St. Augustine, Florida
By Brian McGinn  

     Founded by Spain in 1565, St. Augustine is the oldest European town in North America . Two Irishmen in the service of Spain reached this remote outpost on Florida ís Atlantic coast during the final decade of the 16th Century. Fr. Richard Arthur from Limerick was appointed parish priest in 1597, and had as one of his parishioners an Irish-born soldier named Darby Glavin.

     Fr. Arthur was well prepared for life in the garrison town. Before entering the priesthood, he had served as a Spanish soldier in Flanders , Italy and Malta . St. Augustine ís parochial registers, which date back to 1594, list the baptisms and marriages he performed there from 1597 to 1604, when age and infirmity overtook him. In 1606, the Bishop of Cuba reported that Fr. Arthur had died in Florida . He was the first Irish-born priest to minister in what is now the United States .

     In 1585 and 1587, Darby Glavin participated in Sir Walter Raleighís attempts to plant English colonies in the area then known as Virginia . He deserted from the second in Spanish-ruled Puerto Rico when the English fleet stopped for fresh water. The suspicious Spaniards first sentenced Glavin to a term as a galley slave in Cuba , and in 1595 sent him as a soldier to St. Augustine .

     In 1600, Glavin gave St. Augustine ís Spanish governor a colorful account of his 1585 experiences with the English on Roanoke Island . The Irish soldier was still unaware that the 1587 colony had disappeared. But Glavinís reference to brick making on Roanoke Island has proved invaluable to modern archaeologists investigating the site of Raleigh ís 1585 colony.

Maynard Geiger, The Franciscan Conquest of Florida , 1573-1618 (Washington, D.C., 1937).

Ivor Noel Hume, The Virginia Adventure: Roanoke to James Towne (New York, 1994)

David Beers Quinn, ed., The Roanoke Voyages, 1584-1590. 2 Vols. ( London , 1955).


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