Primary Resource

"In wishing him well, he killed him"; excerpt from Relation of Juan Rogel (ca. 1611)

This excerpt, translated from the Spanish, is from the "Relation of Juan Rogel," the original manuscript of which was lost but can be found paraphrased by Father Juan Sánchez Vaquero (b. 1548) in his unpublished history, Fundación de la Compañía de Jesús en Nueva España, 1571–1580. Father Juan Rogel, a Jesuit priest born in Pamplona, Spain, in 1519, here tells the story of the Virginia Indian Don Luís de Velasco (Paquiquineo), who accompanied the Spanish in 1561 to Spain, Mexico, and Cuba before returning with a mission to the Chesapeake Bay in an area the priests understood to be called Ajacán.

Transcription from Original

Menéndez returned from Spain where he had chanced upon a Christian Indian, a native of Florida. Some Dominican friars traveling through that country had brought him to Mexico, where he was baptized under the sponsorship of Don Luis Velasco, the father of the present viceroy. Thus the Indian son of a petty chief of Florida was called Don Luis. The Governor brought him back from Spain and he was very crafty, for when he was brought to Father Baptista in Havana, he gave out that he was the son of a great chief, and as such our King in Spain had ordered him an allowance and clothing. He was well instructed so that he confessed and received communion and thus it seemed wise that the vice-provincial should take him on as an interpreter, and that he should believe, that Don Luis afforded the help which Timothy gave to Saint Paul. Taking the enterprise to heart, Father did not wish to entrust it to any other. Having called a meeting in Santa Elena where Father Rogel and Father Sedeño were, he never wished to discuss who was to go with Don Luis, and although both Fathers offered to do so as persons experienced in that region, he did not admit them as companions in any respect. Instead, he had decided beforehand to take with him Father Quirós and Brother Gabriel Gómez, both recently arrived from Spain, and Brother Sancho de Zaballos, who was still a novice, and Brother Juan Baptista, Pedro de Linares, Cristóbal Redondo, Gabriel de Solís and other young men who sought to enter the Company. All these went with Don Louis for the conversion of that region of Florida. On entering the province of Ajacán, Don Luis presently fell into evil ways and leaving the Fathers and Brothers alone, he took up with women. On the day they arrived at the place the vice-provincial told the pilot that after disembarking the cargo, he should sail from the place and return to Havana. Thus was brought about what came to be the cause of their death; for if they had remained a few days with the ship, they would have acquired an early experience of the bad dispositions there and the promise of little fruit, and might have returned to Santa Elena to wait for a better opportunity. But, seeing themselves abandoned and without other resource, they built a small hut where they might have shelter and say Mass, alone, without any help, enduring great huger and inconvenience. In order to sustain themselves they went some leagues into the woods looking for persimmons and thus they fed themselves for six or seven months. When Don Luis left them he stayed in a small village which belonged to a relative. This lay about 10 leagues from where the Fathers were. As Father Baptista wished to start preaching and Don Luis did not come and they had no other guide or means of speaking, Father Quirós was sent to where the Indian lived to ask him to come back. That unfortunate man was now completely corrupted; he told Father Quirós to go and he would follow after. At night he carried out his plan. For, taking his tribe with him, Don Luis slew Father Quirós before he reached the place where Father Baptista stayed. Then the Indian went on to where Ours were living, and he discovered the vice-provincial in bed, sick and praying. It seemed that Our Lord disposed them for that crisis, because, on the eve of Our Lady's Purification, all made a general confession and communicated with great devotion. This was learned from a boy, the son of a colonist of Santa Elena, whom the vice-provincial took along to serve Mass. His name was Alonso, and bcause of his youth or by God's design, the Indians did not kill him. This boy described the event. He said that when Don Luis arrived with his tribe armed with clubs and lances, he greeted Father Baptista who was as we described. Raising his club and giving his greeting were really one gesture, and so in wishing him well, he killed him. All the rest were murdered also. Then going out to search for Brother Sancho de Zaballos, who at that time had gone to the forest to get firewood, they slew him there. Alonso alone escaped. It is known about him that he had a deep desire to die with the Fathers, but a brother of Don Luis stopped him by hiding him in a house and keeping him there. He was trying to do a kindness, when they were murdering the Fathers. After the Indians were sated, Don Luis summoned Alonso and told him to show the Indians how to bury the bodies of the Fathers as was the custom of the Christians. And so they dug a grave in the chapel where Mass had been said and there they were buried.

The manner in which the death of the vice-provincial and his companions was known with certainty was this. Previous to their sailing, Father Rogel, who remained at Santa Elena, was ordered to go to Havana in a few days and beg the Governor and the officials to send some aid. Father Rogel went to do this and did the best he could, but because there was only one pilot who knew the port in Ajacán, where the Fathers were, and the officials kept that one engaged in other duties, it was impossible to bring help until a year and a half went by; Brother Salcedo, who brought as much provisions as Father Rogel could gather, was sent back with the pilot, whose name was Vincente Gonzales. When they arrived and dropped anchor in the harbor, they feared some evil event, and did not want to land on the shore until some of the Company appared or they had news of them. As was later learned, Don Luis was very eager for them to land so as to overwhelm and kill them. The Indians, noticing that they were wary and watching for the appearance of the Fathers, used this stratagem. Taking the robes of the dead Fathers, they put them on and walked along the shore, and the rest of the Indians called out that there were the Fathers and to come ashore. More confirmed in their doubts, those on the ship decided not to land at all. Meanwhile, some Indians came from the shore to the ship. These were seized and then raising anchor and spreading sail, they started to return with them to Havana. However, when passing through the strait of Bahama, they came quite close to the land, and one of the Indians dove into the water and nothing more was known of him. They took the other in chains to Havana. They kept him under bonds at the house of the Society in order to return with him to make certain of the facts (for the Indians did not admit anything when they were in the boat) and the one remaining did not divulge the truth.

As the fate of the Fathers was still not known with certainty, and the Governor was returning to Spain, he decided to travel by way of Florida and bring in his company Father Rogel and Brother Carrera and Brother Villareal. Arriving at the port, the Governor landed with a band of soldiers, and he was most anxious to know the fate of the Fathers and punish the culprits. After seizing some of the Indians who had aided Don Luis and learning the facts, he decided to punish eight or nine of them. Father Rogel, with the assistance of Alonso, who served as interpreter, catechized and baptized them, after which they were hanged from the rigging of the Governor's ship. After justice was done, Father Rogel asked the Governor to order some soldiers of his guard to go to the burial site of the Fathers and remove the bodies and gather up the vestments, but since the Governor was on the point of leaving and winter approached, he could remain to fulfill this wish but he promised to return within a year and come for the bodies. On the occasion we learned of a miracle which happened with the sacred vestments of the Fathers when they were killed. There was a certain Indian, eager for spoil, who came upon a box where the Fathers kept the sacred vestments for saying Mass, and in it was a crucifix. When he wanted to break and smash the box so as to drag out its contents, he dropped dead on the spot. Then another Indian tried to force it open and had a similar fate. A third Indian, who had no warning from these two unfortunates, sought to break open the chest also, but he was a companion in their death. As a result the rest dare not approach the box any more. After this the Indians kept it carefully and would not dare touch it. Little Alonso and also some old soldiers who came from Florida and had been in Ajacán told this to Father Rogel. Seeing that they could do nothing else, Father Juan Rogel and Brothers Villareal and Carrera returned to Havana, where they found Father Sedeño.