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The history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 online

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grieved not a little Dominique de Gourgue, considering the services
which he had done, as well unto him as to his predecessors, kings
of Prance.

Dominique de Gourgue was born at Mount Marsan in Guyenne,
and for twenty-five or thirty years served in the armies of France.-
Being a captain in charge of a place near Seine, with thirty soldiers
he sustained the brunt of a part of the Spanish army ; by which,
being taken in the assault and having all his men cut to pieces, he
was put into a galley ; but, as the galley was going toward Sicily,
being taken by the Turks, he was led away to Rhodes, and thence
to Constantinople, and shortly afterward recovered by Romeguas
commander of the army of Malta. By this means, returning home,

* " La Reprinse de la Floride par le Cappitaine Gourgue," in the " Historical
Collections of Louisiana and Florida, "■ by B. P. French, member of the historical
societies of Louisiana, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and
Massachusetts ; to which account of Gourgue is the following note: "There
are two MS. narratives entitled 'La Eeprinse de la Floride,' preserved in the
Bibliothfeque Imperial, Paris. With trifling variations, the above narrative is
identical with the De Gourgue MS. in the possession of Vioomte De Gourgue's


he made a voyage to the coast of Africa, whence he took his course
to the coast of Brazil, and to the south sea. At length, being
desirous to repair the honor of France, he went to Florida. So
that, having become by his continual warlike actions, both by land
and by sea, a no less skilful mariner than a valiant captain, he
made himself feared by the Spaniards, and acceptable unto the
queen of England for his excellent virtues. He died in the year

* "Dominique de Gourgue. Queen Elizabetli invited him to command an
English fleet against the Spaniards, but he died at Tours on his way to England."
— Encyclopsedia, Philada., 1798.

" He was tendered by Don Antonio a command of his fleet to defend his right
to the crown of Portugal against Philip the Second, which he promptly accepted ;
but, on his way to join the Portuguese prince, he died at Tours, of a sudden
illness." — Introduction to "La Reprinse de la Floride par le Cappitaine





Hernando D'Escalante Fontanedo was born at Carthagena, in South
America, in 1538. When thirteen years of age, on his way to Spain to be
educated there, he was shipwrecked on the coast of Florida ; captured by the
Indians, and detained a pi-isoner there for seventeen years. He spoke four of
the Indian languages, and, after his return to Spain, accompanied, as an inter-
preter, the expedition of Don Pedro Menendez to Florida in 1565. The fol-
lowing from his Memoirs- — among the " Historical Collections of Louisiana and
Florida," by B. F. French — is a proper sequel to what has abeady been said
of Florida, and especially of the peninsula.

Florida and the Lucayan Islands are situated on one side of the
Bahama Channel, which passes between Havana and Florida. But
nearer the mainland, and extending from east to west, lie other
islands, called the Martyrs, on account of the great number of men
who have been put to death there ; and on the rocks of the coast where
a great many have been shipwrecked. There are two Indian villages
on these islands, one of which is called Guaragunve, or the Village
of Tears, and the other, smaller, Cuchiyaga. These islands extend
from west to east, and the mainland of Florida lies at no great
distance to the eastward. Westward of these islands lies a great
channel through which no pilot dares to pass with a large vessel,^
because toward the west exist a number of treeless islands. For-
merly they probably were covered with earth, which the tides have
carried off, leaving only barren shores of sand about seven miles in
circumference. They are called the Tortugas, because of the great
number of tortoises that collect there to rest during the night.
Going northward, between Havana and Florida and toward the
islands, the Tortugas are the first met. The Martyr Islands are
forty leagues from Havana, twenty from the Tortugas, and twenty
leagues more to Florida.* In going from Havana to the opposite

* That is, to arrive at the Indian province of Carlos, of which the name
signifies "cruel village." It is thus named because the inhabitants are bar-
barous, and very adroit in the handling of arms. They are masters of a part of


shore, the chain of the Martyr Islands commences near the coast of
Florida. Here one finds himself about sixty leagues from the islands
of the other extremity of the group. There are several channels, of
which the principal one is very wide and of variable depths. The
greatest width, as nearly as I can remember, from the report of the.
Indians, is toward the Bahama Islands.

The group of the Martyr Islands, lying toward the northward
from Havana, terminate near a village called Tegesta, built on the
borders of a river which takes its rise in the interior. It runs
through fifteen leagues of country, and flows from a fresh-water
lake, which the Indians visit and pretend it forms a part of Lake
Mayaimi. This lake is situated in the midst of the country, and is
surrounded by a great number of villages of from, thirty to forty
inhabitants each, who live on bread made from roots, during most
of the year. They, however, cannot procure it when the waters of
the lake rise very high. They live in a country covered with
swamps, and cut up by high bluffs. They pay tribute to Carlos.

I think, from what I was told by some Indians from the islands
of Feaga, at the beginning of the Bahamas, that the auditor Lucas
Vasquez d'Ayllon, of St. Domingo, accompanied by six of his
planters, came in vessels to visit this country and the river Helena,
situated seven leagues to the northward, on the banks of which is
a village named Crista, but which, by mistake, they called Chicora.
They saw another village named Quate, but called by them Gual-
dape ; these are all they visited, as they did not explore the inte-
rior. The truth is, there is neither gold nor silver within sixtj'
leagues of this place, although I am informed there are both gold
an«l copper mines in the interior toward the north. On the banks
of a river and of some of the lakes are the Indian villages of Oto-
pali, Olgatano, and many others. The people are not of the Chichi-
meque race, nor are they of the same race as the inhabitants of the
river Jordan. Their principal king is called, in the language of the
Carlos Indians, Zertepe, and is superior to all the other chiefs.

Juan Ponce de Leon, believing the reports of the Indians of Cuba
and San Domingo to be true, made an expedition into Florida to
discover the river Jordan. This he did, either because he wished
to acquire renown, or, perhaps, because he hoped to become young
again by bathing in its waters. Many years ago a number of
Cuban Indians went in search of this/i'iver, and entered the province
of Carlos ; but Sequene, the father of Carlos, took them prisoners,

the country extending as far as the Tillage of Guasaca, neai- the Lake Mayaimi,
thus named on account of its great size.


and settled them in a village, where their descendants are still
living. The news that these people had left their own country to
bathe in the river Jordan spread among all the kings and chiefs of
Florida, and, as they were an ignorant people, they all Set out in
search of this river, which was supposed to possess the powers of
rejuvenating old men and women. So eager were they in their
search, that they did not pass a river, a brook, a lake, or even a
swamp, without bathing in it ; and even to this day they have not
ceased to look for it, but always without success. The natives of
Cuba, braving the dangers of the sea, became the victims of tlieir
faith, and thus it happened that they came to Carlos, where they
built a village. Thej' came in such great numbers that, although
many have died, there are still many living there, both old and
young. While I was a prisoner in tliose parts I bathed in a great
many rivers, but I never found the right one.

Between Abolachi and Olagale is a river which the Indians call
Guasaca-Esqui, which means Reed River. It is on the sea-coast,
and at the mouth of this river the pearls are found in oysters and
other shells; from thence they are carried into all the provinces and
villages of Florida; especially to Tocobajo, which is the nearest
place, and where the greatest cacique or king of this country resides.
This village is situated on the right coming ft'om Havana. The
name of the chief is Toco-Baja-Chile.

Let us now leave Tocobajo, Abolachi, Olagale, and Mogoso,
which are distinct kingdoms, and speak of the villages and market-
towns of King Carlos, who was afterwards put to death by Cap-
tain Reynoso for some hostile demonstration. The most import-
ant of these villages are Tampa, Tomo, Tuchi, Togo, No, Sinapa,
Sinacsta, Metamapo, Sacaspada, Calaobe, Estame, Yagua, Guaya,
Guevu, Muspa, Casitoa, Talesta, Coyovea, Futun, Teguemapo, Co-
machica, Luiseyove, besides two other villages whose names I do
not recollect, as it is now ten years since I was there. In the inte-
rior, on Lake Mayaimi, there are Cutespa, Tavagueme, Tonsobe,
Enempa, and othei^p whose names I have forgotten. In the Lucayan
Islands tliere are two Indian villages, subjects of King Carlos, one
of which is called Guaragunve, and the other Cuchiaga. Carlos
was sovereign of fifty villages, as bis father had been up to his
death. The power is now in the hands of his son Sebastian, who
bears this name, because Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles conferred
it upon him when he took hiin to Havana to be educated. Not-
withstanding the good treatment the Indians received from Menen-
dez, they revolted a second time, which was more serious than the
first. Most of our strategy was known to them. No one knows


that country as well as I do ; for I was a prisoner there from the
age of thirteen to thirty, and I speak four of the languages of its
people. There is only the language of the Ais and Feaga which I am
not acquainted with, because I have never lived among them.

The Abolachi* are a powerful nation, rich in pearls, but they
have no gold, except what is brought from the mines of Onagatano,
situated in the Snow mountains of Onagatano, the furthest of the
Abolachi possessions, and still further from the nations of Olaca-
tano, Olagale, Mogoso, and Canogacole. The last are said to be a
numerous and warlike people. They are artists, and can paint
everything they see. Canogacole means " wicked people." They
only speak their native language, are an honorable and faithful
people, and not like the Biscayan, who wanted to sell Menendez to
the Indians, and had not a mulatto and I prevented him by exposing
his treacherj', we all should have been put to death ; and Menendez,
instead of dying at Santander, would have perished in Florida.

I have elsewhere said that this chief was sovereign of the river of
Reeds, where the pearls and the mines of lapis lazuli are found ; but
further on the village of Olagale is subject to him, where also gold
is found.

A Biscayan named Don Pedro was a prisoner in this country,
and had he shown a courage proportionate to the favors which he
had received from his majesty, the Indians of Ais, Guacata, and
Feaga, would long ago have submitted. He spoke perfectly the
language of Ais and all those I have mentioned above ; and also
that which is spoken at Mayaca and Mayajuaca, on tlie other side
towards the north.

The country of the kings of Ais and of Feaga is very poor. It
contains neither gold nor silver mines ; it is only the sea which en-
riches it, since many vessels laden with precious metals are ship-
wrecked there, such as the Farfan and the Howker. On board of
the latter was Anton Granado, and Captain Juan Christobal, whom
the natives made slaves ; and killed Don Martin de Guzman, Captain
Hernando de Andino, and Juan Orvis. On board of this ship were
the two sons of Alonzo de Mesa, and their uncle. They were all
rich, and I the poorest among them,f yet I had twenty-five pesos of
fine gold. My father, who was a commander, and my mother had
both served his majesty in Peru, and subsequently in Carthagena,

* Apalaolie.

t From this it appears that Ais and Feaga are somewhere ahout the extremity
of the peninsula of Florida. There was an Ais west of the Red River in Texas,
which Mosooso passed through when he sought to reach Mexico by land.


where they established a colony. I, as well as one of my brothers,
was born there. They were sending us to Spain to be educated,
when we were shipwrecked on the Florida coast ;* as well as the
fleet from New Spain commanded by the son of Don Pedro Me-

I afterwards talked with a Spaniard whom the Indians had kept
in a starving condition. He told me that he came from Nicaragua
in one of the Mexican vessels bound for Spain, which was com-
manded by an Asturian, a son of Don Pedro Menendez. That he
was only a sailor on one of the shipwrecked vessels of the fleet, and
ignorant of the fate of the rest until after he had talked with the
Indians who went armed to the coast of Ais and returned with very
considerable riches in the form of ingots of gold, sacks of Spanish
coins, and quantities of merchandise. As this man had been a pris-
oner there only a short time, and knew nothing of the Indian lan-
guages, and as Juan Rodriguez knew them well, we served as inter-
preters for him and others.

Of the wealth which the Indians found in bars of gold and Mexi-
can jewelry, belonging to the shipwrecked passengers, amounting to
more than a million, the chief retained the best part for himself, and
divided the remainder among the Indians of Ais, Feaga, Guacata,
Mayajuaca, and Mayaca. Most of the vessels which had been ship-
wrecked were from Cuba and Honduras, and going in search of
the river Jordan, which explains how the Indians of Ais, Feaga,
and the Guaragunve Islands became so enriched by sea, and not by

From Tocobajo to St. Helena there are about six hundred leagues
of coast. This country produces neither gold nor silver, nor are
any metals found, except those which accident brings to Florida
from over the sea. We know that the Indians that live there raise
flocks and herds of animals, and cultivate the land. I cannot say
positively that sugar can be made there ; I know they planted cane,
and that it grew, but I did not remain long enough to see the result.
The inhabitants of all the provinces which I have named, from To-
cobajo to St. Helena, are much given to fishing. They are very
adroit at drawing the bow and also very treacherous, and I am con-
vinced they can never become Christians. They should all be taken,
placed\on ships, and scattered through the various islands, and even
on the Spanish main, where they might be sold. By such clever

* The route to sail from Carthagena to Cadiz, in Spain, was at that time by
the western and by the eastern extremity of the Island of Cuba, and by the
Azores Islands.


means they might become civilized, and Spaniards established here.
These latter could then form settlements, raise cattle, and give
assistance to numbers of vessels which are lost on the coast of the
province of Satoriva, at or near St. Augustine, San Matheo, where
the French Lutherans established a fort for the purpose of plunder-
ing all vessels that arrive from the mainland, whether from Mexico,
Peru, or any other country. They have already done this thing,
and taken refuge on the San Matheo River [St. Johns], where dwell
in villages the perfidious chiefs Satoriva and Alimacany.

On the banks of the San Matheo, sixty leagues further inland,
reside other independent chiefs : Cardecha, Encappe, Utina, Sara-
nay, and Moloa, who govern other villages reaching as far as Maya-
juaca in the Ais country, near the district planted with reeds, which
our guides said was the place where Don Pedro de Menendez made
terms of peace with them. In ascending the river San Matheo, one
can go as far as Tocobaga on the west side of Florida, but I do not
advise any one to go as far as this river. After having passed the
bar of thie river (St. Johns), pne might go as far as Agacay, which
is fifty or sixty leagues from the coast, or even as far as Utina
where he could disembark and proceed from village to village until
arrived at Canogacola, the inhabitants of which are subjects of Toco-
Baja. Thence he could go on to the very furthest known point
situated on another great river, whither De Soto went and where he

The conquest of this country would be advantageous to his
majesty for the security of his fleets going to Peru, New Spain, and
ports of the West India Islands. These fleets must necessarily
pass through the Bahama Channel and close to this coast.



Note (i),page 22.

The fundamental maxim of Spanish jurisprudence in America is, that all
conquered domains belonged to the Crown, and not to the State, nor to the
nation. The bull of Alexander VI., which is, as it were, the great charter
upon which Spain founded her rights, gave to Isabella and Ferdinand all the
countries which had been or should be discovered. These princes and their
successors have constantly regarded themselves as the absolute proprietors of
all the lands conquered, by their subjects, in the new world. Every posses-
sion is but a concession on their part, and returns to them. The chiefs of the
different expeditions, the governors of the different colonies, the officers of
justice, and the ministers of religion were all appointed by the sovereign, and
removable at his will. The people had no privilege independent of the crown,
and which could serve as a barrier to despotism. It is true that when the towns
were built, and formed into corporations, the people of them had the right to elect
their magistrates, and to be governed by the laws of the community. In states,
even the most despotic, this feeble spark of liberty is not entirely extinguished ;
but in the towns of America the legislation is purely municipal, and limited to
objects of police and interior commerce. In all that regards the general ad-
ministration and the public interest, the will of the sovereign is law. There is
no political power derived from the people ; all authority is concentrated in
the crown and the officers appointed by the king.

When the conquests of Spain in America were terminated, the kings of
Spain, forming a plail of administration for their new dominions, divided them
into two immense governments, the viceroyalty of New Spain and that of
Peru : the first extending over all the provinces of North America belonging
to Spain ; the second over all its possessions in South America. This dispo-
sition, which frojp the commencement had great inconveniences, induced still
more important ones, when the population and industry of the distant provinces
of each viceroyalty had progressed. The people of these provinces, too far
from the residence of the viceroys, complained of not being able to commu-
nicate with them at so great a distance. On the other hand, the authority of
the viceroys must necessarily have been feeble and uncertain in its operation
over countries so remote from their observation. They believed they had
found a remedy for this evil in establishing in this century (18th), at Santa Ffe de
Bogota, capital of the new kingdom of Grenada, a third viceroyalty, whose



jurisdiction extends over all the kingdom of Tierra Firme and the province of
Quito. Each of these viceroys, within the limits of his government, not only
represented the person of the sovereign, but even enjoyed the prerogatives of
the crown in all their extent. As the king they exercised supreme authority
•in the civil, military, and criminal cases. They could preside at all the tribu-
nals ; they alone had the right to appoint to many important employments, and
the privilege to fill during the interim those which are at the nomination of the
sovereign until the arrival of the successor appointed by the king. The exte-
rior pomp, which accompanied them, was proportioned to their dignity and the
extent of their power. Their court was formed upon the model of that of
Madrid. Foot and horse guards, a numerous household, and the greatest mag-
nificence gave them the air rather of sovereigns than of governors exercising
a delegated authority.

But as the viceroy could not exercise in person the functions of supreme
magistrate in all parts of a jurisdiction so extensive, he is aided in his admin-
istration by officers and tribunals like those of Spain. The conduct of alTairs
in the provinces is confided to magistrates of different orders and different de-
nominations, some of which are appointed by the king, and others by the vice-
roy ; but all receive order? from the viceroy, and are subject to his jurisdiction.

The administration of justice appertained to tribunals, known under the name
of audiencias, formed upon the model of the Spanish chancery. The number
of judges is in proportion to the extent and importance of their jurisdictions.
The place of judge in a court of audiencia is as honorable as lucrative, and
generally filled by persons of merit and talents who make the tribunal re-
spected. They have cognizance of civil and criminal causes : but the two
kinds of cases are divided between the judges. The Spanish viceroys have
often attempted to preside over the tribunals of justice ; and their distance
from the metropolis giving them boldness, they have sometimes aspired to a
power that their master dared not take to himself. To arrest an undertaking
whose success would have banished safety and justice from the Spanish colo-
nies, in submitting the life and property of the citizens to the will of a single
man, the kings of Spain have made a great number of laws which forbid, in
the most express terms, the viceroys from meddling in the business pertaining
to audiencias, or giving their opinion or vote upon any point contested before
these tribunals. Private cases which depended on some general question of
civil law, and even the rules enacted by the viceroy, must be submitted to the
revision of the audiencia, which may be regarded, in this respect, as an inter-
mediate power placed between the viceroy and the people. But as all oppo-
sition, even legal, to the authority of a magistrate who represents the sover-
eign, and who holds his power of hi;n, is little in accord with the spirit of
Spanish policy, the reserves under which this power is granted to the audi-
encia are remarkable. They could make remonstrances to the viceroy, but
in case where there is direct opposition between their opinion and the will of
the viceroy, the latter must be put in execution, and there remained to the
audiencia only the right to lay the matter before the king and the Council of
the Indies. This single privilege of remonstrance, and of giving counsel to a
man to whom all the rest of the nation owed implicit obedience, gave a great
dignity to the audiencias, as did also another right which they enjoyed. At


the death of the viceroy, when no provision had been made by the king for a
successor, the sovereign power passed to the audiencia resident in the capital of
the viceroyalty, and the oldest magistrate, assisted by his colleagues, exercised
all the functions of the viceroy, so long as the vacancy lasted. In matters sub-
mitted to the cognizance of audiencias as courts of ordinary jurisdiction, their
sentence is definite in all disputes concerning property of a value less than
six thousand pesos. But when the object of the suit exceeded this sum, their
decision was subject to a revision, and carried by appeal to the Council of the
Indies. (Eicher's Hisfoire Moderne, vol. 18, p. 275.)

It must, indeed, be agreed that possessions, situated from two to five
thousand leagues from the fountain of authority, five times the extent of the
mother country, and containing a larger population, could not, for upwards of

Online LibraryBarnard ShippThe history of Hernando de Soto and Florida; or, Record of the events of fifty-six years, from 1512 to 1568 → online text (page 62 of 75)