St. Augustine, Georgia . . . the dirty little secrets that you are not told
Every year, the September 8, 1565 landing of Pedro Menéndez on the planned site of the fortified town of San Agostino and the Catholic Mass that followed is reenacted in St. Augustine with dignitaries from around the world in attendance. It was decided to build a cross, because that was central to the original ceremony, where Father Francisco López, the fleet chaplain, soon to be first priest of the colony, came ashore ahead of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, the leader of the founding expedition, and then went forward to meet Menéndez holding a cross. Menéndez came on land, knelt and kissed the cross. Following the service, the European settlers and Satile Indian leaders from their nearby provincial capital of Satipo shared a thanksgiving meal.
Since 2014, there has been a movement underway among Florida history professors and officials of the Roman Catholic Church in Florida to have September 8, 1565 officially acknowledged as the true first Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The public relations personnel, who wrote the original press releases, substituted the ethnic name Timucua for Satile for the name of the Indian tribe. Journalists of the text message generation, as usual, did not fact check the press releases, and replicated them as factual history. That criticism holds true for all the major networks . . . FOX, CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC . . . even the BBC.
St. Andrews Bay, Georgia has one of the deepest channels on the Atlantic Coast of North America. This is why the Kings Bay Nuclear Submarine Base is located on an estuary of the Cumberland River. The flagship of Governor Pedro Menendez easily sailed into the “first” St. Augustine Bay and hid there from the French fleet. However, a month later his ship was too large to enter what is now called St. Augustine Bay, Florida.
You see Satipo was located a few miles south of Brunswick, GA in a peninsula created by the Satilla and Little Satilla River, which juts into St. Andrews Bay, Georgia. No Indian tribe in Florida ever called themselves Timucua, until the Spanish told them that was their name. The word, Timucua, is derived from a Georgia tribe, named the Tamakoa, who in 1565 lived about 25 miles up the Altamaha River. By the 1700s, the Tamakoa were living in Northeast Metro Atlanta, where Commerce, GA is now located. One of the satellite villages of Satipo was Eufuala. In a few decades, Eufaula moved to its current location on the Chattahoochee River in Alabama to get away from the Spanish.
The Satile also established a colony in the Great Smoky Mountains named Satikoa (Sati People), whose capital was also named Satipo (Place of the Sati). It was visited by Captain Juan Pardo in 1568.
In preparation for their attack on Fort Caroline on the northern tip of what is now Glynn County, GA the Spanish took over a Sati town called Seloy and built a field fortification around the “chief’s house.” NO map ever showed Seloy to be in Florida until the 20th century. All the rivers described by the Spanish on the coast near the first St. Augustine flowed from northwest to southeast. No rivers in Florida do this, while all the rivers on the coast of Georgia flow in this direction.
There was a religious service that gave thanksgiving to God for a safe arrival in the New World However, the latitude given for this first landing is on Amelia Island, FL near the Florida-Georgia state line. The fortified Spanish colony of St. Augustine was constructed the next month about 24 miles to the north of Amelia Island between Seloy and the Native American provincial capital of Satipo.
St. Augustine was forced to move from its original site to its current location in March 1566. The Sati Indians, who were invited to their “Thanksgiving Service” soon began killing any Spaniards, who walked outside the fort. The stress of disease and being constantly picked off caused a mutiny among the St. Augustine soldiers. St. Augustine could be massacred at any time. A couple of decades later, a mission was established near Satipo after those Native Americans hostile to the Spanish had been either killed or driven inland.
When he arrived back from Spain, Menendez stated that the current location of the fortified town was untenable because the Indian tribes on what is now the coast of Georgia were too numerous, very sophisticated farmers and considered themselves allies of the French Protestants. In late 1565, the Spanish had established a small fort at the mouth of St. Augustine Bay, Florida, which essentially functioned as a “coast guard station” for Spanish treasure fleets. The large flag ship of Menendez had no problem entering the bay where the first St. Augustine was founded, but could not enter the much more shallow entrance to St. Augustine Bay, Florida. This should have been a “red flag” for scholars. It wasn’t.
In early March 1566, Menendez ordered the surviving colonists at the first St. Augustine to relocate to the bay behind the coast guard station, because the Indians there were few in number and very primitive. It would be easy for the Spanish to “shock and awe” them into submission. Never again did Menendez mention Satile, Satipo or Seloy. Their mythical locations on St. Augustine Bay were created by late 20th century Florida archaeology professors. Red flags should have gone up among Southeastern scholars long ago, because the mission established in St. Augustine ministered to a primitive tribe with a name very different than the Satile . . . but no historian spoke up to announce that “the emperor has no clothes.”
The actual words of Menendez
Governor Pedro Menendez wrote a series of sealed, top secret intelligence reports directly to the Spanish king during the campaign to destroy Fort Caroline. Fort Caroline was personally funded by the King of France. From the beginning, Menendez was ordered by the Spanish king to kill its inhabitants, but France and Spain were at peace. Massacring an entire colony would be an unimaginably just cause for France to declare war on Spain and simultaneously become an ally of the “heretic” Queen Elizabeth of England.
Thus, the contents of these letters should be considered completely factual. Nevertheless, they have been available for scholars to read for over four centuries. There is no excuse for them being ignored.
Over the past half century, some of Florida’s most respected history and anthropology professors have intentionally mistranslated these following passages. One University of Florida senior history professor even changed the original Spanish latitude description to match the location of St. Augustine, FL. Her excuse to me was that “Menendez was obviously concealing the true location of St. Augustine.” Horse Manure!
When Florida congressman, Charles Bennett, wrote “Three Voyages” about 20 years ago, he claimed that it was a translation of the original French language memoirs of Captain René de Laudonnière, (commander of Fort Caroline) . However, his ghost writer included all the errors of a 1587 English translation by Richard Hakluyt, PLUS deleted all passages, which clearly could only place Fort Caroline on the coast of Georgia. In other words, Bennett or his ghost writer actually only updated an archaic English language version, but also deleted passages which described Frenchmen paddling northwestward on the May River to reach the Appalachian Mountains in North Georgia.
(1) “Yo partí de Puerto Rico a quince de agosto para la Habana con los navíos con que me hallaba, para me juntar allí con el Socorro de Santo Domingo para venir a estas provincias de la Florida, y viniendo navegando mi viaje pareciéndome el semblante del sol y de la luna, demostrar Buenos tiempos y que si acertase a llegar a estas partes, al Puerto donde los franceses estaban, antes que el Armada francesa llegase, traía bastante recaudo para le ganar y sustentar en el entretanto que el ayudo de Santo Domingo me venía y la gente que me faltaba, por causa que ellos tienen hecha su fuerza, cinco leguas por el río adentro y a la entrada del río, hay una isleta de una legua, que está dentro del Puerto, que de fuerza han De entrar al luengo de ella y quien ésta tuviere es señor de la mar y sustentarla con facilidad, y ningún navío podrá entrar ni salir en aquel Puerto sin licencia del alcalde que allí estuviere. “
Translation: “I left Puerto Rico the 15th of August for Havana with all the ships I had, to meet up with the Socorro of Santo Domingo [a ship] in order to go to the provinces of Florida, and navigating my voyage, it seemed to me that the appearance of the sun and the moon showed that the time was good and that I would, in fact, arrive in the port where the French were, and before the French ships arrived; I brought plenty of supplies for success and maintenance until the Socorro and the men I needed arrived, because they [the French] have gathered their forces five leagues up the river, and at the river entrance there is a little island, one league long, that lies within the port, and which must be entered by force going the length of the island; and whoever should possess this [island], is master of the river and may keep it easily, and no ship will be able to enter nor leave that port without permission of the mayor there.”
Discussion: Sapelo Island juts into the mouth of Altamaha Bay. It is exactly one Spanish league wide. A 16th century cannon on this island could reach any ship passing through the mouth of the Altamaha. There is no island in the mouth of the St. Johns or St. Marys Rivers, nor in the outlet of St. Augustine Bay, Florida.
(2) “Siete o ocho leguas de aquí, donde desembarqué a dos de septiembre a hablar a los indios que no dieron noticia que el puerto de los franceses estaba más al norte, hallamos grandes muestras de oro subido y bajo, que los indios traían consigo colgado de las orejas y labios y brazos. No consentí quitarles ninguno porque no entendiesen que eran nuestra codicia aquella, aunque a un soldado dieron un poquito de más de veintidós quilates. “
Translation: “Seven or eight leagues from here, where landing on September 2 to talk to the Indians who did not notice that the port of the French was further north, we found large samples of gold and amber. which the Indians brought with them hanging from the lips and ears and arms. I agreed not to remove any because they understood that they were not our greed that, although a soldier got a little over twenty-two carats.”
Discussion: The Spanish fleet first landed on Amelia Island, Florida. The Indians there did not know about the Spanish, so they sailed eight leagues northward to St. Andrews Bay, Georgia, at the north end of Cumberland Island, where the Indians had been in contact with the French. The Spanish originally named the St. Marys River, the San Mateo River. Even then they knew that one could paddle westward on the either the Satilla or San Mateo (St. Marys) River to the Okefenokee Swamp and then southward on the Suwanee River to reach the Gulf of Mexico. In one of his initial letters to the King of Spain, Menendez mentioned the fact that the initial location of St. Augustine was connected to the Gulf of Mexico in this manner. Red flags should have gone up among scholars, but they didn’t.
(3) “Puerto donde poder desembarcar junto a ellos, y a ocho leguas de su Puerto por mar, y a seis por tierra, encontré uno que había reconocido antes, día de San Agustín, que está en treinta grados y medio escaso y a los seis d’éste, desembarqué en él doscientos soldados, y a los siete, entraron tres navíos pequeños con otros tresciento s y los casados con sus mujeres e hijos, y desembarqué la más de la artillería y municiones.”
Translation: “About eight leagues by sea, and six by land, I found a place that I had seen before, on the Feast Day of St. Augustine, and it is just short of 30 degrees and a half, and seven from there. Here I disembarked two hundred soldiers. And on the seventh [of September], three small vessels arrived with another three hundred, plus the husbands with their wives and children. And I also put ashore the greater part of the artillery and munitions that I brought, and the eighth [of September], being the Feast of Our Lady, having landed another one hundred people that I had to put ashore, along with sufficient cannon and gunpowder, the flagship and the admiral’s galleon from the French fleet arrived, standing off half a league from us, offering battle, and coming round on us as we were anchored. They gave indications that they were coming to board us, but at three o’clock in the afternoon, they took in sail and departed for their harbor.
And I went ashore and claimed possession in the name of Your Majesty, and I was sworn into office by the captains and officials, as governor, captain general, and adelantado of this land and coast, according to the provisions of Your Majesty. “
Discussion: Thirty and one-half degrees matches the latitude of Amelia Island, FL and the southern end of Cumberland Island, GA. This is where the Spanish first went ashore after crossing the Atlantic and laid claim to the land. They established what they thought would be a permanent town, four land leagues west of the northern end of Cumberland Island after Fort Caroline had been destroyed.
The latitude number in this section of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés letter to the king were intentionally altered by the University of Florida History Department to 29 ½ degrees to match St. Augustine, when it created a public web site on the early history of Florida. Six Spanish nautical leagues equal about 21 miles. This is the approximate distance of the probable location of Seloy to the probable site of Fort Caroline, where I-95 crosses the South Channel of the Altamaha River.
(4) “The River San Mateo, running by the fort we captured, goes seventy leagues inland and turns to the southeast emptying into the bay of Juan Ponce. On this river are three large Indian towns… This Port is 29 1/2 degrees, and the San Mateo (Fort Caroline) which we captured is 31 degrees.”
Discussion: The latitude of 29 ½ degrees matches the southern Atlantic Ocean outlet of the Mantanzas River, where the Spanish captured and executed survivors of the French ships, which shipwrecked there.
According to both French and Spanish eyewitness accounts, Jean Ribaut’s ship and several other French survivors wrecked off the the shore of Cumberland Island. They survivors walked back to Fort Caroline, not knowing that it had been captured and massacred. They were executed near the ruins of Fort Caroline . . . not in St. Augustine, FL. Menendez spared the lives of all Frenchmen, who claimed to be Roman Catholics. Some of those spared eventually made it back to France or England, where they told the public about the horrific fait of Fort Caroline.
Back in the mid-20th century, when Southern states began allowing Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole children to attend public schools, their parents urged them to get as much education as possible. This “secret history” of St. Augustine is a classical reason why it is important for Native Americans to gain as much knowledge as possible in a variety of subjects. Just because a university published book or a university professor says something . . . does not mean that it is true
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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.
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