Our Ancestor – New Hope Plantation
Oyster Bay Harbour offers its residents a bit of local history tucked in amid our stately and graceful oaks. In 1786, while under Spanish rule, King Charles IV made provision that although there would be no religion other than Catholic in Florida, willing settlers would not be forced to convert. Henry and Margaret O’Neill along with their three children were a part of a larger group who made the move soon after this edict was issued.
The families all pitched tents on the southern end of Amelia Island and the men set about the buisness of acquiring land “at no cost” other than some small fees and the further inducement that no taxes would be levied upon them. The O’Neill’s looked around the area carefully and eventually chose a site at a point where Lanceford Creek widened out into a broad and beautiful cove. Understanding that the cove was high enough to protect them from flood, offered ample trees for building a home, beautiful flowers, deer, turkey and quail and of course sea food, the O’Neill’s filed a claim for the area.
Sadly, Henry O’Neill was killed in a fight with a band of marauders who were attempting to invade Florida from the Georgia side of the St. Mary’s river. He died mid year in 1791. King Charles IV was grateful for O’Neill’s sacrifice in defense of his lands and in his Royal Order of the 24th of June 1791 the area we now call Oyster Bay Harbour was granted to Mrs. O’Neill and Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) was born.
As good custodians of our community’s heritage and history, a small family cemetery site is lovingly maintained by the Oyster Bay Harbour Homeowner’s Association. A very interesting piece of our area’s history is discussed Here in a 1939 conversation between Mrs. Isabel Barnwell, direct descendant great grand daughter of Henry o’Neill, her daughter and writer Rose Shepherd titled “A Day at Nueva Esperanza”.