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This Day in Georgia History

September 08, 1565

Spanish Landed to Found St. Augustine

Pedro Menendez de Avilles landed with a large contingent of Spanish soldiers and colonists on the shores of an island-protected harbor in what is today northern Florida. There, he established the settlement of St. Augustine, which would become the first permanent settlement on the North American continent. Menendez’s mission was not just to establish a Spanish colony on the North American continent. In 1564, a group of French Huguenots had arrived and built Fort Caroline in the mouth of the St. Johns River just to the north of St. Augustine. Spain had directed Menendez to drive the French out of Florida. Shortly after landing on the Florida coast and starting construction of St. Augustine, Menendez departed with his military force and surprised the French at Fort Caroline and executed the fort’s defenders. With the French Huguenots eliminated, Menendez returned to complete the construction of St. Augustine, which became the seat of government of Spain’s claim to the Southeastern region of North America - an area the Spanish called “La Florida.” In one sense, St. Augustine became Georgia’s first capital. Of course, there was no Georgia then. But, all of what one day would become Georgia initially was part of the large Spanish colony known as La Florida.