Our Georgia History
 

The Age of Exploration in Georgia

Georgia History 101

by Col. Samuel Taylor U.S.M.C. (Ret.)
exclusively for Our Georgia History

Although Portuguese sailors may have visited the New World as early as 1454, it is Christopher Columbus, an Italian sailing under a Spanish flag, who is generally credited with the first landing in North America. The initial thrust of the Spanish sailors was into the Caribbean, continuing the search for a route to the West Indies. It became apparent that no quick route would be found and the thrust of the Spanish flag vessels became exploration and conquest.

1513 brought Juan Poncé de León to the Florida coast. Moving north from Florida, Spanish exploration may have touched the present-day Georgia coast before 1520. In 1526 an attempt was made to establish a colony on the coast of Georgia or South Carolina by Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon. Although the exact location is unknown, historians now believe it is more likely to have been in Georgia, perhaps in the vicinity of St. Catherine's Island. The expedition ended in disaster, with Vasquez de Ayllon and many others dead and the rest barely escaping.

Desoto meets some IndiansHernando deSoto became one of the earliest Europeans to see the state (1540), leaving a path of destruction in his wake. The Moundbuilder culture, already in decline, would cease to exist in Georgia by 1560, when Tristan de Luna revisited the area of deSoto's initial expedition. Juan Pardo reported a similar finding in 1566. Pardo had been sent to the interior of Georgia by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who established a colony and Jesuit Mission on San Pedro (St. Catherines) near the Creek town of Guale (pronounced Wah-le) earlier that year.

Over the next twenty years the inlets of coastal Georgia were charted and gauged and attempts were made to convert the native population. In 1586 privateer Francis Drake raided the city of St. Augustine further south in Florida. In 1588 the English defeated the Spanish Armada and the coastal Spanish outposts were threatened.

Franciscan monks replaced the Jesuits and converted Indians through 1597 when a war, ignited by an argument between a cleric and an aspiring chief destroyed much of the Franciscans' work. It would be almost ten years before the missions regained their footing on coastal Georgia, and they would continue to operate for nearly 100 years. While some of the missions were little more than thatched-roof huts, recent discoveries have led some to believe that larger settlements were quite opulent.

Turbulent political times were coming to an end in England after restoration of the monarchy in 1660. With the establishment of Charles Town (King Charles granted South Carolina) in 1670, the battle for the coast between it and Florida began. Dr. Henry Woodward is credited as being the first English explorer of Georgia, although the term explorer is hardly accurate. By that time the Spanish and French had explored almost all of the places Woodward would visit.

From South Carolina Dr. Woodward headed west to the falls of the Chattahoochee, near Coweta, center of the Creek Nation. Woodward's job was to lure the Indians away from the Spanish missionaries, who were fearful of an outright English attack. The attack came in 1680, led by Woodward, whose ranks were swollen by the Indians whom he had work with for 10 years. The Spanish withdraw to Sapelo Island and by 1684 the Spanish were gone from the coast of Georgia.

At the dawn of the 18th century conflict again escalated between the English settlers in South Carolina and the Spanish in Florida, as a result the War of Spanish Succession or Queen Anne's War. 1715 proved to be a pivotal year in Georgia history. Members of the Creek Nation including the Yuchi and the Yamassee attacked the South Carolina frontier. The Carolinians were not prepared for the attack and fled, many to Charles Town. After 10 months the Creek were defeated and forced further south.

An early attempt to control the land between the Savana [sic] and Altamaha Rivers was the formation of the Margravate of Azilia, an idyllic early representation of the Georgia colony. Another was Fort King George (1721), near present Darien, Georgia. However, these attempts by the government of South Carolina to keep the Spanish in Florida were nightmares both for the politicians and soldiers.

In 1724 Jean Pierre Purry proposed a settlement named Georgina, in honor of newly-crowned King George on the 33rd parallel. Although his idea would eventually come to pass, he is occasionally given credit for the origination of the state name. This honor actually belongs to Lord Percival, the Earl of Egmont, whose dairy records the first use of the name Georgia. In the 1940's the state purchased this document, which is generally considered to be Georgia's birth certificate.

Colonial Georgia

Our Georgia History: History 101 index

Georgia's Indian Heritage
The Age of Exploration in Georgia
Colonial Georgia
The America Revolution in Georgia
Constitutional Georgia
Antebellum Georgia
Georgia and the Civil War
Reconstrution Georgia
Georgia's Gilded Age
A State Divided
Depression and War

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Return to Index


FrontHistory 101Early GeorgiaAmerican IndiansSearch
WarsPeopleTimelineListsPlacesPoetry




Golden Ink
Georgia's innovative design group


Legal Notice
Privacy Policy
Copyright