De Luna, Founder of North America’s First Colony
by John Appleyard
Reprinted by the Florida Historical Society Press with a new publisher’s preface. Copyright 2009
ISBN 10: 1-886104-37-9
ISBN 13: 978-1-886104-37-2
Pensacola author John Appleyard based this dramatic historical novel upon the letters, journals, and other accounts of the effort to establish a Spanish colony at Ochuse, La Florida in 1559-61. This expedition to present-day Pensacola was the first attempted European settlement in North America.
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As this new edition of John Appleyard’s historical novel De Luna: Founder of North America’s First Colony goes to print, twenty students from the University of West Florida are conducting an archaeological excavation in Pensacola Bay, carefully exploring the underwater wreckage of the Emanuel Point II. The small ship, about 42 feet long, was part of the fleet led by Don Tristan de Luna as he attempted to establish a colony at present-day Pensacola exactly 450 years ago. The ship and its contents are preserved under 12 feet of water, protected from deterioration by a blanket of sand. The artifacts and objects that the students are discovering will add to our understanding of the intrepid men, women, and children who joined de Luna on his ambitious quest.
In his undergraduate program John Appleyard was a student of history, but he later entered the business world. While technically a “non-professional” historian, exploring and documenting history is clearly Appleyard’s first love as demonstrated by his multiple publications on various aspects of Pensacola history. As anyone who attended Appleyard’s presentation at the Florida Historical Society Annual Meeting in May 2009 can attest, he is also a dynamic and engaging storyteller. The theme of that event, held in Pensacola, was “From Tristan de Luna to the Twenty First Century: 450 Years of Florida History.” Presenting the Jillian Prescott Memorial Lecture, Appleyard kept his audience enthralled and entertained while providing exciting information about “The Story of Don Tristan de Luna Arellano, Governor of the First Attempted Colony of Florida.”
To write the historical novel De Luna: Founder of North America’s First Colony, Appleyard combined the skills of an accomplished historian with the passion of a great storyteller to create a fact-based book that is as compelling as it is informative. Appleyard carefully studied all of the available documentation of de Luna’s expedition and integrated it into this work, logically filling any gaps in demonstrable fact with reasonable supposition and a slight bit of artistic license. Of course, no one can know the exact content of private conversations or be privy to the subtle nuances of the interpersonal relationships of people who lived 450 years ago. The best historical novelists incorporate as much fact as possible into their work to help them present believable “characters” in real-life situations, as Appleyard successfully does here.
St. Augustine, established by Pedro Menendez de Aviles in 1565, is recognized as the oldest continuous settlement in North America. Had de Luna been able to create a permanent colony at Pensacola six years earlier, the history of North America may have been quite different. The important story of the de Luna expedition, largely ignored until now, deserves to be told. Thankfully, John Appleyard has accomplished this task in an entertaining way that brings the people and places involved to life in a great historical novel.
Benjamin D. Brotemarkle
Florida Historical Society
July 1, 2009