South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
SPANISH AND FRENCH SETTLEMENTS AND EXPLORATIONS, 1521-1586

SOUTH CAROLINA has been an outpost, first of Spain, then of France, again of Spain, and finally of England, in their fateful contest for empire. The first Europeans to set foot upon her soil were Spaniards.

Ayllon's Settlement. --Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, of Toledo, was one of the better type of officials who had come to seek wealth and fame in Santo Domingo, or, as they called it, Hispaniola. Late in 1520, having associated with himself another official, he dispatched a ship to explore the Atlantic coast of North America. After sailing far to the north, Ayllon's ship on its return voyage met among the Bahamas a vessel that had been sent out from Santo Domingo by another official but on a less creditable mission--the capture of Indians as slaves to supplement the waning supply in. Santo Domingo, half of whose population had perished in a few years under the Spaniards' inhuman treatment. Ayllon, though the owner of hundreds of Santo Domingan natives, had charged his captain against enslaving the people of any coasts that he might discover, but the result of a conference with Quexos, the captain of the other vessel, was that the two set sail for the mainland with this very purpose. On June 24, 1521, they came upon the coast at latitude 33 degrees 30 minutes at the mouth of a considerable river, to which, since it was St. John Baptist's Day, they gave his name. The mouth of Winyaw Bay, which narrows down to the size of a bold river through which the united waters of the Peedee, the Black, the Sampit, and the Waccamaw enter the sea, seems to be the River Saint John Baptist. It lies only 17½ minutes south of 33 degrees 30 minutes, the latitude which Quexos gives, and, moreover, reference to crossing the bay adds to the probability that this was the entrance into which the explorers sailed.

The natives, who called the region Chicora, fled in terror, but the Spaniards overtook a man and a woman and brought them on board. After treating them with flattering kindness and clothing their nakedness with European dress, they sent them ashore. The captains took formal possession of the country in the name of their king and of their respective employers. They explored inland and were treated by the natives with hospitality. This friendliness was made by the Spaniards the means

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