The first missionaries in Spanish Florida were the Jesuits. Their missionary efforts were not well received by many of the Indian tribes in Southeastern United States. They had success with the Tumucuan Indians native to Northern Florida, particularly the Mission Nombre De Dios in St. Augustine, Florida. When the Jesuits arrived in La Florida in 1566, St. Augustine, which was founded by Pedro Menedez in 1565, was the central location from which all the Jesuit efforts started. The first mission established during The First Period of the Mission Era, Nomber De Dios still evangelizes visitors from around the world today. The Jesuit mission efforts ranged from southern Florida to The Chesapeake Bay and to the hinterland of the Carolinas. The Jesuits soon grew disenchanted with the struggle and hardships of La Florida and their limited success converting the natives. The Jesuits left La Florida in 1572.

Franciscan missionaries arrived in 1573 and filled the void left by the Jesuits. Though their endeavors to convert native were slow to start, by dogged determination their efforts were rewarded. At one point there were over 50 Franciscan missionaries in Spanish Florida. Their most successful efforts resulted in the establishment of two mission trails. One, in the coastal area south of St. Augustine, extended north to South Carolina, at present-day Parris Island. Another mission trail extended from St. Augustine, to west of Tallahassee, Florida, with a large concentration of missions in the Tallahassee area. A tragic event occurred among the Guale Indians in Georgia when the natives revolted, resulting in the death of five friars at the hands of Gualian insurgents. Spanish retaliation resulted in the deaths of the rioters.


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© Copyright. John P. Walsh. April 22, 2002
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