Old Kings Road, 1837 Map of Eastern Florida Coast – Images Courtesy of Flagler Historical Society.

Ryan Brennan – Image Courtesy of the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum

Hiking Through History

Retracing a Minorcan Odyssey with Ryan Brennan

Who Are The Minorcans?

Originally, The Minorcans were a group of indentured servants from Italy, Sicily, Greece, and the island of Menorca, who were brought to Florida in 1768. They were contracted to work on Andrew Turnbull’s Indigo plantation in New Smyrna for a set amount of years, then receive a piece of land as payment for service. In 1777, after nearly a decade of poor working conditions and neglected contracts, the Minorcans fled the plantation in search of a better life 67 miles north in St. Augustine. Once settled in the northern end of town, the Minorcans quickly became members of St. Augustine society, taking up jobs like fishing, carpentry, farming, stonemasonry and more. Despite being 4,500 miles from their homeland, the Minorcans maintained incredibly strong ties to Menorcan culture and traditions, passing them down from generation to generation through stories, food, songs and more.

Today, descendants of the original Minorcans can be found throughout St. Augustine, and the United States, many of which still practice old Minorcan traditions.

What is Coquina?

Coquina is the native stone of North East Florida. Dubbed “The rock that saved St. Augustine” by the National Park Service, Coquina is a unique building material that can be found throughout the “First Coast” region. Through a combination of Coquina Clam Donax Variabilis shells, acidic rain, and thousands of years of weight and pressure, the coquina clam shell remains are compressed by the weight of the beach into a porous limestone like material that is excellent for building structures. Today, The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum is one of 31 original coquina homes left in St. Augustine, and is believed to be built by Minorcan leader Francisco Pellicer, as a gift for his daughter Juana and her new husband, Andre Ximenez.

Due to Coquina’s organic nature, it is very different from manmade concreate or tabby. Special conditions must be kept in order for the coquina to breathe, which prevents the formation of mold and other detrimental conditions, which may lead to its destruction.

Minorcan man and woman in traditional dress of the late 1700’s. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.
History of the New Smyrna Settlement. Image courtesy of the Flagler County Historical Society.

Rather than use paint, which clogs the Coquina pores, the Ximenez-Fatio House and other coquina structures must use a specific type of lime wash to coat and protect the Coquina.This is the main reason I am raising money. Lime wash must be applied every seven or so years, and the house is due for a lime wash. Together with your support, we can continue to preserve the gem that is the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum, as well as raise awareness for other unique Coquina buildings in the area.

Map of the Balearic Islands, including Minorca, of the Mediterranean Sea.
Andrew Turnbull Ruins of New Smyrna.
Example of Coquina

What is Hiking Through History?

Ryan Brennan – Image Courtesy of the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum.

The walk itself will be an attempt at recreating the historic Minorcan exodus. I plan on walking for 4 days and 3 nights, traveling only by foot and camping at night. When the Minorcans escaped in 1777, they first sent a group of three men to plead for the groups freedom with St. Augustine’s Governor, Patrick Tonyn. Following the Governors approval, the men reported back to New Smyrna and the Minorcans began their final mass migration. Historians believe that most of the Minorcans traveled up the Old King’s Road, which unfortunately due to our ever-growing region, has mostly been covered up for the creation of US. Highway 1. So, for that reason, I will be following the path most believe was taken by the original 3 Minorcans. The Route will start in Downtown New Smyrna, and lead me up along the coast line into downtown St. Augustine. Overall, I will be walking just over 70 miles, with all my supplies on my back. During my travels, I will record and post three videos a day discussing various aspects of Minorcan history and culture, the Old King’s Road, Sea Turtles and environmental issues, the impact of Henry Flagler, and other topics that will be revealed during my walk!

Ryan Brennan – Image Courtesy of the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum.

What is the Goal of My Walk?

While Coquina is an excellent building material, it still requires annual maintenance. The goal of my walk is to raise $1,798 for the ongoing maintenance of the Ximenez-Fatio House’s Coquina walls. Originally constructed for the daughter of Minorcan leader Francisco Pellicer, The Ximenez-Fatio House Museum stands as a testament to Minorcan ingenuity and resilience. Just like Coquina buildings, Minorcan culture has remained constant in an ever-changing St. Augustine. Despite various fluctuations in government, economics, and industries, Minorcans can always be found in the Ancient City. With the money raised during my 67 miles walk, I am hoping to contribute to the stewardship of a Minorcan cultural heritage site and its defining feature, coquina. I will share a modern perspective on the multiday hike, and hopefully, with my steps and your support, we can continue to preserve and present Minorcan history to the public.  

How Can You Support the Walk?

I have devised various ways for people of various backgrounds to donate! The first option is an open donation of any amount. These can be given through our website, or dropped off in the donation box located in the Ximenez-Fatio gift shop. If you want to make a more personal donation, I am offering sponsorship for each mile that I walk. Each mile will cost $15, and at the end of each day, I will produce a recap video that include individual “Thank You” to each person who sponsored a mile. With your support, we can ensure that Minorcan heritage and the Ximenez-Fatio House Museum is preserved for future generations!

Thank youRyan