FERNANDINA, a city, a port of entry, and the county-seat of Nassau county, Florida, U.S.A., a winter and summer resort, in the N.E. part of the state, 36 m. N.E. of Jacksonville, on Amelia Island (about 22 m. long and from m. to 1 m. wide), which is separated from the mainland by an arm of the sea, known as Amelia river and bay. Pop. (1900) 3245; (1905, state census), 4959 (2957 negroes); (1910) 3482. Fernandina is served by the Seaboard Air Line railway, and by steamship lines connecting with domestic and foreign ports; its harbour, which has the deepest water on the E. coast of Florida, opens on the N. to Cumberland Sound, which was improved by the Federal government, beginning in 1879, reducing freight rates at Fernandina by 25 to 40%. Under an act of 1907 the channel of Fernandina harbour, 1300 ft. wide at the entrance and about 2 m. long, was dredged to a depth of 20 to 24 ft. at mean low water with a width of 400 to 600 ft. The "inside" water-route between Savannah, Georgia and Fernandina is improved by the Federal government (1892 sqq.) and has a 7-ft. channel. The principal places of interest are "Amelia Beach," more than 20 m. long and 200 ft. wide, connected with the city by a compact shell road nearly 2 m. long and by electric line; the Amelia Island lighthouse, in the N. end of the island, established in 1836 and rebuilt in 1880; Fort Clinch, at the entrance to the harbour; Cumberland Island, in Georgia, N. of Amelia Island, where land was granted to General Nathanael Greene after the War of American Independence by the state of Georgia; and Dungeness, the estate of the Carnegie family. Ocean City, on Amelia Beach, is a popular pleasure resort. The principal industries are the manufacture of lumber, cotton, palmetto fibres, and cigars, the canning of oysters, and the building and repair of railway cars. The foreign exports, chiefly lumber, railway ties, cotton, phosphate rock, and naval stores, were valued at $9,346,704 in 1907; and the imports in 1907 at $116,514.
The harbour of Fernandina was known to the early explorers of Florida, and it was here that Dominic de Gourgues landed when he made his expedition against the Spanish at San Mateo in 1568. An Indian mission was established by Spanish priests later in the same century, but it was not successful. When Georgia was founded, General James Oglethorpe placed a military guard on Amelia Island to prevent sudden attack upon his colony by the Spanish, and the first blood shed in the petty warfare between Georgia and Florida was the murder of two unarmed members of the guard by a troop of Spanish soldiers and Indians in 1739. The first permanent settlement was made by the Spanish in 1808, at what is now the village of Old Fernandina, about 1 m. from the city. The island was a centre for smuggling during the period of the embargo and non-importation acts preceding the war of 1812. This was the pretext for General George Matthews (1738-1812) to gather a band of adventurers at St Mary's, Georgia, invade the island, and capture Fernandina in 1812. In the following year the American forces were withdrawn. In 1817 Gregor MacGregor, a filibuster who had aided the Spanish provinces of South America in their revolt against Spain, fitted out an expedition in Baltimore and seized Fernandina, but departed soon after. Later in the same year Louis Aury, another adventurer, appeared with a small force from Texas, and took possession of the place in the name of the Republic of Mexico. In the following year Aury was expelled by United States troops, who held Fernandina in trust for Spain until Florida was finally ceded to the United States in 1821. Fernandina was first incorporated in 1859. In 1861 Fort Clinch was seized by the Confederates, and Fernandina harbour was a centre of blockade running in the first two years of the Civil War. In 1862 the place was captured by a Federal naval force from Port Royal, South Carolina, commanded by Commodore S.F. Du Pont.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)