one of the old women who worked on De Leon's encomienda, who claimed to have lived in Florida as a young girl, but it is not clear how much De Leon was actually animated by the story. It is likely that he and his men were more interested in gold.

A detailed account of Ponce De Leon's first expedition to Florida is not given, but he certainly explored and charted the regions from St. Augustine to the Florida keys. He returned to Puerto Rico and lived with his family on their encomiendo for several years before outfitting another expedition in 1521. The second expedition, however, was very short lived. His men were attacked by natives on the west coast of Florida as soon as they landed. De Leon was injured by a poison arrow and died shortly thereafter.

Key events during the life of Ponce de Leon:

Birth of Ponce De Leon to a noble family in Valladolid.
Accompanied Columbus on his second expedition to the New World.
Accompanied Nicholas Ovando to Hispaniola.
Appointed governor of Higuey province of Hispaniola.
Led an expedition to explore the island of Puerto Rico.
Put down a rebellion of natives in Puerto Rico, and became governor of the island.
Equipped an expedition at his own expense to explore Florida.
Failed to find the fountain of youth. Returned to Puerto Rico.
Equipped another expedition to explore Florida.
Died from wounds suffered by the attack of a poison arrow.

Book Links
Ponce de Leon  by  Frederick Ober

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Fountain of Youth  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  James Baldwin
Fountain of Youth  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
The Fountain of Youth  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  H. A. Guerber
The Fountain of Youth  in  Historical Tales: American II  by  Charles Morris
Key to Granada  in  Historical Tales: Spanish  by  Charles Morris

Image Links

Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth
 in Thirty More Famous Stories Retold

Ponce de Leon
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Juan Ponce de Leon
 in Juan Ponce de Leon

Short Biography
Nicholas Ovando Governor of Hispaniola from 1502 to 1509. Responsible for the massacre of great numbers of Indians.
Christopher Columbus Genoan sailor, sponsored by Isabela of Spain, who crossed the Atlantic Ocean and discovered the Americas.
Diego Columbus Son of Christopher Columbus. Appointed governor of Hispaniola in 1510.
Ferdinand of Aragon King of Aragon who ruled united Spain with Queen Isabel. Drove the Moors out of Granada.
Cotubanama Courageous native chieftain of Hispaniola who evaded capture by the Spanish for many months.