Founded in September 1526 by Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, San Miguel de Gualdape was the first Spanish town in the territory of the present-day United States. The town’s name likely came from its founding on or around September 29, the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel. “Gualdape” appears to refer to the region where the town was located. Scholars place San Miguel at various sites along the coast of present South Carolina and Georgia, but only an archaeological discovery will resolve this debate. San Miguel de Gualdape initially had some six hundred residents, among them sailors, Spanish colonists (including women and children), several priests, and an unknown number of African slaves. The group constructed houses and a church and established the institutions of government there. Supplies in the colony were scarce, due to the loss of the expedition’s flagship and its cargo. In these harsh conditions, San Miguel’s residents soon began to sicken and die. Ayllón was among those who perished in the town’s first weeks. After his death, some of the Spaniards mutinied and imprisoned the town’s authorities. The African slaves set fire to the mutiny leader’s house, and nearby Indians killed some colonists who attempted to steal their food. By mid-November 1526 the Spaniards had abandoned San Miguel. Of the expedition’s initial 600 participants, only 150 survived. Even with these disastrous results, some Europeans could still see the promise this land held.
Hoffman, Paul E. A New Andalucia and a Way to the Orient: The American Southeast during the Sixteenth Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.
Quattlebaum, Paul. The Land Called Chicora: The Carolinas under Spanish Rule with French Intrusions, 1520–1670. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1956.
Quinn, David B., ed. New American World: A Documentary History of North America to 1612. Vol. 1, America from Concept to Discovery: Early Exploration of North America. New York: Arno, 1979.