1500s - Spanish and French in Georgia
1526 Lucas Vazquez de Ayllon sailed with 600 other Spanish settlers from Hispaniola, intending to colonize the land called La Florida. They eventually landed in what is now McIntosh County, Georgia, and started construction on a settlement called San Miguel de Gualdape. But Ayllon died soon after landing, and cold weather, illness, death, slave revolt, and Indian opposition doomed the colonization attempt to failure. Only 150 of the original settlers returned to Hispaniola.
1524 Giovanni de Verrazano sailed up the east coast, staking a French claim to the lands he saw - including the Southeast and what is now Georgia.
1540 Spaniard Hernando de Soto and 600 followers had begun a trek of exploration and treasure seeking in western Florida the previous year; they crossed into what is now Georgia in 1540. The journey was disastrous, for both the Spanish and the Indians they encountered. They were constantly short of food, and often took it from native Indians. The Indians had never seen the guns and steel weapons of the Spanish, and were virtually helpless to stop them. Even more destructive were the diseases (measles, chicken pox, smallpox) carried by the Spanish, to which the Indians had no immunity. Smallpox alone killed approximately one-third of the Southeastern Indians. Nearly half of de Soto's crew, including de Soto himself, died on the journey, from disease, starvation, exposure, or Indian attacks.
1559 Using de Soto's expedition as a claim to the land, Spaniard Tristan de Luna tried to create an inland colony near Coosa in what is now northwest Georgia. This effort also failed and the colonists returned to Mexico by 1561.
1562 Frenchman Jean Ribault led a party of 150 Huguenots (French Protestants) in an expedition which landed first on Florida's east coast. Looking for a place to settle to the north, they found a protected inlet near what is now Savannah, which he named Port Royal. Here the French built Charles Fort, the first European fort on the North American mainland. Two years later more Huguenots arrived, and they built Fort Caroline on the St. John's River, where present day Jacksonville, FL resides.
1565 Pedro Menendez and a large force of Spanish soldiers captured Fort Caroline and executed the Huguenots, then the Spanish founded St. Augustine. Soon thereafter they began establishing missions along the Georgia coast. This Spanish area of Georgia was eventually divided into two provinces - Guale (between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers) and Mocama (between the Altamaha and St. Marys Rivers). 38 missions were ultimately established in these provinces, the most notable being Santa Catalina de Guale on St. Catherines Island. Depite their best efforts, the Spanish had little success in converting the Indians to Christianity.
1597 Don Juanillo, a Guale Indian cheif, led a rebellion against the Spanish when the Spanish tried to deny his claims to leadership because he had two wives. He organized other Guale cheifs to oust the Spanish, and they started attacking the missions, which fell one by one until they reached Cumberland Island, where Spanish supporters among the Mocama Indians helped stop the rebellion. The missions would gradually be re-established.