Historical Report on Juan de Rivera
Overton G. Ganong
August 22, 1974
Historical Report on Juan de Rivera
The object of this study was to uncover information about Juan de
Rivera, the owner of house number 63 on the Elixio de la Puente map, a
house the St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission
"reconstructed" above excavated foundations on that site (B12, L27) in 1964-
65, The reconstruction was based wholly upon archaeological evidence, princi-
pally the size of the foundations. Scarcely any documentary research appears
to have been done; consequently, up to now virtually nothing has been known
about Rivera and his family. The evidence is scanty, but enough details have
come to light as a result of this study to indicate his occupational, familial,
and social status.
Juan de Rivera's identity presents no problem. Only one person by
that name is found in the key to Elixio de la Puente's map of St.Augustine.
His property was among those consigned to Jesse Fish for resale, and in
Fish's account book his name also appears as Juan de Rivera, the only such
listing. 2In 1803, following Fish's death, Rivera's heirs made a claim on
Fish's estate for money he presumably owed Rivera for the sale of his house
and tot, 3 In all of these sources the name is written the same way. Further-
more, since only one Juan de Rivera is indicated in Elixio de la Puente's list
of 1770, one can safely assume that all these references are to the same
Juan de Rivera was born about 1732, the son of Pedro Thomas de
Rivera, a private in the cavalry company, and Maria de los Reyes y de la
Cruz, an Indian from the village of Tolomato. 7Given her village of origin,
his mother was probably a Guale or a Yamassee. Juan was identified as a
"native of the Indian town of La Punta, "9 another village near St. Augustine
inhabited by the aforementioned tribes. 0 His brother Antonio de la Cruz
Rivera was described as an Indian. 12 This evidence leaves no doubt that
Juan was at least a mestizo. In fact, he may have been more than half
Indian, since his father was also possibly a mestizo, indicated by the fact
that although Pedro Thomas de Rivera was described as a native (natural),
there is no reference to him in the baptismal records.13 Kathleen Deagan
suggests that mestizo births were seldom recorded in those records
because Indian mothers usually returned to their villages to bear their
children.14 One should note in this connection that no baptismal entries exist
for either Juan or his brothers.
When Juan was about fourteen years old, his father was killed "by
the enemy, 15 probably marauding Indians. Pedro Thomas left a widow, at
least three sons, and possibly a daughter.16 Two sons, Juan and Antonio,
joined the garrison as artillerymen. Neither attained rank. Both were just
simple soldiers earning a meager sum of 168 pesos annually. 18
Sometime around 1761 Juan married Lorenza Ramos, a native of the
Canary Islands. A daughter, christened Maria Tecla, was born to them on
September 12, 1763,19 just prior to the Spanish evacuation of Florida.
Following that evacuation, the family settled in Guanabacoa, Cuba, where
they had at least two more children, Ana and Pedro Tomas. 20 In early
September, 1772, Juan de Rivera died and was buried in the parish church of
Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion in Guanabacoa.2
Concerning Juan de Rivera's house in St. Augustine, only two docu-
mentary sources have come to light. The key to the Elixio de la Puente map
describes it as a stone, i.e., coquina, house. The second reference appears
in Jesse Fish's account book, 22 in the form of two cryptic entries that raise
more questions than they answer. On May 18, 1770, Fish recorded in the
credit column: "For stone of the new walls of his house... 86 pesos. 23
The most logical inference is that the stone was being sold as stone for
building material. The specific use of new seems to indicate either an addition
to or repairs to an existing structure. Seven years later Fish sold "his
(Rivera's) old house and lot"24 to Luciano de Herrera for 117 esos, 7 reales.
Given the value of the stone itself, as revealed by the first entry, a coquina
house, with lot, selling for only 117 pesos could not have been much of a house,
Of course, it probably had deteriorated considerably over the fourteen years
since Rivera had left.
The large foundations found on the site remain a mystery. Since land
title records for the First Spanish Period are unavailable, one cannot know
when or how Rivera acquired the property or its condition when he did so.
One can only hypothesize explanations to fit the meager evidence. One plausible
interpretation is that Rivera acquired a dilapidated building and made appro-
priate renovations. The most likely date he acquired the property was 1761,
the year of his marriage to Lorenza Ramos.
Doris Wiles, librarian at the St. Augustine Historical Society, correctly
identified Rivera's parents, brothers, and wife, but she did not discover
the references that indicate his occupation and racial background. She
apparently extracted this information upon request from Earl W. Newton,
then director of the St. Augustine Historical Restoration and Preservation
Commission. Her work, plus an unsigned summary of references to
B12 L27 in the Elixio de la Puente map, in the Account Book of Jesse
Fish, and in the Mariano de ta Rocque map, constitute the only research
on Juan de Rivera. See St. Augustine Historical Society (henceforth
cited as SAHS), Biographical Files, "Juan de Rivera;" Historic St.
Augustine Preservation Board (henceforth cited as HSAPB), Block and
Lot File, B12 L27.
East Florida Papers (henceforth cited as EFP), Bundle 319, no. 79
(Reel 146 at SAHS).
EFP, Testamentary Proceedings, 1803, microfilm at SAHS, Reel 6,
Archivo General de Indias (henceforth cited as AGI), 87-1-5/4-5-6,
Santo Domingo, 2595, May 8, 1770, transcript at HSAPB. Two other
references to a Juan de Rivera were located, both of them from a
much earlier period. A Juan de Santiago de Ribera, son of Phelippe
de Ribera and Catherine, "an English woman, was born in 1692.
If alive, he would have been 71 in 1763. No other reference to him
has been found. It should be noted that his name was Juan de Santiago,
not simply Juan. Furthermore, there is a Juan de Rivera listed in a
roster of 1714 (AGI, 58-2-3/59, June, 1714) as an officer's page (pae
de jineta). He was probably a relative of Captain Don Jose de Rivera.
He does not appear on later rosters.
His burial record from Guanabacoa, Cuba, dated 1772, described him
as "apparently 40 years old" (al parecer de quarenta aios). Assuming
this estimate to have been reasonably accurate, he would have been
born about 1732, give or take a few years. His baptism is not recorded
in the St. Augustine Parish Registers.
St. Augustine, Jan. 13, 1746, AGI 87-3-12/76 (Stetson), transcript at
7. For Juan de Rivera's parentage, see EFP, Testamentary Proceedings,
1803, Reel 6, no. 6. For Maria de la Cruz's identity, see St. Augustine
Parish Registers (henceforth cited as SAPR), Burials, 1760-63 (Pardos
y morenos), photostats at SAHS, ph. no. 142.
8. Juan Valdes, Bishop of Cuba, to the Spanish Crown, Jan. 14, 1729,
AGI, 58-2-16/25, cited in Kathleen A. Deagan, "Sex, Status and Role
in the Mestizaje of Spanish Colonial Florida" (Unpublished Ph.D.
dissertation, University of Florida, 1974), p. 26.
9. Baptism of Maria Tecla de Rivera, Sept. 15, 1763, SAPR, Baptisms,
1763, ph. 347.
10. Valdes to the Crown, Jan. 14, 1729, AGI, 58-2-16/25, cited in Deagan,
11. This is the way his name appears in the key to the Elixio de la Puente map.
12. Burial of Antonio Rivera, June 3, 1763, SAPR, Burials, 1760-63
(Pardos y Morenos), ph. 142. The entry reads, "...Antonio Rivera
Indio natural del Pueblo de Tolomato hijo legmo de Thomas Rivera, y
de Maria Cruz.... "
13. A check of baptismal records from 1675 through 1720 failed to turn up
his name. His burial notice listed his parents as Diego Jasinto and
Ana Luisa Joachin.
14. Deagan, pp. 25-26.
15. Burial of Pedro Thomas Rivera, Dec. 5, 1746, SAPR, Burials, 1745-46
(Mostly Pardos y Morenos), ph. 58.
16. Marriage records exist for two sons, Antonio and Francisco Xavier.
See SAPR, Marriages, 1756, phs. 341 and 347-48. A Margarita de
Rivera, wife of Diego de Miranda, appears in a baptismal entry of
1762, but no definite relationship between her and the family of Pedro
Thomas de Rivera has been established. Baptism of Antonio Joseph
German, June 1, 1762, SAPR, Baptisms, 1762, ph. 84.
17. AGI, 87-1-5/4-5-6, Santo Domingo, 2595, May 8, 1770, HSAPB trans-
cript, p. 18. Burial of Antonio Rivera, June 3, 1763, SAPR, Burials,
1760-63 (Pardos y Morenos), ph. 142.
- 7 -
18. AGI, 87-1-5/4-5-6, Santo Domingo, 2595, May 8, 1770, HSAPB
transcript, p. 42.
19. Most of the marriage records for the period 1756-63 have been lost.
In his will of 1772 Rivera mentioned that he had married Lorenza
Ramos "eleven years ago. EFP, Testamentary Proceedings, 1803,
Reel 6, no. 6. For his wife's place of origin and the birth of his
daughter, see the baptismal entry for Maria Tecla de Rivera, Sept.
15, 1763, SAPR, Baptisms, 1763, ph. 347.
20. EFP, Testamentary Proceedings, 1803, Reel 6, no. 6.
22. EFP, Bundle 319, no. 79.
23. "Por piedra de las paredes nuevas de su Casa."
24. "Por su Casa Vieaja (sic)y solar vendida a Lu de Herrera. "