Luna Colony Found In Pensacola – America’s First Multi-Year European Settlement

December 17, 2015

The University of West Florida archaeology program recently identified the archaeological site of the Luna settlement – the first multi-year European settlement in the United States – in a developed neighborhood in Pensacola.

The artifacts discovered are evidence of the Spanish settlement by Tristán de Luna y Arellano from 1559 to 1561, the earliest multi-year European colonial settlement ever archaeologically identified in the United States.

The work began on Oct. 2, 2015, when Pensacola native Tom Garner discovered Spanish colonial and Native American artifacts at a privately owned residential lot within view of the two uncovered shipwrecks in Pensacola Bay, which were also linked to the Luna expedition. In 1983, Garner attended a UWF archaeology field school led by Dr. Judith Bense, founder of the UWF archaeology program and current University president. Garner is well versed in the identification of historical artifacts and aware of areas considered likely candidates for the location of the Luna settlement.

After multiple visits and surface collections, Garner brought the artifacts to the UWF archaeology lab on Oct. 30, 2015. Dr. John Worth (left), associate professor of historical archaeology, is an archaeology and ethnohistory expert and focuses on the Spanish colonial era in the southeastern U.S.

“What we saw in front of us in the lab that day was an amazing assemblage of mid-16th century Spanish colonial period artifacts,” said Worth. “These items were very specific to this time period. The University conducted fieldwork at this site in the mid-1980s, as have others since then, but no one had ever found diagnostics of the sort that Tom found on the surface. People have looked for this site for a long time.”

With the cooperation and support of residents and property owners, UWF began test excavations at the site and recovered additional artifacts in undisturbed context. Worth is the principal site investigator and Dr. Elizabeth Benchley, director of the UWF archaeology program, provides administrative and financial support. Garner also recently joined the team as a research assistant and neighborhood liaison for the project.

UWF archaeologists recovered numerous sherds of broken 16th century Spanish ceramics found undisturbed beneath the ground surface. They are believed to be pieces of assorted cookware and tableware, including liquid storage containers called olive jars. Small personal and household items were also among the findings – a lead fishing line weight, a copper lacing aglet and wrought iron nail and spike fragments. Additionally, the team recovered beads known to have been traded with Native Americans. These items are consistent with materials previously identified in the shipwrecks offshore in Pensacola Bay.

The artifacts were linked to the Spanish expedition led by Tristán de Luna y Arellano, who brought 1,500 soldiers, colonists, slaves and Aztec Indians in 11 ships from Veracruz, Mexico, to Pensacola to begin the Spanish colonization of the northern Gulf Coast in 1559. One month after they arrived, the colony was struck by a hurricane, sinking many of their ships and devastating their food supplies. After two years, the remnants of the colony were rescued by Spanish ships and returned to Mexico.

The Luna settlement inhabited Pensacola from 1559 to 1561, which predates the Spanish settlement in St. Augustine, Florida, by six years, and the English settlement in Jamestown, Virginia, by 48 years.

“If the Luna expedition hadn’t been devastated by a massive hurricane and had instead achieved its original goal, the reasons and circumstances surrounding the 1565 establishment of St. Augustine might never have happened,” explained Worth. “If Florida had grown as an extension of New Spain through Pensacola on the Gulf Coast to Santa Elena on the Atlantic, the history of the United States itself could have evolved quite differently.”

The winter encampment of Hernando de Soto’s Spanish exploratory expedition to Tallahassee, Florida, from 1539 to 1540, is the only earlier European habitation site positively identified by archaeologists in the southeastern U.S. Two earlier Spanish colonial settlements have yet to be found – those of Juan Ponce de León near Fort Myers, Florida, in 1521 and of Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón near Brunswick, Georgia, in 1526. However, neither settlement lasted more than a few weeks.

The discoveries made at the site of the Luna settlement signify that the two shipwrecks previously discovered in Pensacola Bay were wrecked at the anchorage for the entire Luna fleet. The first shipwreck was discovered by the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, and the second was found by UWF. The second shipwreck is currently being excavated by UWF with the assistance of a Florida Division of Historical Resources Special Category Grant. This new information about the location of the settlement may help UWF archaeologists narrow the field of search for the remaining shipwrecks.

With the continued cooperation of residents and property owners, UWF archaeologists will continue to examine the neighborhood to determine the extent and organization of the site.

“The shipwrecks have provided a tremendous insight into the nature of the machinery that brought Spain to the New World and how they operated this entire vast empire,” explained Worth. “In terms of understanding who they were after coming to the New World, this kind of archaeology at the terrestrial site will provide us that window.”

The UWF archaeology program includes a select group of 13 full-time professional archaeologists, nine support staff and numerous graduate students. The program has a rich history of significant instruction, research and public outreach in the Pensacola region. Exhibits displaying UWF research and Pensacola area archaeology are open to the public at the UWF Archaeology Institute, T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum and Destination Archaeology at the Florida Public Archaeology Network Coordinating Center.

Experiential learning is a key component of undergraduate and graduate education at UWF. Each summer, the archaeology program offers multiple 10- to 11-week field school sections – like the one Garner attended in 1983 – during which students receive hands-on experience and develop skills necessary for employment. The University plans to include the Luna settlement site in field school sections led by Worth in Summer 2016.

“It’s hard to believe that this opportunity is finally here,” said Worth. “Not only do we know where the site is, but now we get to explore it.”

In order to protect the neighborhood and the integrity of the site, the UWF archaeology program does not plan to disclose the exact location of the Luna settlement.

Molino Park Elementary Students Build Birdhouses

December 17, 2015

Students at Molino Park Elementary School built birdhouses this week with the help of parents and volunteers from Lowest on Nine Mile Road, a MPES Partner in Education. Organizers said the students and parents enjoyed working together toward a common end goal.

Submitted photos for, click to enlarge.

First Baptist Century Youth Share Sounds Of Christmas Joy

December 17, 2015

Youth from the Century First Baptist Church went Christmas caroling Wednesday night for the sixth consecutive year. The group visited nine homes in Century and residents the Century Health and Rehabilitation Center, spreading the joyous news of the season. Photo for, click to enlarge.

Navy Federal Contributes To Toys For Tots Program

December 17, 2015

Members of the United States Marine Corps visited the Navy Federal Credit Union Heritage Oaks campus in Beulah Tuesday afternoon to collect donations for the annual Toys for Tots campaign.

“We have some very caring and generous team members in Pensacola,” said Debbie Calder, executive vice president of Navy Federal’s Greater Pensacola Operations. “We are committed to serving our members and the communities where we operate, and this is another example of the heart our employees have for this community.”

Navy Federal has been collecting the new, unwrapped gifts since November 11th. During that time, employees, along with visitors to the credit union’s branches in Beulah and Pace, have donated more than 1,500 toys plus an additional four bicycles.

“We have employees who begin their Toys for Tots planning in the spring,” said Donald Belcher, Navy Federal training supervisor. “This effort is the highlight of the Christmas season for some of our team members. The toys will help bring joy to needy children in our area and that helps bring me joy as well.”

In addition to the toys that were collected, Navy Federal donated $1,500 to the Toys for Tots foundation.

The primary goal of the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program is to help less fortunate children experience the joy of Christmas. Once they are collected by the Marines, the toys are then distributed to the communities where the toys were collected.

In addition to its support of Toys for Tots, Navy Federal Credit Union’s campus in Beulah is also supporting the Council on Aging’s Adopt a Senior program and recently expanded its “Adopt a Family” program though the Escambia County School District.

“The Pensacola community has been such a terrific partner for us,” Calder said, “and we are proud of how our employees and members have given back this holiday season.”

Pictured above and inset: The Toys for Toys campaign at Navy Federal Credit Union. Pictured below: (L-R) Donald Belcher, training supervisor at Navy Federal, Debbie Calder, executive vice president at Navy Federal, Corporal Stephanie Lawler and Corporal Amador Garcia (both from Marine Aviation Training Support Group 42). Photos for, click to enlarge.

Tate Showband Members Wrapping Presents At Walmart

December 16, 2015

Tate High School Showband of the South is heading to Hawaii next December to play at the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. If you would like to help them get out there, they’ll be wrapping Christmas presents for donations at the Walmart on Highway 29 in Ensley as follows:
12/18 – 10am – 8pm
12/19 – 8am – 8pm
12/20 – 1pm – 8pm
12/22 – 7am – 9pm
12/23 – 7am – 9pm
12/24 – 7am- 6pm

Santa Claus Visits Century Library (With Photo Gallery)

December 16, 2015

Santa Claus paid a special visit to the Century Branch Library Tuesday afternoon taking those last minute Christmas wishes.

Requests included hoverboards, dolls, computers, a hamster, an ATV, a diary and many requests for Playstations.

One girl asked for a hamster, and Santa was quick to check to make sure she would be willing to  clean the cage. For the young man that’s hoping for a new computer under the tree, there was a request from Santa that he use it to research and learn about science and history in addition to just fun and games.

For a photo gallery, click here.

Pictured top: One of Santa’s young visitors Tuesday a the Century Branch Library. Pictured inset: Santa sizes up a young man Tuesday at the Century Branch Library  to see if he is big enough for his requested ATV. Pictured below: Despite much encouragement, this young lady was just not in the mood for Santa. Pictured bottom: Trying to decide what to ask Santa to bring. photos, click to enlarge.

Byrneville Elementary Present Sounds Of Christmas Joy (With Photo Gallery, Video)

December 16, 2015

Byrneville Elementary School’s third, fourth and fifth grade students presented their annual Christmas Program Tuesday night at Northview High School.

For a photo gallery, click here.

For a bonus Facebook highlight video, click here. photos, click to enlarge.

Rudolph’s Day Off: Santa Arrives At Area School In Helicopter

December 16, 2015

The reindeer got the day off Tuesday as Santa Claus arrived at Flomaton Elementary School in a LifeFlight helicopter. Santa visited with the boys and girls, hearing Christmas wishes. Photos for, click to enlarge.

Blue Bell Ice Cream Returns After Recall

December 15, 2015

Blue Bell Ice Cream returned to store freezers Monday in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in Florida and across south and central Alabama.

Blue Bell has been absent from stores since a voluntary recall April 20 due to a listeria outbreak that was linked to 10 illnesses in four states, including three deaths.

For now Blue Bell is producing five flavors of ice cream in the half gallon and pint sizes: Buttered Pecan, Cookies ’n Cream, Dutch Chocolate, Homemade Vanilla and The Great Divide. More flavors will be added in the future. 12-pak Homemade Vanilla Cups and 12-pak Homemade Vanilla and Dutch Chocolate Cups are also available in stores.

Pictured: Blue Bell Ice Cream was back in the freezer at the Piggly Wiggly in Davisville on Monday. photo, click to enlarge.

Molino Falls In Love With ‘KC The Library Cat’

December 14, 2015

Molino has fallen in love with KC MeowMeow the Library Cat…the resident cat at the Molino Branch Library.

He goes by the nickname “KC” and, well, basically rules his outdoor domain around the library. He’s quite the hit with library and Molino Community Complex visitors.  During his photo shoot, several children arrived at the library with their parents. The first stop was not the children’s book section, but around the outside of the library calling KC for a little love and attention. Once the children gained his approval for a petting well done, the kids were off for the library’s children’s section.

Library employees and patrons have raised the money for KC’s care and daily feedings. He has been to the vet where he was neutered and has had all of his shots. When we had our last cold weather, patrons became concerned that he was out in the cold, but a donor provided him with a small heated house.

KC provides outdoor security and mousing services for the library and can often be found at the side entrance serving as official greeter.

KC is also a hit with the children at the neighboring Head Start program.

Pictured above and below: KC The Library cat at the Molino Branch Library. Pictured bottom (submitted photo): A heated cat house was donated to keep KC warm on cold Molino nights. photos, click to enlarge.

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