Hernando D'Escalante Fontaneda*

On the Country and Ancient Indian Tribes








I HAVE the honor to inform you that Florida and the Lucayan Islands are situate on one side of the Bahama (old) Channel, which passes between Havanna (Cuba) and Florida. But nearer the mainland, extending from east to west, lie other islands, called the Martyrs (Los Martires), on account of the great number of men who have been put to death there; and on the rocks of the coast, where a great many have been shipwrecked. These islands are inhabited by a tall race of men and women graceful and well-featured. There are two Indian villages on these islands, one of which is called Guaragunve or the Village of Tears (Pueblo de Llante); and the other, smaller in size, Cuchiyaga, which signifies the place where martyrdom has been suffered. These Indians possess neither gold nor, silver, and still less clothing, for they go almost naked, wearing only a sort of apron. The dress of the men consists of braided palm-leaves, and that of the women of moss, which grows on trees, and somewhat resembles wool. Their common food consists of fish, turtles, snails, tunny-fish, and whales, which they catch in their seasons. Some of them also eat the wolf-fish, but this is not a common thing, owing to certain distinctions which they make between proper food for the chiefs and that of their subjects. On these islands is found a shell-fish known as the langosta, a sort of lobster, and another known in Spain as the chapin (trunk-fish), of which they consume not less than the former. There are also on the islands a great number of animals, especially deer; and on some of them large bears are found. These islands extend from west to east, and as the mainland of Florida lies at no great distance to the eastward, these animals could easily pass over from the peninsula, and thence from island to island. To us, however, who found ourselves prisoners there, it seemed strange to see deer in the island of Cuchiyaga, and also to hear them frequently spoken of elsewhere. There are many other things which I could tell about, but must omit them for the present, for those of more importance. On these islands also are found a species of tree or wood, which we call guaiacum orlignum-vitæ (Guaiacum Officinale), and which physicians know is useful for many purposes; also fruit trees of different kinds. It is useless to speak of the great variety of fruits found there. Westward of these islands lies a great channel, through which no pilot dares to pass with a large vessel, because, as stated elsewhere, exist towards the west a number of treeless islands. Formerly they were probably covered with earth which the tides have carried off, leaving only barren shores of sand about seven miles in circumference. They are called The Tortugas, because of the great number of tortoises that collect there to rest during the night. These tortoises are about the size of a large shield, have as much flesh as a cow, are all meat, and still they are fish. Going northward, between Havanna and Florida, and towards the islands, the Tortugas are first met. The Martyr Islands are forty leagues from Havanna, twenty from the Tortugas, and twenty leagues more to Florida, that is, to arrive at the Indian province of Carlos1 (or Calos), of which the name signifies “cruel village.” It is thus named because the inhabitants are barbarous and very adroit in the handling of arms. They are masters of a part of the country extending as far as the village of Guasaca, near the Lake Mayaimi, thus named on account of its great size.

In going from Havanna to the opposite shore, the chain of the Martyr Islands commences near the coast of Florida. Here one finds himself about sixty leagues from the islands of the other extremity of the group. There are several channels, of which the principal one is very wide, and of variable depths. The greatest width, as nearly as I can remember, from the report of the Indians, is towards the Bermuda Islands. I shall now say no more on this subject, but describe the group of the Martyr Islands lying to the northward.

These islands terminate near an Indian village called Tegesta,2 built on the borders of a river, which takes its rise in the interior. It runs through fifteen leagues of country, and flows from a fresh-water lake, which the Indians visit and pretend it forms a part of Lake Mayaimi (Okechobee). This lake is situated in the midst of the country, and is surrounded by a great number of villages of from thirty to forty inhabitants each, who live on bread made from roots during most of the year. They cannot procure it, however, when the waters of the lake rise very high. They have roots which resemble the truffles of this country (Spain), and have besides excellent fish. Whenever game is to be had, either deer or birds, they eat meat. Large numbers of very fat eels are found in the rivers, some of them as large as a man's thigh, and enormous trout, almost as large as a man's body; although smaller ones are also found. The natives eat lizards, snakes, and rats, which infest the lakes, fresh-water turtles, and many other animals which it would be tiresome to enumerate. They live in a country covered with swamps and cut up by high bluffs. They have no metals nor anything belonging to the Old World. They go naked, except the women, who wear little aprons woven of shreds of palm. They pay tribute to CARLOS, composed of all the objects I have spoken, such as fish, game, roots, deer-skins, etc.


I THINK from what I was told by some Indians from the islands of Jeaga, at the beginning of the Bahamas, that the auditor LUCAS VASQUEZ D'AYLLON,3 of San Domingo, accompanied by six of his planters, came in vessels to visit this country and the river St. Helena, situated seven leagues to the northward, on the banks of which is a village named Orista, but which by mistake they called Chicora. They saw another village, named Quale but called by them Gualdape: these are all they visited, as they did not explore the interior. The truth is, there is neither gold nor silver within sixty leagues of this place, although I am informed there are both gold and copper mines4 in the interior, towards the north. On the banks of a river and of some of the lakes, are the Indian villages of Otopali, Olgatano, and many others. The people are not of the Chichimèque race, nor are they of the same race as the inhabitants of the river Jordan. Their principal king is called, in the language of the Carlos Indians, Zertepe, and is superior to all the other chiefs, as MONTEZUMA was. In that portion of the country which LUCAS VASQUEZ D'AYLLON and other Spaniards visited, the inhabitants are very poor. Some small pearls are found there, however, in the shell-fish. The natives live on fish, large oysters, roasted or raw, deer, roe-buck, and other animals. When the men go out to hunt, the women collect wood and water to boil or broil their food. If the Spaniards found gold there at any time, it must have been brought there from a great distance, probably from the mountains of the domains of the king of whom I have just spoken. It has been said the Indians of Cuba worshiped the river of Jordan, but that is not true.

JUAN PONCE DE LEON, believing the reports of the Indians of Cuba and San Domingo to be true, made an expedition into Florida to discover the river Jordan.5 This he did either because he wished to acquire renown, or, perhaps, because he hoped to become young again by bathing in its waters. Many years ago, a number of Cuban Indians went in search of this river, and entered the province of Carlos (Calos),6 but SEQUENE, the father of CARLOS, took them prisoners, and settled them in a village where their descendants are still living. The news that these people had left their own country to bathe in the river Jordan, spread among all the kings and chiefs of Florida, and as they were an ignorant people, they all set out in search of this river, which was supposed to possess the power of rejuvenating old men and women. So eager were they in their search, that they did not pass a river, a brook, a lake, or even a swamp, without bathing in it; and, even to this day, they have not ceased to look for it, but always without any success. The natives of Cuba, braving the dangers of the sea, became victims to their faith, and thus it happened that they came to Carlos, where they built a village. They came in such great numbers, that although many have died, there are still many living there, both old and young. While I was a prisoner in those parts, I bathed in a great many rivers, but I never found the right one. It seems incredible that JUAN PONCE DE LEON should have gone to Florida to look for such a river.

Let us now speak of the Abolachi country, not far distant from Panuco, where, it is reported, so many pearls are found, and really do exist.

Between Abolachi and Olagale7 is a river which the Indians call Guasaca-Esgui, which means, translated into our language, Reed river. It is on the sea-coast, and at the mouth of this river, the pearls are found, in oyster and other shells; and from thence they are carried into all the provinces and villages of Florida; especially to Tocobajo, which is the nearest place, and where the greatest cacique or king of this country resides. This village is situated on the right, coming from Havanna. The name of the chief is TOCO-BAJA-CHILE. He has a great many subjects, is an independent chief, and dwells on the other side of the river; which extends more than forty leagues into the interior of the country, where FERDINAND DE SOTO intended to establish colonies, but was prevented by death, when his followers disbanded and returned to Spain. On their way back they hung the chief of the Abolachi country, because he refused to provide them with maize for their journey, or, as the Indians say, for the sake of some large pearls which he wore on his neck, one of which was as large as a ring-dove's egg. The natives say there are no gold or silver mines in this country, at least none known to them. They live on maize, fish, deer, roe-bucks, and other animals; but fish constitutes their principal food. They make bread from roots which grow in the swamps, and have a variety of fruits. The men and women go almost naked. The former wear no other clothing than aprons made of prepared deer skins, while the latter make theirs of moss which grows on trees, and is not much unlike hemp or wool.

Let us now leave Tocobajo, Abolachi, Olagale, and Mogozo, which are distinct kingdoms, and speak of the villages and market-towns of King CARLOS,8 who was afterwards put to death by Captain REYNOSO for some hostile demonstration. The most important of these villages are Tampa, Tomo, Tuchi, Sogo, No (which means “beloved village”), Sinapa, Sinacsta, Metamapo, Sacaspada, Calaobe, Estame, Yagua, Guaya, Guevu, Muspa, Casitoa, Talesta, Coyovea, Jutun, Teguemapo, Comachica, Luiseyove, besides two other villages whose names I do not recollect, as it is now ten years since I was there. In the interior, on Lake Mayaimi, there are Cutespa, Tavagueme, Tonsobe, Enempa, and others whose names I have forgotten. In the Lucayan Islands there are two Indian villages, subjects of King CARLOS, one of which is called Guaragunve, and the other Cuchiaga. CARLOS was sovereign of fifty villages, as his father had been up to the time of his death. The power is now in the hands of his son SEBASTIAN, who bears this name, because Don PEDRO MENENDEZ DE AVILES conferred it upon him when he took him to Havanna to be educated, and ordered him to be called thus. Nothwithstanding the good treatment the Indians received from MENENDEZ, they revolted a second time, which was more serious than the first. It would still have been more unfortunate if they had been baptized, for I have heard them say Christianity was forbidden among them. Most of our strategy was known to them. They are athletic, and use the bow and arrow adroitly. No one knows that country as well as I do, for I was a prisoner there from the age of thirteen to thirty years, and I speak four of the languages of its people. There is only the language of the Ais and Jeaga which I am not acquainted with, because I have never lived among them.

The Abolachi9 are a powerful nation, rich in pearls; but they have no gold, except what is brought from the mines of Onagatano, situated in the Snowy Mountains of Onagatano, the farthest of the Abolachi possessions, and still farther, from the nations of Olacatano, Olagale, Mogoso, and Canogacole. The last are said to be a numerous and warlike people, who go entirely naked, excepting a few who wear dressed skins. They are artists, and can paint everything they see. They are called Canogacole, which means“wicked people,” and are adroit in drawing the bow. The Spaniards could only conquer them with their superior arms, such as cross-bows, muskets, bucklers, large and strong swords, good horses, and escanpils.10 They only speak their native languages; are an honorable and faithful people, and not like the Biscayan who wanted to sell MENENDEZ to the Indians, and had not a mulatto and I prevented him, by exposing his treachery, we should have all been put to death; and PEDRO MENENDEZ, instead of dying at Santander, would have perished in Florida. If he had conducted himself as I did, and as he ought to have done, the Indians would to-day have been the obedient subjects of our powerful King, PHILIP II., whom I pray the Lord will protect for many years to come.

I have elsewhere said that this chief was sovereign of the “River of Reeds,” where the pearls and the mines of lapis-lazuli are found; but farther on, the village of Olagale is subject to him, where also gold is found.

A Biscayan named Don PEDRO, whom his Majesty had deigned to name Guardian of the Swans, was a prisoner in this country, and had he shown a courage proportionate to the favors which he had received from his Majesty, the Indians of Ais, Guacata, and of Jeaga would long ago have submitted, and many of them would already have been Christians. He spoke perfectly the language of Ais and all those I have mentioned above and also that which is spoken at Mayaca, and Mayajuaca, on the other side towards the north. PEDRO MENENDEZ ordered him to be hung on account of the calumnious accusation brought against him and his companion DOMINGO RUIZ. I think he was frightened, and, after returning to Spain, he drew up his report about Florida. He did not desire to go there but finally decided to do so, to get his son out of the hands of the Indians, who had heaped cruel treatment upon him. As for ourselves, we have never to this day received any pay, or obtained any promotion, and returned with our health so impaired, that we have gained but little by going to Florida.

The country of the kings of Ais11 and of Jeaga is very poor. It contains neither gold nor silver mines, and, to tell the truth, it is only the sea which enriches it, since many vessels laden with precious metals are shipwrecked there; such as the Farfan, and the Howker. On board of the latter was ANTON GRANADO and Captain JUAN CHRISTOBAL, whom the natives made slaves; and killed Don MARTIN DE GUZMAN, Captain HERNANDO DE ANDINO, and JUAN ORVIS. On board of this ship were the two sons of ALONSO DE MESA and their uncle. They were all rich, and I the poorest among them, yet I had twenty-five pesos of fine gold. My father (who was a commander) and my mother, had both served his Majesty in Peru, and subsequently in Carthagena, where they established a colony. I, as well as one of my brothers, was born there. They were sending us to Spain to be educated when we were shipwrecked on the Florida coast; as well as the fleet from New Spain, commanded by the son of Don PEDRO MENENDEZ (Adelantado of Florida).


I AFTERWARDS talked with a Spaniard whom the Indians had kept in a starving condition. He told me that he came from Nicaragua, in one of the Mexican vessels bound for Spain, which was commanded by an Asturian, a son of Don PEDRO MELENDEZ. That he was only a sailor on one of the shipwrecked vessels of the fleet, and ignorant of the fate of the rest until after he had talked with the Indians who went armed to the coast of Ais and returned with very considerable riches, in the form of ingots of gold, sacks of Spanish coins, and quantities of merchandise. As this man had been a prisoner there only for a short time, and knew nothing of the Indian languages, and as JUAN RODRIGUEZ knew them well, we served as interpreters for him and others. It was a great consolation for those who were afterwards shipwrecked there, to find some Christians who could aid them in their misfortunes, and help them to make themselves understood by the natives; for, when the Indians captured them and commanded them to dance and sing, and they would not; and as the Indians of Florida are cruel as well as ill-natured, they thought the Christians refused from obstinacy, and did not wish to comply with their request; so they massacred them on the spot, and reported to the chief that they had killed them because they were rogues and rebels, and refused to obey.

One day when a negro, two Spaniards, and I were speaking to the chief, in presence of the great men of his court, about what I have just stated, the chief said I was the most deceitful of them all. ESCALANTE, said he, “tell me the truth, for you know I am a great lover of it; why, when we commanded your countrymen to dance or sing, or do anything, they were obstinate and refused to obey. Is it because they are indifferent to death, or because they did not wish to obey the enemies of their religion? Answer me, and, if you do not know, ask those new prisoners who are slaves by their own misfortune. Formerly we took them for gods descended from the heavens.” I answered, “My lord, as I understand the matter, they are not rebelious, nor do they refuse from any motive of ill-will, but do not comprehend your wishes. They would only need to understand your language to perform their duty.” The chief replied that this was untrue, as he often gave them commands which they sometimes obeyed, and sometimes did not, although they were repeated over and over. “Notwithstanding that, my lord,” I replied, “they do not act thus from disobedience, but because they really do not understand you. I wish your lordship would speak to them in presence of this negro and me.” The chief began to laugh, and said to them, “Se-le-te-ga!” They then asked what the chief said, and the negro, who stood near them, laughed and said to the chief, “Sire, what ESCALANTE has told you is true, they do not understand you.” Then the chief, having perceived that I had told him the truth, said, “ESCALANTE, now I believe you.” I then explained to them what Se-le-te-ga meant, which is, to go and see if there is any one on the look-out; if any one is coming hither. The inhabitants of Florida always abbreviate their words much more than we do in speaking.

The chief, having perceived the true state of things, told his subjects that when they made prisoners of shipwrecked Christians hereafter, they must give them no orders without his knowledge, so that he might send them a person who understood their language.

I will say no more now on this subject, but proceed to speak of the wealth which the Indians found in bars of gold and Mexican jewelry belonging to the shipwrecked passengers, amounting to more than a million. The chief retained the best part of it for himself, and divided the remainder among the Indians of Ais, of Jaega, of Guacata, of Mayajuaca, and of Mayaca. Most of the vessels or caravels, as I stated before, which had been shipwrecked there were from Cuba and Honduras, and going in search of the river Jordan, which explains how the Indians of Ais, of Jaega, and the Guardgumve Islands became so enriched by the sea and not by the land.

From Tocobaga to St. Helena there are about six hundred leagues of coast. This country produces neither gold nor silver, nor are any metals found except those which accident brings to Florida from over the sea. I do not need to say that it is a habitable country, since we know the Indians live there, raise flocks and herds of animals, and cultivate the land. I cannot positively say that sugar can be made there. I know they planted cane and it grew, but I did not remain long enough to see the result. The inhabitants of all the provinces which I have named, from Tocobaga to St. Helena, are much given to fishing, and are always to be had. They are very adroit at drawing the bow, and also very treacherous, and I am convinced they can never be made submissive and become Christians. I am willing to sign my name to this statement, as a thing of which I am positively certain; and I give it as my opinion, that if it is not followed, matters will grow worse and worse. They should all be taken, men and women, after terms of peace have been offered them, placed on ships, and scattered throughout the various islands, and even on the Spanish main, where they might be sold as his Majesty sells his vessels to the grandees in Spain. By such clever means they might become civilized and Spaniards established here. These latter could then form settlements, raise cattle, and give assistance to numbers of vessels which are lost on the coast of the province of Satoriva, at or near St. Augustine, San Matheo (St. John's), where the French Lutherans established a fort for the purpose of plundering all vessels that arrive from the mainland, whether from Mexico, Peru, or any other country. They have already done this thing, and taken refuge on the San Matheo river, where dwell in villages the perfidious chiefs, SATORIVA, ALIMACANY.

On the banks of the San Matheo (St. John's), sixty leagues further inland, reside other independent chiefs, CARDECHA, ENCAPPE, UTINA, SARANAY, and MOLOA, who govern other villages reaching as far as Mayajuaca, in the Ais country, near the district planted with reeds, which our guides said was the place where Don PEDRO DE MENENDEZ made terms of peace with them. They possess, however, neither gold, silver, nor pearls, and are great rascals and beggars. They use bows and arrows, and, like those before described, wear no clothing. In ascending the river San Matheo, one can go as far as Tocobaga on the west side of Florida, but I do not advise any one to go so far as this river. After having passed the bar of the river, one might go on as far as Agacay, which is fifty or sixty leagues from the coast, or even as far as Utina, where he could disembark and proceed from village to village until, arriving at Canogacola, the inhabitants of which are subjects of TOCO-BAGA. Thence he could go on to the very farthest known point, situated on another great river (Mississippi), whither DE SOTO went, and where he died. And now I shall say no more, for if there were any question of making a conquest of this country, I could not furnish any more details than those I have already given. The conquest of this country would be advantageous to his Majesty for the security of his fleets going to Peru, New Spain, and ports of the West India Islands. These fleets must necessarily pass through the Bahama Channel, and close to this coast, where many people are shipwrecked and lose their lives, because the Indians are our enemies, and handle the bow skillfully. It would, therefore, be well to have a small fort erected to protect the channel. To support this fort, and pay the soldiers who should garrison it, a fund might be established by levying taxes on Peru, Mexico, Cuba, and other parts of the Indies. This is all that can be done, unless pearl-fishing is engaged in, as pearls are the only treasures the country offers. With this expression of opinion, I close my description of Florida and herewith subscribe my name to it.

Hernando D'Escalante Fontaneda

* The writer of this memoir was born in Carthagena, in 1538, and was shipwrecked and captured off the coast of Florida by the Indians. He was spared and brought up among them, and learned to speak four Indian languages, and calls attention to what has since been termed their “polysynthetic” structure. He afterwards returned to Spain, and accompanied the expedition of Don PEDRO MENENDEZ to Florida, in 1565, as interpreter. “This memoir,” says BRINTON, “is particularly valuable in locating the ancient Indian tribes of Florida, and was written after the death of MENENDEZ.”

1. Probably so called from the name of its chief, who, bearing from his Spanish Captives of the grandeur and power of CHARLES V. (Carlos V.), in emulation appropriated the name to himself. “It is still preserved,” says BRINTON, “in the Seminole appellation of the Sanybal river, Carlosa-hatchie, Cayo-Hueso (Key West), and Cayo-Vacas, names of the latest residences of the Caloosas, before they were driven from Florida, and went to Havana.”

2. The province of Tegesta is situated to the west of the Caloosa, and embraced a string of villages stretching from Cape Canaveral to the southern extremity of Florida. The more northern portion was, says BRINTON, called Ais, from the native word aisa, deer. The residence of the paracoussi, or chief, was near Cape Canaveral (Corientes).

3. To AYLLON was given the title of Adelantado, to aid him in the conquest of Chicora (South Carolina), which he discovered, and described as a rich and fertile country, abounding in valuable productions, and inhabited with natives of a clear understanding, governed by a king. One of his ships was commanded by JORDAN, with MIRUELO as pilot, and reached the latitude of 34 degrees; the other, Cabo de St. Elena (Cape St. Helena); and it is said he also reached Bahia Santa Maria (Chesapeake Bay) in 1526. On the chart of RIBERO, 1529, all the countries discovered by AYLLON are indicated under the name of “Tierra de Ayllon,” which covers all the territory south of the States of Virginia, N. and S. Carolina, and Georgia. One of the objects of his several expeditions was to capture slaves to sell in St. Domingo and Cuba. He died in October, 1526, from wounds received in a battle with the natives.

4. On the return of DE SOTO's expedition to Mexico (New Spain), the soldiers reported that gold, silver, and copper mines were found and worked by the Indians in the Apalachian mountains, and subsequently by the Spaniards in Northern Georgia. DE BRY and also other writers state that the Indians gathered gold and silver to a limited extent from the streams of the auriferous mountains of Carolina and Georgia, and worked them into ornaments, which they wore as pendants.

5. Of all the historic names connected with Florida, none stand out more prominently than that of PONCE DE LEON. The romantic character of his expeditions has won for him a name which will be kept in everlasting remembrance as a bold and adventurous cavalier and navigator. With the pilot ALAMINOS he discovered the Atlantic shore of Florida, near the mouth of the St. John's river, in latitude 30½ degrees; and the Gulf shore in latitude 24 degrees. The exploration of the Gulf of Mexico was spread over a period of twenty years.

6. All the tribes north of the province of Carlos, throughout the country around the Hillsborough river, and probably from it to the Withlacooche, and easterly to the Ocklawaha, appear to have lived under one chief or king.

7. Olagale is probably the Ocale of DE SOTO, and Etocale of BIEDMA. (Historical Collections of Louisiana, vol. 2, pp. 92-130.)

8. The tribes of CALOS or CARLOS spoke different dialects, and resided in the southern portion of Florida. The Timuquans lived along the coast north and south of St. Augustine, the Timuquan dialect being used at San Mateo, Asila, Machua, San Pedro, etc. Father PAREJA, one of the founders of the Franciscan Order in St. Helena, Florida, and guardian of the first convent established there in 1578, published “Gramatica de la Lengua Timuiquana de Florida, 1614,” “Catecismo de la Doctrina Christiana en Lengua Timuiquana, 1617,” and the “Confesonario en lengua Timuiquana, Mexico, 1612.”

9. “The early French and Spanish writers vary in the orthography of this name. The old Spanish writers write It Abolache, Apalache, Appallatcy: the French, Apalaches. COXE drops the A and writes it Palache, Palatcy, etc. Apáliché in the Tamanaca dialect signifies man. They were a most united, bold, and valorous race, and much more civilized than the adjacent tribes. When DE SOTO arrived in their country he found their fields cultivated, bearing plentiful crops of corn, beans, pumpkins, and fruit of all kinds; having good store of gold, silver, and pearls, which they collected from the lofty mountains of Onagatano (Georgia), abounding in precious metals. Their country was divided into six provinces, interspersed with towns and villages, and lived in houses built of oval shape, plastered with mud, and thatched with reeds and straw. The women manufactured their own clothing from wild hemp and the inner bark of the mulberry tree, lined with skins. Their priests offered up daily morning prayers to the glorious sun; and were regarded as more civilized than the Carlos, Tegesta, Ais and other tribes of Florida. In the beginning of the eighteenth century they were almost destroyed by other tribes, and driven across the Mississippi. By tradition they came originally from Northern Mexico.”--SeeBrinton's Florida; Historical Collections of Louisiana, vol. 2, p. 261.

10. A sort of armor made of cotton, which the ancient Mexicans used to protect themselves from the arrows of the natives in time of war.

11. The kings and chiefs of Florida took their title, or public name, from the place or territory they governed.



The voyage made by GUIDO DE LAS BAZARES, to discover ports and bays on the coast of Florida, for the safety of the troops to be sent there, in the name of his Majesty, PHILIP II., King of Spain, under the orders of Don LUIS DE VELASCO, Viceroy of Mexico, 1558.

IT was about four or five months ago that Don LUIS DE VELASCO, Viceroy of Mexico, ordered, in the name of his Majesty, PHILIP II., King of Spain, GUIDO DE LAS BAZARES to proceed with the marines and other persons to explore the coasts and harbors of Florida, for the greater safety of all persons who should go there, in the name of his Majesty, to colonize Florida. He was accordingly commissioned, and ordered to set sail from the port of San-Juan-de-Lua, New Spain, on the 3d of September, 1558, to explore the coast of Florida, with a large bark, galley, and shallop, manned with sixty seamen and soldiers. On the 10th of September, he arrived atPanuco, and from thence he departed, and arrived on the coast of Florida, in 27½ degrees of north latitude. Continuing along the coast, he discovered a bay in 28½ degrees north latitude, which he named San Francisco, and took possession of it in the name of his Majesty, and from thence to the Alacranes, the coast of which extends from north-west to south-east; but contrary winds having prevented him from approaching the coast where he desired, he landed in 29½ degrees of north latitude, and discovered an island, which was, perhaps, four leagues from the mainland; he passed within this island [supposed to be Dauphin, Bay of Mobile] and the mainland, and other islands, and after having explored all the coast, he observed that it was bordered by marshy grounds, and was not in a favorable situation to begin a colony, as it was liable to be submerged in many places; nevertheless, he took possession of the country in the name of his Majesty, and gave it the name of Bay of Bas-Fonde. From thence he sailed ten leagues further to the east, where he discovered a bay which he named Filipina,1 it being the largest and most commodious bay on the coast. The entrance is in 30½ degrees; and on entering the bay, he passed the point of an island [now called Santa Rosa] seven leagues long, and steered E.S.E. On the other side of the bay lies the mainland, which is, perhaps, half a league wide from point to point. Of all the discoveries made from east to west, there is no bay so accessible and commodious as this. The bottom is of mud, and the harbor is from four to five fathoms deep at low tide. The channel is three to four fathoms deep, and at high water near one fathom more. The climate is very healthy, and similar to that of Spain. It abounds in all kinds of fish and oysters. The pine forests are extensive, and can be used for ship-building. There are, besides, live oak, cypress, ash, palmetto, laurel, cedar, and other trees, one of which yields a fruit resembling the chestnut. All of these trees commence to grow near the shore, and extend for many leagues into the interior of the country.

Small rivulets of water fall into the bay, where there is a large opening which appears to be the mouth of a great river. While in this bay, he went to examine the water on the north side, where the trees are not so dense, and where cavaliers might hold their tournaments, and find grass for their horses. In the rear of this bay, in an easterly direction, are high hills of a reddish clay, from which earthenware can be manufactured. Here can at all times be seen a great variety of wild game, such as eagles, turkeys, geese, ducks, partridges, doves, etc. On the shores of this bay, he observed a large number of canoes which the Indians use when they go to fish and hunt game, as well as Indian huts, surrounded with maize, beans, and pumpkins. He took possession of this country in the name of his Majesty, which is distant about two hundred and sixty leagues from the port of San-Juan-de-Lua [Vera Cruz].

Contrary winds now prevented him from advancing any farther, although he returned twice to the bay of Filipina, which he afterwards named Velasco. As the winter was now approaching, the pilots and sailors were of the opinion the weather would not be favorable for further explorations of the coast, and he deemed it advisable to return to New Spain to report the discoveries he had made, with the intention of returning again to the coasts of Florida to make further discoveries. He accordingly left the coast on the 3d of December, and arrived at San-Juan-de-Lua on the 14th and herewith certifies that the above statement is a true account of what took place. And this declaration having been read to him, he has approved the same, and signed it with his name.


Signed and sworn to, before me, first notary of the government of New Spain,


And confirmed in all its particulars by us, who made the voyage with him,


The above statement was made and read in presence of Father PEDRO DE FERIA, Vicar-General of the province of Florida; DOMINGO DE SALAZAR, his friend, and FRANCISCO DE AGUILAR, notary, who accompanied the expedition to the coast of Florida. To which is herewith added the following account of the voyage of Don ANGEL DE VILLAFANE, Governor and Captain-General of the provinces of Florida,2 that terminate at a point (on the Atlantic coast) called St. Helena (South Carolina), in 32 degrees north latitude.

On the 27th of May, 1561, the Governor, with two frigates and a caravel, arrived at St. Helena (sound), and sailed up the river (Jordan) four or five leagues, and took possession of the country in the name of his Majesty CHARLES IX.; but, not discovering a convenient port or land suitable for a colony, he returned to sea, and followed the coast in search of a port; and having doubled Cape San Roman (Fear), in 34 degrees north latitude, he landed on the 2d of June, and ordered a ship to make soundings, and found the bottom good; and from thence he went into the interior until he came to a large river which discharged its waters near the cape (San Roman), and took possession of the country and called it“Jordan,” and proceeded to sea. On the 8th of June, he returned and re-entered the river Jordan (St. Helena Sound), with two frigates, but, not finding a suitable harbor, he again returned to sea, and was annoyed with the discovery that the frigate San Juan had fouled her anchor, and lost it near Cape San Roman. He continued his exploration along the coast with two frigates, and sent the treasurer, Don ALONZO VELASQUEZ, with one of them to the river of Canoes (De las Canoas), in latitude 34½ degrees north, which he ascertained to be one and a half fathoms deep at one and a half leagues from its mouth. He afterwards rejoined the Governor, who continued to examine the coast until the 14th of June, when he reached Cape Trafalgar (Lookout), in 35 degrees north latitude.

At ten o'clock at night, a tempest arose, and the caravel was near being lost, as well as both frigates. They were surrounded by shoals and a submerged coast, and, being far away from any port, the Governor and pilots decided to proceed on their voyage, until they reached the port of Monte Christo, in the island of Hispaniola, where the Governor landed on the 9th of July, 1561; and at the request of Governor Don ANGEL VILLAFANE, I, the undersigned notary, being informed of all the facts of the voyage made by him, have written the foregoing statement at the port of Monte Christo, St. Domingo, this tenth day of July, 1561. To which I affix the seal of my office to the original, this fifth day of May, 1565, and transmit the same to the King's Council of the Indies.


le licencié Don GOMEZ DE ZAPATA;
le licencié Don ALONSO MUNOS;

DON GONZALO PEREZ, Secretary of the Council of the Indies, at the same time he presented the above to the President, laid before him a memorandum from the King requesting the Council to give him their definition of the rights of the King to Florida, and whether the Frenchman can take possession of that country and build forts there. The Council informed the King that his title to the country of Florida is clear and indisputable, and founded on the gift of Pope ALEXANDER VI.,3 and the taking possession of that country by Governor-General Don ANGEL DE VILLAFANE, is the same country which the French have recently taken possession of and built a fort there called Carolin: and the same country which GUIDO DE LAS BAZARES took formal possession of in 1558; and which the fleets and ships of the King of Spain have at different times explored and taken possession of. JUAN PONCE DE LEON was the first to discover and take south as far as Florida. While state policy and ambition were thus powerfully seconded by individual enterprise, the New World became the grand lottery of the Old. Spain and Portugal reacted upon each other in their successive discoveries; and now that COLUMBUS and VESPUCIUS had planted the Cross as the insignia of conquest and possession on many a barbarous coast in Africa and America, and though those unexplored countries may be thought to have lain too far apart to produce clashing interests, still they begot great international jealousies.

And as Rome was still the Court of final appeal to Christendom, and the Pope the source whence all new rights of sovereignty were derived, the Pope was called upon by Spain and Portugal to decide this knotty question, and the famous ALEXANDER VI. issued in 1496 a bull of donation fixing as limits of partition a meridian drawn 100 leagues west of the Azores and Cape de Verd Islands; and assigned to Spain the dominion of all lands newly discovered, or to be discovered, as far as 180 degrees to the west of this line; and to Portugal all that lay within the same extent eastward of the meridian assumed. Neither England nor France, however, acknowledged any right in the Pope to make such magnificent gifts of unknown territory, and sent out expedition after expedition to make discoveries without asking leave of his Holiness. And as neither Spain nor Portugal questioned the inherent right of the Pope to gift the world to them as a theater for plunder and spoliation, the limits of partition became a long and fertile subject of difference between themselves and others.

1. The present Bay of Pensacola, sometimes called by the Indian name, Ochuse (Hoch' Ushi, Choctaw), or Uchuse by Spanish navigators in the sixteenth century. It was discovered by MALDONADO, one of DE SOTO'S officers; and is about eleven miles from the Gulf of Mexico.

2. Sent out by Don FRANCISCO DE GARAY, Viceroy, of Jamaica, with instructions to make an examination of the coasts of Florida.

3. In 1496, the English, emulous of the discoveries and maritime glory of Spain and Portugal, and indifferent to the Pope's charter of donation, fitted out an expedition under letters patent from HENRY VII. to JOHN CABOT and his three sons, to seek for a western passage, to the north of the new Spanish discoveries, to Cathay (India.) In the prosecution of this scheme, the CABOTS discovered Newfoundland, and probably explored the coast of North America possession; after him, LUCAS VASQUEZ DE AYLLON; and after him, PANFILO DE NARVAEZ; and after NARVAEZ, HERNANDO DE SOTO. All of whom, and many others, were commissioned by your Majesty to explore and take possession of Florida. And therefore the French have no right to interfere, as they might hereafter build forts, interrupt commerce, and capture the ships of your Majesty coming from the Indies.




THE name of America was first given to the New World in 1507. “La Dénomination d'Amerique a été proposée loin de Seville en Lorraine en 1507. Les mappe Monde qui portent le nom d'Amerique n'ont paru que 8 ou 10 ans apres la mort de Vespuce.” Humboldt's Geogr. du Nouveau Continent, vol. 5, p. 206.

JUAN PONCE DE LEON, in 1513, with his pilot, ALAMINOS, in coasting the Gulf of Mexico, occasionally landed and gave names to several places along the Florida Keys as far as the present “Charlotte Bay,” and after cruising among the Lucayan Islands, in search of the fountain of youth, he discovered the mainland of Florida, in about latitude 30½, near the mouth of the present St. John's river.

DIEGO MIRUELO, a celebrated pilot, sailed from Cuba in 1516, with a single vessel, to the Florida coast, and obtained from the Indians pieces of gold, and without further exploration he returned to Cuba, and gave the most glowing account of the country.

HERNANDEZ DE CORDOVA, in 1517, sailed west from Cuba in three small vessels with ANTONIO ALAMINOS, who had been with COLUMBUS as chief pilot, and relying upon the opinion of COLUMBUS, who maintained that a westerly course would lead to important discoveries, he sailed west from Cuba and struck Cape Catoche, Yucatan. As he approached the shore, five canoes full of people clad in cotton garments--an astonishing spectacle to the Spaniards, who had only seen naked Indians in other parts of America. Without losing sight of the coast he discovered the river Potonchan, near Campeachy, where he landed his troops to collect water, when the natives attacked him with such fury, that after losing half his men, and sinking under the wounds he received, he returned to Cuba, where he died soon after he landed.

JUAN DE GRIJALVA, by order of VELASQUEZ, Governor of Cuba, explored the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, with ANTONIO ALAMINOS as pilot, in 1518, as far as Cabo Rosso, in latitude 21 45, near Tampico, and brought home with him a large amount of gold; and in his admiration of the country, which resembled Spain, he called it New Spain (Mexico). He continued to sail west beyond Tobasco, and was received by the natives as superior beings, with incense and choice offerings of ornaments of gold of curious workmanship.

He finally reached San Juan de Ulloa, and after sending dispatches to Velasquez, with an account of his discoveries, he returned to Cuba; and in the following year, the famous HERNANDO CORTEZ, burning for conquest, took with him ANTONIO ALAMINOS as pilot, which resulted in his invasion and conquest of Mexico.

ANTONIO DE ALAMINOS was dispatched by HERANDO CORTEZ, in 1519, with treasures from Vera Cruz to the King of Spain, and passed into the Atlantic Ocean through the Florida channel, which he had previously discovered, as the chief pilot of PONCE DE LEON.

ALONZO ALVAREZ DE PINEDA was ordered by FRANCISCO DE GARAY, Governor of Jamaica, in 1519, to explore the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and in sailing along the coast he discovered the mouths of the Mississippi, and explored all the shore from Panuco to Cape Florida, and directing his course north, he found that Florida was not an island, but a peninsula, joined to a great continent (Navarrete Viages Menores) in the north, and afterward returned to Vera Cruz. Still CORTEZ believed there might be found in the interior of the country another Mexico, and hence two expeditions were fitted out; one under PANFILO DE NARVAEZ, in 1528, and one under HERNANDO DE SOTO, in 1538-1543.

LUCAS VASQUEZ DE ALLYON dispatched two vessels from San Domingo, in 1520, on an expedition to capture the natives in the Lucayan group to sell as slaves to the planters of that island and Cuba; but on reaching the Lucayan islands he found them almost depopulated, and pursued their voyage along the coast of Florida north of Savannah as far as Cape St. Helena, and after discovering an inhabited country, “called by the natives Chicora,” and extremely fertile, they returned to San Domingo with captured natives. In 1523, DE ALLYON obtained from the King of Spain a royal grant, with the title of Adelantado, and fitted out an expedition of four vessels in 1526, with five hundred men, to establish a colony in “Chicora,” South Carolina. On entering the country he took possession in the name of the King, and explored it as far as “San Miguel Guadalpe,” where he spent a winter, and where many of his men sickened and died; and in attempting to capture the natives to carry them into slavery, he lost his life, and left his nephew, DON JUAN RAMIREZ, as Governor.

FRANCIS I., King of France, fitted out an expedition of four ships in 1524, under the command of GIOVANNI DA VERRAZANO, to make discoveries, as well as explore the coast of Florida, and arrived in sight of land March 24, 1524, in latitude of 34 north, which brought him north of Port Royal, St. Helena sound. At this point, instead of exploring the southern coast of Florida, he sailed north, and landed at different points along the coasts of Carolina, Virginia, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine; and with untiring zeal, searched every bay and river for a passage to the westward, until he reached Newfoundland, and gave to the whole coast discovered, the name of New France.

On his return to France he fitted out another expedition with the sanction of FRANCIS I., for the establishment of a colony in the newly-discovered countries: but the bold navigator never returned to France, and nothing certain is known of his fate. It is somewhat remarkable that three Italians should have directed the discoveries of France, Spain, and England, and thus became the instruments of dividing the dominions of the new world among alien powers, while their own classic land reaped neither glory nor advantage from the genius and courage of her sons. And that in less than three centuries after, neither France nor Spain held a foot of territory on the Atlantic coast or Gulf of Mexico.

PANFILO DE NARVAEZ was duly commissioned to fit out a fleet in 1527 to conquer and govern the country on the Gulf of Mexico, extending from the river of Palms (near Tampico) to Cape Florida. He sailed from the port of St. Lucar on the 17th June with five vessels, carrying six hundred men, to establish a colony; but, owing to detentions, he did not reach the bay of Espiritu Santo (Tampa Bay), Florida, until Holy Thursday, April 14, 1528. He took formal possession of this vast territory on the Gulf of Mexico on Good Friday, and issued a proclamation to the Indians that unless they acknowledged the sovereignty of the Pope and the Emperor (Charles V.) they, their wives, and children shall be made slaves of, and sold as they shall think fit. The natives met him with a bold front on his landing, and motioned to him to go back to his ships. He left one hundred men on board of his ships, and with the remainder he set out to explore the country, determined to proceed to the head-waters of the Apalachee, where he expected to find the treasures of gold and silver he came in search of. But, after disastrous wanderings over a vast country without finding any gold, and greatly discouraged as to the nature and resources of the country, he turned his expedition toward the sea, and after nine days of fighting with the natives, whom he represented as men of fine proportions, tall, and great strength, who discharged their arrows with great force, he finally reached Ante, on the sea-coast, now known as St. Marks (San Marco d'Apalachee), and near the Bay of Apalachicola. Utterly dispirited, he embarked the remnant of his half-starved troops in rude and hastily-built boats for Panuco on the 22d September, 1528; and after entering the sea, and encountering violent storms, he and most of his companions were swallowed up in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The survivors, CABECA DE VACA and three others, remained six years in the country among the coast Indians, and finally found their way back, after incredible hardships, to Mexico; and, on his return to Spain, DE VACA published an interesting narrative of his adventures.

After the death of NARVAEZ, the vast country comprehended under the name of Florida still remained unexplored, when HERNANDO DE SOTO obtained permission from the King of Spain to conquer Florida. Arriving at Cuba from Spain, he sailed from Havana on Sunday, May 18, 1539, with four ships, three caravels, and three transports with horses, twelve priests, eight assistants, and four friars; six hundred and twenty soldiers and two hundred and twenty-three horses; with the title of Adelantado and Alguazil Mayor over two hundred leagues of the coast he should discover between the province of Rio de las Palmas and Florida; and after a prosperous voyage he landed at the Bay of Espiritu Santo (Tampa Bay) on Whitsunday, the 25th May, 1539, and the name of Espiritu Santo was given in honor of the day.

It is not the purpose of this sketch to describe all the bloody battles of DE SOTO with the natives of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas, through which he marched; but, cutting his way from Tampa Bay, he arrived at Anaica Apalache, in the neighborhood of the present town of Tallahassee, about thirty miles from the present St. Marks, where he discovered the remains of NARVAEZ' encampment, and learned here that a country to the north (Georgia) abounded in gold. He marched in the direction of the Savannah river to its head-waters, and from thence to Guaxule on the Conasauga, and down its western bank to Chiaha, now the site of the present town of Rome. About this time he was informed by an Indian chief that in the mountains of the north, at a place called Chisca, there were copper mines. On the 2d July, after a march of ten days, he reached the town of Costa (Alabama). The expedition now began to enter the province of Cooca, whose fertility was known to all the Indians, which now embrace the counties of Cherokee, Benton, Talladega, and Cooca. At the town of Cooca he was met by a thousand warriors, tall and admirably proportioned, dressed in splendid mantles of marten skins, their heads adorned with brilliant feathers of different colors, and armed with bows and arrows.

On leaving Cooca he arrived at Tallassee September 15, where he found extensive fields of corn, beans, and pumpkins. Having remained here twenty days, he crossed the Tallapoosa, and proceeded towards Maubila on Choctaw Bluff where he arrived October 18, 1540. Here he had a battle with the natives, which lasted nine hours, and where DE SOTO lost more than one hundred of his men, including officers. Having suffered so severely, he proceeded on his march to the Pafallaya country, now embraced in Clark, Marengo, and Green counties, where he was attacked by fifteen hundred Indians, which he drove back into the Black Warrior river. He now led his troops across the river, and continued his march to the town of Chickasa, now embraced in Yalobusha county. The cold weather now set in, and the Chief of the Chickasa Nation became his constant visitor. Upon the appearance of Spring (1541), the Chickasa Indians pressed upon him with several thousands of armed men, but at length they fled from the field of battle, pursued by DE SOTO and his army.

On the 25th April, 1541, DE SOTO marched northwest through a champagne country thickly populated, and attacked the Indian fortress of Alibamo, situated upon the Yazoo river, in the county of Tallahatchie, which he captured. In May, 1541, he reached the Mississippi river, and was the first to cross it, unless CABEZA DE VACA had crossed it twelve years before.

DE SOTO now consumed a year in exploring what is now called Arkansas, and returned to the Mississippi at Guachayo, below the mouth of the Arkansas river, in May, 1542. Here he became sick, and died on the last of May, 1542. And to conceal his death from the Indians, he was silently plunged, by the dim light of the stars, into the muddy waters of that river; and the remainder of his army, after having consumed several years in wandering over the vast regions of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas, built brigantines, sailed down the Mississippi, and reached Mexico in September, 1543.

FRANCISCO MALDINADO, who had been sent from Apalachicola by DE SOTO with the brigantines to look for a port to the westward, discovered the Bay of Pensacola, (Ochuse) in 1539, and returned to Cuba: and in the summer of 1541-2, touched again at Ochuse and at other points on the Gulf of Mexico. He and his distinguished associate, GOMEZ ARIAZ, in the spring of 1543, determined not to give up the search for DE SOTO, touched at Vera Cruz, where they learned of the death of DE SOTO upon the Mississippi, and that only three hundred of his men had reached Mexico. Notwithstanding the failure of DE SOTO to establish a colony in Florida, the religious zeal of the Franciscans still remained unabated, to plant a colony and Christianize the natives. They consequently addressed a memorial to the Emperor, setting forth the great richness of Florida, and the immense benefits which would result to the cause of religion and the empire from its acquisition. The Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico) was accordingly instructed by the Emperor to fit out an expedition, which sailed from Vera Cruz in 1559, under the command of DON TRISTAN DE LUNA Y AVELLANO with fifteen hundred soldiers, and a large number of friars burning with zeal to convert the natives; and on the 14th August they reached the bay of Santa Maria Filipina (Pensacola), and six days after he arrived, a terrific gale wrecked a part of his fleet. He dispatched, however, four companies, with two friars, to penetrate the country as far as the province of Coca, and with the remainder of the expedition he established himself at the port (Pensacola). The expedition reached an Indian town on the river (supposed to be the Alabama river), which they named Santa Cruz Napicnoca, where it was afterwards joined by DON TRISTAN DE LUNA, and from thence they proceeded on their march to other Indian towns on the banks of a river called Olibaka (supposed to be the Coosa) where they procured a supply of provisions, and some days after they reached the famous province of Coca. Here they remained some weeks, but the obstacles they encountered with the natives, and scarcity of provisions, so discouraged them that they abandoned the expedition and returned to the bay of Santa Maria (Pensacola), and afterwards to Vera Cruz. This expedition establishes the fact that the whole of this region was visited by the Spaniards from 1539 to 1566, and was the last of the exploring expeditions sent to Florida by the Spaniards prior to the landing of RIBAULT and LAUDONNIERE to found a French colony of Protestants on the Atlantic coast of Florida. See Historical Collections of Louisiana, Narratives of HERNANDO DE SOTO and BIEDMA, Vol. 2, pp. 177-362, GARCILASSO DE LA VEGA, pp. 272-326, FAIRBANKS' Florida, p. 81-3, PICKÉT's Alabama, Vol. 1, pp. 5-52, CARDENAS (Barcia) Ensayo Chronologico Historia General de la Florida, pp. 20-52,Naufragios de ALVAR NUNEZ CABECA DE VACA y Relacion de la Iornada que hizo á la Florida, con el Adelantado PANFILO DE NARVAEZ, pp.12-36.

Narrative of Le Moyne*


“While” (says Laudonniere) “the Indians were visiting me, always bringing me some gift or other, as fishes, deer, turkeys, leopards, bear's whelps, and other productions of the country, I, on my part, compensated them with hatchets, knives, glass beads, combs, and mirrors. Two Indians came one day to salute me in the name of their King, Marracon, who lived about forty miles southward from the fort (Ft. Caroline). They informed me that there was living in the family of King Onachaquara a person called The Bearded; and that there was another with King Mathtaca, whose name they did not know, both foreigners. It occurred to me that these men might be Christians; and I therefore sent notice to all the chiefs in the vicinity, that if they had any Christians in their power, if they would bring them in to me, I would reward them double. Under this inducement, such efforts were made that both the persons referred to were brought to me at the fort. They were naked, and their hair hung down to their hams, in the Indian fashion. They were Spaniards by birth, but had become so accustomed to the manners of the natives, that at first, our ways seemed to them like foreigners. After talking with them I gave them some clothes, and directed their hair to be cut. This was done, but they kept it, putting it up in cotton cloth, saying that they would carry it back home with them as a testimony of the hardships which they had experienced in India (West Indies). In the hair of one of them was found hidden a bit of gold, worth about twenty-five crowns, which he gave me. On my inquiring about the countries they had traveled through, and how they had made their way to this province, they replied that about fifteen years before, three ships, aboard one of which they were, had been cast away near Calos, on the rocks called The Martyrs (Florida Keys); that King Calos had saved and kept for himself the greater part of the riches with which these ships were laden; that such efforts were made that the greater part of the crew were saved, as were many women, of whom three or four were noble ladies, married, and who with their children were still living with this King Calos. On being asked who this king was, they said he was the handsomest and largest Indian of all that region, and an energetic and powerful ruler. They also reported that he possessed a great store of gold and silver, and that he kept in a certain village in a pit not less than a man's height in depth, and as large as a cask; and that, if I could make my way to that place with a hundred arquebusiers, they could put all that wealth into my hands besides which I might obtain from the richer of the natives. They said further, that, when the women met for the purpose of dancing, they were, hanging at their girdles, flat plates of gold as large as quoits, and in such numbers that the weight fatigued and inconvenienced them in dancing; and that the men were similarly loaded. The greater part of all this wealth, they were of opinion, came from Spanish ships, of which numbers are wrecked in that strait; the rest from the trade between the king and other chiefs in the neighborhood. Calos is on a river forty or fifty miles beyond the promontory of Florida that looks toward the south.”

* This is an excerpt from the full narrative.

Note: Since Fontaneda acted as interpreter for Pedro Menendez when he met with Carlos in 1566, it would seem that any treasure would have been recovered at that time.

Juan Lopez de Velasco on the
Geography and Customs of Florida, 1575

Excerpt from Geografia y Descripcion Universal de Las Indias


The following excerpts present Lopez de Velasco’s references to the Indians of south Florida and his description of the features of the coast from Tampa Bay southward around the Keys and on up the east coast to Cape Canaveral.

Juan Lopez de Velasco, Geografia y Descripcion Universal de las Indias. Edition of Don Marcos Jimenez de la Espada, vol. 248 of the Biblioteca de Autores Espanoles desde la Formacion del Lenguaje hasta Nuestros Dias. Madrid: Ediciones Atlas, 1971.

The said Juan Ponce [de Leon] went as governor of it [Florida] the year of 1515,1 and after having landed on the bay that was called, of Juan Ponce, in his name, and now [is renamed Bay] of Carlos, for a cacique who was so named, the Indians routed him and inflicted a wound on him from which he died.

Abandoned Settlements and Forts

The year of 1566 the adelantado Pedro Menendez put a settlement in the Bay of Carlos on an islet that is in the middle [of it], with thirty-six houses encircled with brushwood faggots and lumber (rodeadas defagina y madera). This settlement lasted until the year of 1571. That, the Indians having rebelled against the Spaniards and having created problems for them, Pedro Menendez Marques, by order of the adelantado, beheaded the cacique along with twenty-two other leading Indians and abandoned the said fort.

The year of 1567 the adelantado Pedro Menendez put a settlement in Tocobaga with twenty-four houses and its fort of brushwood faggot and lumber. The Indians killed the Spaniards and thus it was abandoned.

The year of 1567 the aforementioned Pedro Menendez Marques, in the name of the adelantado, put a settlement on the point of Tecuesta with twenty-eight houses surrounded by its fort of brushwood faggots (rodeadas de su fuerte defagina). He himself abandoned it in the year of 1570 because the Indians had put the Christians under great pressure.

Orography and Description of the Coast of Florida

The sea of all this coast is generally good in the summer….

Bay of the Holy Spirit where the district (gobernacion)2 of Florida begins, at twenty-nine degrees of latitude, twenty or thirty leagues from Tocobaga Bay, to the west.

The Bay of Tocobaga, [known] by the other names of [Bay] of the Holy Spirit or of Miruelo, is at 29½ degrees of latitude. The entrance has its passage to the west (la entrada tiene por travesia el oeste).3 It would have three leagues at the mouth and three little islets in it on which there is nothing at all except sand and birds. On the northern side, within it the coast runs about two leagues from west to east and then an arm of the sea three leagues wide turns directly to the north, [penetrating] into the land for eighteen leagues up to the village of Tocobaga itself, a settlement of Indians where it terminates. In order to sail in it, one must stay close to the eastern shore continually because the other one is all shoal. In crossing the said arm, another arm, wider than the above-mentioned one, turns off [from it].4 No one has sailed to the east northeast. For this [reason] it is not known where it leads to.

The three islands of the entrance of the bay form four entryways. And all the said islands thrust shoals out from themselves that stick out about one-quarter of a league into the sea. Although the biggest one of all is that of the island on the southern side which forms two entry passes along the length of the coast (a luengo de la costa), it has no more than a fathom of water at high tide for frigates. And the next one would have about a fathom and one-half. And the other two entry passes belonging to the northern island are good ones because at full low tide they have three fathoms of water, and because of the tides being strong there, the water will rise up to a fathom and one-half [above that]. Once one enters within the bay, it is all clear and there is plenty of water in which the ships can remain securely.

From Tocobaga to Tampa is thirty-three leagues. The coast runs north-south, quadrant of the northwest-southeast. As one passes from the bay to two leagues of shrub-less land (tierra pelada), which serves as a distinguishing mark for recognizing the entrance from the south (al sur),5 there is a little creek that penetrates about half a league into the land. And it leads soon into an arm of the sea that runs from there along the length of the coast down to the very port of Tampa, all frequently inundated [land] (todo anegadizo) and full of islets and keys, making the entire coast an island about half a league wide more or less, covered with trees and with some huts (cabanas).

The Bay of Tampa, which could be bahia honda,6 has shoal water (va con bajo)7 that is described on the old charts. It is a large bay and would have a width of three leagues at the entrance, all full of shoals and within, all frequently inundated (toda anegadiza) and filled with islands.

The entrance of the south side has a little entrance (entradilla) for frigates. There is a great mullet fishery in it, which they fish for with nets as in Spain.

From the above-mentioned bay [Tampa] the coast runs twelve leagues down to Carlos. There is a port at four leagues, the entrance of which would be of fifty or sixty paces (pesos). Ships can remain within it securely. The sea goes running out toward the south until one is close to Carlos, making an island of all the coast like the [one] farther up, except that it is not so cluttered (sucio?), although it has its islands within [it]. On the outside the greater [part] is clear (limpia)8 until the entrance of a creek (riachuelo) that is two leagues from the Bay of Carlos. From that point forward everything is shoals (bajos). That creek communicates with the aforementioned arm of the sea.

Alongside (Junto) and on the island that forms the coast there are trees and some huts.

The Bay of Carlos, which is called Escampaba in the language of the Indians, for a cacique of that name, who later called himself Carlos out of a devotion for the Emperor, appears to be the same one that is called, of Juan Ponce, because he landed in it during the year of 1515, where he lost his people and where the Indians gave him wounds from which he died. It is at 26½ plus degrees (esta en 26 grados y ½ largos?).9 Its entrance is very narrow and full of shoals as a consequence of which only boats (barcos) are able to enter. Within it is spacious, about four or five leagues in circumference, although all subject to flooding. There is a little island in the middle that has a circumference of about half a league, with other little islets around it. On this [island] Cacique Carlos had his headquarters and presently his successors have it there [as well]. From there one may go by canoes to the arm of the sea that goes toward Tampa by way of some channels (canos) that there are between one sea and another.

From Carlos to the point of Muspa, which would be at 25¾ degrees and would be about twelve or thirteen leagues, the coast runs north-south and there are five creeks scattered along the coast that are outlets as it were (como desaguaderos) of the ponds (lagunas) and swamps (pantanos) that are inland. As in all the rest of the coasts, one may travel in canoes without going out to sea.

From the Bay of Tocobaga to the Martyrs the aforesaid point of Muspa projects a shoal of a league toward the sea (echa un bajo una legua a la mar?),10 between which and the mainland there is passage for the frigates. As distinguishing marks it has three little groves on top of it that are about half a league distant from one another. Once past the point of Muspa, the coast turns, forming a bay (ensenada) of about two leagues toward the east, from which point the coast turns at once to a north-south orientation down to the Martyrs, forming some coves (ensenadas) and shoals (bajios) and some creeks and frequently inundated marshes (pantanos anegadizos). All of it is a wretched coast (es ruin costa) because for a distance of four or five leagues to seaward there is no more than a fathom and one-half of water, in which many fish die.

From the farthest point of the mainland, which is at 25 degrees, it runs toward the sea on a northeast-southwest orientation until at 24½ degrees it becomes a chain of shoals (cordillera de bajos), full of little islands that they call the Martyrs. And they are countless, with the greater part of them inhabited by Indians subject to the cacique, Carlos, great archers and spear throwers. One may sail among them with light-draft vessels (chalupas) and canoes. All the islands are covered with trees, although many of them are frequently inundated.

From the aforesaid point along the entire length of the Martyrs, to the east, a league and one-half to the seaward, there is a rock reef that has openings at intervals (que va haciendo bocas) through which any ship whatsoever may pass and anchor within freely, because there is plenty of deep water, more than fourteen or fifteen fathoms, so that many ships can remain inside them safely, if they hit the mark in entering through the channels (bocas) in which there are many protruding keys of sand (muchos cayos de arena descubiertos) to enable one to keep one’s distance from them.

The chain of the aforesaid shoals (bajos) of the Martyrs from their point [of origin] follows an east-west line of about sixteen leagues and then turns to the east-northeast until it takes on some more height, which would be for about eight leagues or less. Then the coast turns from the northeast quadrant to the east (luego vuelve la costa al nordeste cuarta al leste) until it reaches a point a little short of 25 degrees (25 grados escasos),11 which would be about twelve leagues, and then it turns to the north another six. In these [six leagues] there are only two little keys and all sea within, although shallow (bajio). And on the entire coast and edge (orilla) of the aforesaid Martyrs, there are many islands, as has been stated. And at a distance from the edge, which turns toward the northeast for eighteen leagues, there is a long tree-covered island [extending] for all that eighteen leagues, and about half a league in width and with a low spot (quebrada)12 in the middle at which it gives the appearance that it is going to break in two. The islands of the coast are distant from one another a league, and a league and one-half, and [at times] by two and three leagues and more.

The long and big island, which is at the end of the Martyrs, is also inhabited by Indians, like the others, whose cacique is called Matecumbe. There is a shoal of rock (bajo de piedra) along the length of the island a league and one-half to seaward, which runs the length of the island, at the foot of which there is so much water that there is no bottom in many areas. But for the one who has to go from Florida to Havana, he should go in close to the shoal (bajo) for the sake of the current that is so strong that if they do not catch much wind, it will push them back. And if the ship should be a frigate, it will be able to go inside of the reef, sailing by day and anchoring by night.

At the very point of Tequesta there enters into the sea a freshwater river, which comes from the interior, and to all appearances runs from west to east. There are many fish and eels in it. Alongside it on the north side is the Indian settlement that is called Tequesta, from which the point takes its name. A settlement of Spaniards was established here in the year of 1567, which was abandoned later, in the year of 1570. They say it would be advantageous to build a fort there for the security of the ships that might have to come out of the [Bahama] Channel [there] and because the land is good for settlement.

From Tequesta the coast runs to the north, falling off to the north-northwest until it reaches 27 degrees. From the aforesaid point to the Sweet River (Rio Dulce), which would be six leagues, there are three islands [running] north-south along the length of the coast; that all three would have the said six leagues of length (que tendran todas tres de largo las dichas seis leguas).13 And they are so close together that there is a narrow entrance between one and the other only for boats (barcos), because there is no water at a distance from them (a lo largo dellas).14 A league from the sea there is a sandbank (placel) of nine fathoms of water, all clear sand, where any vessel (nao) whatsoever may anchor that comes out [of the channel], because beyond it is where the Bahama Channel runs the most. The whales come to this pool (placel) in winter, where the Indians take some of them. Four leagues farther to the north of the Sweet River and along the length of the coast there is a small shoal area (un bajo pequeno) that would have a fathom and one-half above it, of three leagues in length, and within it, between it and the coast, four fathoms of clear sand. All the rest of the coast is clear up to 26½ degrees, where another little river enters into the sea, which could be the one that is called the Rio Dulce in some descriptions, which opens and closes when there is a storm, and, accordingly, casts up some shoals in its vicinity.

The River Asis is at 27 degrees. It is a small one that only boats (barcos) can enter. And from it up to Cape Canaveral the coast runs north-south until the cove (ensenada) of the same cape, which takes a turn to the northeast [there]. The coast is clear and anchorable, although there is no port along its length.

1. Lopez de Velasco is in error on the date of Ponce de Leon’s return to Florida, which did not occur until the beginning of the 1520’s.

2. Gobernacion is used here in the sense of the territory then under the jurisdiction of Florida’s governor. In view of the distance given, it is not clear what Lopez de Velasco means here by Bay of the Holy Spirit. The Mississippi was one of the bodies of water to which the name was applied at this era.

3. My rendition here is free and tentative. A literal rendition would be “the entrance has the west for passage.

4. The Spanish here is en pasando el dicho brazo vuelve otro brazo mas ancho que el sobredicho. The verb vuelve could possibly be rendered differently.

5. This might be rendered also as “to the south" or “on the south."

6. I have left this in Spanish because I believe that it was used here as a place name. Literally it means “deep bay."

7. Literally rendered, this would be “goes with shallow water."

8. This might be rendered also as “clean."

9. Literally this should be rendered as “long degrees." As far as I am aware there was only one standard length for the degree of latitude.

10. This might also be rendered conceivably as “From the Bay of Tocobaga to the Martyrs the said point of Muspa has a deep spot of a league to the seaward."

11. As in the case of the earlier “long degrees," this expression, rendered literally, would be “scant" or “short degrees," but such a rendition does not make sense according to a nautical expert.

12. Quebrada could be rendered also as “indentation."

13. My rendition here is tentative, as this expression may have some idiomatic meaning that escapes me.

14. This might also be rendered, with equal justice, as “along the length of them."

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