Submitted by Descendants: Marguerite Jule Pacetty BROWN; Frances Mordina Brown EVANS; David William, Marguerite Marree Evans, and Robert Thomas MATHEWS
Maria Moll was born in Ciudadela, Minorca, and the second largest of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain. She was only fourteen, when in 1768, she and her father and mother, Antonio Moll & Maria Cabrisas, were recruited by Dr. Andrew Turnbull to work on his huge indigo plantation at New Smyrna in Florida. There she met and married Joseph Bonelly, a young Italian from Livorno, who was also recruited to work on this project. Their first child was born at New Smyrna in 1776. The New Smyrna colony collapsed and the entire group of Italians, Greeks, and Minorcans left to begin anew in St. Augustine. Barely three weeks after their arrival in St. Augustine, was a second child born. Her fifth child, a daughter named Maria Catalina Antonia Bonelly, was born in St. Augustine in 1784. Through exceptionally hard work, vigorous diligence, striving for a better existence by cultivating two 600 acre land grants at Matanzas and at Turnbull Bay, Maria Moll, and Joseph Bonelly kept their growing family of ten happy and healthy. Then, the third west in January 1802, while Joseph Bonelly was away on business, without warning, disaster struck. Miccosukee Indians ravaged, pillaged and burned the Bonelly plantation at Matanzas. Maria Moll Bonelly witnessed something so excruciatingly horrendous, so unspeakably horrible; something no mother should ever have to endure: before he very eyes, she saw her eldest son who was left in charge, Thomas Bonelly – scalped by the Indians. Maria Moll Bonelly and the five youngest children were taken captive and made to travel via a circuitous route to the Miccosukee settlement in West Florida. After seven months, when the Indians received their demanded ransom money, Maria and the three younger Bonelly children, Teresa Mary, Catherine, and John, were released. Later, her son, Joseph escaped: her daughter, Antonia Paula, was detained another fifteen months.
After her husband died, Doña Maria Moll Bonelly continued living in there wooden house on a lot located north and south between Hypolita Street and Baya Lane and east and west between the Bay and Charlotte Street in St. Augustine. This house went in succession to the next eldest living son, Antonio Bonelly however, upon his death, Maria Moll inherited the house and lot in 1819. Even though she did not know how to read or write Spanish, and, her command of the English language was minimal to nil, in 1823 she fought the authorities for legal title to her property with aplomb and with determined dignity.
Her sons left Florida for Cuba and the Caribbean. Her daughter, Maria Catalina “Mary”, lived in St. Marys, Georgia; her daughters, Theresa Mary and Antonia Paula, remained with her in St. Augustine.
Maria Moll Bonelly died in St. Augustine, Florida, sometime after 1830, as the census on this date attests to be the last recorded document bearing her name.
Maria Moll was first established as a Florida Pioneer in 2005