Late 16th and 17th century maps published in France, the Netherlands and Germany stated that Captain René Goulaine de Laudonniére journeyed up what appears to be the Savannah River to the Blue Ridge Mountains in 1562 and claimed the gold-bearing lands for the King of France. De Laudonniére was only at Charlesfort for less than a month in 1562, before returning to France. He does not mention making any long journeys. However, prior to leaving he was given a gold chain that was made in these mountains. He was also given a chunk of silver ore that supposedly came from a mine farther north.
Did some of the 28 men, who stayed behind at Charlesfort, secretly make that journey? Precise French maps of the entire length of the Savannah River seem to suggest so, but to date no archives have been found that describe such a journey. When a fire destroyed the Frenchmen’s warehouse, local Native American leaders refused to give them more food. Some of the garrison traveled southward to a provincial capital probably located near Savannah, where a King Ouede did give them food. His capital was probably the Irene Complex. Ouede is the French phonetic spelling of the Muskogean ethnic name meaning, “Water People.” It probably was a name for the Wahale (Guale.) If the journey did occur, it most likely was after the garrison befriended King Ouede.
Although historians have generally ignored the claim by France that its 16th century explorers made contact with the Mountain Apalache Indians and thereafter, named the mountains after them, other archives do confirm the presence of the Apalache in the Georgia Mountains. They are specifically mentioned in the Migration Legend of the Creek Indians that was published in 1884 by Albert S.Gatschet.
All European maps showed the Apalache as the occupants of Georgia’s gold-bearing mountains and the upper Hiwassee Valley of North Carolina, until after the Yamasee War, which ended in 1717. From 1718 to 1785 maps show that region occupied by the Kusa or Upper Creeks. One of the tributaries of the Altamaha River, that begins in the Appalachian Foothills, is named the Apalachee River.
Source: Sixteenth Century French Exploration of the Southeast, by Richard Thornton, People of One Fire, Blairsville Georgia, © 2012.