"My Sovereign By long inheritance and the will of Rome Doth hold these shores in fee . . . Our Florida."
Were it not for letters, maps and official documents, discovered in the old archives of Spain, nothing would he known of the Spanish attempt to colonize Virginia.
Fortunately, through these faded manuscripts, we know that as early as 1526 the Chesapeake and its tributaries here explored, thirty--two years after Columbus' first voyage, and antedating the Jamestown settlement of 1607 by eighty-three years.
The documents record that one rear after the exploration of the peninsula by- Verrazano, Lucas Vasques de Ayllon, a lawyer and judge of Santo Domingo, obtained a patent from King Charles (Carlos) of Spain,<a href="#1" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 1
Ferdinand died in 1576. Carlos (Charles), his grandson, succeeded him. Carlos died in 1588 and was succeeded by Philip II. It was Philip II who, through his ambassador, Gondomar, envoy to the court of James I. and later Charles I, used every endeavor, through diplomacy, intrigue and bribery, to destroy the infant colony at Jamestown."> authorizing him to explore and plant a settlement, on the American mainland, and charging him to Christianize the inhabitants.
It was in June, 1526, that de Ayllon set sail, with three small vessels, from Puerto de la Plata, Santo Domingo. Accompanying him were six hundred men, women and children, with sufficient supplies and 150 horses. As special companions and advisors of de Ayllon. there sailed Father Antonio de 'Montesinos (who had become celebrated in Spain, and was persona non grata to the Santo Domingo authorities, on account of his "indomitable warfare against the traffic in slaves." `'With him were Father Antonio de Cervantes and Brother Peter de Estrada, all being of the order of St. Dominic.
De Ayllon entered the Chesapeake Bay, which he named Madre de las Aguas ('Mother of Waters), and ascending the Guandape (James River) landed at a place he called St. -Michael. (San Miguel).
Ecija, the Spanish pilot, who entered the Chesapeake, in 1609, in search of information regarding the English, settlement, reported to his government that the colony was located on the exact spot chosen by- de Ayllon for settlement.
De Ayllon and his followers constructed rude puts, a chapel AN-as erected and temporary defenses planned.
His settlement at St. Michael<a href="#2" class="toolTip" title="Footnote: 2
Called by the Spaniards - San Migue de Guandape. Guandape was the name given the James River and the new territory. The river has had four names-Guandape, Powhatah, King's and James."> was the second colony attempted on the maintaind d of North America, the first having been located by Police de Leon, at Charlotte Harbor, Florida, in 1521.
Little is known of the trials and vicissitudes of the little settlement, other than that de Ayllon died of fever within four months after landing and the colonists passed through a severe winter exposed to both disease, hostile Indians and insurection of negro slaves which decimated their ranks and left the survivors almost hopeless of rescue. Within one rear after the colony was established, Francis Gomez, who had succeeded to the command, embarked the survivors upon two ships, one having sunk, and sailed for Santo Domingo. En route one of the ships founded, with all on board, and only- one hundred and fifty of the six hundred ever reached home again. Among those who returned was Father Montesinos. Thus ended, in disaster, the first Spanish settlement in Virginia, called by them Nueva Espana (New Spain).
No further attempt at colonization was made until 1570, when Menendez, Governor of Florida, desirous of a colony on the Chesapeake, fitted out an expedition headed by Fathers Segura and Louis Quiros, assisted by six Jesuit Brothers, named Soli, Mendes, Linares, Redondo, Gabriel Gomez and Sancho Zevalles.
The expedition planted, its little colony on the banks of the Rappahannock, but was soon betrayed by a supposedly converted Indian who had received the baptismal name of Don Louis de Valasco.
de Valasco conspiring with other Indians massacred the unsuspecting Spaniards to a man, and it was not until the following spring that Mendes learned through a pilot, he had sent with supplies, of the disaster that had befallen.
He immediately sailed for Axacan, as the settlement was called, captured and hanged the murderers. Shortly before their execution, the manuscripts relate, the murderers were converted and baptised by Father Rojel, a Jesuit Missionary who accompanied the punitive expedition.
Some years ago, a skeleton enclosed in an iron cage was discovered near the banks of the Rappahannock. It leads one to speculate upon the probability of this grim find being all that remained to remind future generations of the second Spanish attempts to Colonize Virginia.
The exact location of Axacan is lost in uncertainty. Was it a local name or that of the country? The nearest surviving Indian word that suggests the name, is "Occoquan, a town in Prince William County.
When Captain John Smith explored the Rappahannock, he found an Indian, ('Moscow) with whom he could converse and use as an interpreter. Tosco was of fighter complexion than the other natives and wore beard. Evidently he was a descendant of the ill fated colony. Smith and Newport had found an Indian, whom they used as interpreter, on their voyage to the falls of the James, just ten days after landing at Jamestown, and it is reported they- also saw a youth of light complextion and an old Indian with a beard. Presumably they were descendants from the Spanish settlement at St. Michaels.
The last record of Spanish visits to the Chesapeake is contained in a report by Pedro Menendez sent to Philip II, of Spain. It was written in 1565 and in it he states that for some years "bison skins were brought down the river (Potomac) and thence carried along shore in canoes to the French seated at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. Within two years 1564-65, he had obtained from the Indians, in trade, 6000 skins." (See Bul. 30; pt. 2; p. 798, B. Am. Eth.)
The Indian name of the tribe of traders was Patawomeck which translated meant "They go and come" i. e.-travel for trade. The river received its name from the tribe using it for transportation of pelts, etc.