Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mission San Luis

We are now parked about 22 miles east of Tallahassee, Fl.  After we arrived here on Tuesday I happened to glance out the window and noticed a short trim older lady next door setting up a ramp on her motor home.  My first thought that it was to accommodate a wheelchair, but the ramp was too narrow for that.  Then I thought perhaps she had a big dog who needed the ramp.  No, it was a very large potbelly pig!
We walked over to greet our neighbor and got acquainted with her sole traveling companion, Pumpkin.  He is twenty-two years old and arthritic back legs slow him down a bit.  He did not impress me as someone I would like to have in my little home.  On to more serious matters, which is the mission.  In 1607 the Apalachee Indians requested that Spanish friars help them in fighting disease and foreign intruders.  Their tribe was experiencing a lack of trust in their traditions as well as their leadership.  A settlement was built which included a large central area that accommodated the Indian's council house as well as a church and rectory.  In the 1940s archeologists found artifacts in this area which told the story of this village.  In 1986 Florida purchased this land and, after further extensive research, reconstructed the settlement.
At the council house a docent dressed in period clothing greeted us and followed us inside.  The structure is open at the top and has the height of a five-story building.  It can hold between 2,000 and 3,000 people.
Straw mats filled with Spanish moss cover the sleeping/sitting structures pictured above.  Smudge pots are located below the beds as it was necessary to smoke out the bugs in the moss.  The moss proved to be a useful item for the Indians, strands of it woven together made some very strong rope.  The church and rectory, two different structures, proved to be every bit as big as the council house.
Mission records indicate that between 1633-1635 5,000 Apalachee were baptized.   A base of the limestone baptismal font has been excavated.  Below the dirt floor of the church is the cemetery.
Between 1656 and 1704 more than 1400 Apalachee and Spaniards lived at the mission.  It was a principal village of the Apalachee and home of their most powerful leaders.  San Luis was also the Spaniard's westernmost religious, administrative, and military headquarters.  Speaking of the latter, a fort was located near the settlement, we toured its blockhouse.  A full scale fort was built in 1690 when threat of the British became imminent.  However, the entire mission and fort were burned and abandoned by 1704 before the British arrived.  The Apalachee fled to French controlled Mobile Alabama and in 1763 relocated to Louisiana - where about 250-300 descendants are living today.

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