Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Genealogy and Research Desk at Tolomato


We have set up a research table at the southwest corner of the Varela Chapel to aid in genealogy searches on our Third Saturday open days. Tolomato is the final resting place for many St. Augustine residents, about 1,000 of whom are buried there. While there are only about 105 markers remaining, they are visible lessons in history with a wealth of information to share about the people that are buried there. Your ancestor’s tombstone may be the only physical evidence of the life he or she has lived, and the information on it is important in tracing the story.

Below, Nick McAuliffe takes a group on a tour.

Nick and Docents

In addition to the transcriptions of inscriptions of the markers, we have information about those people whose graves have no markers. Many visitors come with genealogy questions, and we now have copies of the Cathedral Parish Records, the St. Johns County Death Records, and a map of our cemetery available to help them. We also have a copy of Matthew Kear’s thesis, In Reverence: A Plan for the Preservation of Tolomato Cemetery, St. Augustine, Florida, which established a framework for the Tolomato Preservation Project and provides detailed information on the cemetery. We are adding new material to our research collection as we find it. I am at the desk and ready and eager to help visitors every Third Saturday.

                                                             - Louise Kennedy


Our two “18th century docents,” Louise Kennedy and Lin Masley.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I think that I shall never see…

….A poem lovely as a tree. If you didn’t have to learn this when you were in 4th grade, I can tell you it’s a poem written long ago by the poet Joyce Kilmer (he died in WWI) and was so popular it was even put to music.  However, there’s a negative side to trees.

When they grow up in untended cemeteries or any untended space, trees are an inexorable force that can take over. At Tolomato, there are many trees that have simply rooted themselves over the years, decades and centuries, and are now ripping up grave enclosures, toppling markers, and generally misbehaving.  In our last post, you probably read about the tree that took over Hector Adams’ marker, but that tree is only one of many.

Now we’re trying to prevent this. Just yesterday, a company hired by the Cathedral Basilica came in and took out our most menacing tree, a huge sugarberry that was completely hollow inside and dead everywhere except one little streak of living wood that ran up on the west side and nourished a branch or two. Branches dropped off every time there was rain or wind, and we actually did not open the cemetery last month because it was windy and we were worried about the risk to the public.


The sugarberry, or hackberry, is a member of the elm family and can be a pretty tree, but is considered a “trash tree” in Florida because of its rapid self-seeding and aggressive growth. It secretes a sticky dew that damages the surface of anything under it and also produces a small purple berry that birds love.  But after they’ve eaten it, watch out! Many of our markers in that area are stained from the sugarberry-eating birds.

The sugarberry is actually rather fragile and can start to die from any injury. This specimen did not appear to have any injuries, but perhaps it had lost branches in a storm or something had enabled infection to enter. In any case, it was nearly completely hollow, both in the trunk and the main limbs, and removing it was the only thing that could be done.  So now we have a mound of chips. 


We will probably plant an upright tree to take its place. An upright tree such as the long-lived sabal palm or the red cedar was suggested. Both of them already exist at Tolomato, and in fact the same job took out the remains of a red cedar that had been dead for years but was being held up by the neighboring palm tree, as you can see below. 


We will begin to look at our tree options. In any case, the arborist told us not to worry. Now that now that the sugarberry is gone, the two oak trees – the big one by the gate and the younger one along the north fence - will begin to reach towards the sun and each other and fill in that space.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans’ Day at Tolomato Cemetery

Tolomato Cemetery has the graves of many veterans, including veterans of both sides of the Civil War, and our last preservation work day focused on repairing some of these headstones. We cleaned numerous markers, but the biggest project of the day – actually, it took two days – was the straightening of the marker of Hector Adams,  who died in 1876 and had served in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War.  These were regiments set up by the Union Army specifically for the recently emancipated African Americans.  The Emancipation Proclamation was read in St Augustine in 1863 and Hector Adams joined the 21st Regiment, Company A, at Fernandina Beach on June 3, 1863, along with Frank Papy, who is also buried at Tolomato.


Hector Adams and Frank Papy both have the military markers provided by the Veterans Administration, probably shortly after their deaths in the 1870s.  We cleaned Frank Papy’s marker, as you see in the photo above, and then set about straightening Hector Adams’ marker, which had been tipped over and pushed off of his grave site by an aggressive palm tree that had been allowed to grow up on the site.  Unfortunately, once we had opened the ground, we found that the root ball of the palm tree had wrapped itself around the base of the marker and refused to let go.  As a result, what looked like a simple project turned into a long and arduous day as volunteers dug and scraped to free the marker from the tree and then reset it a couple of feet away in a safer location.


In the above photo, Matt Armstrong and other volunteers examine the marker while in the photo below, a volunteer begins to dig.IMG_0786

The marker also turned out to be much longer than we had expected, and for a while it seemed that we would never reach the bottom edge.  But it finally happened, and below we see volunteers Bob Kennedy and Haley Wigley working out a strategy for lifting it.  Next to it you see the new hole dug for it.


Heave ho!


And it’s out!  Haley balances it on the dolly before moving it off for cleaning.


Matt examines the marker, pointing to the how deeply it had been buried. The marker is 36” high and had been buried about 22”, something that would not have been a problem without the palm roots.


Next came cleaning with our trusty D/2 product.


This was followed by resetting it in the new hole (after carefully recording the change that we had made, of course!).


And then our Veterans Day work was done, with Hector Adams’ marker restored to the upright position, cleaned and once again visible to all.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Another November

Tolomato Cemetery was the parish cemetery for the church that is now the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine and returns to its roots, so to speak, every November. In the Catholic Church, November is the month in which the dead are prayed for and commemorated, and priests from the Cathedral generally celebrate a Mass in the Varela Chapel for this occasion.

Once again this year,  on Saturday, Nov. 3, the Menorcan Society sponsored the Mass and encouraged its members to come, since there are many Minorcans  buried at Tolomato. In fact, it was the priest who served the Minorcans in their New World ordeal during the British Period and also accompanied them on their flight to St. Augustine, Fr. Pedro Camps, who asked British Governor Patrick Tonyn for permission to use the “Old Catholic Cemetery” for burials once again. If you live in St Augustine and visit Tolomato, you will recognize many of the Minorcan names that you see on streets and shops throughout town.

Below is the statue of Fr. Camps and the Minorcans in the west courtyard of the Cathedral. The term “Minorcan” also includes those of Greek, Italian, Sardinian, Sicilian and other stock who were part of the emigration.
Camps Statue

The Menorcan Society and other attendees placed flowers on the graves, although unfortunately when I went out to the cemetery later that same day, I found that our abundant squirrel population had tipped over the vases and eaten the flowers, leaving only a random scattering of petals here and there.

Fr Ed 2012

But the squirrels didn’t win!  Above, Fr. Ed Booth (who has Minorcan roots) from the Cathedral parish stands for a moment after blessing the grave of his long ago predecessor, Fr. Miguel O’Reilly, who during the Second Spanish Period was the first pastor of the parish that is now the Cathedral. Fr. Miguel O’Reilly died in 1812 and was buried at Tolomato; his successor, Fr. Miguel Crosby (another Irishman ordained in Spain) is buried nearby.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Record-Breaking Open Day at Tolomato!

Every month, our number of visitors increases, and in October, 2012, we hit our highest number so far: over 400 visitors came through the gates from11-3 pm that Saturday.  Granted, on this occasion we were helped by a nearby political campaign event, which gave us visitors who stopped in on the way back to their cars upon its conclusion.  We were also recently listed in the AAA magazine and we are getting people who have timed their trip to St Augustine just to coincide with our Third Saturday openings.  Whatever the reason, it was a busy day…

Below, Nick McAuliffe took a picture of Elizabeth Gessner, in vaguely 18th century dress, giving a tour to some interested visitors.  Our docents were hoarse by the end of the day!


Matt Armstrong spent the afternoon finishing up the ironwork restoration project that he had started about two weeks ago with the aid of some 15 volunteers.  In this photo, he is putting  flat black oil-based paint on top of the cleaned, primed and undercoated metal. It’s a time-consuming process, and the visitors stopped to chat with him about it. Some of them signed up are going to be doing it themselves at our next event in November (date to be announced).


And finally, here’s the cemetery cat, who came out to keep an eye on things.


The photo was taken by Louise Kennedy from her new genealogy and reference table at the back of the cemetery. The cat appeared to be unimpressed by our goings on and soon went off to check out a neighboring backyard.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Preservation Dedication

Today we did our very first metalwork preservation session.  Matt Armstrong, who has taken the NCPTT metalwork preservation course, instructed a group of some fifteen enthusiastic volunteers (some from the Flagler College Archaeology Club), who then spent the morning brushing, cleaning, stabilizing and finally painting part of the wrought iron grave enclosure around the Benet marker. 

In the photo below, Matt describes the project. This enclosure was chosen because the ironwork is in poor condition, but still good enough so that cleaning and painting will help it.  Some of our metalwork is so deteriorated that it has rusted through, but most of the Benet enclosure is intact.


The purpose of this is not to make it look “like new,” but simply to arrest the deterioration while it is still possible. This ironwork shows the results of probably a century of neglect.

Lead Test

We started with a lead test to determine whether whatever paint remained on the ironwork contained lead. It probably had, once upon a time, but by now, so little of the paint remains that the test was negative.  So we put on masks only to protect ourselves from little metal chips stirred up by our next activity, steel-brushing the metal.

Steel Brush

This cleaned off the loose rust, and then we washed the cleaned metal with Photoflow, a gentle, non-reactive cleaner.

Photoflow wash

Once that had dried, the next step was spraying the metal with a rust converter (Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer, in this case), a product that bonds with the rust, stops its progress and creates a smooth, paintable surface, as we see below where the treated metal, black, is next to an as yet untreated rusty upright.

Rust Reformer

Once the rust converter had dried, we moved on to the next step, painting it with an oil based primer.   The undercoat used in the 19th century was often a red oxide based paint, and we used something very similar to it.  But wait…after a beautiful, sunny morning, all of a sudden clouds rolled in and we had the Florida specialty, a completely unanticipated drenching rain.  But did that stop the volunteers?  Not at all!

In this photo, we see them working under a piece of plastic drop cloth, held up by human tent-poles.


And, alas, although we had one more step – letting the primer dry and then giving it a couple of coats of flat black oil-based paint – we had to call it quits after the primer coat. However, even having gotten that far was enough to protect the metal, so we packed up our things and the dripping volunteers then went their ways to dry off or, better yet, to eat barbecue at Mojo’s across the street.


So I can’t put up the final photo yet…but Matt and others will be back in the cemetery some time in the next few days to do the final coats, and as soon as they’ve finished, their splendid work will be displayed here for you. 

It was a great project with great volunteers and a truly excellent presentation and instruction by Matt.  And it is the first of many!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Metalwork Preservation

Tolomato Cemetery has a number of cast and wrought iron grave enclosures – or at least what’s left of them!  As you can see, they have rusted through, fallen over or been disrupted by plant life.


But we’re going to attempt to halt the deterioration. Matt Armstrong, our Preservation Chairman, attended the NCPTT workshop on historic ironwork a few months ago, and now he’s going to bring his knowledge to bear on Tolomato’s collapsing ironwork.


On October 6, we’ll have another Preservation Work Day for our members and volunteers, where they’ll clean, remove rust, repair what can be repaired, and use rust-proofing paints and materials to prevent further loss of these features, some of which are very lovely examples of 19th century cemetery art.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Our 16th Century Burial

Earlier this year, we reinterred bones from the burial place of some 16th century St. Augustinians found during an archaeological dig at the site of the first St. Augustine parish church, Los Remedios, on what is now Aviles Street.

We planned to mark the site with a piece of coquina (which may have originally have come from the Tolomato belltower) and a brass plaque.  And here it is.


Lux Perpetua is Latin and means “Perpetual Light.”  It is from the old Latin funeral rite, and the full phrase was  Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis. The translation is Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Cathedral Bells–and Tolomato?

The Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine has embarked on a renovation and restoration program this year, and the first project was getting the Cathedral’s many bells to ring again.  There are two sets of bells, one set in the free-standing Flagler bell tower near St George Street, which was added in the 19th century after the 1887 fire, and the four original bells in the campanario or espadaña (a traditional Spanish false-front bell-wall) over the door. 

Cathedral Front

The bells have not rung for years, although the four original bells, which had been damaged in the 1887 fire, had been recast and rehung for the 400th Anniversary in 1965.  But for one reason or another, they were not used, possibly because no adequate ringing mechanism was in place.  In the 19th century, they were rung by being swung with ropes – or by little boys who would climb up to a platform behind them and strike them with a hammer!  Obviously, it’s time for something more modern. 

The mechanism that rang the Flagler bells had also ceased to work and they placed too much of a strain on the bell tower if they moved, so an electronic chime replaced them years ago.  But now something has happened.

Louise and Bells

Here we see Tolomato Cemetery Preservation Association Secretary Louise Kennedy, standing in front of the bells as they are placed on a truck to be taken away for cleaning and restoration.

What is the connection with Tolomato?  As we know, Tolomato was originally the site of a Franciscan Indian mission, which had a four-story coquina bell tower that remained standing until sometime between 1793 and 1800, when it was slowly taken apart so that the stone could be used in the building of the current Cathedral. 

When the Spanish left Florida in 1763 as the British arrived, they took with them to Cuba all of the church furnishings from all of the churches, including the missions such as San Sebastian, and of course the parish church, which was at that time Nuestra Senora de la Soledad on St George Street. In the inventory done upon the arrival of the goods in Cuba, there is a record of three bells, “one large, one medium and one small,” being brought to Havana.  Most of these goods were distributed to other parishes in Cuba or to the new one founded by St Augustine residents in Guanabacoa. Only a few things were returned to St Augustine when the Spanish came back in 1784, and the bells were not mentioned on the list that I have seen.

So it seems that three of the current bells were acquired for the building of the new church, the current Cathedral. Construction had actually been planned some 10 years earlier, but the funds needed to be used for rebuilding the town after a disastrous hurricane. However, it is possible that the bells had been ordered at this time, because when they were taken down, one was found to be dated 1787.

But what about the fourth bell?  The oldest bell, dated in 1689 and named San Jose, is possibly the one that came from Tolomato. It’s the one at the lower left in the bell tower, and is not the largest.  Below is a photo taken by Louise.

Bell removal 099

Bells were very important to the missions and to the town.  Life began every morning with the Angelus at 6:00 am, and the Angelus bells rang again at noon and at 6:00 pm, marking the day. It is certainly possible that this bell was somehow left in the bell tower at Tolomato, of no interest to the British, or perhaps was hidden elsewhere and recovered by the Spanish when they returned.  Will we ever know?  Well, rest assured that we’re certainly trying to find out!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Two years, 5000 Visitors!

We were open last Saturday, and we had 306 visitors, including a couple who flew down from Pennsylvania just to visit the cemetery.  So then I got to thinking…and I realized that, averaging it out, Tolomato Cemetery has had about 5,000 visitors since our start-up in the Summer of 2010.

Pretty impressive!  Below is a photo taken by Louise Kennedy of some of our visitors – from another century. Dressed in period dress are DAR and Garrison members at the tomb of Fr. Miguel O’Reilly; behind them is the marker for Don Juan McQueen, which the DAR installed with the help of these gallant gentlemen.


And here are our docents, including Nick McAuliffe, who was undeterred  by his recent broken ankle and even came by on crutches to sit by the gate for awhile, and Mary Jane Ballou, who played the harp in the chapel all afternoon.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tolomato on NPR


NPR’s Greg Allen recently came to St Augustine to visit Tolomato as part of a summer program series entitled “Dead Stop,” which is, naturally, about various historic cemeteries throughout the US that might make an interesting destination for a visit. Well, at least a temporary destination.

He interviewed a couple of TCPA members, Elizabeth Gessner and Nick McAuliffe, and spent the morning rambling among the graves and learning about the fascinating historical figures who are buried at Tolomato.  He had clearly done his homework and was a good interviewer, and the resulting short program gives visitors an intriguing little glimpse of Tolomato.

Nick McAuliffe took this photo of Greg Allen, Elizabeth Gessner and Matt Armstrong after their visit to the Varela Chapel.


To hear the program, go to

Sunday, June 24, 2012

June 22 Torchlight Tour

The TCPA members-only event began after a day spent anxiously watching the weather.  We got rained out last year – but fortunately, it didn’t happen again this year, and not a drop fell during the Torchlight Tour we had planned as a gift to our members and to the City of St Augustine.

The brave folks at the gate fending off the ghost tours and receiving the guests – our treasurer Janet Jordan, with her law enforcement brother Paul Jordan providing a firm presence while his wife, Debbie Jordan, also checked off guests – deserve particular mention for keeping everything orderly and smooth. The cemetery would have been the most crowded spot in St Augustine otherwise, particularly when passersby saw the torches lit and the docents in their period garb.  Janet and Debbie didn’t have to wear period dress…this year…

photo 11

Priscilla de la Cruz greeted guests and roamed the cemetery taking the photos that you see on this page. 

Mary Jane Ballou heroically played the harp for hours, giving guests a medley of Spanish, English, French and American music of the 18th and 19th centuries.

photo 6

When the guests were all assembled, Elizabeth Gessner welcomed them and introduced Carl Halbirt, City Archaeologist, who gave a talk and explained our newest and oldest burial: that of the 16th century St Augustine citizens, possibly priests or people important in the Church whose remains were found during an archaeological dig on Aviles St.


The text on the new marker is visible behind Mary Jane and Elizabeth. The plaque is not ready yet, but the remains were reinterred at Tolomato Cemetery on June 16 by the Cathedral’s pastor, Fr. Tom Willis, and there is a piece of coquina from the Cathedral marking their location.

fr tom

When Carl finished, John Cipriani, 18th century Spanish soldier, led the guests off by lantern-light to the 5 stops on the tour. He was as always an impressive figure and he came to us at Tolomato event though he had spent the entire day filling 750 rounds of shot and I don’t recall how many cannon rounds for the Fort Mose reenactment scheduled for the following day.  In this photo, he’s taking an 18th century photo of Mary Jane with his 18th century IPhone…well, maybe not.


Our great docents, Sue Barrow, Sue Howden, Louise Kennedy, Carol Lopez and Sister Thomas Joseph McGoldrick interpreted, respectively, Don Juan McQueen, Elizabeth Forrester, Bishop Verot, the Minorcans and the Sisters of St Joseph.  Here you see Sue Howden, Carol Lopez and Louise Kennedy, getting ready to take their places.

6-21-12 Tolomato 002

Carol was at the first stop on the tour and she made it all real to people by pointing out the Minorcan names and their connections with St Augustine here and now. Pedro Benet’s marker was illuminated and she recited part of the beautiful poem by Stephen Vincent Benet (American Names) which speaks of the “singing names” of the Minorcans.

photo 1

Our soldier then led guests to the next stop.

Sue Howden told Elizabeth Forrester’s touching story and recited the sad inscription on her vault, and then we had an unexpected treat when Dianne Jacoby and her troupe of reenactors came in and stood next to Sue at the tomb and did their interpretation of Elizabeth’s mother and sister lamenting her death. This is something they have done elsewhere, and it was a very dramatic moment for our guests.

photo 2

At the Verot tomb, Louise Kennedy gave guests a clear and dignified introduction to our first bishop, and then Sister Thomas Joseph McGoldrick, SSJ, accompanied by Sister Joyce, interpreted the site that marks the burial place of two of the original eight French sisters brought to St Augustine by Bishop Verot. Sister Josefa, SSJ, had found photographs of the two sisters, who died in the late 1860s within two years of arriving here, and Sister Thomas Joseph displayed them to the group. I had never seen the photos before, and we need to put them in our archives.  Alas, I don’t have any pictures of this stop, but perhaps one of our visitors will supply me with some and I will post them later.

photo 4

Then guests proceeded to our next site, the new Don Juan McQueen marker, where Sue Barrow, the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of John McQueen, told us about her illustrious forebear. Incidentally, she made her own 18th century English garb, which you see above, based simply on drawings that she saw on websites - and she did it in under a week. I think she may have a new career awaiting her…

photo 5

Finally, John Cipriani and Matt Armstrong (visible in the upper right) led the group to the Varela Chapel, where Elizabeth and Matt said a few words about Fr. Varela and the building. As you can see, it is a dramatic sight by torchlight (although I have to admit that much of the illumination in this photo came from the security lights on the roof). The interior was lighted by candles, just as it would have been in 1853, and the glow spread out into the night to bring this event to a wonderful close.

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Look for Tolomato Docents

The cemetery was open last Saturday and this time our visitors got something different: several of our docents had gone off to St Augustine Textiles on St. George Street and got themselves great new “old” outfits.

We’re preparing for our membership event this coming Friday, June 22, and one of our docents suggested wearing period clothing. The idea caught on and several of us went and got our outfits last week. Of course, we couldn’t wait until the 22nd to wear them.

Below are Louise Kennedy and Elizabeth Gessner, women of 18th century St Augustine (with what must be an 18th century I-Phone visible in the corner of the photo!).


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another Tolomato Postcard Sighting

The tireless Matt Armstrong was poking through an old bookstore in Savannah and came across yet another Tolomato postcard.  As usual, it was undated, although the information on the back at least identified the printer and the place of printing (Duval News Company, Jacksonville, Florida). 


Some of the features appear little changed. We see the tomb of Elizabeth Forrester in the foreground, and the Varela Chapel, although with some slight differences from its current state, in the background. The area is covered with grass and it looks as if there is a wide path or cart track leading to the chapel.

But of course, who knows how accurate the artist was?  In fact, who knows if the colorist had even seen the cemetery? Very likely, he simply used his imagination when it came to adding color to the photo.  And, most frustrating of all, nobody has any idea when this card was produced. But maybe someday some dedicated Tolomato fan will track it down.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tolomato and 1763

As every St Augustinian knows, 1763 was the year that Spain ceded Florida to Britain in the treaty ending the French and Indian War  and all of the Spanish citizens sailed for Cuba.  This amounted to about 3000 people, including the Europeans, the different Indian groups and the free Africans from Fort Mose.

Recently I came across a Cuban genealogical site with rich information about this:  the names of several hundred of these refugees.  The names are mostly those of the male heads of family with a description of the group to which they belong (familias Isleñas, for example, meaning people from the Canary Islands who had come to Florida as settlers only in 1757, or familias de Yndios, meaning one of the Mission Indian groups).  Also included was information about their occupation and where they went when they got to Cuba.  To back this up, I came across an article by a Cuban scholar and another by Jane Landers and got a very interesting view of the fate of these former Floridians.

Because there were so many of them that they would virtually have overwhelmed Havana, they were sent to different areas. Most of the Canary Islands families, along with other Spanish families, the German Catholic families that had lived in St Augustine, and a miscellaneous assortment of non-European St Augustine citizens, were given land in a place called San Agustín de la Nueva Florida, in the province of Matanzas, northeast of Havana.  The parish church there, built in 1797 (the same year as the present Cathedral of St Augustine!) and thus after the arrival of these refugees, is named Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria y San Agustín de la Nueva Florida de Ceiba Mocha.  The devotion to La Candelaria was very popular with Canary Islanders.  I was unable to find a photo of the church, but here’s an old holy card of La Candelaria from a Cuban website.


The Franciscan friars who staffed the missions went to the Convento de San Francisco in Havana, although some were reassigned elsewhere, and it indicates that at least one was sent to Caracas. The doctrinero at Tolomato, Fray Agustín Trujillo, went to the Convento but unfortunately died in Havana shortly after his return.

Other residents, particularly the mission Indians, went to a place called Guanabacoa, not far from Havana.  The town church, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, is shown in this photo by Herb Frazer from the Charleston Mercury.  It was built somewhere between 1721 and 1748, so it would have been standing when the St Augustine refugees arrived.  We know that the cacica (the female chief) of Tolomato, María Francisca, died in Guanabacoa and was buried there.

Guanabacoa Church

Guanabacoa had long been an area reserved to Indians, who had their own governing councils and maintained other customary institutions, and the new residents – who were from a wide variety of tribes, but who had been living in a tribally mixed situation in the few remaining, consolidated Florida missions – probably found it a congenial location.

Many of the free blacks from Fort Mose also went to San Agustín de la Nueva Florida, today known as Ceiba Mocha.  This area was a center of sugar production and there were a number of recently “imported” Africans already in the area, although Cuba also had a large free black population and many persons of mixed blood (and many Haitians would arrive after the Haitian rebellions). The members of the free African-descent population from Fort Mose were each given a slave of their own to help them, but conditions in the province were very difficult.  However, that area is still known as a center of Afro-Cuban culture, and quite possibly some of our long-ago former St Augustine residents are responsible for some of these cultural contributions.