Wednesday, November 26, 2008
San Marcos de Apalache - Part One
The point of land formed by the confluence of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers is one of the most historic sites in America.
The Narvaez expedition, the first party of Spanish explorers to penetrate the interior of Florida, gave up their march near this point in 1528. They built crude boats and sailed away into mystery. Of the 300 men that began the expedition, only 4 survived. Most disappeared without a trace.
Hernando de Soto's soldiers also visited the vicinity in 1540, coming down to the mouth of the St. Marks from their winter camp at Tallahassee to signal supply ships in the Gulf of Mexico.
When Franciscan missionaries began their work to convert the powerful Apalachee nation to Christianity in the 17th century, the port of San Marcos (St. Marks) grew in importance as place where supplies could be landed and grain and other farm products shipped out to benefit other Spanish settlements.
To defend this gateway to their Apalachee missions, Spanish troops built the first fort of San Marcos de Apalache (St. Marks of Apalachee) here in 1679. Constructed of wood and located at the very point where the rivers meet, the fort was not particularly strong and to warn away potential enemies, the Spanish builders plastered the exterior of the fort to give it a a stone-like appearance.
The disguse didn't work. Just three years later a pirate ship sailed into the mouth of the St. Marks River, attacked and destroyed the fort.
San Marcos was replaced with another wooden fort and Spanish troops occupied the site until a coordinated series of attacks by British and Creek forces led to the evacuation of the Apalachee missions in 1704.
After about a decade of inactivity, the post was reactivated in 1718 and Captain Primo de Rivera began the construction of a massive stone fort on the site.
I will have more on the history of San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park in the next post. Until then, you can read more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com and looking for the San Marcos de Apalache heading at the top of the page.
This state park is on the list of Florida facilities that may be closed due to budget issues. Please join me in opposing this move. You can voice your support for San Marcos de Apalache and Florida's other state parks by writing to Governor Charlie Crist at Charlie.Crist@MyFlorida.com.