|St. Augustine, Florida|
St. Augustine and Pensacola, both in Florida, engage in a bit of friendly rivalry over which is the nation's oldest city. The first settlement at Pensacola Bay, the remains of which have yet to be found, was planted by Tristan de Luna in 1559. The colony was a disastrous failure and was soon abandoned, with the modern city of Pensacola dating from a second more successful attempt in 1699. St. Augustine, meanwhile, was founded by Pedro Menendez in 1565 and has been there ever since. At 450 years old, the historic old city has been occupied for about 134 years longer than Pensacola.
Reconstructed French fort in Jacksonville, FL
Finally there is Jamestown. Established in 1607 it was the first permanent English settlement in the United States. The Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock were latecomers among early settlers, not arriving in Massachusetts until 1620.
|The Georgia Coast|
There were American Indians here for thousands of years before the arrival of the first European explorers, of course. Others believe that Vikings visited New England or even made it as far inland as Minnesota and Oklahoma! There is a popular old legend in Alabama and other states that Prince Madoc of Wales explored and planted settlements long before Juan Ponce de Leon discovered the land that would become the United States in 1513.
Named San Miguel de Gualdape, the colony was founded by Spanish explorer and slave trader Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon some four decades before either Pensacola or St. Augustine.
Ayllon had heard glowing reports of a wonderful land somewhere northwest of the Bahamas that was ideal for settlement and populated by American Indians of giant stature that would make desirable slaves for the Spanish. He sent an exploring party of two ships to find this land and report back. The scouts sailed north from Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas and reached land on June 24, 1521, at a place they called the Jordan River.
|Coxspur Lighthouse with Tybee Island in the distance|
Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon signed a contract with the King of Spain in 1523, agreeing to settle this new land. He second a second exploring party out in 1525 as he assembled the people, livestock and materials needed to found a permanent colony.
|San Miguel was somewhere in the marshes|
and islands of the Georgia coast.
The ships set sail in mid-July 1526 and reached land on August 9. The flagship Capitana immediately ran aground and went to the bottom, taking with it vital supplies for the success of the colony.
Ayllon was disappointed with the true appearance of the coast, which differed dramatically from the glowing descriptions provided by his exploring parties. Quickly deciding that the Jordan River was not suitable for permanent settlement, the conquistador sent out additional scouting parties to find a better place. Based on the reports of these explorers, he ordered a move south to the coast of what is now Georgia.
|Looking downstream toward Sapelo Sound at Darien, Georgia.|
The situation quickly became desperate. The loss of so many supplies in the sinking of the Capitana doomed the colony and the settlers were stalked by hunger and disease. The local Guale Indians decided they didn't like the Spanish and soon started to attack them. The African slaves joined in, staging uprisings and setting fire to the homes of colonists. Ayllon died of an unknown illness and the town descended into chaos.
Unable to feed themselves or withstand the cold winter, the colonists gave up. They began to evacuate San Miguel in late October and the last of them sailed away in November 1526. The city of San Miguel de Gualdape, the first Spanish settlement in the continental United States, lasted only two months.
The site that caused such difficulty for Ayllon and his colonists is somewhere in the coastal islands and marshes of Georgia. The entire coast is now a major tourist destination that is noted for its historic sites, beautiful vistas and eco-tourism opportunities. Savannah and the islands of the Georgia Coast are widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the world.
To read more about some of the locations mentioned in this post, please follow these links:
- St. Augustine, Florida
- Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine, Florida
- Pensacola, Florida
- Fort Caroline in Jacksonville, Florida
- Ribault Monument in Jacksonville, Florida
- Savannah, Georgia
- Tybee Island, Georgia
- Golden Isles of Georgia
- Jamestown, Virginia
- Heavener Runestone in Heavener, Oklahoma