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Second Mission Period 1587 - 1616

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23. SANTA CATALINA DE GUALE

The mission appeared on Geiger's 1587 list as the site of a Franciscan convent, but it is probable that the Guale mission's second phase dates only from the 1594-1595 period, or, that if a friar went to Guale in 1587, he did not tarry there long. As noted earlier, a visitor to San Pedro Mocama in 1688 spoke of Cumberland Island as the northern limit of the missions then. Nonetheless, some authorities date its establishment to 1587. But one of them was equivocal on this point, noting initially that In 1587 the Island became the principal northern Spanish out post on the Atlantic coast, but he then seemingly ruled that out in a subsequent passage in which he remarked that of the 1587 band of friars, None of the latter, however, took the risk of working on the Guale coast. Not until 1595 did the Franciscans again attempt to missionize the Guale coast. Uncertainty prevails as well about the location of this new Guale mission on St. Catherines Island prior to the 1597 revolt. Accounts of the killing of the two friars on the island indicate that they were living in a place or settlement distinct from the village of the chief of Guale, namely in the village of Asopo, and that the chief of Guale, living elsewhere, sent a messenger to warn the friars of the danger and urge them to flee. But to date archaeologists have located only one mission site on the island despite a rather thorough survey. That site is being explored systematically under the direction of David Hurst Thomas of the American Museum of Natural History. The site's location, one-half league from good landing spots, indicates that it is probably the site visited by Gov ernor Pedro de Ibarra in 1604, whatever may be its relation to the Asopo where the priest and lay brother were killed in 1597. With the destruction of the mission at that time, the name Asopo disappeared from the records. When Ibarra arrived in 1604 a church had been built already in what was referred to as the village of the mico of Guale, although it was only in 1605 that Fray Pedro Ruiz was assigned to recommence missionization there. This mission survived until an attack by English-led Yamasee from the Carolina colony led the inhabitants to retreat southward, although they and the few soldiers had successfully resisted the invasion. Some of the inhabitants also fled westward to the Apalachicola country along the Chattahoochee. Those who remained loyal to Spain settled eventually on Amelia Island, which contained three Guale missions during the 1690's. While on St. Catherine's Island this mission's people had been major suppliers of foodstuffs to St. Augustine. The extent of that trade is reflected seemingly in the wealth of glass beads and other trade goods found with the more than four hundred burials found in the floor of the church at Santa Catalina de Guale. The volume of such goods far surpasses that found at any other mission in Spanish Florida to date.

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REFERENCES Dr. John H. Hann
"Summary Guide to Spanish Florida Missions and Vistas with Churches in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries"


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© Copyright. John P. Walsh. April 24, 2002