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“Cruel and Barbarous Martyrdom” at Ayubale: January 25, 1704

In 1680, a band of pagan Indians attacked a Christian Indian village on St. Simon’s Island in Georgia. Fortunately for the village, the Spanish governor’s lieutenant at nearby mission San Buenaventura de Guadalquini was alerted in time. With a small force of Spanish soldiers and Indians, he repelled the invaders.

Map showing the location of the Franciscan missions in what is today Florida and Georgia

The attack on St. Simon’s was ominous. The invading Indians were not acting on their own but were encouraged and aided by English settlers at Charles Town, 60 miles up the coast. Englishmen had settled Charles Town, or Charleston, ten years before, under a grant from King Charles II. By 1680, Protestant Huguenots and Scots had settled in the region around Charleston. Pursuing the trade in deerskin, the settlers frequently entered Spanish territory in violation of Spanish law. The Spanish, however, could do little about such intrusions, since there were few Spanish soldiers in Florida. The Charlestonians, moreover, had made an alliance with the powerful Yamassee tribe, which gave them a buffer zone of protection against the Spanish.

One reason the inhabitants of Charleston did not respect the boundaries of Spanish Florida was that King Charles’ grant to the colony of “Carolina” (named for his majesty) included all the coast south of Virginia to a point 65 miles south of San Agustín. It thus took in land already claimed by Spain. When Spain protested, the matter was resolved by the Treaty of Madrid, which placed the southern boundary of Carolina at the Savannah River, the southern boundary of the current state of South Carolina.

A 1733 map of Charles Town

The inhabitants of Charleston, the principle town in the colony of South Carolina, refused to respect the Treaty of Madrid. They armed their Indian allies and led them on slaving expeditions against the tribes to the south. A short time after the attack on St. Simon’s Island, Carolinians led 300 Indians against the mission Santa Catalina de Guale but were again driven off. Four years later, however, repeated Indian and pirate attacks on the Guale missions convinced the Spanish governor to evacuate all the missions on the coast north of Florida. By 1685, missions on the coast north of the St. Mary’s River were no more.

Having destroyed the coastal missions, the Carolinians turned their attention to the interior. Led by Scots, some 60 Yamassee Indians attacked the mission Santa Catalina de Ahoica, killing 18 and enslaving 24 mission Indians, both male and female. The survivors were sent to work on plantations in both Carolina and the British West Indies.

Castillo de San Marcos, in San Agustín

Conditions worsened for the missions during “Queen Anne’s War,” which began in 1702. Queen Anne’s War was the American branch of the War of the Spanish Succession ….

With the blessing of an official war, Governor James Moore of South Carolina led 600 Carolinians and 600 Indians in an attack on San Agustín in November 1702. Destroying the coastal missions south of the St. Mary’s River, the Carolinians and their Indian allies marched into San Agustín itself. Unable to resist the invasion with only 323 soldiers, the Spanish governor, José de Zúñiga y Cerda, moved the entire population into the Castillo de San Marcos, the stone fort at San Agustín. While Zúñiga y Cerda sent for reinforcements to Havana, Governor Moore’s men laid waste to San Agustín’s houses, the parish church, and the Franciscan friary. By December 26, four ships from Havana had sailed into the harbor of San Agustín, forcing Moore to destroy his own small fleet and withdraw by land. He took with him 500 Christian Indians as slaves.

Ashamed that he had not taken San Agustín, James Moore resigned his governorship. Two years later, however, the South Carolina assembly chose Moore to lead a raid on the Apalachee region of western Florida. With 50 Carolinian soldiers and 1,000 Creek Indians, Moore led a surprise attack on mission Concepción de Ayubale on January 25, 1704. The Franciscan missionary, Fray Angel de Miranda, gathered a small force inside the mission church and repelled numerous attacks for as long as ammunition held out. Reinforcements from Mission San Luis de Talimali soon arrived, and 30 Spanish soldiers and 400 Apalachee braves under Captain Alonso Días Mejía twice drove the Carolinians from Ayubale plaza. But by nightfall, the Spanish and the Apalachee had run out of ammunition. They surrendered.

Following the surrender of Ayubale, Moore and his Carolinians brutally butchered the mission’s inhabitants, scalping and mutilating men, women, and children. According to the Spanish governor’s report, many of the Christian Indians died heroically:

"During this cruel and barbarous martyrdom which the poor Apalachee Indians experienced, there were some of them who encouraged the others, declaring that through martyrdom they would appear before God; and to the pagans they said, 'Make more fire so that our hearts may be allowed to suffer for our souls. We go to enjoy God as Christians.'”

A 1733 map showing the region of Apalachee

A Franciscan who had accompanied Mejía’s force, Fray Juan de Parga Araujo, was beheaded and his body dismembered. The remaining Apalachee, about 1,000, were taken to Charleston as slaves. Moore carried out other attacks in Apalachee, no less brutal.

In July 1704, the Spanish council of war in San Agustín decided to abandon Apalachee. All inhabitants were to remove to the region around San Agustín. A representative from the French outpost at Mobile, Alabama, offered the remaining Apalachee refuge there. Eight-hundred Indians took him up on this offer. They formed a strong and devout Catholic community, whose piety the French highly praised.

Though the region around the Castillo de San Marcos was safer than their home region, the Apalachee still suffered from slaving raids throughout the remainder of Queen Anne’s War. Between January and July 1704, the Apalachee region lost 4,000 native inhabitants. Its 14 prosperous missions, with the surrounding Spanish ranchos and smaller Indian settlements, were irrevocably lost.

Spanish Mission Music

Spanish missionaries in America taught native neophytes not only the Catholic faith and practical arts, but musical arts as well. We offer recordings of a two pieces, Beatus Vir and Señora Doña Maria, that were performed by native orchestras and choirs in the Jesuit missions of Bolivia in the 18th century.

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