By the middle of the seventeenth century, the Franciscan mission effort had expanded northward to the Carolinas, and westward to present day Tallahassee. It is estimated that there were seventy Franciscan missionaries in some forty Spanish doctrinas in Florida, ministering to about 25,000 Apalachee, Timucua, and Guale Indians.

Besides conversion to Christianity, the missions organized the Indians to provide food for the Spanish colonists after Governor Méndez Canzo implemented a tribute of corn from the Indians in 1595.

Even more aggravating to the native inhabitants was the imposition of labor obligations both to transport the tribute corn to St. Augustine and to do work in the town itself. These measures contributed greatly to the Indian rebellions of this period.

The headquarters and motherhouse for the Franciscans – the Convento de San Francisco – was rebuilt in 1605 following the disastrous fire of 1599. It was from here that the extensive mission system of La Florida would be administered for more than a century, and to here that friars and Indians from the far flung mission fields came.

The chapel of the convento was where the elite members of the community heard Mass and were buried, while the rest of the residents went to the Parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad.




María Jacoba

Artist's rendering of Maria Jacoba
María Jacoba: Indian cimarrona

María was a Potano Timucua born around 1648 in the mission village of San Francisco de Potano (near present day Gainesville). Shortly after her marriage at age 14 or 15, she “went to the woods” with an escaped black slave, and returned to her village and husband for a few days once a year to say confession. She lived this way for 14 or 15 years. Considered a cimarron – an illegal runaway – she was captured by rancher Captain Tomás de Menéndez when she was in her late 20s, and he sent her to St. Augustine for enforced servitude in his house. She ran away in turn from St. Augustine, but was recaptured in the company of murderous heathen Indians. In 1678 she was tried in St. Augustine for her crimes of cimarronage and association with the heathen “criminals”, and sentenced to 100 lashes. It is not known whether she survived them.

Luis de Horruytiner

Artist's rendering of Luis de Horruytiner
Luis de Horruytiner: Governor, expansionist and entrepreneur

As a peninsulare governor of Florida from 1633 to 1638, Horruytiner approved the advance of mission evangelization into the Apalachee mission province, and, not coincidentally, a shipping port on the Gulf of Mexico. This opened large areas to the Spaniards for cattle ranches and farms, and Horruytiner made grants to several important St. Augustine families. He himself remained in St. Augustine after his term as governor, and established a family dynasty that became wealthy from ranching and trading.

Ajalap Cosme

Artist's rendering of Ajalap Cosme
Ajalap Cosme: Indian laborer and counterfeiter

Apalachee Indian laborers and counterfeiters Andres De Escovedo and Ajalap Cosme, both in their early 20s, were born at the San Luis mission town in the 1670s. They were in St. Augustine “under contract” to a Spanish soldier, Patricio de Monson, in the 1690s tilling his fields. Andres stated that he “has no other trade than to render service in what he is ordered to”. The men were caught counterfeiting half real coins and were sentenced to forced labor on the public works.

Fray Francisco Pareja

Artist's rendering of Fray Francisco Pareja
Fray Francisco Pareja: Missionary and linguist

Father Pareja arrived in Florida in 1595, and was assigned to minister to the Indians at San Juan del Puerto, a Timucua mission near present-day Jacksonville. During his more than 30 years in service to the Franciscans in Florida, Pareja not only ministered to the spiritual needs of his Christian charges, but he also wrote several books in the Timucuan language. These included a dictionary and grammar, catechisms and devotional scripts that were read widely by the Timucuan converts. For other missionaries, he wrote the Confesionario, a remarkable document that provides questions in Spanish and Timucuan, designed to elicit admission of forgotten (or perhaps unrecognized) sins by the Indians during confession. Pareja also served as a leader and spokesperson for the Franciscan contingent throughout his tenure, and spent long periods at the Convento de San Francisco in St. Augustine.


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