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St. Lucie County Historical Museum Guide
The Treasure Room
In the 18th century Spain would send two fleets to the New World each spring. Leaving Spain these ships were heavily laden with colonists, their baggage and personal effects. In addition each ship had a large military presence for protection, armed with 50-60 cannons. Travelers had to share space with cargo or trade goods. These goods were later exchanged for gold, silver, emeralds, pearls and items from the Orient, such as porcelain and silk. One fleet sailed to Cartegena the other to Vera Cruz. After wintering at these locations the two would rendezvous in Havana then set a course homeward to Spain.
In the summer of 1715 Capitan General Don Juan de Ubilla’s flota rendezvoused with the South American squadron of Antonio de Echeverz at Havana. On the 24th of July the combined fleet of eleven vessels set sail from Cuba. But they were never to reach the open ocean. Only a few days out the flota was struck by a fierce hurricane off the coast of Florida. Some 1500 survivors struggled to the shore between modern day Sebastian and Fort Pierce. The beach in August was a harsh refuge. Many died of exposure and exhaustion.
Over the next four years, official Spanish salvors, Indian divers, English pirates and privateers flocked to the area to retrieve, or steal from each other, as much treasure as they could. Less than half the material listed on the ships’ manifest reached the Spanish treasury. The remainder lay buried in sand and silt off the shore.
Treasure Room Exhibits
Spanish ship model
Note: Memorial Garden has cannons and anchors recovered from the 1715 Treasure Fleet.