Nassau County, established in 1824, is named for
the Nassau River which separates it from neighboring Duval County. This river was in turn named for the Duchy of
Nassau in present-day Germany (as was the Bahamian capital). The name was bestowed
during the British occupation of Florida, apparently in honor of the late King William III
of the house of Orange-Nassau. English and
Spanish battled over this region during the War of Jenkinss Ear.
Nassau County residents attended court in Jacksonville until the legislature designated Nassau Court House as the county seat. This site, also known as Nassauville, was used until 1861. The county seat was later moved to Fernandina. This is said to be the second-oldest European settlement in the United States, postdating St. Augustine by only two years. The name probably honors the Spanish king Fernando (Ferdinand) and was originally bestowed upon the island of Cuba by its discoverer Columbus. However, some authorities contend the Florida town was actually named for Don Domingo Fernandez, recipient of a large land grant in 1785, or from the Spanish fort San Fernando, built in 1686. During the War of 1812 this was briefly the capital of a Republic of Florida.
The Nassau County Courthouse dates from 1891. It was constructed at a cost of $20,614.
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