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Florida History: The Apalachee and Spanish at San Luis Mission

From 1656 to 1704, Florida’s San Luis was home to the main Apalachee village as well as serving as a military, religious, and administrative capital for Spain. Learn about this fascinating place in Florida history.

The Apalachee and Spanish at San Luis Mission

My dad is a history buff, and when we visited him in Florida he took us to visit Mission San Luis, a living history site. I wrote about our visit to the Apalachee Council House soon after our return.

One thing that makes San Luis special is that it’s a rare instance of a Native American tribe (the Apalachee) living (mostly) in peace alongside European (Spanish) settlers.

Apalachee natives and Spaniards in Florida history

The Spaniards benefited from the Apalachee Natives’ strong agriculture, and the settlement thrived for several decades. The Apalachee council house in Mission San Luis was the largest building in the Southeast. It held 2,000-3,000 people!

Learn about the Spanish and their relationship with the Apalachee at San Luis in Florida

In 1687, goodwill between the groups began to break down when Spaniards commandeered some of the San Luis Apalachees’ houses and land. They also took lumber intended for church repairs and forced the Apalachee to build homes for them. English raids and Creek raids eventually broke the mission apart permanently. The retreating Spanish garrison destroyed the fort and moved to St. Augustine. Some Apalachee went with the Spaniards; others  migrated into Creek territory. Most Apalachee accepted an offer to live in French-controlled Mobile, relocating in 1763 to Rapides Parish in Louisiana. The Talimali Band of Apalachee operates in Rapides Parish today under the guidance of Chief Gilmer Bennett.

San Luis Mission Florida History

We learned quite a bit about this part of Florida history during our visit to Mission San Luis. I was very impressed with both the knowledge and the patience of the guides in answering our questions! What piece of history should we learn about next? We’d love to learn more about Florida, or another part of the world. Share your recommendations in the comments below, or on my Facebook page. 

MaryAnne at Mama Smiles
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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

4 thoughts on “Florida History: The Apalachee and Spanish at San Luis Mission”

  1. I would love to hear more about the role of religion, particularly Catholicism in the converting the Apalacees. Was the Catholic Church involved? Was there a push to convert the Native Americans and what did that look like? Was it forced upon them via gunpoint or was it voluntary? It never seems to be voluntary.

    1. Yes, this was a mission site for the Catholic church. They were at one point invited to settle here, although they didn’t actually settle until later. Some Native Americans did convert, maybe even all, but it definitely wasn’t at gunpoint. There are records of the Apalachee playing their traditional ball game and maintaining other tribal traditions while living at this site. I do imagine there was pressure to convert, but overall this seemed to be an exceptionally peaceful cooperative situation between the two groups. Not faultless, but better than many.

  2. I love Saint Augustine in Florida, the fort there is one of the few that has never been taken by an invading army because of its unique architecture.

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