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British attacks on Spanish missions

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The British needed Spanish Florida to expand their plantation economy and began attacking their missions with a vengeance.

Spanish missions were quiet, peaceful Native farming villages with a mission church and friar. The Spanish did not allow Natives to have firearms and their only protection was a small roving military patrol. This made missions easy targets for the well-armed and aggressive British armies of Indian allies. Spanish missions were strung out along the coast and one by one the British either destroyed them or forced their abandonment all the way to today’s Jacksonville.

The Spanish mission of Santa Catalina on the north Georgia coast is a good example of how Florida shrunk to its current size. First, on the mainland, the British threat forced the relocation of the mission to nearby St. Catherine’s Island, where it was attacked and burned in 1680. The mission was moved south three more times, finally to Amelia Island near Jacksonville, where it was destroyed in 1702.

On St. Catherine’s Island, archaeologists have found the remains of the burned mission church, friary, wells, and the native town.

Map of Spanish missions by John Worth, UWF
Map of Spanish missions by John Worth, UWF

Unearthing Florida is a project of WUWF Public Media, the Florida Public Archaeology Network(FPAN), and its founder, Dr. Judith Bense, since 1998. FPAN's Michael Thomin is a contributor to the program. WUWF's Sandra Averhart is the executive producer.

Dr. Judy Bense is President Emeritus and Professor of Anthropology/Archaeology at UWF.