Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Royal Warehouse at the Luna Settlement


John E. Worth
© UWF Archaeology Institute
One of the first and most important public structures that would have been erected at the Luna settlement was the royal warehouse, which would have been the secure storage location for all the colony’s food, supplies, equipment, and munitions.  Referred to by various names in Luna expedition documentation including “Royal House” (casa real), “King’s House” (casa del rey), “Supply House” (casa del bastimento), and “Royal Treasury House” (casa de la real hacienda), the structure would have been located on the main town plaza and very likely nearest the path to the port landing, where supplies would have been offloaded.  Documentary accounts of the Luna expedition (many transcribed and translated in Priestley 1928, below) make it abundantly clear that during the first five weeks after Luna’s fleet entered Pensacola Bay, the settlers must have first set about exploring the bay and deciding on the best location to found their first town, after which they doubtless cleared the undergrowth and laid out the initial grid of streets and house lots, simultaneously unloading the equipment and supplies needed to begin constructing housing to shelter the 1,500 people that just disembarked.  Since the ships remained at anchor not far offshore, and could therefore be used as temporary floating warehouses to store anything not needed for the initial construction effort, the vast stores of food not immediately needed on land were left on board (Dávila Padilla 1625:194), and Luna’s colonists seem to have focused initially on getting their own residences erected.  Apparently, even this task was largely incomplete when the hurricane of September 19-20, 1559 arrived from the east (see Worth 2009), devastating most of the fleet and the food on board, and probably flattening many half-built structures on land.

The completion of a formal royal warehouse and other public structures probably post-dated the hurricane, but given the dire straits in which Luna’s settlers found themselves after the loss of most of their food stores and ships, its construction must have been a priority in the aftermath of the storm.  Correspondence between Tristán de Luna and the viceroy Luis de Velasco indicates that not only would such a warehouse be necessary to keep all remaining food and any relief supplies that would arrive over coming months under lock and key, but it would also be used to keep the sails, rudders, and oars of all vessels while anchored at port, minimizing the possibility that any of the settlers or stranded sailors could seize a vessel to escape Florida.  A huge amount of subsequent legal documentation generated in the Luna settlement itself (found in Legajo 1013, Justicia, Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain, folios 96r-161v; see also Priestley 1928,v.1:198-v.2:137) confirms that the warehouse was kept locked and could only be opened by the royal officials Alonso Velázquez Rodríguez (treasurer) and Alonso Pérez (accountant) for the distribution of rations or anything else housed there.  Even Luna himself was barred from entry during 1560 disputes with his officers over the issuance of rations for an ill-advised journey inland to Coosa, and over his order to release the sails of a vessel to be sent to New Spain.  In those instances, the royal officials sided with the Maese de Campo Jorge Cerón in his refusal to allow Luna to make unilateral decisions without consulting all his company captains and other officers.

So what would this royal warehouse have looked like, and what might it have contained?  Like all the structures at Santa María de Ochuse, the warehouse would have been constructed of wood poles and planks, and probably roofed with either thatch or perhaps cypress bark, possibly even with the use of some clay daubing.  It would likely have been a substantial structure, likely among the largest in the settlement with the possible exception of the church.

No inventory of the contents of the royal warehouse at the Luna settlement has yet been found, and unfortunately much of the equipment and armaments shipped from Mexico City’s own armory for the expedition was transported in uninventoried crates according to the records we do possess. So apart from a few brief mentions in the documents, to some extent we are left with only the archaeological traces of lost or broken items at the site of the warehouse as direct evidence of its general contents.  Fortunately, however, we do have a few comparative inventories from royal warehouses in Florida’s later settlements at St. Augustine and Santa Elena, and these can provide us a rough “snapshot” of the kinds of things normally stored in such a structure (see also Lyon 1992).  A pair of 1569 inventories from the warehouse at Pedro Menéndez’s settlement at Santa Elena (found in Legajo 941, Contaduría, Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain) illustrate a diverse range of items, including not just foodstuffs but also clothing, tools and supplies, a wide range of containers, and an array of weapons, armor, and even artillery (presumably mounted at the fort, but still under inventory control of the quartermaster).

Santa Elena Warehouse, 1569
Pedro Menendez Marquez and Juan de la Bandera combined inventories (modernized quantities)
Food
35 casks of wheat flour with 775 lbs. of flour in each one
18 casks of flour from New Spain, each one with 8 iron hoops, full and in good condition.
3 casks of rotten flour
12,450 lbs. of corn
3,453 liters of wine in 11 casks
25 liters of olive oil in 4 olive jars
1.5 liters of honey in an olive jar
734 lbs. of salt at the amount of 140 lbs. per fanega, amounting to 5.25 fanegas

Clothing
18 pairs of stockings
7 felt hats with their thin cords
25 blankets, 20 all white and 5 striped
32 complete sword belts, and another 2 hangers without belts
40 pairs of sandals
19 pairs of shoes

Tools and Supplies
2 steelyard scales, one weighing 378 lbs. with its weight, and the other of 200 lbs. with its weight
2 balances of iron with copper pans
2 iron weights, one of 1 lb. and the other of ½ lb.
1 iron pick
5 shovels of iron
3 mattocks
9 pole hooks
1 small grindstone for grinding
2 pairs of shackles
1 set of prison stocks, old, broken, and without a lock
2 iron padlocks with keys and without screws
300 lbs. of scantling nails
175 lbs. of siding nails
150 lbs. of flooring nails
151 lbs. of bolts
2 large cauldrons for whaling
17 harpoons for whaling
10 lancets
3 spoons
1 basket with 20 whaling knives

Containers
1 large copper cauldron weighing 34 lbs.
1 large copper pot weighing 50 lbs.
1 copper pitcher with 7.5 liter capacity
2 wine bags with their nozzles
392 wooden bowls, small and large
90 wooden plates
8 ceramic olive jars of ½ arroba [6.28 liters]
88 casks that were received with wine and flour and empty.
41 broken casks
360 iron barrel hoops
5 burlap sacks
3 crates without locks or keys
7 barrels in which the nails [above] were received

Weapons and Armor
17 complete crossbows
17 goats-foot levers
49 dozen crossbow bolts
17 cords, on each crossbow its own
7 crossbow stocks
17 quivers.
8 pikes with their tips
8 extra pike tips
117 bucklers of dragon-tree wood
65 escaupiles (cotton padded armor)

Artillery
1 bronze cannon weighing 5,369 lbs.
1 bronze cannon weighing 5,250 lbs.
1 bronze half-saker
1 bronze half-saker weighing 385 lbs.
1 bronze half-saker weighing 1,414 lbs.
1 bronze half-culverin weighing __96 lbs.
1 bronze half-culverin weighing 3,140 lbs.
1 bronze saker weighing 2,021 lbs.
1 bronze saker weighing 1,200 lbs.
1 bronze piece weighing up to 900 lbs.
37 barrels of gunpowder, and in them are 3,515 lbs. of cannon powder
175 lbs. of arquebus powder in 2 barrels
309 artillery balls
9 copper loaders for loading the said [artillery] pieces
_ ramrods
1 hoist for the service of the artillery
1 large iron hammer for the said [artillery]
8 pulleys of wood for the service of the artillery
36 loafs of lead that weighed 4,435 lbs.
3 molds for making shot for versos [small artillery]

To these comparative inventories from 16th-century east Florida we may also add a 1559 list of munitions, tools, and trade goods requested from Spain by Viceroy Luis de Velasco for the use of Luna’s Florida expedition (found in Legajo 283, Contaduría, Archivo General de Indias, Seville, Spain).  Even though these goods may never have actually been offloaded at the Luna settlement (the request was not fulfilled in Spain until early 1560, and the shipment did not arrive in New Spain until mid-year for dispatch on one of the relief expeditions), they nonetheless provide an illustration of some of the kinds of items that may have been included in uninventoried crates loaded on the first fleet, that eventually ended up stored in the royal warehouse at Santa María de Ochuse.

Munitions, Tools, and Trade Goods Requested by the Viceroy of New Spain for the Florida Colony, 1559
Tools and Supplies
50 [pieces of] canvas
50 barrels of tar
10,000 lbs. of pitch
600 lbs. of bolts, each 3/8 of a yard long
600 lbs. of sharp half-foot nails, of the longest that are found
6,000 lbs. of round bolts
1,000 lbs. of siding nails
1,000 lbs. of flooring nails
1,000 lbs. of half-size flooring nails
50,000 tacks
100,000 pump tacks
2 pairs of bellows, some large and others small
10,000 lbs. of sheet and bar iron
2,000 lbs. of steel
12 levers
12 iron mattocks and as many shovels
4 grapnel anchors for the shallops, each one of 400 lbs.
2 grapnels for the skiffs
2 seine nets for fishing, each one 60 fathoms long, with their accessories

Trade Goods
2 boxes filled with glass beads of all types
some little brass basins and red buttons and knives from Flanders and scissors and cheap mirrors and hawk’s bells, all of which should cost up to 200 ducats
400 yards of simple taffetas, yellow and sunflower and red and blue and carmine
1 dozen pieces of linen from Calcutta
1 piece of blue cloth
1 yellow piece
2 red pieces
1 green piece
1 purple piece

Weapons and Armor
150 inexpensive arquebuses
50 breastplates
50 Biscayan corselets
100 morion helmets
50 round shields
1,000 javelins
200 light javelins
200 half-pikes
100 pikes
4,000 lbs. of gunpowder
1,000 lbs. of sulfer
12 goat’s foot levers

Artillery
2 bronze artillery pieces of 2,000 lbs., each one with 200 iron shot
2 bronze artillery pieces of 1,500 lbs. with 300 iron shot
4 bronze falconets with chambers of up to 800 or 1000 lbs., each one with 600 shot

Indeed, the 2015 discovery by UWF archaeologists of a handful of glass trade beads along with hundreds of sherds of Spanish olive jars and other ceramics, plus an array of wrought iron nails and diverse other materials, and several small subsurface pits that might have been used for storage, would seem to provide support for the idea that this particular location may well have been the site of the settlement’s warehouse.

Trade beads from the Luna settlement site (left: Nueva Cadiz bead; right: Faceted 7-Layer Chevron beads)


Further testing and analysis of artifact assemblages across the Luna settlement site may eventually allow us to understand whether residential areas and other specialized structures and activity areas had different relative proportions of specific categories of material culture. In addition, we will search for physical traces of the public and private structures erected there more than 450 years ago, such as preserved posts or more ephemeral traces of architectural features.  While this type of archaeological analysis and interpretation is by no means an easy or quick affair, we look forward to making inroads into understanding the internal configuration of the Luna settlement, and getting better glimpses of the lives of its 16th-century inhabitants.

Selected References

Dávila Padilla, Augustín
1625    Historia de la Fundación y Discurso de la Provincia de Santiago de México de la Orden de Predicadores, por las vidas de sus varones insignes y casos Notables de Nueva España (pp. 189-229 for the Luna section).  Online Here

Lyon, Eugene
1992    Richer Than We Thought: The Material Culture of Sixteenth-Century St. Augustine.  El Escribano 29:1-117.

Priestly, Herbert Ingram
1928 The Luna Papers: Documents Relating to the Expedition of Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano for the Conquest of La Florida in 1559-1561.  DeLand: Florida State Historical Society.  Volume I online Volume II online

Worth, John E.
2009    Documenting Tristán de Luna’s Fleet, and the Storm that Destroyed It.  The Florida Anthropologist 62(3-4): 83-92.

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