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A discovery along the Cotee

Published Mar. 9, 1990|Updated Oct. 16, 2005

When Pasco pioneers were looking for a reason to party in the early 1920s, New Port Richey's first postmaster delivered the document that set Chasco Fiesta in motion. On New Year's Day 1922, Gerben DeVries set out for a day of fishing in Enchantment Park, now known as Sims Park, and came back with a whopper of a fish tale.

DeVries said that while sitting on the bank of the Pithlachascotee River, he noticed something under a nearby palm tree. It was a cylinder covered in clay. Inside were parched documents _ old, crumbling and written in Spanish.

Once translated, the papers revealed a fantastic legend of the Calusa Indians and their life along the Cotee River hundreds of years before. Shortly after DeVries' discovery, the area townsfolk spent two days in March celebrating their newfound Indian heritage.

The tale goes like this:

An expedition made up of about 300 Spanish soldiers from St. Augustine, led by Captain Don Devalla, set out to find a tribe of Calusa Indians on the west coast of Florida who supposedly were worshiping the sun with human sacrifices.

Devalla took along his 13-year-old daughter, Dona Isabella, and his 16-year-old adopted son, Don Philip. Another member of the expedition was Padre Luis, a priest who hoped to convert the tribe to Christianity.

The Calusas somehow got warning of the expedition and took the group by surprise. The Indians sacrificed everyone to Toya, the sun god, except Dona Isabella, Don Philip and Padre Luis.

The three survivors eventually gained the trust of the tribe, and after four years the Calusas agreed to stop their sacrifices and practice Christianity.

The girl was named Chasco by Chief Muscoschee and eventually became queen; Don Philip became her husband, and the tribe called him King Pithla. They reigned for 40 years and had three sons.

In time, the tribe returned to human sacrifices, and a storm swept through and killed the sons and everyone involved in the sacrifices.

Chasco soon died of a broken heart and was buried beneath a palm tree beside the Pithlachascotee River.

Having lost his tribe, his sons and his wife, Pithla also died and was buried by Padre Luis.

Before his own death, the priest recorded the tale of Chasco and Pithla on the parchments DeVries found.

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