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1570 map shows French colony in Northeast Georgia . . . 20 years before Eleanor Dare Stones!

1570 map shows French colony in Northeast Georgia . . . 20 years before Eleanor Dare Stones!

A Dutch map printed in 1570, primarily to show the locations of the Spanish and ill-fated French colonies of the previous decade in Southeastern North America, clearly shows Melilot at the headwaters of the Oconee River. The Oconee is a major tributary of the Altamaha River, which was then called the May River. 

Melilot was founded by survivors of Fort Caroline a few months before St. Augustine was established at its current location in March 1566.  The French Huguenots paddled up the Altamaha River and then continued up the Oconee until they reached the Kingdom of Apalache, whose High King gave the asylum. 

This map, along with the rediscovered history of Melilot, greatly enforces the credibility of the Dare Stones.   For 75 years critics, with no clue about Georgia’s early history, have ridiculed the plausibility of the Roanoke Colony survivors making a bee line for what is now Metro Atlanta then turning north along the Chattahoochee River to the Nacoochee Valley.   This map proves that there was already a European Protestant colony in that region, when the Roanoke Colony was abandoned in 1590.

1570-Mellilot-2

The location of Mellilot was apparently in Northeast Metro Atlanta.  This detail of the 1570 map also shows that the Irish Colony of Duhare had moved inland since 1521, when it was first discovered by two Spanish slave traders.

Gene Waddell, retired professor of Architectural History at the College of Charleston,  has donated to the People of One Fire an extensive collection of 14th through 18th century bound maps that he acquired while living in Italy.  They are becoming a research gold mine for getting at the real history of the Southeast.   It will probably take years to fully study these valuable maps.

Heretofore, the oldest map mentioning Melilot was published in France in 1620,  and only French maps seem to acknowledge Melilot’s existence.  The earliest map to show the French colony of Fort Caroline on the Altamaha River was published in 1566 by Spanish royal cartographer, Geronimo Chaves.  In fact, all European maps labeled the Altamaha River as the May River and put Fort Caroline in Georgia.

Detail of 1620 French map showing Melilot.

Detail of 1620 French map showing Melilot.

POOF researchers Marilyn Rae and Michael Jacobs played key roles in the rediscovery of Melilot.   In mid-2013,  Rae found an intriguing lithograph of a Native American town in North Georgia, built of stone, in a website sponsored by Brown University.  She then thought the art portrayed the Track Rock Terrace Complex.  Further sleuthing brought her to the Fantasy & Utopia bin of the Carter Brown Library, where it sat for untold years . . . l’Histoire naturelle et morale des îles Antilles de l’Amérique by Le Pasteur Charles de Rochefort.

It was first published in 1658, but described a journey by an English gentleman from Barbados to the Southern Highlands in 1653.   Some Ivy League professor had buried the book in the fantasy-utopia bin because it described an advanced indigenous civilization in North Georgia.  Little by little, most every detail that De Rochefort mentioned, no matter how incredulous, has been confirmed.

In late 2014,  Michael Jacobs found a letter, dated January 6, 1660 from Edward Graeves, a director of the European colony at Melilot, to the Rev. De Rochefort in Rotterdam.  The letter complimented the written details of his first edition of “L’Histoire Naturelle,” but stated that the engravings of the indigenous buildings and plants in the first edition were inaccurate.  The writer included sketches with the letter to improve the accuracy of future engravings.

English settlement in Apalache

Charles de Rochefort’s book does not mention the Roanoke Colony.   However,  he locates a large, densely populated Native American kingdom at the exact location to where the Dare Stones lead.   The trail marked by the stones crossed the Carolinas to the confluence of the Savannah and Broad Rivers, where there was located one of Georgia’s larger mound complexes – Rembert Mounds.  It then turned due west to Gwinnett County, GA, where we think Melilot was located  . . . specifically on the headwaters of the Apalachee River at Little Mulberry County Park.  The Dare Stones stated that at this point, the Great Indian King allowed them to stay in his realm.   The Dare Stones then  marked a trail northward to the Nacoochee Valley.  They ended at a large Apalache town at the foot of Yonah Mountain.

EleanorDare-NacoocheeCharles de Rochefort described another party of English colonists arriving in Melilot around 1621.   They originally planned to settle at Jamestown, but arrived during a smallpox plague and Indian war.  The Dutch ship captain then told them about Melilot.   The King of Apalache let them establish a colony, complete with a English Protestant chapel.  After that point in time, the colony became increasingly English in character.

In the 1680s,  French explorer, Robert de La Salle,  encountered a band of Chiska Indians near present day Nashville, Tennessee.   They told him that their village in eastern Tennessee had been sacked by a small army of Englishmen from “Florida.”   The name, Florida, then applied to all of Georgia and Florida.  However, La Salle, not knowing about Melilot, assumed that the Chiska meant Spanish.  Both Melilot and Apalache disappeared from European maps after 1696.

PS:  The river on the left side of the map at the top of the article is the Chattahoochee River.  The “A” prefix of Atchalaque is Panoan (Peru) and means “from.”  Seventeenth century maps show the main town of Chalaque in eastern Tennessee.

 

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

4 Comments

  1. markveale@hotmail.com'

    Richard, another Great article from you and your friends. Have you found any location in the maps of a town named “Vilha” and what is your understanding of the location named ” Vlina” on the 1620 map?
    Clearly the ancient people of Georgia knew how to turn a swamp into a lake by placing a dam or dams at the right locations. Most likely the Itza-te people from the Yucatan could have build dams and canals if needed. The Olmec’s could also have completed an earthwork or dam as well as they build their first city in a swamp.

    Reply
  2. That’s Utina, not Vtina. Its capital was named Utinahica, which is Arawak and means “Living Place of the Utina.”

    The letters U and W did not exist in most European languages at that time. This particular Utina province was located around the confluence of the Altamaha and Ohoopee Rivers in Southeast Georgia. It was visited several times by Frenchmen from Fort Caroline. In the early 1600s the Spanish built the Santa Isabel de Utinahica here.

    Reply
  3. Celticbeauty7@yahoo.com'

    I have a large stone structure on my property in Dale County Alabama. It’s between a small town echo and Ozark Alabama. It is on the ChoctawHatchee River. It protrudes out 150 to 200 yards from a ridge overlooking the river. It faces due West and is position between a large snake in the river to the north and a series of smaller snakes in the river to the south. Would like some feedback as to the origins of such a structure. It doesn’t seem natural as the soil in the areas is primarily red clay and sand.

    Reply

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