The reduced level of external crown support, and the increasing diversion of resources and activity to the hinterland farms and missions had a negative economic impact on the residents of seventeenth century St. Augustine.
Food, clothing and Spanish material goods were increasingly scarce, and residents of the town’s households had to be creative both in the ways they made ends meet, and in they ways they maintained their status as Spaniards.
For those of elite background, the outward maintenance of “Spanishness” was of paramount importance. Others, less privileged by birth, were able to more freely combine Spanish, American Indian, African and newly-generated criollo traditions into a lifestyle that eased survival in this difficult place.
|Occupation||Annual Salary in Ducats||Annual Salary in Reales|
The Purchasing Power of a Spanish Real
|Shirt with lace cuffs||48-60 reales|
|Doublet of linen||29-52 reales|
|Common cloth||6-18 reales per yard|
|A suit of clothes||220 reales|
|Wheat flour||15.3 reales per gallon|
|Sugar||1.1 reales per pound|
|Wine||1280 reales per barrel|
|Soap||24 reales per pound|
Amy Bushnell, The King’s Coffer, 1982. pp. 25-28.
Robert Kapitzke, The secular clergy in St. Augustine during the first Spanish period, 1991. MA thesis, University of Florida p 65.
Francisco de la Rua’s last will and testament
These are the worldly goods inventoried as part of Captain de la Rua’s will in 1659. After settling some debts, the estate went to his wife. Translated by John Hann and reprinted in America’s Ancient City: Spanish St. Augustine 1565-1763, Edited by Kathleen Deagan. New York: Garland Press. pp. 492-543. Original document is in Archivo General de Indias, Escribanía de Cámara 155B. A microfilm copy is in the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, University of Florida.
The dowry brought by his wife, Doña Catalina Costilla y Orellana, was returned to her. It included:
- Three slaves (Juliana, Antonia and “one old slave of her father”)
- Some houses in Havana
- 2,000 pesos
Inventory made of household goods after Don Francisco’s death.
- A board house with a separate shingled kitchen
- Two slaves, Juan Gutiérrez and Mateo Angola.
- 52.5 pesos in silver
- Seven and a half pesos in reales
- Six high backed chairs
- A large wooden bedstead
- Three buffets
- A cot of West Indian red ebony
- A desk from Campeche
- A large cedar chest
- A trunk
- Ten used small silver plates
- Two larger plates and a platter of silver
- A small silver salt shaker
- Five silver spoons
- A coconut shell decorated with silver, with a silver base (for chocolate)
- A silver candlestick
- Sixty five candles
- A medium tankard
- A broken fork
- Six red bowls from Puebla
- Thirteen Guale pots, small and large
- Sixty-five empty olive jars (botijas)
- Seven fine China dishes and an oil cruet
- A half jar (media perulera, or Olive jar) of salt
- Three jars (peruleras) of cocoa beans
- Two jars (peruleras) of sour wine
- A little bit of sugar in a perulera
- Four small jars of lard
- A half-barrel and a bag of flour
- Nineteen young hens with a rooster
- A stone for grinding chocolate
- A hooked kitchen oil lamp
- An iron spit
- A brass mortar with its base
- 150 cakes of soap
- A strong deerskin doublet
- Used trousers, doublet and jacket of Castilian damask
- Trousers and doublet of strong green stuff
- Another old suit of sarnilla
- Used trousers, doublet and jacket and cloak of brown cloth
- An old jacket of thin silk stuff
- A sash of Castilian taffeta with gold borders
- Four pairs of old silk stockings
- Six old pairs of leggings
- Six pairs of old and torn slippers
- A short cloak of serge, with its lining of purple baize
- Ten Rouen shirts with puffed sleeves and ruffles
- Three Rouen shirts, one with its large lace borders
- Two old Rouen shirts
- Nine pairs of white underdrawers, used
- Two old and torn combing gowns
- Four old white jackets
- A new Bombazine doublet
- A black hat with a gold hat band with fifty little pieces of gold
- A white hat and a hat of vicuña
- A piece of a new shawl
- Eight dozen horsehair buttons from Campeche
- Twelve dozen buttons of white thread
Fabric and thread
- Ten skeins of greenish-gold thread
- Four skeins of blue thread
- Some skeins of colored silk
- Eight small skeins of fine white thread
- Six yards of linen cloth from China
- Five yards of common cloth
- One yard of xarampudia (possibly netting)
- Eight yards of coarse Tlascalan cloth
- Four yards of common ruán (French printed cotton)
- A yard of olan
- Two yard of white and black damask from China
- Eight yards of Castillian coarse fabric (jergueta)
- A colored quilt from Campeche with fringes
- Seven Rouen sheets, used
- A used mattress cover of fine canvas
- A used linen bed canopy
- Eight used napkins
- Three tablecloths
- A strip of tablecloth
- Two used bed mattresses
- A used black and white quilt
- A used bedskirt from Campeche
- Seven old hand towels
- Five old handkerchiefs
- Four pillows and three old and used azericos
- Some used coverlets of red taffeta
- Two already old sword hilts
- A tin-covered fire case with eight powder flasks
- A carrying case for a ramrod
- A little pocket pistol;
- An old infantry flag
- An arquebus and powder flask
- A cutlass
- A shoulder belt with a cutlass
- A shoulder belt with its waist belt
Tools and Implements
- A weight with its counterweight
- Two iron axes
- Three iron augers
- A gouging adze and a small mattock
- An iron chain and some shackles
Other personal items
- Two bezoar stones (calcifications found in the stomachs of ruminant animals that were used as amulets)
- Nine red rosaries
- A bundle and an undone packet of white Indian beads
- Two deerskins
- A seal with a silver cap
- Two notebooks
Catalina de Orellana
Francisco de la Rua, a peninsulare, was a Captain in St. Augustine’s infantry. He married Catalina de Orellana, a wealthy criolla from Havana, however, she refused to live in St. Augustine with him. On his deathbed in 1659, he wrote that “against my wishes she remains in the city of Havana and despite the many entreaties I have made to her, she has not wished to come to this presidio to live a married life” (Hann garland:498). Captain La Rua left a board house and two black slaves named Juan Gutiérrez Criollo and Mateo Angola. His will listed a wide range of luxury and personal items, including thirteen Guale pots.
Blacksmiths were vital to frontier society, producing the hardware and tools needed for house and building and ship repair, as well as repairing weapons and making horseshoes. Juan Merino was a free black citizen of Havana, Cuba, and a blacksmith by trade. In 1675 he committed an unspecified crime in Havana, and was sentenced to four years labor as a blacksmith in St. Augustine. He worked at the forge of Manuel Roldín, a Master Blacksmith, Armorer and Charcoal burner. Roldín was only 28 years old, and literate, but earned the dislike of Governor Pablo de Hita Salazar, who called him “a clerkish type, young and lazy.” (Bushnell 1981, Blacksmith documents from Connor collection- HASPB).
Francisco Ponce de León
Francisco was 12 years old in 1676, when his father, the native-born Sergeant Major of St. Augustine (and recent interim Governor) died. Eight years earlier Francisco’s small sister had been killed during a pirate attack on St. Augustine. As was the custom (as a humane welfare policy), the position and pay of the father was passed to his orphaned son, who would soon be old enough to serve as a soldier. The incident sparked confrontations with crown authorities in Spain, who strictly prohibited native-born criollos from holding positions in the government or in the military. Such prohibitions were ignored in St. Augustine, however, where it was almost impossible to attract sufficient Spanish manpower to meet regimental needs. This became increasingly clear, and by the time Francisco took on his fathers “dead pay”, the attitude toward criollos was much relaxed, and nearly half the garrison was made up of criollos (Arana garland:431). Young Francisco went on to serve a career in the military, as did his son and grandsons, one of whom became the colony’s sergeant major in the eighteenth century.
Isavel de Los Rios
Isavel was a free mulatta who baked rosquetes, spiral-shaped cakes. She sold these cakes, as well as honey, door to door throughout the town, and from her home. She was an independent entrepreuer in an age when such a status was difficult for any woman, let alone a black woman.
Juana de Herrero
Juana was an Indian woman married to a Spanish soldier named Toma Hernando, and they had a house in St. Augustine. Juana died in 1689, and her death sparked a controversy between St. Augustine’s Franciscan (regular) clergy and their rivals, the secular clergy. The Franciscans claimed that they should see to her burial because she was an Indian, while the Parish priest asserted jurisdiction because she was a resident of the town and his parish, and “lived the way a Spaniard lives”. The case was appealed to the Bishop of Cuba, Diego de Compostela, who decreed in favor of the Parish priests, but not before the Franciscans secretly removed Juana’s body to the Convento de San Francisco for burial. (Kapitske 2001:134).
The following resources include only a few of the many works that have been written on these topics. We have chosen those you see here because they are relatively recent (or have continued as enduring classics), they are published in easily accessible formats, and they are generally non-technical in their presentation. These sources will also lead you to many more popular and scholarly publications on these topics.
Most of these resources can be found through your public library. Other useful sites for locating many of these readings include the University Press of Florida and the St. Augustine Historical Society. For a complete list of archaeological sources, visit the Florida Museum Historical Archaeology site.
Bushnell, Amy. 1982 The King’s Coffer: Proprietors of the Spanish Florida Treasury 1565-1702. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Notes: The most comprehensive historical study to date of life in seventeenth century St. Augustine.
Bushnell, Amy. 1984 The noble and loyal city, 1565 1688. in The Oldest City . edited by J. Waterbury. St. Augustine Historical Society, St. Augustine. pp. 57 91.
Notes: A lively and non-technical, but scholarly treatment of this crucial period in St. Augustine’s history.
Bushnell, Amy. 1996 Republic of Spaniards, Republic of Indians. in The new history of Florida. edited by M. Gannon. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. pp. 62-77.
Notes: Spanish policy toward the Florida Indians during the seventeenth century is explained, and the interactions among Spaniards and Indians during the period are discussed in this very readable article.
Hann, John. 1988 Apalachee counterfeiters in St. Augustine. Florida Historical Quarterly 67:52-68.
Notes: A fascinating study of a court case addressing charges of counterfeiting and other crimes against two Apalachee Indians in St. Augustine.
Hoffman, Kathleen. 1994 The development of a cultural identity in colonial America: The Spanish-American experience in La Florida. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville.
Notes: This is the most comprehensive treatment of life in seventeenth century St. Augustine from an archaeological perspective. Although unpublished, it can be obtained through interlibrary loan from the University of Florida Library.