Author Thomas Tozer

The official blog of Thomas Tozer, author of "Pierre's Journey to Florida"

Archive for the category “Uncategorized”

Pierre’s Journey to Florida

In his new novel Pierre’s Journey to Florida, author Thomas Tozer brings history to life in a tale about a young French Huguenot, named Pierre de Bré. The book, in the genre of historical fiction, was narrated in 1703 by Jean-Louis Hardouin, Pierre’s great-great-grandnephew, based on diaries kept in the family and written by Pierre 130-135 years before. The diaries begin at the time when the persecution of Huguenots, French Calvinists, becomes violent and the Huguenots become political pawns in settling Nouvelle (New) France, a region the Spanish claimed as “La Florida”. The French settlers and the Spanish have many encounters and in some of them the French are extensively massacred, indeed almost annihilated. Pierre and his little sister, Dominique, survive when their French colony, Fort Caroline, is attacked by the Spanish. They escape to the Indian village of Alimacani, where his Indian friend, Honoso, who is about his age, lives. There he loses his little sister, learns the beliefs and customs of his new community of Timucuan Indians and takes an active part in the daily activities of his newly adopted family.

After Pierre had lived with the Timucua for nearly three years, a Frenchman by the name of Dominique de Gourgues arrives to avenge the previous massacres of the French. After obtaining his revenge at Fort Caroline and at neighboring forts, and returning to France, Pierre and de Gourgues find that the war between Huguenots and Catholics has intensified. Pierre moves to Paris where life continues to be difficult for him and where he meets his end, but the story of the de Bré family is not over as Jean-Louis continues to tell the story of his family during the tumultuous religious upheavals of the subsequent French Wars of Religion.
The author’s motivation for writing his book comes from four distinct sources: a visit to St. Augustine, Florida, where he became captivated with the early contribution of the French Huguenots to the founding of the United States; knowledge that Huguenot ancestors on his mother’s side came to the United States from France in the late 17th century; visiting most of the places in France and Florida mentioned in the book; and going to elementary and high school with numerous Native Americans.
The book is an action-packed story that should be of interest to anyone fascinated by original Native American cultures or with a curiosity about the historic events leading to the settling of North America. Copies of the book may be obtained at or


French Colonization

During the 16th century, the French began major world exploration. The French colonization wasn’t as tumultuous as the Spanish colonization of the southern Americas.

In the 1520s, the king of France sent Giovanni da Verrazano to explore the region between Florida and Newfoundland, specifically looking for a route to the Pacific Ocean. Several colonies were attempted to be established, but often failed due to weather, disease, or conflict.

Cartier attempted to create the first permanent European settlement in North America at Cap-Rouge (Quebec City) in 1541 with 400 settlers but the settlement was abandoned the next year after bad weather and first nations attacks. A small group of French troops were left on Parris Island, South Carolina in 1562 to build Charlesfort, but left after a year when they were not resupplied by France. Fort Carolineestablished in present-day Jacksonville, Florida in 1564, lasted only a year before being destroyed by the Spanish from St. Augustine. An attempt to settle convicts on Sable Island off Nova Scotia in 1598 failed after a short time. In 1599, a sixteen-person trading post was established inTadoussac (in present-day Quebec), of which only five men survived the first winter. In 1604, Saint Croix Island in Acadia was the site of a short-lived French colony, much plagued by illness, perhaps scurvy.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

This shows how much conflict played in the failed attempts at many colonies. It causes one to wonder how things would have changed had one of these conflicts not occurred. Had the Spanish not destroyed Fort Caroline, would peace have been more prominent during this time? Would they have had more peace from the Native Americans?

Even in modern day there is religious conflict. While lessons should be learned from the past, it seems that most of this dramatic events have been forgotten. Peace is important, and the first step to peace is tolerance, whether it be of religion or culture.

The Spanish Colonization

When the Spanish first began to colonize the Americas, they rationalized their acts by claiming they were saving a barbaric, pagan peoples. Many of the natives were forcibly converted to Catholicism.

The city of Nueva Cádiz was the first founded city in 1500 in Venezuela.

Following this time, the Spanish moved north onto Mexico. During this time, they conquered the Aztec empire. This is one of the most well-known native populations that was killed out. The colonization/conquest was quite short, lasting from 1519 to 1521.

The Aztecs were huge believers of omens and multiple gods. Before the Spanish arrived, there were 8 omens. However, the Aztecs, particularly Montezuma, were unsure of what exactly these omens signified, possibly up until the Spanish, led by Cortes, arrived.

It is typically assumed that the Aztecs believed Cortes to be a god reincarnated. However, there is no accuracy to this story. Some believed Montezuma simply believed Cortes to be a strong leader of an outside group, possibly an ambassador to a distant king. It is likely these are beliefs are due to accounts written after the fall of Tenochtitlan, when the Spanish held power, many incorporating omens to emphasize was the Spanish right and destiny to have conquered the land.
Religion always plays a big part in stories and histories similar to this.  What would history have been had religion been less emphasized, less violent, and more tolerant?

The 16th Century

Upheaval was everywhere in the 15th and 16th century. Events occurred all over the world, and they shaped who and what we are today.

Spain and Portugal began sea exploration. King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile were very interested in world travel. These two great rulers brought together their kingdoms and united them under Spain. Their religious fervor was the basis of the conversion or exile of many Muslim and Jewish subjects. The two also financed Christopher Columbus’s explorations.

England faced a time of huge religious change under King Henry VIII. After Catherine of Aragon (Isabella’s daughter) was unable to bear Henry a male heir, he attempted to divorce her for his most recent mistress, Anne Boleyn. When the Pope declared his marriage to Catherine legal and valid, Henry broke apart from the Catholic religion and became the head of the Church of England.

The Ottoman empire continued to expand during this time, and Japan was facing a very serious civil war.

And of course during this time was the French Wars of Religion, between the Catholics and the Huguenots, or Protestants.

The Protestant religion began when they denied the universal authority of the Pope. Popes had absolute power in those days. Although a king was almighty in his country, he still had to respond to the Pope. After all, the Pope is God’s earthly servant. Whenever a king did something the Pope disagreed with, he could simply be exiled from the church, and therefore Heaven.

So breaking apart from the Church was the best course of action for the powerful. They could decide what was deemed “holy” or “unholy,” they could declare what was God’s word.

And so this act brought about one of the biggest religious upheavals in history. It begs the question, what if there had been no break in religion? Who would we be today? Where would we be living?

Pierre’s Journey to Florida

Pierre’s Journey to Florida is a historical fiction book about Pierre de Bré, a young French Huguenot, and his adventures at the time when European and Native Americans first came into contact with each other.

It is also a story of harsh times in Europe – a time with divisive, indeed tumultuous, religious and political problems, but a time when exploration of the unknown parts of the world was so exciting, romantic, and adventurous.

My motivation for writing this book came from four distinct sources. One was a visit to St. Augustine, Florida, where I became captivated with the early contribution of the French Huguenots to the founding of Florida and the United States.

The second source was knowledge that it is very likely that some of my ancestors on my  mother’s side, by the original name of Hardouin, were Huguenots who came to the United States from France in the late 17th century.

The third was the fact that I spent nearly one and one-half years, in total, in France, teaching courses, attending meetings, spending leisure time, and visiting friends. During these times, I visited most of the places in France mentioned in the book.

Finally, I grew up in an area of California with several Indian reservations and went to school, 1st to 12th grade, with numerous Native Americans, many of whom were friends.

Post Navigation