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San Luis

The Western Capital of Spanish Florida

From earliest European contact with the Apalachees, there had existed a native "capital" village in the vicinity of present-day Tallahassee. In 1539–40, the de Soto expedition recorded it as Anhaica Apalache "where the lord of all that land and province lived."

In 1656, Spanish settlers and Apalachee Indians moved the village to its hilltop location two miles west of the present-day Florida State Capitol. Mission San Luis became the capital of the western Spanish missions and the Apalachee nation in La Florida from 1656 to 1704. Mission San Luis was one of early Florida's largest colonial outposts.

Mission San Luis was the only settlement beyond St. Augustine where several hundred Spanish residents lived among Florida's native peoples for three generations. The Spanish deputy governor and one of the most powerful Apalachee chiefs were among more than 1,400 residents. Spanish and Indian farmers, ranchers, merchants, and other trades people worked to survive and thrive in frontier Florida.

Most Apalachee men worked for the landowners as farmers, ranch hands, semi-skilled laborers, and possibly at a few skilled trades. Indian men served with Spanish soldiers in the Mission San Luis military garrison, protecting the Apalachee Province from rival tribes and their English colonial allies. These laborers worked long days at very tiring tasks and often without payment.

Apalachee women were treated a little better. They were Spanish house servants, unmarried companions, and even wives in Spanish and mestizo families. The children of an Indian-Spanish marriage were not forced to perform manual labor. Mestizo families held higher social esteem than Indian families. In letters from Mission San Luis, the Catholic friars complained of the Spaniards' cruel treatment of Indians. And, Indians complained to government officials about beatings and other punishments from the Catholic friars, settlers, and soldiers.