First Mission Period 1566 - 1587

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A mission believed to have been established on the southern end of Cumberland island at the orders of Menédez de Avilés before his return to Spain in 1567. It was to be one of seven such forts in the territory of the Salt Water Timucua to keep those hostile Indians in check and secure communications between the garrison at St. Augustine and that at San Mateo and to provide for surveillance of approaching and passing vessels. Some sources speak of an unsuccessful Jesuit mission attempt having been made at Cumberland Island in 1566 by Fr. Pedro Martinez, who was killed by the Tacatacuru on September 29, 1566, hut no mission attempt was involved. Upon their arrival in Florida waters with an inexperienced pilot who sailed past St. Augustine without noticing it, Martinez and a few companions, stranded somewhere on the Georgia coast in a small boat, were making their way southward toward St. Augustine when Martinez was killed on a small island called Tacatacuru that appears to have been close to the mouth of the St. Johns River. Although the names San Pedro and Tacatacuru are understood generally to signify Cumberland Island in the 1560s and possibly a century later in the 1670s, those names may have been linked also with either Talbot or Amelia Island. Menéndez de Avilés placed the site of Martinez' death within a league of San Matheo, on the St. Johns. Such a location for a fort designed to secure communications with San Mathro makes more sense than one farther north on Cumberland Island. In 1675 Pedro de Arcos, the lieutenant for Guale and the Salt Water Timucua of Mocama. appears to have applied the name Isle of Mocama (also generally associated with Cumberland Island) to Amelia Island. The mission of San Pedro Mocama or Tacatacuru, which was located on Cumberland Island, was established only in 1587.

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"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 21, 2002