Tallahassee in Leon County, Florida — The American South (South Atlantic)
De Soto Winter Encampment Site 1539~1540
Florida Heritage Landmark
Erected 1998 by the Florida Department of State. (Marker Number F-395.)
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Exploration • Landmarks • Native Americans • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1539.
Location. 30° 26.169′ N, 84° 16.12′ W. Marker is in Tallahassee, Florida, in Leon County. Marker is on Desoto Park Drive 0.1 miles south of East Lafayette Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1001 Desoto Park Drive, Tallahassee FL 32301, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Governor John W. Martin House (a few steps from this marker); Land of the Apalachee (a few steps from this marker); His Dream Dies With Him (a few steps from this marker); Myers Park Historic District (approx. 0.4 miles away); Old Fort Park (approx. half a mile away); a different marker also named Old Fort Park (approx. half a Erno Dohnanyi Residence/Dohnányi Erno ház (approx. 0.6 miles away); John Gilmore Riley House (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tallahassee.
Regarding De Soto Winter Encampment Site 1539~1540. Marker is part of the Florida de Soto Site Historic State Park, located in Tallahassee, Florida. It consists of 5 acres of land near Apalachee Parkway including the residence of former Governor John W. Martin. The site is intended to initiate research and education on nearly four centuries of recorded history beginning with Hernando de Soto's use of the site as a winter encampment in 1539.
Also see . . .
1. Hernando de Soto 1539–1540 Winter Encampment at Anhaica Apalachee. From Florida Division of Historical Resources (Submitted on December 9, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
2. DeSoto Winter Encampment - Tallahassee, Florida. From Explore Southern History (Submitted on December 9, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
1. De Soto's First Christmas in Tallahassee
The following is the text of the panel shown in photo #2
De Soto’s Christmas in Tallahassee
Account of the expedition failed to mention Christmas celebrations. Historical records primarily detailed Apalachee raids and Spanish military activities. The Apalachee fought valiantly to expel the invaders from their capital, twice burning the encampment, and attacking any Spaniards who dared to leave the camp. Simple tasks, such as collecting firewood, were dangerous. De Soto and his men responded violently, killing and capturing many Apalachee. De Soto was concerned with these raids and reorganizing his expedition for a push inland to search for treasure. To further these goals, De Soto sent expeditions to the coast to consolidate his forces and establish new supply routes.
The three priests who accompanied the De Soto expedition would have ensured that Christmas traditions were upheld. Late 17th century Mission period documents note that during Christmas people
DeSotos’s Christmas feast was likely a mix of Spanish and Apalachee foods. De Soto brought a herd of pigs along on the expedition. He restricted eating the pigs because he hoped to use the pigs in establishing colonies. A Christmas feast may have provided his men a rare opportunity to eat pork. The discovery of pigs skeletal material at the site suggests that some pig may have been consumed during DeSoto’s stay in Anhaica. The Spanish relied heavily on stolen food and used native captives as cooks. Apalachee foods, such as maize (corn), beans, and wild game were also likely eaten during Christmas feasts.
The First Christmas and the De Soto Site
Public recognition of Tallahassee as the site of what was likely America’s first Christmas grew with the discovery of the De Soto site by Calvin Jones in 1987. This recognition drew public attention to the site and contributed to successful conservation efforts.
DeSoto’s first Christmas has long sparked public interest. This photograph from 1959 shows reenactors depicting DeSoto’s first Christmas in what would become the United States (RC01714).
Illustration of DeSoto’s army
A drawing depicting what was likely the first Christmas Mass in what would become the United States (RC11395).
The Apalachee twice burned the occupied town of Anhaica. This picture is an adaptation of a lithograph by Theodore de Bry after a Jacques LeMoyne painting depicting native warfare.
Archaeologist B. Calvin Jones in front of the Martin House during a 1988 commemoration of DeSoto’s 1539 Christmas.
— Submitted September 2, 2017, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico.
Credits. This page was last revised on December 16, 2020. It was originally submitted on December 9, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 629 times since then and 18 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on December 20, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. 3. submitted on September 2, 2017, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. 4, 5. submitted on December 9, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. 6. submitted on December 20, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.