October 17, 2017

La Florida

Early Spanish settlers saw Florida as 'a business opportunity'

Lilly Rockwell | 5/1/2013


Ancestor Born
Manuel Solana 1740
Bartolome Solana 1785
Mateo Simeon Sanchez 1828
Charles Solana 1882
Mary Frances Solana 1922
Linda Brown 1947

Raised in Jacksonville, with summers spent on the beaches of St. Augustine, Brown likely walked the same streets as her Solana ancestors. "My mother knew we were an old Spanish family," Brown says. When an aunt started doing some research in the 1950s, the family discovered its roots in Florida dated back to 1602.

"I'm always amazed when people refer to Florida as a state of newcomers because there are a lot of us that are still here," Brown says. She works as a software consultant and co-founded the Los Floridanos Society for the descendants of Solana and Sanchez in 1999. Brown says she considers herself of Spanish and Scottish/Irish descent. "I feel like I'm a Floridian -- with a Spanish background."


Ancestor Born
Francisco Xavier Sanchez 1736
Jose Simeon Sanchez 1797
Francis Manuel Sanchez 1820
Emanuel Antonio Sanchez 1850
Francis Vincent Sanchez 1878
Maria Elizabeth Sanchez 1901
James Bradford Coker Jr. 1933
James Bradford Coker III 1959

Best known as managing director at Mason-Dixon Polling, Coker is related to both the Solana and the Sanchez families. He was born James Bradford Coker III in Jacksonville but grew up partly in Washington, D.C. As a child, Coker says the only written documentation of his family ancestry lay in a genealogical study written in 1952 by a great-aunt, who was also Linda Brown's aunt.

Coker spent 25 years doing his own research and believes he can trace his roots in Florida back to 1565. He now lives in Fernandina Beach, where most of his neighbors are Florida transplants. "When I go to a party and they ask me where I'm from and I say Jacksonville, and then I tell them I go way back and tell them stories, they are flabbergasted," Coker says.

Tags: La Florida, Hispanics in Florida

Digital Access

Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single digital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.


Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Port Canaveral Strategic Master plan
Port Canaveral Strategic Master plan

Port Canaveral presented their strategic master plan Monday to the public. A capacity crowd attended the meeting. 

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Which side of the NAFTA debate do you fall on?

  • Scrap NAFTA entirely
  • Needs to be modified to protect more American jobs
  • Leave as is - Florida and US depends on open trade
  • Other (comments welcome)

See Results

Ballot Box