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Discoverers and Explorers


PONCE DE LEON.


You have heard many surprising things which the people of the fifteenth century believed. It seems almost impossible for us to think that those people really had faith in a Fountain of Youth; yet such is the case.

This fountain was supposed to exist somewhere in the New World, and it was thought that if any one should bathe in its waters, he would become young and would never grow old again.

In 1513 Ponce de Leon, who was then governor of Puerto Rico, sailed from that island in search of this Fountain of Youth. De Leon was an old man, and he felt that his life was nearly over, unless he should succeed in finding this fountain. At the same time De Leon wished to gain gold, for, though he had already made a fortune in Puerto Rico, he was still very greedy.

The expedition under his guidance sailed among the Bahamas and other islands near them, and at length reached a land beautiful with flowers, balmy with warm breezes, and cheerful with the song of birds. Partly because this discovery was made on Easter Sunday, which the Spaniards called Pascua Florida, and partly because of the abundance of flowers, De Leon called the land Florida.

He took possession of this delightful country for Spain, and then spent many weeks exploring its coast. After sailing north as far as St. Augustine, and finding neither gold nor the fabled Fountain of Youth, De Leon turned his vessels and proceeded south, doubling the Florida Cape. Shortly afterwards he became discouraged and returned to Puerto Rico.

In 1521 De Leon went again to Florida, this time for the purpose of planting a colony. The Indians were very angry that the white men should try to take their land, and they made a fierce attack upon De Leon and his party. In this attack De Leon received a severe wound, which compelled him to go to Cuba for care and rest. There he died after much suffering.

De Leon never found the Fountain of Youth, nor were the fabled waters discovered afterwards.





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