Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lake Seminole History, Part Three


This aerial view shows the western end of the Jim Woodruff Dam at the point it intersects with the commanding bluff overlooking Lake Seminole in Jackson County, Florida.
The paved parking area visible in the left center of the photograph is the West Bank Overlook, a park area near Sneads that provides a beautiful view of the main lake.
The overlook and surrounding hilltop was the site of Senor San Carlos de Chacatos, a Spanish mission established here in around 1680 to serve a village of Christian Chacato Indians.
The Native Americans who inhabited the village on this site had originally lived west of the Chipola River, but relocated here between 1675 and 1680 after the two missions originally established to serve them had been abandoned following an uprising by part of the Chacato nation.
Spanish missionaries returned to this site and established a church that functioned for sixteen years as the most outlying European settlement in Florida. The presence of the mission establishment here was mentioned in the 1686 journal of Marcos Delgado and again in the documents relating to the 1693 expedition of Don Laureano de Torres y Ayala. The latter official led the first known overland crossing of Northwest Florida from the Apalachicola River to Pensacola Bay by European explorers.
The mission at this site was attacked and destroyed by Alibamo (Alabama) and Apalachicoli (Lower Creek) warriors in 1696. Many of the inhabitants were carried away as slaves and sold to the English in South Carolina. The church was destroyed and the implements used in the religious services there were looted. The survivors of the raid fled to a new site near present-day Tallahassee.
Florida Park Service archaeologist Ripley P. Bullen relocated the site of Mission San Carlos in 1948 while conducting studies in the area as the Jim Woodruff Dam was being built. No structural traces of the mission were found, but he did locate broken fragments of Spanish ceramics and other items consistent with the presence of a 17th century settlement at the site.
There are no markers at the site, but it is open to the public. Searching for artifacts is strictly prohibited on U.S. Government property.
Our series will continue.

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