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The Catholic Encyclopedia
A principal group or confederacy of Ancient Florida, notable for the successful missions established among them by the Sapaniards and subsequently utterly destroyed by the English of Carolina and their savage Indian allies. The name-written also Atimuca, Thimapoa, Tomoca, by the Spaniards, French, and English respectively-appears to be derived from a word in their own language, atimoqua, "lord, or chief", and was probably a title mistaken by the early Spaniards for the name of the chief or tribe.
The cognate tribes of the Timucuan linguistic stock held all of north Florida from about Cape Canaveral and Tampa Bay on the south to beyond the St. Mary's River on the north and westward to about the Ocilla River, where they bordered upon the celebrated Apalachee, of another (Muskhogean) stock. The tribes forming the Timucua group proper centred chiefly along the St. John's River, the principal being the Timucua along the upper part of the river and about the present St. Augustine, whose chief, known to the French as Outina, had his settlement about the present Welaka, and ruled some forty villages, with perhaps 6000 souls. On the lower course of the river were the Satuniba, the enemies of the Timucua and nearly as numerous, and west of them, toward the Suwanee River, were the Potano, with over a thousand warriors or perhaps four thousand souls. Several other tribes were of minor importance.
The Timucua were sedentary and semi-agricultural, but depended largely upon game, fish, wild fruits, and bread prepared from the starchy koonti root. Their houses were circular, of upright poles, thatched with palmetto leaves, and with granaries elevated on stakes to keep them out of reach of wild animals. Their villages were strongly stockaded and each important settlement had a large central town-house of logs, for tribal ceremonies and the reception of guests. They had large dug-out canoes. Their pottery, the work of the women, was of the finest type found east of the Mississippi. The principal weapon of the warriors was the bow, and a sort of spade-shaped club of hard wood. The numerous embankments and ancient roadways found in their country may be due in part to Spanish influence. Women wore a short fringed skirt, perhaps of some bark fibre, with their hair flowing loosely. Men went naked, except for the breechcloth, but had the whole body elaborately tattooed. They bunched the hair in a knot on top of the head, and wore inflated fish-bladders through holes in their ears. They were tall and well-made, described as of great strength and agility and remarkable swimmers.
The government by the chiefs was despotic, as was frequently the case among the Gulf State tribes. There were two hereditary classes, nobles, or chiefs, and common people, and each tribe was organized into clans or hereditary family groups, usually bearing animal names. This clan system was so much inter-woven with the tribal life that it persisted even under the mission system. Prisoners of war and their descendants constituted a slave class. Their military organization and methods were superior to what was found among the northern tribes. Scalping and mutilation of the slain enemy were universal, and the dismembered limbs were carried from the field as trophies or to serve for cannibal feasts. Polygamy was customary. Gross sensuality was prevalent. The chief gods were the Sun and the Moon, the Deer and other animals. They were extremely ceremonious, celebrating planting and harvest seasons, fishing and hunting expeditions, the going and return of war parties, marriages and funerals, each with special rites of prayer, fasting, feasting, dancing and purification by means of the "black drink" brewed from the leaves of the Ilex cassine. On certain great ceremonial occasions the first-born male infants of the tribe were delivered up by their mothers to be sacrificed to the Sun, in whose honour also a sacred fire was kept always burning in their temples. The dead were buried in the ground with protracted mourning rites, which included fasting and cutting off the hair. Over the body of a dead chief was raised a mound of earth upon which was placed his shell drinking cup, surrounded by a circle of arrows struck in the ground. From the pictures of the artist Le Moyne we get a vivid idea of the appearance and customs of the Timucua tribes, while the questions in Father Pareja's "Confessionario" throw curious light upon their beliefs, tabus, and ceremonial observance.
The history of the Timucus tribes begins with the landing of the ill-fated Ponce de Leon near the present St. Augustine in 1513. The expeditions of Narvaez in 1528 and de Soto in 1539-41, landing at Tampa Bay, passed through the territory of the cognate tribes, but did not encounter the Timucua proper. In 1562-64 the French Huguenots under Ribault and Laudonnière attempted settlements at the mouth of St. John's River, explored the middle course of the stream, and made acquaintance with the principal tribes. In 1565 the Spaniards under Menendez destroyed the French posts, butchering all the defenders, immediately after which Menendez founded the city of St. Augustine and began the permanent colonization of the country. Jesuit missionaries arrived and began their labours, but seem to have devoted their attention chiefly to the coast tribes of South Carolina, Virginia, and western Florida, probably because of the fact that the Indians of the St. John's region had been won over by the French and for a long time resisted the Spanish occupation. In 1573 a party of Franciscan missionaries arrived at St. Augustine, where some of their order had been from the beginning, and proceeded to organize work among the Indians of the vicinity. The work met a serious check from the recall of Governor Menendez to Spain, where he died in 1574, but in 1594, on request of Father Marron, custos of the Franciscan convent at St. Augustine, twelve other priests of the order were sent out, and the labour of Christianizing the Timucua was taken up with vigour.
Among those who arrived with this party was the noted Father Francisco Pareja, to whom we are indebted for almost all that is known of the language and customs of the tribe. He was stationed at first among the Yamassee on the Georgia coast, in whose language, according to Shea, he composed a summary of Christian doctrine. Later he was in charge at the Timucua mission of San Juan, apparently on Little Talbot Island, north of St. Augustine, and later still was custos of the monastery in that city, until transferred to the Mexican province in 1610, where he died in 1628. His various works in the Timucua language were published in Mexico. Of the priests who arrived from Spain with Father Pareja, several went to the Yamasee, while the others devoted attention to the Timucua, whose principal mission settlements were San Juan, already mentioned; San Pedro, on Cumberland Island; San Mateo, probably about the mouth of the St. John's; and Santa Lucia de Acuera, south of Cape Canaveral; besides the settlement immediately adjoining St. Augustine. The more western cognate Potano tribe, being hostile alike to the Timucua and the Spaniards, were not Christianized until a much later period, but were also brought likewise into the mission fold. In 1597 the mission growth was interrupted by a disastrous revolt of the Yamassee in which several missionaries lost their lives, the Christian Timuca being also attacked. Some years later, however (1612?), following a visit from the Bishop of Havana in 1602, Florida was erected into a Franciscan province, under the name of Santa Elena. From 1612 to 1615 inclusive, 43 Franciscans were added to the workers in addition to those already on the ground.
In 1655 the Christian Indian population of the Florida province, which included north Florida and the coast country of Georgia and South Carolina, was estimated at 26,000 souls, chiefly among the Timucua, Apalachee, and Yamassee. In 1687 a second outbreak of the Yamassee, apparently instigated by the English of Carolina, who claimed northern Florida as within their chartered limits, resulted in the removal of that tribe bodily into (South) Carolina. In 1715 the same restless people headed a war against the English, resulting in their own expulsion and return to Florida. In 1688, following the outbreak of the Yamassee, by which the Timucua missions had also suffered, the chiefs of the latter tribe, as also the Apalachee chiefs, forwarded to the King of Spain an address of loyalty and of commendation for their Spanish governor. These documents, in the Indian and Spanish languages, are still in existence. The Timucua address is signed by the chiefs of five towns, San Mateo, San Pedro, Asile, Machaua, and San Juan de Guacara. In 1699 the Quaker Dickenson, from Philadelphia, shipwrecked on the south coast of Florida and rescued from the savages by the Spanish governor at St. Augustine, was sheltered for a time at the Timucua missions, and has left us a pleasant picture of their prosperous and orderly condition, and the friendly and religious character of their occupants, in striking contrast to that of the unchanged barbarians among whom he had been a prisoner.
It was near the end. The growing hostility of the Carolina colony instigated the Creeks and other heathen tribes to constant inroads upon the Florida missions, furnishing them with arms and ammunition for the purpose, with the further inducement of a profitable sale for all captives to supply the Carolina slave market. Even as early as 1699 Carolina slaves were thus decimating the Indian tribes as far even as the Mississippi. While the wild tribes were thus armed and encouraged in their raids by the English, the Christian mission Indians, on the contrary, in accordance with a fixed, but suicidal, rule of the Spanish colonial government, were refused the use of firearms, even in self-defence and on their most urgent appeal.
In May, 1702, war having again been declared between the two home governments, the Creek allies of the English raided Santa Fe mission of the Timucua and burned the church. Later in the same year a combined English and Indian force from Carolina under Governor Moore, co-operating with a naval force, destroyed three flourishing Timucua missions along the coast-the same where Dickenson had been so hospitably cared for-burned the churches and carried off the missionaries, and then, going farther south, burned St. Augustine, with the church, convent, and library. The fortress held out until relieved by a Spanish fleet. In 1704 Moore invaded the Apalachee country with some fifty Carolina men and a thousand savage Creek, Catawba, and Yamassee, all armed with guns, and completely destroyed ten of the eleven missions towns, with their churches and orange groves, carrying off or destroying the vestments and sacred vessels. Four priests, a Spanish officer, and four soldiers were killed, and their bodies hacked to pieces, two of the missionaries being tortured and burned at the stake. Several hundred Apalachee warriors were killed and 1400 of the tribe carried away as slaves. In 1706 a similar raid into the Timucua country completed the ruin of the missions. The remnant of the Apalachee fled for protection to the French at Mobile. The scattered Timucua were gathered together and formed into small settlements under the walls of St. Augustine. With the English colonization of Georgia and the ensuing war of 1740 all attempt at rehabilitating the Florida missions was abandoned. In 1753 only 136 Indians remained in the vicinity of St. Augustine. On the English occupation in 1763 only 136 Indians remained in the vicinity of St. Augustine. On the English occupation in 1763 they were expelled from their two villages and again became refugees. Somewhat later these, or a kindred remnant, were colonized at a new settlement called Pueblo de Atimucas, on Tomoco River, near Mosquito lagoon, in the present Volusia county. A few seem to have resided there as late as the transfer of the territory to the United States in 1821 and it is possible that their descendants may still be found among the Seminole of Florida or Oklahoma.
With the exception of the Timucua-Spanish document of 1688, already referred to, of which a copy was printed by Buckingham Smith in 1859, and another, with English translation, by Gatschet in 1880 (Am. Philos. Soc. Proc., XVIII), our knowledge of the Timucua language and dialects, as of the tribal customs and beliefs, rests almost entirely upon the works of Father Pareja and of Father Gregorio de Monilla, missionary in the same order and tribe, with the analysis deduced thereupon by Gatschet. A few words, mostly personal or place names, also occur in the early French and Spanish historians. Father Pareja's works include: "Cathecismo en lengua Castellana y Timuquana" (Mexico, 1612); "Catechismo y breve exposicion de la doctrina Cristiana . . . en Lengua Castellana y Timuquana" (Mexico, 1612); "Confessionario en lengua Castellana y Timuquana" (Mexico, 1613); "Gramatica [or Arte?] de la Lengua Timuquana" (Mexico, 1614); "Catecismo de la Doctrina cristiana en dicha [Timuquana] Lengua" (Mexico, 1617); "Catechismo y Examen . . . en Lengua Castellana y Timuquana" (Mexico, 1627). The works of Father Monilla include an "Explicacion de la Doctrina . . . en Lengua Floridiana" (Madrid, 1631?, and Mexico, 1635-36); and a "Forma Breve de admisistrar los Sacramentos . . . en lengua Floridiana" (Mexico, 1635). Of these works the Pareja "Catechismo" (1612), "Catechismo y breve exposicion" (1612), and "Confessionario" (1613), and the Monilla "Explicacion" (1635-36), and "Forma breve" (1635) form the subject of an extended study of "The Timucua Language" by Dr. Albert S. Gatschet, in the "Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society", vols. XVI-XVIII, Philadelphia, 1877-1880.
BARCIA, Ensayo (Madrid, 1723); BRINTON, Floridian Peninsula (Philadelphia, 1859); LAUDONNIÈRE, Histoire notable de la Floride (Paris, 1586 and 1853), tr. in FRENCH, Hist. Colls. of Fla. (New York, 1869); LE MOYNE, Narrative (Boston, 1875), an artist with Laudonnière's expedition, pictures with text (from DE BY, Lat. ed., Frankfort, 1591); MOORE, various important papers on archæology of the Gulf States, in Jour. Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia, 1894 to 1910); PARKMAN, Pioneers of France (Boston, 1865--); PILLING, Proofsheets of a Bibliography of the Languages of the N. Am. Inds. (Bur. Am. Ethnology, Washington, 1885); SHEA, Hist. Catholic Ind. Missions of the United States (New York, 1855; IDEM, The Catholic church in Colonial Days (1521-1763, vol. I of History of the Catholic church in the United States (New York, 1886).
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Obstat, Nihil. Lafort, Remy, Censor. Entry for 'Timucua Indians'. The Catholic Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​t/timucua-indians.html. Robert Appleton Company. New York. 1914.