|Historic Rock Cave - Site of Mission San Nicolas?|
Of the three Spanish settlements thought to have been located in Jackson County, Mission San Nicolas was the oldest. Located in the secondary town of the Chacato Indians, San Nicolas was established by Franciscan friars in 1674, more than 336 years ago. It was the location of the first Christian church and the first known European home between Pensacola Bay and the Apalachicola River.
|Trace of the real "Old Spanish Trail"|
The largest of their towns was located somewhere in the vicinity of Falling Waters State Park in northeastern Washington County, although the site has not been located to date. The secondary town was west of the Natural Bridge of the Chipola River on the old trail leading from Blue Spring across the Natural Bridge to a forks between today's towns of Cottondale and Campbellton. The third largest Chacato town was near Campbellton.
|Historic Rock Cave Entrance|
The first mission, San Nicolas, was established at the secondary Chacato town in 1674 by an expedition that included soldiers, missionaries and Christian Apalachee Indians. Fray Rodrigo de la Barreda became the village friar and was left there alone to live among the Indians when the men making up the main expedition returned to Mission San Luis at what is now Tallahassee.
|Historic Rock Cave|
Mission San Nicolas was temporarily successful and an estimated 100 of the village's inhabitants converted to Christianity. The success, however, did not last. Less than one year after the mission was established, a portion of the Chacato rose in revolt against the Franciscans. One of their chiefs was outraged because a friar, probably Barreda, had told him that to be a good Christian he must give up his multiple wives and live only with the first woman he had married.
Fray Rodrigo de la Barreda was wounded in the head by a blow from a stone axe but managed to escape to safety at Mission Santa Cruz de Sabacola in what is now Seminole County, Georgia. Mission San Nicolas was destroyed.
The exact site of Mission San Nicolas has never been identified, but there is a strong probability that it was located at the historic Arch Cave northwest of Marianna. Of all the caves along the route of the old trail followed by the Spanish, it is the only one that closely matches the descriptions given by the Spanish writers. Not only is it large enough to hold a large number of people, it holds a natural spring that flows from one of the walls. The cave is protected and is on private property. The photographs seen here were taken with the permission of the owner.
To learn more about the early Spanish settlements of Jackson County, please consider my book: The History Of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. ($19.95)
It is also available as an instant download for your Amazon Kindle reading device or free Kindle software: The History of Jackson County, Florida: The Early Years. ($9.95)