The First Seminole War

During the nineteenth century the United States engaged in three wars with the Seminole Indians in Florida: 1816 to about 1824; 1835 to 1842; and 1855 to 1858.

Contrary to some popular opinions, there was no traditional overall governmental or political organization among the Seminole at this time. They tended to be politically organized around busk groups, each of which had its own medicine bundle on which the annual busk (green corn) ceremony was focused. Thus the Seminole military actions against the U.S. military did not have a single leader or coordinator.

Prelude to the First Seminole War:

The colonial administration of Florida was transferred from Spain to Britain in 1763. The Spanish and some of the Indians affiliated with them moved to Cuba. At this time, the British began to use the term Seminole in distinguishing the Indians of northern Florida from those in Georgia and Alabama.

In 1765, 50 Lower Creek chiefs met with the British governor of Florida on the banks of the St. Johns River west of St. Augustine. The chiefs performed a pipe ceremony and smoked with the two English representatives. Cowkeeper of the Alachua band did not participate in this meeting, and made it clear that the Lower Creeks did not speak for him. A month later, Cowkeeper and 60 of his people met personally with the governor and returned home as a “Great Medal Chief”. After this meeting, travelers, traders, and government officials increasingly referred to the Indians of North and Central Florida as Seminoles. Some people feel that this marks the birth of the Seminole nations.

Cowkeepers’s band had migrated south from the Oconee Creek area of South Georgia into Florida where they herded the wild cattle descended from the Spanish herds of the old La Chua Ranch. The earliest use of the term “Seminole” – a corruption of the Spanish term “cimarron” meaning “wild ones” – was in reference to this band.

In 1777, Seminole warriors led by Cowkeeper and Perryman joined with British troops on raids into Georgia.

In 1784, the British left the area and turned the governing of Florida back over to the Spanish. The British held a final conference with some Seminole leaders, including Kinache of Mikasuka, Five Bones of Coweta, and Long Warrior of Cuscowilla. The Seminole expressed their dismay at having the British leave. Cowkeeper told the English that he would kill all Spanish who tried to enter his land. When Cowkeeper died a short time later—he was estimated to be in his seventies—his dying words urged his people to continue fighting the Spanish. With the death of Cowkeeper, the leadership of the Alachua band passed to his nephew, King Payne. With regard to the death of Cowkeeper, historian Colin Calloway, in his book The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities, writes:

“Even though his dying words ostensibly urged his people to continue fighting the Spaniards, his death eased to some degree the transition from the British to the Spanish regime.”

As a preview to the Seminole Wars, the Georgia Militia and other volunteer groups invaded Spanish Florida on several occasions and engaged the Seminole militarily. The Georgian invasions centered around two closely interrelated concerns: (1) to acquire Florida for the United States, and (2) to capture escaped African slaves who had found refuge among the Seminole. It was not uncommon for escaped slaves to become a part of Seminole culture, marrying into the tribe and having children.

In 1811, the Patriot Army composed of 70 Georgians and nine Floridians invaded Florida to seize the territory. The army quickly occupied Fernandina and moved toward St. Augustine. However, the Seminole attacked the invaders and the plantation owners who supported them. The Seminole killed eight Americans and liberated a number of cattle and slaves from the American plantations.

In order to rescue the Patriot Army, the Georgia Militia sent in 177 men who fought three engagements with the Seminole. The Americans attacked Payne’s Town where they caught the Seminole by surprise. However, Seminole leaders King Payne (who was 80 years old at this time) and Bowlegs directed fire against the American attackers and drove them off.

In 1812, the Seminole village of Paynes Town was attacked by Georgia militia who were a part of the U.S.-inspired offensive to seize Florida from the Spanish. The Seminole wealth was in their cattle, which made tempting targets for Americans looking for booty and quick wealth. Archaeologist Brent Richards Weisman, in his book Unconquered People: Florida’s Seminole and Miccosukee Indians, reports:

“The Seminole wealth on the hoof and their agricultural surpluses stored away in corn cribs and potato houses made tempting targets for groups of border ruffians.”

The Seminole, under the leadership King Payne, counter-attacked and drove the militia back. King Payne, however, was killed and his brother Bowlegs assumed leadership. Bowlegs had about 200 Seminole warriors and 40 African Americans and they waged a war to cut off the Patriots’ supply line.

In a three-week campaign, the Americans burned 386 Seminole houses and destroyed or consumed 1,500 to 2,000 bushels of Seminole corn. Twenty Seminole were killed and nine were captured. With the aid of Florida’s free black militia troops commanded by Lieutenant Juan Bautista Witten, the Seminole turn the tide of the war and the Patriots withdraw.

In 1815, the British withdrew their troops from Florida in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812. However, when it became obvious that the Americans had no intention of honoring article 9 of the Treaty which specified that the Indians would not lose any land, the British left a large supply of arms and ammunition behind for the Indians to use.

First Seminole War:

The first Seminole War erupted in 1816 when the United States army, aided by Creek allies, invaded Spanish Florida. The rationale for the invasion centered around escaped slaves and Seminole raids. The war involved a series of raids and counterraids and culminated with General Andrew Jackson’s scorched earth campaign against the Seminole. As a result of this war, the United States acquired Florida from Spain.

American soldiers together with 200 Creek warriors under Chief William McIntosh invaded Spanish territory in an attempt to capture blacks who were living among the Seminole. The 300 Seminole – including 30 Seminole men and 70 black men – took refuge in Fort Apalachicola. The fort was blown up by the Americans, killing 270 people. The survivors were taken to Georgia where they were enslaved. In revenge, other Seminole began a campaign of attacking American settlements along the Georgia-Florida border. This marked the beginning of what would later be called the First Seminole War.

In 1817, the United States demanded that Neamathla, a Red Stick Seminole leader, surrender some alleged murderers. When Neamathla refused, the army sent in a force of 250 men to attack his village. Five Seminoles—four men and one woman—were killed and the rest escaped into the swamp. In his book The Seminoles of Florida, historian James Covington reports:

“This episode marked the first action in what has come to be known as the First Seminole War.”

Neamathla’s band then joined forces with the Seminole under the leadership of Kinache.

In 1817, the Seminole attacked and killed a party of 40 Americans. In retaliation, American troops under the leadership of Andrew Jackson invaded Seminole erritory, burning homes, and capturing some slaves.

In 1818, American troops under Andrew Jackson and Creek warriors under William McIntosh invaded Spanish Florida and attacked the Seminole village of Chief Bowlegs on the Suwanee River. Jackson’s force outnumbered the Seminoles by at least ten to one, so the Indians simply directed some scattered shots toward the advancing soldiers and then fled to nearby lowlands. Although the Seminole escaped the attack, the Americans captured two Englishmen who had been living with the Seminole. The Englishmen were tried and hanged for aiding the Indians.

The army also captured a number of women and children, including Billy Powell (who would later be known as the warrior Osceola).

In 1819, Spain sold Florida to the United States. The United States promised to honor the rights of the Indians. Historian Louise Welsh, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, notes that the Seminoles

“certainly had no reason to welcome the substitution of the United States control for the weak and distant authority of a Spanish sovereign.”

Two years later the United States formally took possession of the territory, which included an estimated 5,000 Seminole. The Americans immediately began making plans to relocate the Seminole who were living near the American settlements. The American governor viewed the area between the Suwanee River and Alachua, the area in which most of the Seminole lived, as the richest and most valuable in the territory. The Americans assumed that this land should be given to American settlers for development and the Seminole should be moved to Alabama or to west of the Mississippi River. The Americans did not recognize any Seminole rights to land ownership. According to historian John Mahon, writing in the Handbook of North American Indians:

“As far as the new owner of the land was concerned the Seminoles were an unwelcome appendage to the soil, clearly without any right of permanent ownership in it.”

The United States decreed that Neamathla was the chief of the Seminoles in Florida. In actuality, Neamathla was an eneah, an advisor to the village chief. As a Hitchiti (one of the tribes considered to be Seminole by the Europeans), Neamathla was determined to retain his culture and economic way of life.

In 1823, the Seminoles signed the Treaty of Moultrie Creek. The terms of the treaty called for the Seminoles to give up all land claims in Florida except for a reservation to be designated for them by the government. In addition, all Seminoles were to move to the reservation where they were to be provided with tools, annuities, and rations. Historian Louise Welsh reports:

“Government officials had decided that the ideal solution to the Seminole problem was to remove them to the West or merge them with the Creeks. The Seminoles opposed both proposals so vigorously that they were removed to a reservation in the interior of the Florida peninsula below Tampa Bay.”

The Treaty also divided the Seminoles into two divisions: a northern group and a southern group.

In 1824, President James Monroe recommended that the Seminole either be removed from Florida or placed on a reservation.

Ancient America: Florida, 1 CE to 940 CE

American Indians occupied, utilized, and developed the peninsula known as Florida for thousands of years. Our knowledge of the ancient past—of Florida, from 2,000 years ago until about 1,000 years ago—comes primarily from archaeology. Unfortunately, archaeology tells the story of the past based on material remains, which means that these remains must have endured for more than a thousand of years, then be found, and finally interpreted. As a result our picture of ancient Florida is not complete, but rather a series of seemingly disjointed snapshots. Briefly described below are some of the archaeological findings from Florida from 1 CE through 940 CE.

In 1 CE, the Calusa built a 2.5 mile canal across Pine Island. The canal was 18-23 feet wide and 3.5 feet deep so that it was large enough to handle most Calusa canoes. To control the water flow in the canal, the Calusa used a series of 8 stepped impoundments which functioned like locks and a series of auxiliary channels which diverted excess flow.

By 100, Indian people were occupying Mound Key. The shell mound which they constructed reached a height of 30 feet. Fish and shellfish provided them with a plentiful supply of food.

In 200, Indian people began construction on two canals around the rapids on the Caloosahatchee River. The canals, which were about seven miles long, facilitated fishing and transportation.

In 200, Weeden Island ceramics began to appear at the McKeithen site. The site has three mounds. Philip Kopper. in The Smithsonian Book of North American Indians: Before the Coming of the Europeans, reports:  “The horseshoe-shaped, forty-seven-acre village was located on a low sandy ridge in forest-and-brush country that provided an excellent habitat for the animals and plants upon which the hunting-gathering people depended.”

The population was a little more than 100. Weeden Island ceramics also began to appear at sites in southern Alabama and southwestern Georgia.

In 300, the ancestors of the Calusa and Mayami built a seven-mile system of canals and a large pond in the shape of a baton. The canals were dug using wooden tools and shells. They were an average of 20 feet wide and 4 feet deep and provided easy canoe access to the Ortona village. In addition, the canals bypassed a series of rapids on the Caloosahatchee River.

Along the Gulf Coast area of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, villages which were exploiting marine fish and shellfish were creating embankments in the shape of rings, horseshoes, and rectangles by the year 300. These embankments seemed to be a way for disposing refuse in an orderly manner outside of the residential area. Within the rings, the villages had a plaza and both platform and burial mounds. On the east side of the burial mounds, the people deposited groups of finely painted ceramics, many of which were effigies of humans, animals, or plants.

In 300, the Weedon Island people began occupying the Crystal River ceremonial site. The ceremonies became more complex.

In 350, Indian people at the McKeithen site began construction of two residential mounds. The mounds were planned to allow the rising sun at the summer solstice to be observed and calculated from Mound B. The two residential mounds are rectangular and fairly low—1 meter and a half meter in height. A residence was built on top of one of the mounds and a pine post screen was erected across the other. In the area behind the screen, exhumed human bones were cleaned, treated with red ochre, and prepared for storage in the charnel house. A third mound, which was circular and less than a meter in height, had a charnel house for the storage of cleaned human remains.

By 400, the Indian people of Weeden Island had developed a new level of cultural complexity and diversity. They showed social stratification in their burials, some of which now included outstanding works of pottery and carving. There was also an expansion of the population.

In 475, the structures on the platform mounds at the McKeithen site were burned and removed. The mounds were capped. While this marked the end of mound use at the village, the village itself continued to be occupied.

In the Upper Apalachicola area of Florida Indian people were raising corn and squash by 500, but were still relying on gathering wild plants and hunting for most of their subsistence.

In 600, Mound A was constructed at the Crystal River site. It was about 30 feet high and served as a temple platform.

In north-central Florida, the culture which archaeologists call Alachua began about 600. There was a migration of people from south-central Georgia who replaced the indigenous Cades Pond people. Alachua appears to be associated with the Ocmulgee culture in Georgia. Archaeologist Jerald Milanich, in his book The Timucua, writes:  “the people of Ocmulgee culture may have been the ancestors of the Timucuan groups in at least a portion of south-central Georgia, but that remains very uncertain.”

In 690, Indian people began construction of Turtle Mound. The mound consisted of two connected cones which were about 35 feet high. The mound covered more than an acre and measured 180 feet by 360 feet. It was constructed from oyster shells. According to Michael Durham, in his book Guide to Ancient Native American Sites:  “The mound towers over the flat terrain and possibly was used as a lookout tower by the peoples of the late St. Johns culture and their successors, the Timucuan Indians of historic times.”

By 940, a Mississippian society began to emerge in the Fort Walton area in northern Florida. According to archaeologist John Scarry, in his chapter in The Mississippian Emergence:  “They were simple chiefdoms, with clear social distinctions between high status and low status individuals—distinctions revealed in residential segregation and the extraction and allocation of community surplus labor.” He goes on to point out:  “The people relied on cleared-field agriculture for a significant portion of their diet.”

Ancient America: Florida, BCE

With exciting new finds coming from the OldVero Ice Age Site in Florida which are providing evidence of human occupation 14,000 years ago, this is a good time to review some of the ancient (before 2,000 years ago) archaeological sites in Florida.

By 11,000 BCE, Indian people were living by hunting and gathering in northern Florida and southern Georgia. The sea levels at this time were 350 feet lower than present. This means that the land mass of present-day Florida was much larger. Water sources, particularly those in deep springs, were important for both human habitation and for the animals which they hunt. At this time, the Indians were hunting mastodon, mammoth, horse, camel, and giant land tortoise.

In 10,030 BCE, Indian people at the Little Salt Spring were hunting turtles and the giant land tortoise, Geochelone Crassicutata. The turtles were killed with a stake and then cooked in the shell. These people were also using an oak throwing stick or boomerang. They also had a deer-antler which had its roots and points cut off and 28 parallel notches cut into it. This is one of the earliest examples of counting time in North America.

In 9000 BCE, Indian people near the Wacissa River killed a Bison antiquus.

In 8500 BCE, people living near Mineral Springs buried their dead near the edge of the springs. One was a man, 30-40 years of age, who was 5’4” tall and weighed about 110 pounds. He had worn and abscessed teeth. Another was the body of a middle-aged female. As the sea level rose at the end of the ice age, so did the water within the spring. By the time the skeletons were discovered by archaeologists, they were under water.

In 7500 BCE, the Archaic Period began with an increase in population and new settlements around freshwater sources. The way of life shifted from nomadic to a more settled form. Artist Theodore Morris, in his book Florida’s Lost Tribes, writes:  “With a settled lifestyle and new animals to hunt, different types of stone tools were made. Trade networks, some encompassing much of the Southeast, sprang up.” During this time, Florida’s climate is growing warmer and wetter.

In 7300 BCE, Indian people left a spear at the Little Salt Spring site.

In 6120, Indian people began burying their dead in the Windover Bog Site. While anthropologists managed to obtain DNA samples from some of the bodies at the site, the mtDNA lineages which were found are not present in any contemporary American Indian populations.

In south Florida, Indian people were living on the dune ridges of Horr’s Island by 5000 BCE.

In south Florida, Indian people began building a large mound with layers of white sand, charcoal-stained sand, and oyster shell on Horr’s Island about 2900 BCE. By 2800 BCE Indian people were living in a year-round settlement on Horr’s Island. Their small houses were made from poles and thatch. The conical sand mound reaches about 6 meters high and was used for burials.

By 2500 BCE, Indians in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida began making fired pottery. According to archaeologist David Hurst Thomas in his book Exploring Ancient Native America: An Archaeological Guide:  “The earliest ceramic vessels look like flowerpots, remarkably similar to the earlier steatite (stone) bowls from the same area.”

Indian people by 2400 BCE were making sea voyages between South America and the coasts of Georgia and Florida.

In 2400 BCE, Indian people at the Summer Haven site (8SJ46) constructed four circular structures. The people who occupied this site were practicing cranial deformation (a deliberate modification of head shape which begins by binding the head of an infant shortly after birth).

In south Florida, Indian people were living on Useppa Island in the Pine Island Sound by 2000 BCE. They were making fiber-tempered pottery.

Indian people in Florida began making decorated pottery known as Tick Island decorated pottery by about 1600 BCE. The Tick Island decorated pottery resembles the pottery found at Barlovento on Colombia’s northern coast and this pottery, in turn, appears to be derived from the Valdivia pottery of Ecuador.

In 1580 BCE, the Rollings Shell Ring was constructed. It is 7 meters in height (about 23 feet) and 250 meters (825 feet) in diameter. The ring was built up quickly and there are few artifacts within it.

In 1500 BCE, Indian people at the Joseph Reed Shell Ring site (8MT13) were making sand-tempered pottery. This represents one of the earliest intensive uses of pottery in south Florida. According to archaeologists Michael Russo and Gregory Heide, in their chapter in Early Pottery: Technology, Function, Style, and Interaction in the Lower Southeast:  “The pottery at Joseph Reed consists of both sand-tempered and chalky wares at a time when most archaeologists believed these wares were unknown in Florida.”  They go on to report:  “In terms of migration/diffusion, the pottery from Joseph Reed has nowhere to migrate from. It is not tempered with fiber as is the pottery of the site’s nearest contemporaneous pottery-producing neighbors to the north. Thus, a direct connection cannot be made with those neighbors in terms of paste and temper (design and form, however, cannot be ruled out until more data are obtained).”

In 1300 BCE, a type of decorated pottery known as Orange Incised began to appear. Archaeologists note that Orange Incised is similar to the Machalilla pottery found in Ecuador and suggest that this style of pottery diffused northward from South America.

In 1000 BCE, Indian people living along Fisheating Creek were building linear earthworks which were designed to raise living quarters above the floodwaters.

In 1000 BCE, Indian people in the St. Johns River area were making pottery . They were using freshwater sponge spicules in the pottery paste which resulted in a chalky feel. These sponge spicules were an intentional temper which was added during the manufacturing process. The pottery was made with a coiled technique.

People began to occupy a site near the Crystal River in Florida in 537 BCE. The site includes two large temple mounds with ramps, a smaller residential mound, a plaza, and two burial mounds. There appears to have been contact with the Hopewell people in Ohio as evidenced by flint knives and other artifacts.

In 500 BCE, Indian people from the Deptford culture began to occupy the Crystal River site.

In northern Florida, the period which archaeologists call St. Johns I began about 500 BCE. The people were establishing both freshwater and coastal villages. They were also occupying smaller, seasonal camps for fishing and shellfish gathering.

The Timucua began to occupy the sub-tropical areas of Florida about 500 BCE.

In south Florida, Indian people began making a thick, sand-tempered plain pottery by 500 BCE.

The Tequesta were living in the area near present-day Miami, Florida by 500 BCE. They constructed a number of round houses, including a chief’s house or council house, using a post framework.

In 300 BCE, the Crystal River site was established as a ceremonial center. Construction began on Mound F which served as a burial mound. It would eventually rise to a height of 20 feet. About 1,000 people would eventually be buried here.

In 50 BCE, Indian people occupied the Fort Walton site.

In 30 BCE, Indian people along the Crystal River began construction of a series of shell mounds which have astronomical alignments. The mounds and stone pillars can be used to observe the solstices and equinoxes.

The Spanish and Indians in Florida, 1513 to 1527

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The Spanish invasion of what is now Florida began in 1513. At this time, there were at least 200,000 Native Americans living in the area. Even before the first Spanish explorers set foot in Florida, European diseases had begun to impact the Native population. Smallpox had been carried to the Calusa by Native people from Cuba. The Native people of south Florida were well aware of the Spanish from the reports from the Natives of the Caribbean islands with whom they had regularly traded for centuries.

Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon (the conqueror of Puerto Rico) explored the coast of Florida in 1513. It was Easter Week – Pasqua Florida in Spanish— when he landed and so the land was called Florida. The primary goal of the expedition was to obtain slaves. At this time, the Spanish were interested in Americans as laborers, sexual partners, guides, porters, and suppliers of food. While one of the common misconceptions repeated in history is that Ponce de Leon was looking for a fountain of youth, he was really looking for slaves who would add to his wealth.

The Spanish under Ponce de Leon landed just north of present-day Cape Canaveral which was the northern end of Ais territory. Sailing south of Cape Canaveral they sailed into Biscayne Bay and landed at a Tequesta town.

The Spanish ships then sailed into San Carlos Bay where they intended to clean and recaulk one of the ships. Eighty Calusa canoes filled with archers with shields approached the Spanish ships. The Spanish attacked, drove the Calusa to shore, broke up some of the canoes, and captured some women. The Calusa warriors, however, forced the Spanish to withdraw.

In 1517, three Spanish ships under the command of Hernández de Córdoba stopped for water at San Carlos Bay. The well-armed Spanish landing party was driven off by the Calusa. Six of the Spanish soldiers were wounded and one was carried off alive. However, the Spanish reported that they killed 35 Indians.

In 1519, Spanish sea captain Alonso de Piñada sailed along the Florida coast and then up the Mississippi River for about 20 miles. He reported seeing about 40 towns along the river.

That same year, a series of smallpox episodes began to strike the Native American population with a mortality rate of 50-75%.

In 1521, Juan Ponce de Leon attempted to establish a colony for the Spanish Crown. With a force of 200 men, including Catholic priests, 50 horses, and livestock (cows, sheep, goats), the Spanish landed at San Carlos Bay. They were met by Calusa warriors who inflicted a number of casualties and wounded Ponce de Leon in the thigh with a reed arrow. In the close combat conditions, the European weapons proved less than effective. The Spanish returned to Cuba where Ponce de Leon dies.

The Spanish soldier Pánfilio de Narváez, with a reputation for brutality and a strong desire to find gold and wealth, invaded Florida in 1527 with a force of 600. Narváez had two primary goals: to find gold and to discover a passage to the Pacific Ocean.

The Spanish landed somewhere near present-day Tampa. On a beach empty of any Indians, a monk reads the requerimiento and with this the Spanish feel that they have met the legal and religious obligation to take possession of the land and wage war against the natives. The requerimiento was a recitation of the Christian history of the world followed by the requirement that the Natives come forward of their own free will to convert to Catholicism or

“with the help of God we shall use force against you, declaring war upon you from all sides and with all possible means, and we shall bind you to the yoke of the Church and Their Highnesses; we shall enslave your persons, wives, and sons, sell you or dispose of you as the King sees fit; we shall seize your possessions and harm you as much as we can as disobedient and resisting vassals.”

Furthermore, the Natives who resisted were to be held guilty of all resulting deaths and injuries. The requerimiento was read in either Spanish or Latin with little concern for any possible Native comprehension of the words.

Narváez opened up negotiations with the Indians by having one of the chiefs and his family come into the Spanish camp. Spanish hospitality involved cutting off the chief’s nose and having his wife torn apart by dogs.

The Spanish entered a Timucua village which included one dwelling that could hold 300 people. The village was deserted as the Timucua planned to encourage the Spanish to leave by offering no hospitality. However, the Spanish found a gold rattle that ignited their gold-lust.

Next, the Spanish marched north to Tampa Bay. At one village the Franciscan priests ordered that the revered remains of the Timucua ancestors be burned. The Spanish continued their march northward without seeing any natives. The Timucua considered their policy of avoidance to be successful.

Near the Apalachicola River, the Spanish were met by the Timucua chief Dulchanchellin who was carried on a man’s back and was accompanied by a group that included musicians playing reed flutes. The two groups exchanged gifts and the chief led them to his village where he fed them. In the morning, the Spanish find that they are alone.

The Timucua warriors attacked Spanish soldiers as they were attempting to cross through a lake. The Timucua warriors fired arrows at a range of more than 200 paces with great precision. Spanish armor proved nearly worthless as the arrows, tipped with snake-teeth, bone, or flint, penetrated the steel. In spite of this, most of the Spanish soldiers survived.

Farther north, the Spanish carried out an unprovoked surprise attack against the Apalachee village of Apalachen. Even though this was one of the largest Apalachee villages, the Spanish did not find the treasure they were seeking. They found only corn, deerskins, woven cloth, and corn-grinding bowls. There was no gold.

The Spanish continued their march north into Aute country. They found that the Aute had burned and abandoned their village before the Spanish arrival.

The Narváez attempt was a failure. The Spanish found out that their crossbows were no match to the Indian longbows. The Indian bows, 6-7 feet long, were accurate to about 200 yards. Furthermore, the arrows, tipped with flint, bone, snake teeth, and fish scales, penetrated the Spanish armor. Spanish horses proved worthless as war machines in the Florida swamps and brush.

Only four members of the expedition survived: Narváez, Alvar Núnez Cabeza de Vaca, Andrés Dorantes, and a black slave Esteván (also called Estévanico and Esteban). They finally managed to return to Mexico City in 1536.

Ancient America: Florida BCE

American Indians occupied, utilized, and developed the peninsula known as Florida for thousands of years. Our knowledge of the ancient past-of Florida, BCE-comes primarily from archaeology. Unfortunately, archaeology tells the story of the past based on material remains which means that these remains must have endured for thousands of years, then be found, and finally interpreted. As a result our picture of Florida, BCE is not complete, but rather a series of seemingly disjointed snapshots.  

By 11,000 BCE, Indian people were living in northern Florida. At this time, the sea levels were 350 feet lower than present. The land mass of Florida was much larger than it is today. The people at this time were engaging in hunting and gathering wild plants for food and fiber.  At this time, the Indians were hunting mastodon, mammoth, horse, camel, and giant land tortoise. Water sources, particularly those in deep springs, were important for both human habitation and for the animals which they hunted.

A thousand years later, the Indian people at the Little Salt Spring were hunting turtles and the giant land tortoise, Geochelone Crassicutata. The turtles were killed with a stake and then cooked in the shell. These people were also using an oak throwing stick or boomerang for hunting small mammals. They also had a deer-antler which had had its roots and points cut off and 28 parallel notches cut into it. This is one of the earliest examples of counting time in North America.

Bison antiquus

About 9,000 BCE, Indian people near the Wacissa River were hunting Bison antiques (skull shown above).

About 8500 BCE, Indian people living near Mineral Springs buried their dead near the edge of the springs. One was a man, 30-40 years of age, who was 5’4″ tall and weighed about 110 pounds. He had worn and abscessed teeth. Another was the body of a middle-aged female. As the sea level raised at the end of the ice age, so did the water within the spring. By the time the skeletons were discovered by archaeologists, they were under water.

About 7500 BCE, there was an increase in population and new settlements were formed around freshwater sources. There was a shift in the way of life from nomadic to a more settled form. This marks the beginning of what archaeologists call the Archaic Period. At this time new types of stone tools appeared. Trade networks connected the people to other parts of the southeast. During this time, Florida’s climate was growing warmer and wetter.

Among the new stone tools were the Rowan points. These medium-sized dart points had broad, shallow side notches and a concave basal edge. The basal corners were lobed or rounded and the stem edges were ground.

About 6120 BCE, Indian people began burying their dead in the Windover Bog Site. Archaeologists will later recover the remains of 177 individuals at this site. Adult males have an average height of 5 feet 9 inches. While their teeth were worn, they had very few cavities. Anthropologists managed to obtain DNA samples from some of the bodies at the site, but the mitochondrial DNA lineages which were found are not present in any contemporary American Indian populations. One of the samples, however belongs to lineage X, which is also found in European populations. This lends some support to the hypothesis that there were some migrations by boat from Europe to North America.

By 5000 BCE, Indian people were living on the dune ridges of Horr’s Island in south Florida.  

By 2900 BCE, Indian people began building a large mound with layers of white sand, charcoal-stained sand, and oyster shell on Horr’s Island. The mound eventually reached a height of 6 meters (20 feet). The people were living in a year-round settlement and making small houses from poles and thatch.

Fire pottery is being used by the Florida Indians by about 2500 BCE. These early ceramic vessels are very similar to the earlier steatite (stone) bowls which they had been making.

There is evidence that by 2400 BCE, Florida Indians were making sea voyages to both the Caribbean Islands and South America. The people were probably making such voyages much earlier than this, but this time marks the first archaeological evidence of the voyages.

At the Summer Haven site (officially designated as 8SJ46) Indian people constructed four circular structures about 2000 BCE. The people who occupied this site were practicing cranial deformation (a deliberate modification of head shape which begins by binding the head of an infant shortly after birth). This is a practice which was common in Mexico at this time.

About 2000 BCE, Indian people living on Useppa Island in the Pine Island Sound were making fiber-tempered pottery.

A type of decorated pottery known as Tick Island was being made by Florida Indians by 1600 BCE. The Tick Island decorated pottery resembles the pottery found at Barlovento on Colombia’s northern coast and this pottery, in turn, appears to be derived from the Valdivia pottery of Ecuador.

The Rollings Shell Ring was constructed in 1580 BCE. A shell ring is a curved midden made of shells which partially surrounds a cleared space. The ring is 7 meters in height (about 23 feet) and 250 meters (825 feet) in diameter. The ring was built up quickly and there were few artifacts within it.

By 1500 BCE, the Indian people at the Joseph Reed Shell Ring site (officially designated as 8MT13) were making sand-tempered pottery. This represents one of the earliest intensive uses of pottery in south Florida. The pottery is the earliest sand-tempered and chalky wares in Florida. Archaeologists Michael Russo and Gregory Heide report:

“In terms of migration/diffusion, the pottery from Joseph Reed has nowhere to migrate from. It is not tempered with fiber as is the pottery of the site’s nearest contemporaneous pottery-producing neighbors to the north. Thus a direct connection cannot be made with those neighbors in terms of paste and temper (design and form, however, cannot be ruled out until more data are obtained).”

People began to occupy a site near the Crystal River in 537 BCE. The site included two large temple mounds with ramps, a smaller residential mound, a plaza, and two burial mounds. There appears to be contact with the Hopewell people in Ohio as evidenced by flint knives and other artifacts.

By 500 BCE, the Timucua began to occupy the sub-tropical areas of Florida. At this same time, the Tequesta were living in the area near present-day Miami, Florida. They constructed a number of round houses, including a chief’s house or council house, using a post framework.

In 350 BCE, the Crystal River site was established as a ceremonial center. Construction began on a feature designated by archaeologists as Mound F which served as a burial mound. It would eventually rise to a height of 20 feet. About 1,000 people would eventually be buried here.  

In 30 BCE, Indian people along the Crystal River began construction of a series of shell mounds which have astronomical alignments. The mounds and stone pillars could be used to observe the solstices and equinoxes.

The Fort Marion Prisoners

Following the so-called Red River wars in Oklahoma and Texas in 1875, the army had intended to try Indian leaders and warriors before a military commission, but the attorney general ruled that a military trial would be illegal as a state of war cannot exist between a nation and its wards. Thus the Indians were simply imprisoned without a trial. In order to facilitate these prisoners, the army reconditioned Fort Marion, Florida as a prison and placed Lieutenant Richard Pratt in command.  

The army transported 72 Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho, and Caddo Indian prisoners from the Red River War to Fort Marion in Florida. In addition to arresting known leaders, army officers had arbitrarily singled out young men from the line of surrendering Indians, labeled them ring leaders, and arrested them. In one instance on the Cheyenne Reservation, a drunken army officer simply lined up the Indians and counted out eighteen from the right of the line. All of these eighteen Cheyenne men were sent to prison with no review of their cases, nor any concern for any possible crime they might have committed. For many of the young men their primary crime was that they were Indians who had led a traditional Plains Indian life. From an Indian perspective, no crimes had been committed.

From an Indian viewpoint, imprisonment was a form of humiliation. The families of the prisoners assumed that their loved ones had been taken away to be executed. In fact, most of the prisoners believed that the army intended to hang them.

While most of the prisoners were men, the group included one Cheyenne woman prisoner-Buffalo Calf Woman, the wife of Medicine Water-who had killed a non-Indian farmer. Also included in the group were a number of wives and children who had refused to be separated from their families.

Eleven of the Comanche and Kiowa prisoners were actually Mexican captives who had been raised as tribal members.

When the Indian captives arrived at Fort Marion, Lieutenant (later Captain) Richard Pratt had the prisoners’ hair cut and issued them European-style clothing. The Indian response to the clothing was to cut off the legs of the pants, discard the upper portion, and wear the legs as leggings in the Indian fashion. For many Plains Indian men, the crotches of pants were binding, confining, and uncomfortable.

Prat and Prisoners

Captain Pratt and some of the prisoners at Fort Marion are shown above.

Prisoners

A group of prisoners in 1877 is shown above. They have been issued military-style uniforms.

Howling Wolf

Cheyenne prisoner Howling Wolf is shown above.

Fort Marion Courtyard

The courtyard at Fort Marion is shown above.

By using rigorous military discipline, Pratt intended to force the Indians to assimilate totally into American culture. He also provided them with English lessons. From time to time, Indian dances were staged for important visitors.

Pratt also encouraged the prisoners to produce works of art for sale and allowed them to visit the nearby beaches. The Indian artists used ledger books and their drawings sold for approximately $2 per book. The art in the books was often given concise, simple captions. The artists were also encouraged to sign their works as this made them more valuable to a public which was accustomed to European art.

Ledger Art

An example of Kiowa ledger art is shown above.

Making Medicine

Ledger art by Cheyenne leader Making Medicine is shown above.

In general, the art books produced by the prisoners at Fort Marion were a continuation of traditional Plains Indian art in which the artists drew images of their battle exploits. Traditionally, this art was done on skins and tipi covers. The artists had to have earned the right to make these images through their individual bravery in battle. The ledger art from Fort Marion is viewed by art historians today as a continuation of the rich pictorial Plains Indian traditions.

Not all of the images created by the Indian artists at Fort Marion were traditional Plains Indian images: the artists also drew scenes of their journey to Florida and the new surroundings in which they found themselves.

In 1877, Captain Richard Pratt sent a lengthy letter to the War Department reminding the government that the Indian prisoners at Fort Marion had now been held for two years. He included petitions from Making Medicine and from Minimic. Pratt recommended that the Indians be set free.

In 1878, Indian prisoners of war held at Fort Marion were released to the custody of the Indian Office (now called the Bureau of Indian Affairs). While most “returned to the blanket” in spite of the intense efforts to assimilate them to non-Indian ways, seventeen went to Virginia to attend the Hampton School for Negroes.

Instead of returning home, Cheyenne leader Making Medicine decided to remain in the east and to take training in the Christian ministry. He changed his name to David Pendleton Oakerhater. Similarly, Cheyenne leader Zotom remained in the east and changed his name to Paul Caryl Zotom. In 1881 both men were ordained as Episcopal deacons in a joint ceremony. They returned to the Cheyenne reservation in Oklahoma to spread the faith among their people.

Oakerhater

Shown above is Oakerhater in 1881. In 1985, the Episcopal Church declared Oakerhater a saint.

Zotom

Zotom is shown above. By 1889, Zotom had returned to his native spiritual traditions and had abandoned Christianity.  

Ancient America: The McKeithen Mounds in Florida

There were a number of ancient American Indian cultures which constructed large earthen mounds in what is now the eastern portion of the United States. Archaeologists have often labeled these as Adena (which originated in the middle Ohio River valley about 500 BCE), Hopewell (which originated in the central Scioto region of Ohio about 200 BCE), and Mississippian (which had developed by 1000 CE along the Mississippi River). None of these three mound building traditions was restricted to a single site, but seemed to influence diverse Indian cultures in a fairly wide geographic region. It was out of the Hopewell tradition that the McKeithen site in Florida seemed to emerge nearly 2000 years ago.  

The McKeithen site in northwest Florida was a village situated next to a stream. The village, which occupied about forty-seven acres, was shaped like a horseshoe and contained three earthen mounds. The village probably had a population of a little more than 100 and subsistence was based on hunting and gathering.

With regard to understanding the subsistence patterns at the McKeithen site, the acid soil at the site means that very little evidence of ancient plant remains was recovered by archaeologists, so there is little detail concerning plant foods. The animal species identified at the site include oyster, mussel, freshwater fish, alligator, turtle, bird, squirrel, and a relatively large amount of deer. All of this suggests a hunting and gathering economy rather than an agricultural economy.

The archaeological evidence shows that Indian people were occupying the site and using a type of pottery known as Weeden Island ceramics by 200 CE. At this time, the Weeden Island ceramics were being used in southern Alabama and southwestern Georgia as well as by Indian people living in Florida.

About 350 CE, the Indian people at the McKeithen site began construction of two earthen mounds.  The two mounds-named A and B by archaeologists-were laid out in such a manner to allow the rising sun at the summer solstice to be observed and calculated from Mound B.

The two mounds are rectangular and fairly low-1 meter and a half meter in height. A rectangular residence or temple was built on top of Mound B. Archaeologists feel that this was probably used by a priest who conducted ceremonies for the dead at the site. This priest was later buried inside the building, the building was burned, and the ashes scattered.

A pine post screen was erected across Mound A. Bodies were temporarily buried here and the graves were marked with posts about two feet in diameter. After some decomposition had set in, the bodies were exhumed. In the area behind the screen, the exhumed human bones were cleaned, treated with red ochre, and prepared for storage in the charnel house. The bones-primarily the skull and limb bones-were bundled for storage.

A third mound, which was circular and less than a meter in height, had a charnel house for the storage of cleaned human remains. The bundles that contained the bones were stored in the charnel house for a time and were later buried in the periphery of the mound.

Each stage of the preparation of the bodies probably involved some ceremonies. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence which suggests that the black drink– an active and powerful diuretic which has been traditionally used to purge and cleanse ritual participants in Southeastern cultures-was used as a part of these ceremonies. Archaeologists also found ceramic vessels, including the hollow figurines of animals, which had been broken and left as offerings on top of the graves containing the bundles of bones.

The triangular plaza formed by the three mounds was found to be devoid of any artifacts. Archaeologists have interpreted this to mean that the plaza was most likely a ceremonial area where people gathered to watch and/or participate in funerary rituals.

About 400 CE, a new level of cultural complexity and diversity appears among the people of northern Florida: the burials after this time show an indication of social stratification. Some groups of people were now buried with more and better grave goods than other people.  

In 475, the structures on the platform mounds at the McKeithen site were burned and removed. The mounds were capped. Mound C was then covered with a six-foot layer of earth. While this marks the end of mound use at the village, the village still continued to be occupied until about 700.

McKeithen

Shown above is a photo from the 1979 archaeological excavation of the site.  

The Timucua

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Prior to the Spanish invasion of Florida in 1513, it is estimated that there may have been as many as 772,000 Timucua. Fifty years later, the Timucua numbered about 150,000 due to epidemic diseases brought to Florida by the Spanish and by Spanish hostilities. By 1682, there were less than 1,000 Timucua.  

Timucua Culture:

The Timucua were skilled farmers who lived in permanent villages in present-day Florida. The Timucua were a powerful centralized chiefdom with an economy based on a combination of agriculture, hunting, and fishing. At the time of initial Spanish contact (1520-1570) there were nine Timucua-speaking chiefdoms in what is now Florida: Yustega, Utina, Potano, Tocobaga, Saturiwa, Aqua Dulce, Acuera, Ocali, and Mocozo.

The early Spanish explorers described the Timucuan houses as looking somewhat like pyramids. They were built by using flexible wall posts which were anchored in the ground. Their tops were then bent together and secured. Smaller branches were then interwoven among the support posts and the structure was covered with palm thatch.

Timucua villages were generally laid out around a central plaza and ballcourt area. The villages often contained a larger communal structure and a chief’s house. Some villages contained as many as 250 houses, but many consisted of only 20-30 houses with a population of 200-300 people.

One of the features of Timucua villages was the communal warehouse. These storehouses contained foods intended to serve the entire chiefdom and were located on or near the banks of steams which could be navigated by canoes. The Timucua dried large quantities of fish, alligators, snakes, deer, and other game on wooden rakes over smoking fires. They also dried maize, beans, and squash as well as amaranth/chenopod seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, such as plums, and other foodstuffs.

The Timucua villages were organized into a series of simple chiefdoms. Each of the estimated 25-30 Timucua chiefdoms was centered on a main village whose chief (utina) received homage from two to ten other villages. Each of these other villages had its own chief (holata). Timucuan chiefs generally belonged to the White Deer clan.

Among the Timucua, the chiefs were aided in their governing by chiefly officials who were usually village elders and/or high status individuals. Village council houses were round buildings which could hold 100 people or more.

It was not uncommon for a Timucua village to have a woman chief. Some villages regularly had women chiefs. Women chiefs had the same powers as male chiefs.

Among the Timucua there were both curers (isucu) and shamans (yaba). Curers were native doctors who used various herbs, while shamans performed rituals associated with gathering food, foretelling the future, finding lost items, and many more activities.

As with other American Indian tribes, the Timucua recognized more than two genders. Some people, known as Two Spirits or berdaches, took on the cultural roles of the opposite gender. Among the Timucua, these individuals were often healers. In addition, they played an important role in funerals by carrying the dead for burial.

The Timucua and the Spanish:

The first reported contact between the Timucua and the Spanish was in 1527. Pánfilio de Narváez, with a reputation for brutality and a strong desire to find gold and wealth, invaded Florida with a force of 600. The Timucua, hearing about Spanish brutality, left their village before the Spanish arrived, hoping to encourage the Spanish to leave by offering no hospitality. The Spanish entered the empty village and reported that it included one building which could hold 300 people. However, the Spanish find a gold rattle that ignited their gold-lust. The Spanish claimed the country for Spain

The Spanish continued their march north to Tampa Bay. At one village the Franciscan priests ordered that the revered remains of the Timucua ancestors be burned. The Spanish marched northward without seeing any natives. The Timucua considered their policy of avoidance to be successful.

In 1528, some Spanish explorers were taken to a Timucua village where they found many European goods. The Timucua explained that the goods had come from a ship which had wrecked in Tampa Bay.

In 1539, Hernando de Soto began his exploration of the southeast. He landed in Tampa Bay, Florida with a force of 200 horsemen (with 223 horses), 400 foot soldiers, some fighting dogs, and a small herd of hogs for food. Like other Spanish explorers, the Spanish Crown gave de Soto a license to plunder. The Spanish would seize local chiefs and hold them for a ransom of bearers, women, and corn. The women were forced to serve the Spanish as sexual slaves.

The Timucua near Tampa Bay were the first to encounter de Soto. The Spanish killed many Timucuans outright, tortured others, or tracked them down to be torn asunder by wolfhounds.

While the Spanish had military superiority with their firearms, horses, and dogs of war, they found that their armor was not very effective. The Timucua warriors used their atlatls (spear throwers) to launch spears which pierced Spanish armor.

The Spanish reported that they passed by many great fields of corn, beans, squash, and other plants. In one instance they reported that the fields ran for two leagues (approximately 4-5 miles) and that they spread out for as far as the eye can see on either side of the roadway. It is estimated that the Timucua had 10,000 acres under cultivation.

The Spanish noted that the Timucua-speaking capital of the Ocali chiefdom had 600 dwellings. It is estimated that the Ocali population was about 60,000 at this time.  

In 1647, the Timucua helped the Spanish to put down a revolt by the Apalachee and Chisca. The revolt was led by traditional Apalachee who burned seven churches and killed three friars. The Spanish force of 31 soldiers and 500 Timucua warriors engaged a large rebel army-perhaps 8,000 warriors-in a day-long battle. In spite of the fact that the Timucua suffered heavy losses, the rebellion was quickly put down.

In 1656, the Spanish governor heard rumors of an impending English raid against St. Augustine. He ordered the Timucua, Apalachee, and Guale to assemble 500 warriors and to march to St. Augustine to help defend it. The governor also commanded the warriors and their chiefs to carry their own supplies, including the corn and food they would need for the overland trek to and from St. Augustine and for a stay of at least one month in town. Since chiefs did not traditionally carry their own burdens, some were insulted by this request. One Timucua chief, Lúcas Menéndez, flatly refused to obey the order. In addition to having to supply their own food for at least six weeks, the Indians were not to be paid for their service to the Spanish.

In rebelling against Spanish authority, Lúcas Menéndez ordered all of the Spaniards in his province, with the exception of the Franciscan friars, to be killed. Their rebellion was not against the church as Catholicism had become the Timucuas’ own religion. Their rebellion was against the military government and its mistreatment of the chiefs and their people. The Timucua rebels initially killed seven people.

The different Timucua chiefs communicated to each other by writing letters in the Timucua language. In one instance, they intercepted a Spanish dispatch written in Spanish which they were able to read.

The Spanish response to the rebellion was to send a detachment of 60 Spanish soldiers and 200 Apalachee warriors into Timucua territory. The rebels took refuge at a fort near Santa Elena de Machava. After extended talks, the Indians in the territory surrendered. The Spanish allowed most to go free, but they arrested the leaders.

Intending to punish the rebel Timucua further, the Spanish sent out a second expedition. They captured about two dozen Indians, including several chiefs, who were then tried. Half were sentenced to death and half to hard labor in St. Augustine. Those who were sentenced to death were hung at various locations in Timucua territory as a reminder of Spanish authority.

Spanish Missionary Efforts Among Florida Indians

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When the Spanish exploration of Florida began with Juan Ponce de Leon (the conqueror of Puerto Rico) in 1513 there were an estimated 200,000 Native Americans living in what would later become the state of Florida. European diseases soon reduced this population. The Spanish expeditions which followed were motivated originally by greed and glory. In 1549, the Spanish launched their missionary efforts to convert the heathen natives.  

The first missionary effort was led by Fray Luis Cancer de Barbastro, a Dominican.  Fray Luis was an unusual missionary in that he felt that his primary hope in converting Indians lay in contacting people who had not been antagonized by the earlier Spanish show of force. He felt that Indians could be converted by kindness and good example instead of force.

With him were two other priests, a lay brother, and an Indian woman named Magdalena who was to serve as their interpreter. It is not certain if Magdalena was a Calusa who had been captured by an earlier Spanish expedition or if she was a Native Cuban who had been captured by the Calusa and learned their language. Trading trips to Cuba by the Calusa had been made regularly by fairly large numbers of Indian traders.

The missionary group landed at Tampa Bay where the Indians quickly captured a sailor, the lay brother, and Magdalena. Determined to rescue the captives, Fray Luis sailed to Charlotte Harbor. The three priests went to an Indian village to obtain information about the captives. While they saw Magdalena, they failed to rescue her, but they did rescue a Spanish sailor who had been captured ten years earlier. The sailor told them that the other captives had been killed.

Fray Luis, however, still wanted to save the souls of the Indians. He again went ashore. As he waded ashore he was greeted by Indians who first snatched his hat from his head, and then hit him on the head with a club. They then killed him.  He thus became a martyr to his cause and a victim of Calusa hostility which had been incited by earlier Spanish expeditions.  

While this ended the initial Spanish missionary attempt, there were some unintended consequences of this contact. The Spanish and Magdalena who were captured by the Calusa brought typhus with them. The mortality rate from this epidemic was about 10%.  

Missionary attempts began again in 1566 when the Spanish governor of Florida requested that the Jesuits establish missions among the Indians. Three Spanish Jesuits-Father Juan Rogel, Father Pedro Martínez, and Brother Francisco Villareal-sailed for Florida, but their ship missed St. Augustine and finally anchored off the Georgia coast near St. Simons Island. Father Martínez and some sailors went ashore to ask directions. While they were ashore, a storm blew their ship away from land, marooning them. After ten days, the Spanish built a small boat and attempted to find St. Augustine. Father Martínez and three sailors were killed by Indians.

While this initial attempt did not bode well for the Jesuits, the following year they managed to establish a mission at the town of Calos, the capital of the Calusa nation.

In 1568, a group of 11 Jesuits led by Father Juan Bautista de Segura arrived in St. Augustine. The Jesuits were seeking to establish missions among the Tequesta and Calusa. They made few converts. In general, the chiefs and native religious leaders were openly hostile toward the Jesuits, viewing them as threats to the power of the native elites. The following year, the Jesuits admitted failure and abandoned their mission at Calos. In 1572, the Spanish Jesuits abandoned all of their missionary efforts in Florida.

In 1573, the Spanish governor of Florida arranged for the Franciscans to establish missions in the territories under his jurisdiction. Under Royal Orders, 18 Franciscans were to be sent to La Florida. By the end of the year, three Franciscans had arrived and were working with the Guale and Orista. The Franciscans baptized the chief and his wife of the main town of Guale. This was a major victory for the Franciscans as the chief was in line to become the head chief over a number of villages.

In 1575, the Franciscans decided that it was in their best interest to withdraw from the area because of conflicts with the Spanish colonial government.

In 1584, the Franciscans tried again. A group of Franciscans under the leadership of Father Alonso de Reynoso arrived in St. Augustine to establish missions among the Indians. However, the priest was accused of fraud and denounced for excessive card playing. Thus the Franciscans’ missionary effort ended almost before it had begun.

In 1587, Father Alonso de Reynoso brought nine Franciscan friars to help convert and pacify the Indians. Three years later, Father Alonso de Reynoso brought in another group of 12 Franciscan friars to work among the Indians.

In 1595, a group of 12 Franciscan friars under the leadership of Father Juan de Silva began missionary work among the Indians. This marks the beginning of successful Franciscan missionary efforts among the La Florida Indians. The Franciscans’ missionary efforts were carefully carried out within the context of Spanish colonial enterprise and against a backdrop of native depopulation. As a part of this missionary effort, the Franciscan Francisco Pareja began writing down the language of the Timucua.

In 1608, the Apalachee chiefs asked the Spanish to send them priests. The Apalachee have an estimated population of 50,000 living in 107 towns. At this time, the traditional chiefs were finding it difficult to control their people and felt that affiliation with the Spanish would reinforce their leadership through formal recognition of the leadership, gift giving, and military alliances. The Apalachee had been a Mississippian chiefdom in which the chiefs had considerable power. The native leaders in Spanish Florida were willing to abandon some traditional priestly power when it no longer reinforced their chiefly authority.

A Franciscan priest and an entourage of 150 Potano and Timucua traveled to the Apalachee town of Ivitachuco. The Apalachee cleared a wide road for the travelers and an estimated 36,000 Apalachee, including 70 chiefs, greeted the entourage.

In 1610, the Franciscans extended their missionary work to the interior of the Timucua territory. The Franciscan Francisco Pareja published a book in 1613 in Mexico City which contained sections on religious doctrine in both Spanish and Timucua.

In 1633, the Franciscans established a mission-San Lorenzo de Ivitachuco-among the Apalachee. At this time the native population was relatively large and dense. The Apalachee chiefs appeared to be enthusiastic about the Spanish and the Franciscans. Following the demographic and political collapse brought about by disease, the chiefs were scrambling to retain their authority. They saw the alliance with the Spanish Franciscans as a way to retain power.

In 1680, the Spanish Franciscans abandoned the mission at Santa Catalina which served the Guale. Four years later, the Franciscans re-established a mission among the Guale. The new mission was located on Amelia Island and was called Santa María by the Spanish.

In 1697, the Spanish sent a group of Franciscans to the Calusa. The Calusa were less than enthusiastic about the Franciscans. The friars were ridiculed and insulted. Calusa hecklers mooned the friars and sent them fleeing south down the coast toward Cuba in a small boat.

In 1743, the Jesuits returned to Florida and established a mission, Santa Maria, at the mouth of the Miami River. The mission was intended to serve the 200 people who comprised the remnants of the Calusa, Key, and Boca Raton tribes

In 1763, Florida was transferred from Spain to England, thus ending the Spanish missionary efforts.