Pensacola Colonial Frontiers Project
Despite the fact that the first Spanish presidio established
on Pensacola Bay was located in an area which was by that time (1698) largely
devoid of indigenous Native American inhabitants, Pensacola's three successive presidios
(Santa María, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel) ultimately found themselves neighbored
by several immigrant groups living in various distinct communities through the
departure of the Spanish in 1763. Among these groups were Apalachee
Indians originally native to the Tallahassee region, and who are documented to
have arrived in at least two waves, including a first group in 1704 after the
destruction of the Apalachee mission province by Creek and English raiders, and
a second group in 1718 during the aftermath of the Yamasee War, when Creek
Indians withdrew their sole alliance with the English of South Carolina, and
many Apalachees living among the Creeks returned to Spanish territory.
Yamasee Indians, originally native to eastern Georgia, also arrived in Pensacola
after the 1740 English siege on St. Augustine, where they had retreated after
the Yamasee War. By the late 1750s, these two groups were living in two
distinct mission communities at some distance from the new mainland location of
the Spanish presidio at San Miguel (modern Pensacola's downtown). The
residents of both these missions engaged in extensive trade and interaction with
the Upper Creek Indians of central Alabama, but during the period when they
found themselves on opposite sides of the French and Indian War (1756-1763),
both missions were burned to the ground in Creek raids during 1761, along with
several Spanish ranches.
Though Native American pottery was used extensively by the
Spanish residents of all three Pensacola presidios, and has been recovered
archaeologically at all sites, as of 2009 none of the documented Apalachee or Yamasee
missions had yet been identified and tested archaeologically. During the
summer of 2009, the UWF terrestrial archaeological field school under my
conducted archaeological survey designed to locate the lost mission site of San
Joseph de Escambe, which was successfully located (see
below). During the next three summers, UWF
terrestrial field schools have conducted more extensive excavations at the site; to
follow our progress (and also read entries from previous years), see the online blog at
the following link:
Pensacola Colonial Frontiers: 2009-2015.
Additional information on the context for the project is
provided below, and will be updated and expanded as time permits.
/ Reports /
Selected Pensacola Missions and Nearby
Below are brief descriptions of the most well-documented
missions and contemporaneous Native American villages near Pensacola:
Nuestra Señora de la Soledad y San
Luís (1718-c1740s) - This Apalachee Indian mission was established in
1718 by the Apalachee chief Juan Marcos Ysfani (also rendered as Fant), and was said to have begun
with more 100 inhabitants, including some Apalachee moving back from the
vicinity of French Mobile (and probably many who had recently relocated from
Creek Indian territory in the aftermath of the 1715 Yamasee War). At that
time it was noted to be located five leagues north of Presidio Santa María de
Galve along the "Río de los Chiscas" (the Escambia River).
Joseph de Escambe (c1741-1761)
- This Apalachee mission was established upriver along the Escambia River (which
actually took its later name from this mission), probably as a relocation of the
earlier Apalachee community at the mouth of the river (noted above). At
the time it was the northernmost extent of Spanish influence from Pensacola.
It was administered by Apalachee chief Juan Marcos Ysfani until its destruction
during a Creek raid on April 9, 1761. A Franciscan missionary was
stationed here, and a small detachment of Spanish infantry during the 1750s,
augmented to include 16 members of a Spanish cavalry unit early in 1760.
More details on this mission can be found on the
including translations of
San Antonio de Punta Rasa
(c1749-1761) - This Yamasee mission was established near Garcon Point
when an existing mission community relocated across the bay from an unidentified earlier
site near the Spanish outpost at San Miguel de Punta Blanca (later to become the site
of the third Spanish presidio on Pensacola Bay, under modern downtown Pensacola).
It was administered by Yamasee chief Andrés Escudero until its destruction
after an attack by Creek Indians on February 12, 1761. A Franciscan missionary was
stationed here, along with several other members of a Spanish infantry unit
through the 1750s.
Los Tobases (c1730s, 1759-1761)
- This village was the Upper Creek (Tallapoosa Province) settlement nearest to
Presidio Santa Rosa in 1738, and after having been abandoned (perhaps after
Mission Escambe was established nearby in 1741) the site was resettled by 30
Tallapoosa Indians and their wives and children in early 1759 after a 1758 peace
treaty between the Spanish and the Upper Creeks. Situated not far upriver
from Escambe, the site was once again abandoned during the 1761 hostilities that
resulted in the destruction of both Escambe and Punta Rasa along with all
Spanish out-settlements north of Pensacola.
Talacayche (1758-1761) -
This Upper Creek village under chief Anatichi was established at the invitation
of Governor Miguel Román after the April, 1758 peace treaty between the Spanish
and the Creek. It was located 30 leagues east of San Miguel de Panzacola
toward the Lower Creek territory, probably on the Choctawhatchee River south of
the Florida-Alabama border. Following the February, 1761 murders at
Mission Punta Rasa on Garcon Point, Yamasee warriors attacked it in retaliation,
after which the site was abandoned.
Rasa II / "Indian Town" (1761-1763) - This short-lived
Yamasee-Apalachee community was established adjacent to the Spanish fort at San
Miguel during the last stage of the French and Indian War (1756-1763), and was
administered by principal chief Andrés Escudero until their voluntary departure
with the Spanish for Veracruz, Mexico. In 1763, its inhabitants consisted
of 120 individuals, including 18 families ranging in size between 2 and 10
persons, and 21 additional males not associated with larger families. Its
location just east of the fort appears to have been recorded by British map-makers after
their arrival in 1763, under the name "Indian Town."
The PDF files below include my first presented paper summarizing my
initial documentary research into the missions of 18th-century Pensacola (from
2008), and a subsequent presented paper co-authored with colleagues regarding
Mission San Joseph de Escambe. Clicking on the link below
will open a new browser window, or the file can be downloaded by right clicking
Mission Life in 18th-Century West Florida: 2011 Excavations at San
Joseph de Escambe (by John E. Worth, Norma J. Harris, Jennifer
Melcher, and Danielle Dadiego). Paper presented at the 2012
Conference of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Baltimore,
San Joseph de
Escambe: A 18th-Century Apalachee Mission in the West Florida
Borderlands (by John E. Worth, Norma J. Harris, and Jennifer
Melcher). Paper presented at the 2011 Conference of the Society for
Historical Archaeology, Austin, Texas.
Rediscovering Pensacola's Lost Spanish Missions. Paper
presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Archaeological
Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina (2008).
2012 Field School Summaries: 2012 Mission
Escambe Excavations (by Patricia McMahon and Danielle Dadiego).
The Florida Anthropologist 65(4): 251–252.
2011 Field School Summaries: 2011 Pensacola
Colonial Frontiers Field School (by John E. Worth). The
Florida Anthropologist 64(3–4: 281.
Below are links to online news items in the press regarding
the 2009-2012 UWF field schools or other aspects of the Colonial Frontiers project.
Day of Archaeology, June 29, 2012 and
Fox 10 TV, June 24, 2011
NorthEscambia.com, June 24, 2011
Archaeology Video Series, June 13, 2011
UWF News, June
News Journal, August 8, 2009
August 9, 2009