Monday, June 3, 2019

Fountain of Youth

There seems to always have been a desire to have the fountain of youth at our disposal. No one seems to have the desire to age, or at the very least to feel the aches and pains of growing older. Let's not even talk about the wrinkles and such. 

Stories of just such a fountain, one that would restore the youth of anyone who drank or bathed in the waters have been told for thousands of years. As early as the 5th century B.C. by Herodotus, then more stories from the 3rd century A.D., the Crusades through the 11th and 12th century A.D. and waters were also claimed to be a fountain of youth by the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean during the Age of Exploration in the early 16th century.

Most of us have heard of The Fountain of Youth associated with the name Juan Ponce de Leon. He traveled to what is now Florida in 1513. Legend has it that he was told by the Native Americans that the Fountain of Youth was in Bimini and it could restore youth to anyone.

Many others tried to find these waters and some claimed to have found them, mainly to get in good favor with the people they ruled. POLITICS most definitely were involved. Eventually, a tribute to the spot where Ponce de Leon was supposedly to have landed, (although there is no historical or archaeological evidence to support this claim) was St. Augustine, Florida. There is proof that as early as the 1860's, there was a tourist attraction. Luella Day McConnell had The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park created in 1904. She abandoned her practice as a physician in Chicago and headed to the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush of the 1890's. She purchased the Park property from a British horticulturalist with cash and diamonds, for which she  became known in St. Augustine as "Diamond Lil."

She began advertising this attraction, charging admission and selling post cards and water from a well dug that was to have come from the fountain. She even claimed to have discovered a large cross made of coquina rock, stating that it was placed there by Ponce de Leon himself. She continued to concoct tales that kept some amused and appalled others until her death in a car accident in 1927.

The manager of this tourist attraction bought the property and made it one of the state's most successful tourist attractions. There have been archaeologist digs, even by The Smithsonian Institution. They produced many burials and it was discovered that this Archaeological Park was in fact the first Christian mission in the United States. It is called the Mission Nombre de Dios. Also discovered, was that in 1565, it most definitely was the settlement of St. Augustine, making it the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement. 

Fascinating as all of this history can be for those of us who always want to know the rest of the story, I am not naive enough to believe that there is a for real Fountain of Youth. What I do believe in is Sophia Loren's description of the Fountain of Youth and I quote:  "There is a fountain of youth: It is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age."

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