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French Colonizing Expeditions

A small temporary fort was established by Captain Jean Ribault in Port Royal Sound, SC in 1562. Seventeenth Century French maps state that members of this colony traveled to the “gold-bearing mountains of the Apalache,” and claimed the territory for the King of France. Only French maps of the period provide an accurate description of the entire Savannah River system, but no archives have been found that collaborate such a journey. In 1564, after establishing Fort Caroline somewhere in the vicinity of the mouth of the Altamaha River, Captain René Goulaine de Laudonniére dispatched several expeditions up the Altamaha River to the sources of its tributaries in the foothills of the mountains. He had learned from tribes on the coast that important trading activities occurred along this route. The Apalache Indians traded gold, copper, silver, greenstone, mica and crystals mined in the mountains to provinces in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain.  Control of this trade route was a major cause of warfare between the provinces in the lower elevations.  Greenstone was the most desired commodity because it was the only stone suitable for axes and wedges to split wood. The two longest expeditions lasted six months and two months; the longest one being commanded by La Roche Ferriere. These expeditions provided the names of the provinces between the mountains and the sea.  One was named the Mayacoa or Maya People. De Laudonniére named the mountains “Les Apalachiens” in honor of his new trading partners, the Apalache. The expeditions returned with gold, silver, copper, rubies and sapphires. A “red” metal were tested by a metallurgist and said to be gold,...

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