Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón
Spanish Explorer Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón Lands in South Carolina to Found Colony
September 29, 1526 – Spanish Explorer Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón Lands in South Carolina to Found Colony
Lucas Vazquez de Ayllón (c. 1480 – October 18, 1526)
The son of Juan Vázquez de Ayllón and Inés de Villalobos, Lucas was native to Toledo, Spain. Ayllón studied law and received instruction in Spanish politics from his city councilman father. In 1502 he accompanied a flotilla of ships that carried the new Spanish governor of Hispaniola, Nicolás de Ovando, to the island. Ovando appointed Ayllón as alcalde mayor with the responsibility to establish order in the gold mining region of the island.
Recall to Spain
Ayllón and several other Spanish officials faced charges of corruption and were recalled to Spain to defend themselves. While in Spain, Ayllón successfully defended himself and earned a Master’s Degree in law from the University of Salamanca.
King Ferdinand appointed Ayllón as one of the 3 judges on a panel of judges he created called the Real Audienca. Ayllón arrived at Hispaniola in May 1512 and commenced his duty of enforcing Royal authority in the island.
King Ferdinand died in 1516, leaving Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros as regent for Charles V, who was still too young to govern. The Cardinal distrusted the judges on the panel and suspended all of them. After a turbulent trip to Mexico Ayllón gained reinstatement.
After returning to Hispaniola, he listened to stories related by pilots of two slave carrying Spanish ships that Ayllón had dispatched into the Bahamas. The men, Francisco Gordillo and Pedro de Quejo, had found no slaves on those islands, so they sailed to Winyah Bay in current South Carolina. The men captured 60 natives to serve as slaves and returned to Hispaniola. The men regaled Ayllón with tales of the wonderful land they had seen.
Contract to Establish a Settlement
Ayllón returned to Spain to settle some business in the Audienca, but while he was there he pressed the king to allow him to found a colony in this new land. The King relented and granted him a contract on June 12, 1523. After his return to Hispaniola, he began making arrangements for this new colony.
He began preparations by sending Pedro de Quejo on a peacekeeping mission to the area in 1525. De Quejo explored an area between the thirtieth and fortieth parallel. During this expedition, he erected several stone markers, claiming the area for Spain. The expedition possibly went as far north as the Chesapeake Bay. The explorer also persuaded a number of the natives to return with him to learn Spanish and serve as interpreters on later missions.
By July 1526, Ayllón was ready to establish his colony. He set out from Hispaniola with 6 ships, 600 settlers and 100 horses. After losing one of his ships in a collision with a sand bar, he had members of his expedition build a new ship, possibly the first ship built in North America. During this time he continued the search for a suitable site for a settlement. After an unsuccessful attempt at Pawleys Island, he decided on another site, in present-day Georgia.
San Miguel de Gualdape
He established this colony on September 29, 1526, which he would call San Miguel de Gualdape. Historians still debate the location of this settlement, as no one has discovered any physical remains and Ayllón’s records are scanty. There are several conflicting theories, but no hard evidence as to where Ayllón established the colony. Most scholars believe that the most likely location was on Sapelo Island, off the coast of Georgia. Some feel that is was in the present Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. At any rate, the colony failed to maintain a permanent existence. Ayllón died there and the colonists fled the town after spending three months of winter, which was a harsh one. The colonists also suffered from disease, supply shortages and problems with the native tribes. Prior to returning one of his three ships sank, forcing the refugees to crowd onto two ships. Since the Spanish used African slaves to do much of the work, the first use of these slaves in North America was at this settlement. It is also the first documented slave rebellion, as the slaves revolted during a period of dissention among the Spanish settlers.
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