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Topic: Exploration

Early Western Travels, 1748-1846

Early Western Travels, 1748-1846 comprises thirty-one volumes which contain accurate reprints of rare manuscripts. They were carefully chosen from the mass of material descriptive of travels in the North American interior which this century of continental expansion (1748-1846) provided, and no manuscript has been included unless it possessed permanent historical value. The result is a series which the casual reader will find interesting, and the historian, teacher and scholar, will find invaluable, as it makes available sources of information without which the development of the West, its history and its people cannot be fully understood. The editor has provided numerous footnotes and an introduction to each volume which contains a biographical sketch of the author, an evaluation of the book reprinted and bibliographical data concerning it. The closing volumes are devoted to a complete and exhaustive analytical index to the entire series.

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Early Explorations of Louisiana Territory

From the mouth of the Verdigris, in its day the farthest thrust of the pioneer, the conquest of a large part of the Southwest was achieved. The story of this campaign covering a period of nearly fifty years, has never been written, though it contains much of romance that even in the form of isolated or related incidents, it is possible to record. The Louisiana Purchase itself was romance. In 1803 President Jefferson directed Monroe and Livingston to negotiate for the purchase of New Orleans for the United States, and they brought home title to an empire, practically a donation from France.

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Castaways, Deserters, Refugees and Pirates

There is no accurate measure of the number of shipwrecks along the South Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the number must be in the hundreds or even over a thousand. Also not known is how many shipwrecked sailors and passengers survived in North America during the 1500’s and 1600’s, or how many Sephardic Jews, Muslim Moors and European Protestants, escaping the Spanish Inquisition, landed on the shores of the present day Southeastern United States. Surviving archives, however, do furnish credible evidence of these peoples settling in the interior of the Southeast, while officially England was only colonizing the coastal regions.

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Hernando De Soto

With seven ships of his own providing, and accompanied by from six hundred to one thousand warlike and energetic adventurers, many of whom were of noble rank, Hernando De Soto set sail, in the month of April, 1538. Upwards of a year was spent, mostly upon the island of Cuba, before the fleet set sail for the Florida coast. In the latter part of May, 1539, the vessels came to anchor off the bay of Espiritu Santo, now Tampa Bay, on the western sea-board, and a large division of soldiers, both horse and foot, were landed. The Indians had...

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Expedition Of Pamphilo De Narvaez

The jealous Cuban governor, Velasquez, enraged at his presumption in throwing off the authority under which he had sailed, fitted out a formidable armament, to overthrow the newly acquired power of Cortez. The fleet, under the command of Pamphilo de Narvaez, reached the Mexican coast, and news of its arrival were conveyed to Cortez in the month of May 1520. With his usual decision and promptness, the general divided his forces, and leaving the larger portion under Alvarado to maintain possession of the capital, he marched to check the advance of Narvaez. By the boldness of a night attack,...

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Hernando Cortez

The Cuban governor, Velasquez, determined to pursue discoveries and conquest at the west, and appointed Hernando Cortez, a Spanish cavalier, resident upon the island, to command the new expedition. That the reader may judge what strange contradictions may exist in the character of the same individual, how generosity and cupidity, mildness and ferocity, cruelty and kindness, may be combined, let him compare the after conduct of this celebrated hero with his character as sketched by the historian. “Cortez was well made, and of an agreeable countenance; and, besides those common natural endowments, he was of a temper which rendered...

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Native American Cremation

More than a century before McKenney made his tour of the Lakes and stopped at Detroit, during the month of June, 1826, Charlevoix traversed much of the same on his way to the country of the Illinois, and thence down the Mississippi. At that time the Missisauga, a tribe closely related to the Chippewa, and of which they may be considered a subtribe or division, lived on the shores of Lake St. Clair and the vicinity, and here Charlevoix saw their scaffold burials. Referring to the several tribes with whom he had come in contact, he wrote: “When an Indian dies in the time of hunting, his body is exposed on a very high scaffold, where it remains till the departure of the company, who carry it with them to the village. There are some nations who have the same custom, with respect to all their dead; and I have seen it practised among the Missisaguez at the Narrows. The bodies of those who are killed in war are burnt, and the ashes carried back, in order to be deposited in the sepulchres of their ancestors. These sepulchres, among those nations who are best fixed in their settlements, are a sort of burial grounds near the village.” This was written in 1721. Another reference to the burning of bodies was prepared about the same year, and proves that others...

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Trade Routes in the Lower Southeast

The memoir of French explorer, René Goulaine de Laudonniére state that the predominate flow of trade in the Lower Southeast in the late 1500s was north-south.  Greenstone, gold, ocher, mica, crystals, precious stones and silver that was mined in the Southern Highlands, were traded for salt, shells, grain, skins, furs, colorful clays, dried fish and dyes obtained from lower altitudes.  He emphasized that the desire to control the cargos of greenstone and gold from the mountains was the cause of many wars. A major trade route passed through Track Rock Gap, but it was not the most important one. The two most important trade routes ran through the Appalachian Valley in northwestern Georgia and the Savannah River Basin – Unicoi Gap – Dillard Gap in northeastern Georgia.  These were the only portals through the Southern Highlands that offered a reasonably level passage from one side of the mountains to the other.  The major trail paralleled the Savannah River up to the confluence of the Tugaloo and Seneca Rivers. One branch cut westward to the Nacoochee Valley and then northward through the Unicoi Gap to the Hiwassee River.  The other branch followed the Tugaloo River northwestward to the nearby source of the Little Tennessee River. It then went through Dillard Gap and followed the Little Tennessee all the way to the Tennessee River. The Great White Path or Etowah Trail...

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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...

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Hernando de Soto Expedition to Georgia

The earliest recorded visit of Europeans to the Georgia and North Carolina Mountains was in 1540.  De Soto’s Conquistadors spent several summer weeks at the capital of Kvse (pronounced Kău-shĕ in Itsate-Creek, but known as Kusa in English.) Kvse means “forested mountains” in Itza Maya. Florida Indians told Pánfilo de Narváez in 1528 that the Apalachee People, who lived in the mountains many days to the north, mined and traded gold. The people, whom the Spanish called Apalache, called themselves the Palache, which is the Creek word for the Biloxi Indians. This is not general knowledge because the media has relied on commentaries about de Soto, rather than actually reading the chronicles. Just before heading north from the Florida Panhandle in 1540, de Soto was told that the capital of the Apalache province in the mountains was named Yupaha. Yupaha means “Horned Lord.” The Florida Indians stated that Yupaha had much gold. De Soto set off to find Yupaha, but his chroniclers never mentioned the town again.  Historians have traditionally assumed Yupaha to be a fable. After leaving Kusa, de Soto passed through the towns of Tali-mochase (New Tali), Itapa, and then, what the chroniclers wrote as Ubahali.  However, this would be a typical manner that Castilians would write the word, Yupaha-le, which is a Coastal Plain Itsate  word meaning “Horned Lord People.”  So Yupaha really did exist.   It...

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16th Century French Exploration of North America

An AccessGenealogy Exclusive: Richard Thornton’s study of the Sixteenth Century French Exploration of North America – replete with maps and images – Much of the research in this report was drawn from two books by former Congressman Charles Bennett of Florida, which were interpolated with the author’s personal knowledge of Georgia coast – while fishing, canoeing, sailing and camping in the region between Darien, GA and Jacksonville, FL. The author was born in Waycross, GA, is a Creek Indian and is an expert on Muskogean culture. The first book by Bennett, Three Voyages, translated the memoirs of Captain René Goulaine de Laudonniére. The second book by Bennett, De Laudonniére and Fort Caroline, translated the memoirs and letters by other members of the French colonizing expeditions. These books are supplemented by the English translation of Jacques Le Moyne’s illustrated book, Brevis narratio eorum quae in Florida Americai provincia Gallis acciderunt,” Le Moyne was the official artist of the Fort Caroline Colony, and one of the few who survived its massacre by the Spanish.

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Exploration and Settlement of the Shenandoah Valley

The first recorded exploration of the Shenandoah Valley was by German immigrant, Johann Lederer, and several associates in 1670. They went as far west as present day Strasburg, VA, then turned around. His journey came on the heels of a decade of ethnic cleansing by the Rickohockens. Colonel Cadwallader Jones explored the central part of the valley in 1673. Colonial records do not document any more expeditions until 1705, when George Ritter, from Bern, Switzerland, led a party into the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, then decide to settle east of the valley. In 1719, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord of Cameron, inherited the 5,282,000 acre Northern Neck proprietary estate in what is now Northern Virginia. Unlike most portions of the British North American colonies, it was operated as feudal manor in which tenants paid land rents, rather than owning their farms fee simple. However, some tracts were sold outright to purchasers from prominent families in England, and later in Fairfax’s life, to anyone with the money. Between 1719 and 1732, Robert “King” Carter became extremely wealthy working as Lord Fairfax’s agent. Carter focused sales and rentals on the east side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There were few settlers in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley until after 1732. That was when Lord Fairfax moved to Virginia and began developing his plantation. He sent agents to Europe to recruit...

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The Non-Search for Fort Caroline and a Great Lake

Most history books and online encyclopedia sources state unequivocally that Fort Caroline was built on the St. Johns River in present day Jacksonville.  They state that the May River named by de Laudonniére, was the same as the San Juan (St. Johns) River named by the Spanish. Virtually none of the articles tell you that Fort Caroline National Memorial is a reproduction of what some people “think” the fort looked like, constructed at a location that was good for tourism.  No artifacts have been found in the Jacksonville area that can be definitely tied to French colonial activities in the 1560s. Early French explorers verbally described a great lake along the May (Altamaha River.)  It was shown on all French maps until the late 1600s.  The French said that the May River flowed into this lake and then flowed out.  The location of this lake appears to have been south-central Georgia, immediately southeast of Macon.  Traders and government representatives traveling through central Georgia in the early 1700s did not mention seeing a large lake, only several large swamps. There is no reason to doubt René Goulaine de Laudonniére’s description of the Great Lake. Everything other physical feature that he described in his memoir has been confirmed by this research project.  There are two explanations for the lake not being visible in the 1700s.  The first is that it was...

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What If’s

An incredible series of “things gone bad” turned the 16th century colonization efforts of the French government into a tragic disaster.  French efforts were far better planned than their Spanish or English counterparts in the 16th century.  At the start, France seem destined to be the dominant power in North America.  If any one of many decisions had been made differently, the French Colony may have succeeded.  Here are some of the “what if’s.” If Jean Ribault and René Goulaine de Laudonniére had brought along a couple of fishing boats from Brittany on their voyages, the colonists would have had an abundance of food.  Excess fish could have been traded to the Natives for grains and vegetables. If France had established a powerful military and naval base prior to sending over large numbers of non-combatants and non-productive people such as musicians, it is unlikely that the Spanish would have been able to dislodge the colonists from La Florida. If the first phase of the Religious Wars had no broken out, Jean Ribault would have been able to resupply and reinforce both Charlesfort and Fort Caroline before starvation set in. If one man had not remained behind at Charlesfort, the Spanish would not have known that a second and larger colony had been planned to the south. If some of the Fort Caroline garrison had not mutinied, the Spanish would...

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Fort San Mateo

Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés simultaneously built fortifications in Saint Augustine Bay and at La Florida’s planned capital of St. Elena on Parris Island, SC. Next he repaired and strengthened Fort Caroline, renaming it Fort San Mateo.  Efforts were made by the Spanish in 1566 to bribe Indian tribes within the interior of Florida to turn over the Frenchmen, who avoided execution in 1765.  Apparently, the Natives could not be bribed. Fort San Mateo was to be the center of a planned mission system run by the Jesuits. The excellent harbor near Fort Mateo was to be a place where Spanish treasure fleets could find haven from English privateers and hurricanes.  The fact that Spanish galleons could not even enter the St. Johns River is further evidence that neither Fort Caroline nor Fort Mateo were located there.  The Jesuits attempted to convert Native villages near the outlets of the Altamaha, Satilla and St. Marys Rivers around 1568, but did not have much success. Since the victims of the massacre were flying the flag of France, most Frenchmen, whether Protestant or Catholic, considered the murders to be an act of war by Spain.  Had not France been badly divided by the Wars of Religion, it probably would have declared war on Spain.  King Charles IX did nothing more than protest the massacre. Captain Dominique de Gourgue, a Catholic nobleman in...

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