Thursday, April 3, 2008

Namesake of Jackson County's first church

This is a painting of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, the Italian saint for whom the early Jackson County Spanish mission of San Nicolas de Tolentino was anmed.
The mission was established on June 22, 1674, by a party of Spanish missionaries and soldiers who had entered the area to minister to the Chacato Indians then living between the Chipola River and Holmes Creek. The journal of Fray Rodrigo de la Barreda, a Franciscan missionary, indicates that Mission San Nicolas stood in a Chacato village located at the mouth of a large cave. Of the more than 200 known caves in Jackson County, the only one that closely matches the description left by Fray Barreda is Gerrard's Cave located about two and one-half miles northwest of Marianna.
Spanish documents indicate that a church was built at San Nicolas in June of 1674 and was dedicated on June 22, 1674, with a special mass. This was the first recorded Christian religious ceremony in Jackson County history. An infant nephew of the Chacato chief of the village was baptized on the same day, the first recorded baptism in the history of the county.
Mission San Nicolas lasted only about one year before the church was destroyed and the resident missionary driven away in a Chacato uprising. It was visited several times in later years by Spanish explorers, but each time was described as "abandoned."

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