Early Florida Accounts
Account by Fidalgo Delvas. Dated 1557. A Briefe Note of the Corne, Fowles, Fruits and Beasts of the Inland of Florida on the Backeside of Virginia, Taken Out of the 44 Chapter of the Discouery of the Said Countrey, Begun by Fernando de Soto Gouernor of Cuba, in the Yeere of Our Lord 1539. pp. 193-195 (in) The English New England Voyages 1602-1608. Edited by D.B. Quinn and A.M. Quinn. The Hakluyt Society. Series Two, Number 161. London: The Hakluyt Society, 1983.
The bread which they eat in all the land of Florida, is of Maiz, which is like to course Millet. And in all the Islands and West Indies from the Antiles forward there is this Maize. Likewise in Florida there be many Wallnuts, Plummes, Mulberies, and Grapes. They sowe their Maize, and gather it, euery man his owne croppe. The fruits are common to all men, because they grow abundantly in the fields without planting or dressing. In the mountaines there grow Chestnuts; they are somewhat smaller than the Chestnuts of Spaine, which are called Collarínnas. From Rio Grande [Mississippi River] toward the West, the Walnuts are differing from the other; for they are softer and round ilke buyllets. And from Rio Grande toward Puerto del Spirito Santo Eastwrd, for the most part they are harder … There is in all the countrey a fruit which groweth vpon an herbe or plant like to the herbe called Dogs-tongue which the Indians doe sowe. The fruit is like vnto the Peres Rial [royal pear] it is of a very good rellish, and of a pleasant taste. Another herbe groweth in the fields, which beareth a fruit neere the ground like to a Strawberie, very pleasant in taste. The Plummes are of two sorts, red and gray, in fashion and bigness of Walnuts, and haue three or foure stones in them [persimmon]. These are better than any in Spaine, and they make better Prunes of them. The want of dressing [pruning] is perceiued only in the Grapes: which although they be great, yet they haue a great kernell. All the rest of the fruits are very perfect, and less hurtfull than those of Spaine (pp. 193-194).
There are in Florida many Beares, Lions, Stags, Roebucks, Wild-cats, and Conies. There be many Wild-hennes as bigge as Peacocks [turkey]; small Partridges like those of Africa, Cranes, Ducks, Rolas, Blackbirds, and Sparrowes (p. 194).
The Indians are well proportioned. Those of the plaine countreys are taller of stature, and better proportioned than those of the mountaines. Those of the Inland are better furnished with corne [maize] and wealth of the countrey, than those of the sea coast (p. 194).
Account by René de Laudonnière. Dated 1586. Histoire notable de la Florida. A Note of Such Commodieies as are Found in Florida Next Adioning vnto the South part of Virginia, Taken Out of the Description of the Said Countrey, Written by Mounsieur Rene Laudonnier, Who Inhabited There Two Sommers and One Winter. pp. 195-196 (in) The English New England Voyages 1602-1608. Edited by D.B. Quinn and A.M. Quinn. The Hakluyt Society. Series Two, Number 161. London: The Hakluyt Society, 1983.
The countrey of Florida is flat … There groweth in those parts great quantitie of Pyne trees, which haue no kernels in the apples that they beare. Their woods are full of Oakes, Walnut trees, black Cherrie trees. Mulberie trees, Lentiskes which yeeld Masticke [note: this is not Pistashia lentiscus], and Chestnut trees, which are more wilde than those of France. There is great store of … Palme trees, Grapes: There is there a kind of Medlars, the fruit whereof is better than that of France, and bigger. There are also Plumme trees, which beare very faire fruit, but such as is not very good. There are Raspesses, and a little bery which we call among vs Blues [blueberries: Vaccinium spp.], which are very good to eat. There grow in that country a kinde of Rootes, which they call in their language Hazes [unknown], whereof in necessities they make bread. There is also the tree called Esquine, [perhaps local word for Sassafras?] which is very good against the pocks and other contagious diseases (pp. 195-196).
The Beasts best knowen in this countrey are Stagges, Roes, Deere, Goates, Leopards, Ownces, Lucernes, diuers sorts of Woolues, wilde Dogges, Hares, Connies, and a certeine kinde of beast that differeth little from the Lion of Africke. The Fowles are Turkie Cocks, Partridges, Perrots, Pigeons, Ring-doues, Turtles [turtledoves] Blacke birds, Crowes, Tarcels, Falulcons, Leonards [laynerd: falcon], Herons, Cranes, Storkes, wilde Geese, Mallards, Cormorants, Herneshawes, white, red, blacke, and gray, and an infinit sort of all wildfoule. There is such aboundance of Crocodiles, that oftentimes in swimming, men are assailed by them (p. 196).
They sowe their Maize or Corne twice a yeere, to wit, in March and in Iune: and all in one and the same soile: The said Maize from the time that it is sowed, vnto the time that it is gathered, is but three moneths in the ground. They haue also faire Pumpions and very good Beanes: They haue certeine kinds of oile, wherewith they vse to annoint themselues (p. 196).