Category Archives: local history

The Chichimeco Invasion

Looking Northeast from Jones Creek. Cannon’s point is to the right, with Sapelo Island on the horizon.

The following excerpts were copied from John Worth’s The Struggle for the Georgia Coast p. 15-16

“The year 1661 marked the beginning of the end of the Guale and Mocama mission provinces. Late that spring, news arrived in St Augustine that “a nation of warrior Indians”, had struck Guale from the mainland……Although the details of this assault are only fragmentary, it seems clear that a body of perhaps as many as two hundred canoes and rafts, carrying between 500 and 2000 Chicimeco warriors armed with firearms , descended the modern day Altamaha River from the interior of Georgia and attacked the first town of Guale, Talaje,situated on the northern bank of the river near the modern day town of Darien. Based on accounts…this mission appears to have been abandoned as a direct result of the attack on Jun 20th, with its inhabitants fleeing to Mission San Joseph de Sapala, situated only five leagues distant in a more protected barrier island location off the coast….

…Mission San Joseph de Sapala, by then flooded with refugees, seems to have been the target of a second assault soon after the abandonment of Mission Santo Domingo [de Talaje.] Having constructed a “boat that they made from the boards of the church and the convent at Talaje,” (Barreda, 1663) The Chichimeco apparently endeavored to follow their initial victory with an attack on Sapala, probably navigating along the inland waterways to the bar of Ospogue ( modern Doboy sound), just across from Sapelo Island. filing the vessel with 70 warriors, the Chichimeco launched their construction into the open water, at which point “the current of the bar of Ospogue drew them out to sea, and they drowned in view of everyone, with no little sentiment from the enemy, though the said people being among those of the most valor.” Other Chicimecos, including “some of their principal leaders’ were killed in battle with the Gaule indians, and they lost “many more, who in their retreat and flight died of hunger on the roads”…

…The destruction and abandonment of Mission Santo Domingo de Talaje at the mouth of the Altamaha river was followed by the re establishment of the mission on nearby St Simons island under another name, Santo Domingo de Asao, probably located at Cannons point on the north end of the island. Although this southernmost Guale mission was situated on the same island as the northernmost Mocama mission San Buenaventura de Guadalquini [on the St Simons south end], the island location provided far greater security from raids originating from the interior, and probably easier access by boat…”

Spanish Account of the Attack on Georgia

These are a few images taken from a 1913 Georgia Historical Society publication of Spanish documents. They give an account of the invasion of Gualquini, and make a good supplement to the previous post. Note the map is English and Spanish, with different names for some of the same features shown on the Spanish maps.

Click to enlarge

The fort appears to have been right about where the pier is now, and the Spanish beach head somewhere near the Sea Island lodge and golf course. Early the next morning they marched up the beach toward the village.

Georgia Historical Society https://archive.org/stream/spanishofficiala01geor#page/n7/mode/2up

A collection of the documents in book form

Another Arredondo Map

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My second cousin and childhood friend, Farris Cadle, sent me the link to this map of St Simons Island. It portrays the Spanish invasion in 1742, including a list of the ships involved, the armaments, and numbers and types of personnel. The legend also describes the English fortifications, houses, roads, etc. on St Simons (Gualquini, the indigenous name), and Jekyll (Isla de las Ballenas, the spanish name, “isle of whales”).

The original is in the Spanish Archives in Madrid, and has now been digitized for all the world to see. Another, earlier Arredondo map, made in 1737, of the St Simons sound area is in the Hargrett library collection at UGA, and also in the Library of Congress. More here about it.

Here is the link to the Spanish National Library (BNE) with a viewer. There is a lot of information packed into these online files- if you have access to a large printer a good sized wall copy could be made. I would like to get a translation of all of the legend to print out, and would really appreciate some help with that. if anyone is interested please drop me a note.

Thanks to Farris for the heads up and to Bob Drury for the print!

Fort Caroline: A Reading List

french map florida from USFThere is some controversy as to the actual location of where Fort Caroline stood, and there are descrepiancies in the firsthand accounts of the events surrounding the struggle for French Florida. If you are unfamiliar with the basic history, here is an outline of what is known to have happened. This much is confirmed by a number of eyewitness documents:

In 1562, The French crossed the Atlantic, explored the coast and eventually built a fort on or near what is now Paris Island in South Carolina. They named it Charlesfort. The leader of the expedition, Jean Ribault, left a handful of settlers there and returned to France for reinforcements. They traded and sometimes fought with the natives. Ribault did not bring back supplies as he promised. Because of a complicated political and religious situation in Europe, he was imprisoned by the British. Meanwhile, the new French colony fell apart due to dissension and hardships. The colonists built a crude boat, deserted the fort and returned to France. The next year more Frenchmen returned and built a second fort somewhere to the south of the first, on the bank of a large river that they had discovered with Ribault on the first voyage. They named the river “May” and called the new fort “Caroline”. Again, they traded and sometimes fought with the natives, further exploring the region. Like the first attempt, these new colonists also experienced hardships, and were about to give up a second time and return to France, when Jean Ribault, finally released by the English, returned with supplies and reinforcements. At the same time though,(summer 1565) the Spaniards showed up, with orders from their king to remove all the Frenchmen. There was a naval battle, a huge storm, shipwrecks, and a land assault on the fort, in which it was taken by the Spanish and re-named Ft San Mateo. French Hugenot shipwreck survivors were rounded up and murdered by the Spanish Catholics. St Augustine was founded nearby. The fort, now controlled by the Spanish, was counter-attacked again a couple of years later by a Frenchman, Dominique du Gourges, and the occupants were put to the sword in the same manner as the French had been before. The French avengers did not stay around, so the Spanish returned to the fort, but later abandoned it for good. No hard archaeological evidence of the fort’s location has ever been formally recorded.

This is the basic thread of the incredible Fort Caroline story, but there are many interesting side trips woven in – mutinies, cannibalism, piracy, executions, religious fanaticism, explorations, indian alliances and battles, murders, captures and releases, slavery, Indian adoptions of shipwreck survivors, just for a start!

In April, 2014, on St Simons, the local historical society hosted a lecture and Q and A featuring . Fletcher Crowe and Anita Spring , two researchers, who outlined their findings on the fort’s location. Citing map and linguistic evidence, they contended that the original site was very likely on the Altamaha River, instead of on the St John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida, as has been generally accepted. Their report and its associated publicity has spawned a new generation of interest on the subject in the area, especially for local residents. After all, there is a certain intrigue in the possibility that there may have once been a group of French mutineer/ pirates hung from a gibbet in your backyard, or that those sand dunes you always sat in to gaze at the surf could have been witness to a bloody mass execution of “heretics”.

Other researchers also have been quietly moving independently in parallel. A Native American researcher and otherwise interesting fellow, Richard Thornton, claims that Crowe and Spring hijacked the whole Altamaha River location idea from him. He has written a book about fort Caroline. He cites, among other things, a convincing passage written by William Bartram in his journal, written in 1774, describing ancient ruins (they would already have been about two hundred years old by then ) of a fort on the south fork of the Altamaha, just across the river from Darien, somewhere around what is now the youth estate on the bluff where I 95 crosses the river delta. Using google Earth you can see some promising high ground spots along the south channnel of the river. It is easy to imagine this place as the forts location when you read some of the the original accounts, but the trouble is, it is easy to imagine other places as well.

Brunswick resident and archaeologist Fred Cook has done that, and he has also published a Fort Caroline study. Relying on map interpretations and primary sources, he believes that Fort Caroline had to have been inland a few miles on the south side of the St Mary’s river, adjacent to a sandy bluff. You can also see it from I-95. All the primary accounts allude to a bluff or a “mountain” overlooking the fort. [note: Fred Cook passed away in July 2016.]

Another former local resident,Gary Daniels, has published an intrigueing website, with a collection of first hand accounts and other interesting stuff detailing his own investigations. He explores the possibility that the fort was on the Satilla River. His website posts reprints of several of the firsthand accounts.

Also, there is another excellent webpage, with many useful, interesting links that was and still is being constructed by retired history and geography teacher Walter Mattfield, making the case for St Johns Bluff.

The purpose of this post is to provide a list of primary source reading material-the gospels, so to speak, so that those who are new to the subject may read up and draw their own conclusions. Contributions and corrections to the list are welcome and will be posted as updates. If anyone knows of anything else not listed please e-mail me and I’ll include it here. For now, I will list only primary accounts. Most of these accounts can be found verbatim on the internet, but if you prefer hard copy, many of these titles can be bought cheaply if you look around. The Solis De Meris Account is an exception, but I was able to borrow a copy through an inter library loan. There are many excellent history books on the subject as well as maps, so maybe I’ll post more lists, later on.

Three Voyages- by Renee LaudonnierRenee Laudonnier was Ribault’s second in command on the first expedition, in 1562, to Charlesfort and the leader of the second expedition founding fort Caroline in 1564. He survived the Spanish assault at Caroline and escaped back to Europe along with only a handful of the remaining soldiers and settlers. He wrote his account from memory after returning to Europe.
This volume, with Laudonniers relation, was published in 1975 by Charles Bennet, an amateur scholar and former congressman from the third district of Florida.

Laudonniere and Fort Caroline History and Documents- Charles Bennet Another publication by Charles Bennet, with several first-hand accounts in the second part of the book.

Narrative of Le Moyne, by Jacques Le Moyne de Morges
Le Moyne accompanied Laudonnier on his Fort Caroline expedition as the expeditions official artist, cartographer and special assistant. He was present at the Fort Caroline massacre by the Spanish, but also escaped and returned to Europe with Laudonnier and a handful of others. His account survives, along with a few paintings, some sketches and a map. His report details life at the fort, some travels up river and dealings with the indians, and the Spanish assault.

The Whole and True Discovery of Terra Florida, by Jean Ribault
This account was probably written from memory during Ribaults incarceration in the Tower of London in 1562 or 63. He describes the southeast coast and his first voyage, encounters with the indians, the discovery of the river of May,(which later became the site of Fort Caroline) and the building of Charlesfort at Port Royal Sound. It was written before his second voyage, when he met his death at the hands of the Spaniards.

Letters of Pedro Menendez de Aviles The leader of the Spanish expedition, Menedez gives his account of the events to King Phillip of Spain.

The accountof the chaplain of the Spanish expedition Father Francisco lopez de Mendoza Grajales, chaplain to the Menendez fleet and settlement.

An account of Dominic De Gourges revenge assault on San Mateo (formerly fort Caroline).

The Relation of Nicholas Burgoginon

Menendez de Aviles and La Florida: Chronicles of His Expeditions, by Gonzalo Solis de Meras. Solis de Meras was Menendez’ brother in law and accomplice.

The English trader and explorer John Hawkins, first cousin of Sir Francis Drake, visited Ft Caroline just before Ribaults return and the fall of the fort to the Spanish. An account by John Sparke, a sailor board one of his ships was later recorded by Richard Hakluyt.

William Bartram on the South End

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March 1774
William Bartram’s Travels
Part II ch 1

excerpt:

…At length I doubled the utmost south point of St. Simon’s, which forms the north cape of the south channel of the great river Alatamaha. The sound, just within this cape, forms an excellent bay, or cove, on the south end of the island, on the opposite side of which I beheld a house and farm, where I soon arrived. This delightful habitation was situated in the midst of a spacious grove of Live Oaks and Palms, near the strand of the bay, commanding a view of the inlet. A cool area surrounded the low but convenient buildings, from whence, through the groves, was a spacious avenue into the island, terminated by a large savanna; each side of the avenue was lined with bee-hives, to the number of fifty or sixty; they seemed to be well peopled, and exhibited a lively image of a colony that has attained to a state of power and affluence, by the practice of virtue and industry.
        WHEN I approached the house, the good man, who was reclining on a bear-skin, spread under the shade of a Live Oak, smoking his pipe, rose and saluted me: “Welcome, stranger, I am indulging the rational dictates of nature, taking a little rest, having just come in from the chace and fishing.” After some conversation and rest, his servant brought a bowl of honey and water, a very refreshing and agreeable liquor, of which I drank. On rising to take my departure, he objected, and

Page 61
requested me to stay and dine with him; and on my pleading, for excuse, the necessity of my being at Frederica, “Yet, I pray you, stay a little, I will soon have some refreshment for you.” Presently was laid before us a plentiful repast of venison, &c. our drink being honey and water, strengthened by the addition of brandy. Our rural table was spread under the shadow of Oaks, Palms, and Sweet Bays, fanned by the lively salubrious breezes wafted from the spicy groves. Our music was the responsive love-lays of the painted nonpareil, and the alert and gay mockbird; whilst the brilliant humming-bird darted through the flowery groves, suspended in air, and drank nectar from the flowers of the yellow Jasmine, Lonicera, Andromeda, and sweet Azalea….

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Cannon’s Point

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The ruins of the big house at Cannon’s point are visible from the Hampton River, at green marker #19 The foundation and chimney are about all that is left.

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Just a few yards away to the west is the tabby floor and chimney where the kitchen stood. It had a huge brick hearth, that is still intact, with multiple ovens and fireplaces for constant meal production.

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There are tabby ruins of slave cabin foundations, and an ice pit, lined with tabby, where they packed block ice in sawdust. A long unpaved avenue runs up the center of the peninsula, to the old home site. The dock is long gone, but you can still row ashore at any of several bluffs along Jones Creek on the west side. It is best to go in cool weather when there are no snakes

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Most of the St Simons Island inhabitants fled the coast during the War for Southern Independence. The following account is from the diary of a Col. Dean, a Union blockader, who was stationed off the Georgia Coast in 1861. It was Copied from T Reed Ferguson’s John Couper Family at Cannon’s Point

… We anchored in the Altamaha Sound in December 1861, after the fall of Port Royal to our cannon.The dark woods on a marshy spine of land could not hide from view a large home on a bluff above the river and, as we had been so long on board our ship and desired to explore this wild mainland, Henry and I took a dingy and rowed ourselves land-ward. We tied up at a dock beneath the house and walked through a large garden. On all sides were what appeared to be palm trees of several kinds, many with dark red fruits growing from spiky projections of a strident yellow.

The first story of the house was constructed of the same rough stone and shell [tabby], we had seen in several coastal buildings, and the wooden house, white painted with green shutters, rose high above this foundation. Crossing a wide piazza, Henry and I entered the front door, and in some haste, for the house, though deserted, seemed full of its former occupants, made a tour of inspection and left. As we departed, I picked up from the library floor several old letters amongst the papers scattered there. Their dates showed to be some 75 years old, and I thought to keep them as souvenirs…

These letters turned out to be correspondence to John Couper. The really remarkable thing about this tale is that it did not end there. Almost 50 years later, In 1909, this same Col. Dean, by then retired and living in New York, made a chance acquaintance at a social gathering, with James Maxwell Couper, John Couper’s great grandson. Upon learning the latter’s name, Col. Dean recalled the letters, went home and found them, and then returned them to the Couper descendants! They are now an invaluable primary source material for historians and authors.

Francis Moore’s Journal

Following are a couple of excerpts from A Voyage to Georgia, Francis Moore’s account of his travels with the English colonists bound for St.Simons Island. We traced part of his route last week on the way up to Blackbeard Island.
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page 41
leaving Skidaway on the left, an the mouths of the Vernon and Ogeechee rivers on the right, we passed forward,and still kept through Channels,as before,sometimes crossing wide sounds (for the boatmen here call gulphs of the sea which run into the land, and the entrances of the rivers). There are 3 or 4 sounds to be passed, which in blowing weather are dangerous to those open boats. I believe, where we passed, St Catherine’s is above two leagues wide. The tides of flood carried us up along-side the islands and the tides of ebb down to the sea. Mr Ogelthorpe, being in haste, the men rowed night and day, and had no there rest than what they got when a snatch of wind favored us. They were all very willing, though we met with very boisterous weather. The master, Capt Ferguson, is perfectly acquainted with all the water passages, and in the darkest night never missed the way through the woods and marsh, though there are so many channels as to make a perfect labyrinth. The men vied with each other, who should be forwardest to please Mr. Otglethorpe. Indeed, he lightened their fatigue, by giving them refreshments, which he rather spared for himself than let them want. The indians, seeing the men hard labored, desired to take the oars, and rowed as well as any I ever saw, only differing from the others by taking a short and long stroke alternately, which they called the yamassee stroke. I found this was no new thing to the indians, they being accustomed to row their own canoes, boats made of a single tree hollowed, which they manage with great dexterity. When we came near the mouth of the Altamaha, we met a boat with Mr. Mackay and Mr. Cuthbert, (who is lieutenant of the Darien) coming from Darien to Savannah. They were very agreeably surprised to find Mr. Oglethorpe on board us. They returned to the Darien, taking Captain Dunbar with them, whilst we stood the shortest way to St. Simons. Mr Cuthbert told us, that one of the highlanders met with an orange tree on Duboys island; he was charmed with the color, but could not get to them buy reason of the height of the tree, which was so full of thorns, that there was no climbing it, so he cut it down and gathered some dozens….

March 1735-6 p49
These periaugas are flat bottomed boats, carrying from 20-35 tons. They have a kind of forecastle and cabin but the rest open and no deck. They have two masts, which they can strike, and sails like schooners. They row generally with two oars only; but upon this occasion mr Oglethorpe ordered spare oars for each boat, by the addition of which, and the men of the colony rowing, they performed their voyage in five days, which single periaugau is often 14 days in doing.
Mr Oglethorpe accomopanying them with the scout boat, taking up the hinder most in tow, and making them keep together; and expedient for which was the putting all the strong beer on board one boat, which made the rest labour to keep up with that; for if they were not at the rendezvous at night, they lost their beer.

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It is about 85 statute miles from Frederica to Savannah River on the modern Intracoastal Waterway, or what would have been their inside passage more or less. Five days at 12 hours a day comes out to a little less than 1.5 miles per hour. Seventy five years later, John Couper’s slaves could row it in a day, in smaller boats and probably with more oarsmen- about 7 miles per hour. (faster than we in the Spirit of St Simons could motor it !)

I think the Orange tree story is interesting, having read that oranges were introduced into the Americas by the Spanish, and later established themselves naturally, though they are fragile in these parts because of the occasional hard winters. My question is: how did the tree that the Scotsman cut down in 1735 get to Doboy Island? Spanish missionaries? Indians? French? Another question is where did the name “Doboy” come from? Was Moore’s spelling “Duboys” a misspelling of Doboy or did the current spelling evolve from it? One could spend a lifetime just digging up the origin of the many curious names in this small piece of the world.

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There is a nice anchorage
in the Back River that runs past Doboy Island, where it forks off of the ICW. It is open to the breezes and is relatively bug-free, with a clear view of Sapelo light to the Northeast. We saw a Bald Eagle in a tree on the southern tip of the island. You can anchor anywhere along there that is out of the waterway, but mind the strong current- especially the ebb. In a contrary wind it could get complicated.

The whole area there- the Back River, and both sides of Commodore Island as well as the shore of the North River, is strewn with small ballast Islands from the days of the timber ships. the ships would pitch the stones from within their holds prior to taking on cargo. Over time these piles of stone became wooded islands.

Arredondo’s Map

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Gualquini. As it was in mid August 2015

A while back I was poking around looking for stuff about St Simons and stumbled upon Arredondo’s Map. Dated 1737, it is one of the earliest known that shows any detail of the island itself and surrounding area. I am fascinated with it, and have been trying to piece together a picture of Antonio Arredondo ever since. Sent back up from Havana in June 1742 to assist in the Spanish expedition against Georgia, he was a trained engineer, mapmaker, strategist, and did a lot of intelligence gathering for the Crown. You can read his journal of the infamous assault on St Simons that same year.

Arredondo made several maps, some with long-winded titles. This one is called, in English, “Chart for the Entrance of Gualquini, River of St. Simon, Lying in the North Lat. 31 degrees”. The legend at the top right is in Spanish and hard to read in places, but a translation appears along with the map on page 71 of the archived journal linked above. The first thing that jumped out at me was the name the Spanish used for Jekyll Island- “Isla de las Ballenas” or “Island of Whales”. The Right Whale calving ground off the coast here must have been unique enough to have earned the name. Up around where the SSI lighthouse is now, the map shows a small cluster of houses with palm thatched roofs, some earthworks and a small fort with the number and size of the cannons. This was called Gualquini, which started out as an indian village. In the early 1600’s a Spanish mission was built in the vicinity, then Oglethorpe and the English came and built a fort. Still later came the cotton plantations, and finally, then, folks from Baxley started showing up. It has been downhill since.

A couple of roads are shown, very roughly where parts of Demere, Military Trail, and King’s Way roads are now. The map legend notes a “lookout, made of logs”, that appears to have been about where Railroad Avenue was, before Hurricane Donna lopped off that section of the island. The Spanish journals mention the erosion of the beach even way back then.

Down about at what is now Gascoigne bluff and Epworth, it shows a couple of fresh water sources “good, but turbid” and un horno , or oven (I wonder who built it?). From there over to the south, there is a careening ground -a hard, fairly level, sandy beach that dries out at low tide, where boats of all stripes would, and still do, clean and paint their bottoms. There was, and still is, good deep water all the way around the south end of the island, and up the river to the town of Frederica. There was no causeway or bridge then, of course, so a lookout at Frederica could see all the way down the river, and across the sound to Isla de las Ballenas or Jekyll, as Oglethorpe named it.

The Spanish referred to passable inlets as barras. The current bar channel between SSI and Jekyll is referred to as Barra Gualquini, and the inlet into St Andrews sound below Jekyll was called Barra de las Ballenas. Anyway, I think the map is very cool. You can download the file from Hargrett Library’s site and print it out for your living room.

Anyone with any more info on Antonio Arredondo, please e-mail me.

Edit: The indian name is also spelled as Guadalquini here