Early Explorers in the Interior Coastal Region

1566 Map of Spanish America
1566 Map of Spanish America

La Roche Ferriére is our primary candidate for making direct contact with the gold-mining Indians of northern Georgia. The native peoples on the coast specifically told de Laudonniére that the most valuable export products from the mountains (to them) were the polished stone wedges used for splitting trees.  Greenstone does not exist in either Florida or southern Georgia.

A small party that de Laudonniére trusted sailed up the Georgia coast to the province of King Oueda. Oueda still thought fondly of the Frenchmen.  He sent them food supplies and invited them to relocate their colony in his province.

Pierre Gambie, who grew up in the household of Admiral Cologny, volunteered to travel into the interior to set up a trade network with the Indians. He apparently went up the May River at least as far as the Utina Province.  This is known because he married the king’s daughter.  He was living with her in Utinahaca, when the garrison at Fort Caroline was massacred.   He later was elected king of the Utina.  However, at some time during his reign, he became disliked and was assassinated.  It is quite possible that Pierre traveled up to the mountains while a trader or a political leader. Unfortunately, he never wrote memoirs and apparently communication with France was cut off, when the Spanish settled the Georgia coast.

There is perhaps was an unknown connection of the Utina province to France.  In 1567 an angry Frenchmen seeing revenge, named Captain Dominque de Gorgues, established a French fort at what is now St. Marys, GA.  From there, he attacked the Spanish fort of San Mateo.  The last days of Fort Caroline and Fort Mateo will be discussed in Part Five.

Historian and regional planner, Michael Jacobs, has found evidence of a continuing connection between the St. Marys, GA area and France up until the time when the Colony of Georgia was founded in 1732.  This suggests that those Frenchmen, who neither died at Fort Caroline, nor escaped to France, established a secret base on the St. Marys River or in the swamps west of the harbor.  Perhaps they were privateers.  Perhaps they were mixed French-Indian traders.

Thornton, Richard. Sixteenth Century French Exploration of the Southeast. Web. See Further: People of One Fire. Georgia, © 2012.

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