Irishman George Fleming arrived in Spanish East Florida in 1783. He established Hibernia on an island in the St. Johns River that is known today as Fleming Island. Hibernia became home to George’s children and grandchildren, and in the course of over two hundred years, seven generations of the Fleming family have called it home. Among his descendants are Southern planters, soldiers, and statesmen—most notably Francis Philip Fleming, the fifteenth governor of Florida. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Fleming family transformed Hibernia into a winter hotel that became a celebrated destination in the early days of Florida tourism and into the twentieth century. Today, Hibernia is a small residential enclave where a few remnants of the Fleming family’s rich history still stand to remind us of days gone by.
Author Scott Ritchie is part of the Fleming family by marriage. George Fleming is the fourth great-grandfather of Ritchie’s children, who were all born in their ancestral home of Hibernia. A retired educator, Ritchie has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado, two master’s degrees from Jacksonville University, and a Ph. D. from the University of Texas at Austin.
Author Bio: Scott Ritchie lives in Austin, Texas, but often returns to his extended family’s ancestral home on a high bluff along the St. Johns River in northeast Florida. This is where he and his wife began their careers together, where their four children were born, and where he developed an obsession for the history of Hibernia and the Flemings of Fleming Island. After 36 years as an educator in elementary schools, colleges, and universities, Scott “retired” to take up historical research full time. When his isn’t at some archival collection surrounded by old documents or crafting a narrative to tell a long-forgotten story, you might find him fishing, hiking, playing his guitar, or turning a decorative bowl on the lathe in his woodshop.
On the wall above his desk hangs an oil painting—a landscape of the St. Johns River. A family member captured this scene looking northeast from Hibernia. It serves as a constant reminder of the natural beauty of Florida, as well as a catalyst that allows his imagination to drift back over two hundred years ago when his children’s fourth great-grandfather, George Fleming of Ireland, first claimed the land as his own.
He admits the family connection might bias his interpretation of the historic record, but hopes that his education has taught him enough to recognize when it does. As a lifelong educator, he is also a lifelong student, with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado, two master’s degrees from Jacksonville University, a Ph. D. from the University of Texas at Austin, and an insatiable desire to keep learning new things.