On Ft Pickens and Ft McRee. In the old records in the bowels of the county storage vault (dusty closet) is the tale of the sand pile. In 1817, the King of Spain handed out a nice big land grant to Vincente Sebastian Pintado, who was the surveyor general of West Florida. Even then, we had nothing to do with East Florida. They were separate entities. The grant was for 6 lots in the City of Pensacola (City being a generous word) and “1181 arpens situate on the West end of St. Rose’s Island from the point called Sigueza at the entrance of the Port of Pensacola, extending 4 English miles to the East and terminating at the line drawn from sea to sea North and South with all that is included in the arid and barren space.” No, I did not make that up, notice the quotation marks. In 1821, Pintado gave power of attorney to John de la Rua. (that is an ink blot on the original record and it was to Francisco de la Rua, [de la Rua being hubby’s 4x ggrandfather] who recorded a mortgage from Pintado to Sebastian Caro. [hubby’s 3x ggrandfather and husband to de la Rua’s daughter and my 3x great uncle]. Anyway, it was a mess.
Pintado then filed a claim to the land with the basis that it was a land grant from the King of Sp. The US Govt. denied that claim. The US decision was based on the assumption there were already batteries there built by Spain and it was always meant to be used for defense of the Port of Pensacola. This was deemed an “indispensable auxiliary to that of Ft Barrancas”. There was also some question by the US to the validity of the lots in town Pintado owned. Sooo, being the US Govt. they just took possession of it (because they wanted to build a fort). Part n parcel, they just took it. The Govt. claimed there was a strong “presumption of fraud” by Pintado and that is how it’s written into the US decision. Later jurisdiction of the land was transferred to the Army. The rest, is history. We all know what happened at Ft Pickens and Ft McRee.
At that time, there was no Intercoastal Waterway and there was a spit of land that could be walked on from the Navy Yard to Foster’s Point, the site of Ft McRee. Now, you have to have a boat to get there.
So, the US got the land by just pretty much denying the one land grant claim of many. They later began the building process with William Chase as the Engineer. Bless his heart, he could not speak and another had to when they handed met with Slemmer to tell him the fort was going to be fired on if he didn‘t give it up. He’s buried at NAS Pensacola under the asphalt in a parking lot at Chevalier Field. Pretty disrespectful if you ask me. His family tombstones adorn the little cemetery at the entrance to Ft Pickens. Just the stones, the bodies are still where they were buried.
From the looks of it, the US pretty much ‘stole’ the land for the forts. They decided it was no longer of any use to them in the late 1920’s and Escambia County bought Santa Rosa Island in early 1929 for $10, 000.