Fort St. Francis de Pupa, Florida

Fort St. Francis de Pupa, Florida.

Fort St. Francis de Pupa, Florida.

Fort St. Francis de Pupa in Clay County, Florida was built by the Spanish in about 1716.

This site, on the west bank of the St. Johns River just south of present-day Green Cove Springs, was first utilized as a ferry landing in the late 17th century. It quickly became a busy gathering place of settlers, priests, friendly Indians, and soldiers.

In 1670, the English established a settlement in Charleston, South Carolina, which threatened the Spanish garrison in St. Augustine, Florida. When Queen Anne’s War erupted between Britain and Spain in 1701, British troops often attacked isolated Spanish missions and succeeded in an overland attack to burn the settlement at St. Augustine and lay siege to the fort.

Afterward, the Spanish were forced to withdraw to the St. Johns River. The bank of the river then became the Spanish Empire’s first line of defense in Florida. In 1716, a work crew of soldiers, peaceful Indians and Spanish soldiers led by Lieutenant Diego Pena constructed a defensive fort and protective fence near a swamp and named it Fort St. Francis de Pupa.

Two miles across the river, Fort Picolata was constructed at the same time. Each fort was garrisoned by an eight-man squad to guard traders, travelers, and troops crossing the river from Creek Indian attacks and alert the Castillo de San Marcos of any advancing troops.

In 1737, British settlers, James Oglethorpe’s colony in Georgia, began paying Creek Indians to attack traders, peaceful Indians, and priests traveling to Fort Pupa and across the river. As a result, Spanish military engineer Antonio Arredondo recommended improvements. In 1739, Fort St. Francis de Pupa was rebuilt and enlarged to a three-story structure with a blockhouse. The palisade fence was expanded and strengthened and the entire structure was surrounded by a moat. Fort Picolata was also improved.

The following year the fort was attacked by English and Indian forces led by James Oglethorpe. Fort Pupa held for two days before surrendering after the second volley of cannon shot. But, St. Augustine was warned. Later in the summer, the English destroyed the fort and it was never rebuilt.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated February 2022.

Also See:

Forts Photo Gallery

Ghost Towns Across America

Indian Wars

List of American Forts


Clay Today

Florida Historical Marker