Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mission San Carlos - One of the Oldest Settlements in Jackson County

West Bank Overlook near Sneads
Noted for its beautiful views of Lake Seminole, the West Bank Overlook near Sneads also holds the distinction of being one of the most significant historic sites in Jackson County. It was here during the 1680s and 1690s that the Spanish maintained the mission of San Carlos de Chacatos.

A mission was a religious center where Franciscan friars worked to convert Native Americans - in this case Chacato Indians - to Christianity.
View of Jim Woodruff Dam from the Overlook

Mission San Carlos was established in around 1680 to serve a group of Christian Chacatos that had relocated to the hilltop near Sneads from their original homes west of the Chipola River in Jackson and Washington County. A 1675 rebellion involving part of the tribe had destroyed the original Mission San Carlos, thought to have been located near Falling Waters State Park in Washington County. A sister mission, San Nicolas, was destroyed in what is now Jackson County at the same time.

Both of these original missions had been dedicated in 1674, but lasted for less than one year. Spanish soldiers and allied Apalachee warriors retaliated against the Chatot by invading their territory and destroying their towns and fields.
Lake Seminole

Not all of the Chacato had been involved in the rebellion, however, as several hundred members of the tribe had accepted Christianity through the teachings of the Franciscans. Opting to remain close to the Spanish, they relocated to the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers (today's Lake Seminole), where they built a new town on the high ground where the West Bank Overlook can be seen today. The site was then directly across the Chattahoochee River from Mission Santa Cruz de Sabacola, which stood in what is now Seminole County, Georgia.

In around 1680 the Franciscans responded to the calls of the Chacato and established a new Mission San Carlos at the site near Sneads. It would remain for the entire time of its existence the westernmost establishment on the Florida mission chain and the most outlying post of the King of Spain in the Florida colony.
Part of the Mission San Carlos Site

This status gave Mission San Carlos a unique place in history. In 1686, for example, Marcos Delgado left the mission on a noted overland expedition to establish an alliance with the Upper Creeks of Alabama. Seven years later in 1693, Governor Don Laureano de Torres y Ayala rested briefly at San Carlos while making the first known overland crossing of the Florida Panhandle by Europeans. Both expeditions also stopped at another well-known Jackson County landmark, Blue Springs.
Another view of the Mission Site

Mission San Carlos, tragically, did not survive the decade of the 1690s. Attacked by war parties of Creek Indians from Alabama and Georgia, the mission was destroyed. Many of its people were slaughtered and others carried away into slavery to be sold to the English in South Carolina. The church was desecrated and its religious objects either destroyed or carried away as booty.

The site of the mission was rediscovered in 1948 by Florida archaeologist Ripley P. Bullen. Working on the hilltop at the west end of the then under construction Jim Woodruff Dam, Bullen found pieces of Spanish ceramics and other artificacts indicating the presence of the mission site. The West Bank Overlook now crowns the hill where Bullen conducted his work.

There are no interpretive markers at the site noting it as the location of the long forgotten mission, but perhaps the future will bring about an effort to place one there.  To learn more about Mission San Carlos and other Spanish sites in Jackson County, please consider my book: The History Of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years.

It is also available for Amazon Kindle by clicking here: The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years


Billy Best said...

Interesting, I did not know any of this. I was in the area just today.

Billy Best said...

Jackson County has a lot of history. Whenever I think of our history I think more of the Civil War and later.

Dale said...

Billy, Thank you for the note. I love forgotten bits of history like this. Jackson County and the surrounding area has so much history that it could easily turn itself into a nice heritage tourism destination. We just need someone to lead the way.