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First St. Augustine in Georgia

Probable site of the first St. Augustine

Probable site of the first St. Augustine

The Spanish archives put first St. Augustine in Georgia. Same document confirms POOF location for Fort Caroline. French eyewitness says that Jean Ribault was executed at Fort Caroline in Georgia.

Y’all are going to love this one. It is one thing for archaeologists and historians to squabble about whether some pile of earth is a Spanish fort, an Indian mound or a pile of dirt. Being a Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech, I like hard numbers and crisp satellite images. That we got.

All along there was a letter written by the big butcher himself, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, where he stated that St. Augustine was established on a site with a latitude of 30 ½ degrees. It was about 21 miles south of Fort Caroline. Most Florida authors and web sites changed the number to 29 ½ degrees to match St. Augustine. However, trente y media grados is 30 ½ degrees in every Spanish speaking nation in the world, except South Miami Beach. He also said that there was a roundish island the diameter of Sapelo Island in the mouth of the May River. None of the other river candidates have islands in their mouths but the Altamaha River with its Sapelo Island.

There is also a French archive by a survivor of Fort Caroline that states that most of the French fleet was sunk or floundered about 50 miles south of Fort Caroline. They struggled back northward through the Georgia Coast’s maze of rivers, tidal creeks and marshes in order to surrender at Fort Caroline to the Spanish, and then be promptly butchered.

For 500 years, a parade of conquistadors, Catholic priests, Protestant missionaries, soldiers, politicians, historians, eggheads, anthropologists, New Agers and archaeologists have been telling the Southeastern indigenous peoples what their history was. Now the moccasins are on the other foot.

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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.

1 Comment


    Woodbury Lowery (1905 and 1911 editions) quotes in Spanish Pedro Menendez de Aviles’ 1565 letter to the king of Spain and he describes St. Augustine as being at 29 1/2 degrees and Fort San Mateo (Fort Caroline) as being at 30 1/4 degrees. Today 29 1/2 degrees is Flagler Beach, south of St. Augustine, whereas 30 1/4 degrees is Ponte Vedra Beach south of the St. Johns River and Mayport.
    “El [puerto] de Sant Mateo que ganamos esta en treynta y un quarto…” (p. 390. Woodbury Lowery. The Spanish Settlements within the limits of the present United States)
    Lowery acknowledges some people had proposed in his day (1905) that the May River might be either the Altahamah of Georgia or St. Marys of Florida and explained why he dismissed these two proposals. It was Menendez’ 1565 letter which said the French fort was on a river flowing from the southwest towards the Bay of Juan Ponce. Secondly, Menendez said St. Augustine, which he calls “this port” is at 29 1/2 degrees while fort San Mateo (Fort Caroline being renamed by him) is at 30 1/4 degrees (see Lowery. 1905/1911 editions. pp. 389-392 for details). This is to say over a hundred yeasrs before Richard Thornton, others had proposed the Altahamah to be the May River upon which lay Fort Caroline.


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