The Age of Exploration in Georgia
Georgia History 101
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
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 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
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
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.
Our Georgia History: History 101 index
Georgia's Indian Heritage
The Age of Exploration in Georgia
The America Revolution in Georgia
Georgia and the Civil War
Georgia's Gilded Age
A State Divided
Depression and War
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