Timucua Are Alive and Well

The Timucuan Indians were the first people to settle on what is now Saint Augustine, FL- long before Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived from Spain in 1565. In fact, Pedro came ashore directly into the village of Seloy. It was a huge village, you couldn’t miss it with between 600-800 inhabitants. The village of Seloy was situated on the property we now know to be The Fountain of Youth Archeological Park. It is here the very first Thanksgiving occurred between the Spanish and the Timucuan Indians, a whole fifty-six years before the Pilgrims celebrated at Plymouth Rock. It was a huge feast with all the fixins’- alligator, smoked mullet, the “three sisters” as they were called- squash, beans and corn, and a caffeinated home-brew concoction made from holly leaves called “cacina”. Admittedly, these “fixins” are quite different than what most of us celebrate Thanksgiving with today. However, the concept is still there: two different groups of people coming together in peace to enjoy a meal that is customary to the place of meeting.

Sadly, there are no remaining Timucuan Indians left today. Their population began to drop with the introduction of foreign diseases, and most of them either moved out of Saint Augustine altogether or absorbed into other tribes in Florida.

Timucuan Indians may not be ALIVE today, but they sure are PRESENT. Perhaps they do not know they are gone, or perhaps they just refuse to leave their homeland. Either way, visitors to the Fountain of Youth claim they see very tall, shadowy figures wandering around the grounds of the park. Our very own Tolomato Cemetery is indeed placed directly on top of a Timucuan Indian burial ground- who thought that was a good idea? The employees at the Oldest Drugstore, now home to Potter’s Wax Museum, claim that until a statue was erected in the building paying homage to Chief Tolomato, none of the elixir bottles would stay on the shelves. “Uneven shelves” they thought to themselves. After the third or fourth time fixing the shelves they realized perhaps it was the land that the building was resting on. They erected the statue to Chief Tolomato, and the bottles have been fine ever since.

So maybe the Timucuan Indians just want some recognition? After all, although St.Augustine has a very close relationship to the Spanish crown, they did, by order of the crown, take their land. The land in which they had lived for thousands of years before any mention of “Spanish” or “the New World”. I believe the Timucuan Indians still own this land. They are just doing what they have always done: living peacefully off of the land by hunting, fishing, and gathering. They are alive and well.

The below photo is NOT altered. It was a photo taken not in Saint Augustine, but in a town very close to it (today, this area is called Neptune Beach) where the Timucuan Indians were present. I say “were” loosely- because apparently they have never left.

Little James c.1877

On the northern end of Cordova street, in our nation’s oldest city, lies a catholic burial ground with the name “Tolomato Cemetery”. It served as the Catholic burial ground for the city; beings inside the city walls was considered “consecrated ground”, only Catholics could be buried there. The first recorded burial in this cemetery is from 1786 (a woman named Gertrude Pons), making it one of the oldest cemeteries in the nation.

A small, lonely tombstone stands in the front of this cemetery, the tombstone of little James P. Morgan, who died at the age of five years and ten days old on November 28, 1877, cause unknown. James has been, quite literally, at the forefront of many ghost tours for as many years as I can remember. Children say they see him up in the trees playing around, swinging his feet. It is rather ironic that James is buried by himself if you know about his story- one that many continue to tell nightly. James was buried in this cemetery, tragically, long before his parents died. It seems as though his parents suffered an insurmountable amount of grief in their lifetime; James also had two siblings pass on long before their time. Agnes, aged two years, and Arthur, aged seven years. Both of his siblings are buried in the cemetery at the Shrine of our Lady of la Leche on what John F. Kennedy called “the most sacred acre”- The Mission of Nombre de Dios, NOT the Tolomato cemetery where James is buried. (They both died after burials were no longer permitted in the Tolomato- 1884.) Thus, little James seems to be alone in every sense of the word.

I was giving a ghost tour tonight, telling about the spirit of James, when a guest asked me to look at a photo he caught. Was it the James playing in the tree? We looked back a where the picture was taken, thinking it must have been Spanish moss. No Spanish moss hanging in that area. We thought perhaps it could be a light from someone’s car passing by- no cars. We even thought maybe a camera flash was the trick- but how in this exact pattern? It sure looked like someone playing in the tree from my angle, but surely we couldn’t have been this lucky to catch James AS I was talking about him. But perhaps we did. We could find no other explanation for this figure in the tree, even after taking other photos and trying to recreate anything even remotely close. What do you think?

I’ll end this post with a quote from Sherlock Holmes I think applies in this situation:
When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Blue Light at the Castillo?

First of all, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Morganne and I have been a guide with Ancient City Tours and A Ghostly Encounter since 2008. It never ceases to amaze me the sheer amount and diversity of paranormal happenings in our old city. Last Saturday, May 11, 2019 I was preparing for another ghost tour just like any other Saturday. As with all of the other nights, you never know what to expect. I was thinking of traffic patterns, the size of my group, logistical routes and stories that would fit best. It always seems like the most miniscule, cracked, can’t-remember-stories seem to show themselves when you are least prepared. Then you are left to try and connect the pieces so you don’t end up looking like a fool in front of your thirty-some guests!

We got to the Castillo and I immediately noticed the grounds were very busy for that time of night. My guests were investigating in a few, well thought out spots, when a woman on my tour I came to know was from Kentucky came up to me and said “I don’t know if I got something in my picture, what do you think?” I glanced down at this photo taken only moments before and was met with bewilderment. What was this blue light I was seeing? I had gone over the happenings in the city ten times in preparation for my tour; surely I knew there was nothing going on at the fort tonight. There were no lights to speak of in this location, let alone blue lights- and nothing to reflect off of in mid air. “I don’t know what that is..!?” I replied. But I HAD heard of this blue mist before, and we were just about to divulge.

A tour guide I’ve known for many years, and one that still works with me today I’m glad to say, told me of a time he and another guide went out on the town to experience “spirits” of the other kind- he was successful. They decided to visit the Castillo at the almighty “bewitching hour”- admittedly, the same time as “last call”. They got to the fort grounds and began walking around, taking pictures, exploring on their own when something caught their eye. A blue light above the gun deck. They both confirmed with each other what they were seeing and it stayed around for long enough they both got spooked and headed for the hills (or in this case, the cab pickup location).

So was it THIS blue light that we captured above the fort, or maybe something else? It HAD been seen years before, and apparently has been seen again. Perhaps it is a Spanish soldier still running endless cannon drills who doesn’t know they’re gone. Or perhaps a prisoner making themselves known to anyone that will look. One thing is for sure, I definitely have another story to tell on my ghost tour.