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Friends of the Huguenot Society of Florida

It's good to have friends.

In The Huguenot Society of Florida, we have lots of them! 

They help us honor our past and invest our futures.


1. Fort Caroline National Memorial - Florida had the first Huguenot landing site in the Americas! As they did,  start your journey here with us:

A French expedition, (1562) organized by Protestant leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and led by the French Explorer Jean Ribault, landed at the site on the May River (now the St. Johns River) in February 1562, where Ribault encountered the Timucuan Indians who were led by Chief Saturiwa. Ribault traveled to present-day South Carolina and with twenty-eight men and built a settlement known as Charlesfort; today's Charleston, South Carolina. 


Ribault then returned to Europe to arrange supplies for the new colony but was briefly imprisoned in England on suspicion of spying for the French. This was during the period of the French Wars of Religion preventing his return to Florida in a timely manner. [b]  Note: although the biggest unrest was in France, all of Europe was in some type of debate or turmoil over the Protestant / Catholic division and the teachings of Martin Luther. 

Fort Caroline

Meanwhile, René Goulaine de Laudonnière, who had been Ribault's second-in-command on the 1562 expedition, led a contingent of around 200 new settlers back to Florida, where they founded Fort Caroline (or Fort de la Caroline) on a small plain formed by the western slope of the high steep bank later called St. Johns Bluff on June 22, 1564. [c,a] The fort was named for King Charles IX of France. For just over a year, this settlement was beset by hunger, Indian attacks, and mutiny, and attracted the attention of Spanish authorities who considered it a challenge to their control over the area. [d,e] Captain Obvious Note: 1. You are French; 2. You are not Catholic 3. You are on Spanish territory without permission. What do you think is going to happen? 

On July 20, 1565, the English adventurer John Hawkins arrived at the fort with his fleet looking for freshwater; there he exchanged his smallest ship for four cannons and a supply of powder and shot.[f] The ship and provisions from Hawkins enabled the French to survive and prepare to move back to France as soon as possible.  Note: Good idea for getting a ship. Bad idea if you need to defend one's self.  What good is a ship if you die before you can use it?

In late August, Ribault, who had been released from English custody, June 1565, is sent by Coligny back to Florida. He arrives at Fort Caroline with a large fleet and hundreds of soldiers and settlers, taking command of the colony in August of 1565. However, the recently appointed Spanish Governor of Florida, Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, had simultaneously been dispatched from Spain with orders to remove the French outpost.  Menéndez arrived within days of Ribault's landing. After a brief skirmish between Ribault's ships and Menéndez's ships, the latter retreated 35 miles (56 km) southward, where they established the settlement of St. Augustine. Ribault pursued the Spanish with several of his ships and most of his troops, but he was surprised at sea by a violent storm lasting several days.[a] Meanwhile, Menéndez launched an assault on Fort Caroline by marching his forces overland during the storm, leading a surprise dawn attack on Fort Caroline on September 20. At this time, the garrison contained 200 to 250 people. The only survivors were about 50 women and children who were taken prisoner and a few defenders, including Laudonnière, who managed to escape; the rest were massacred.[h]

As for Ribault's fleet, all of the ships either sank or ran aground south of St. Augustine during the storm, and many of the Frenchmen on board were lost at sea.[a] Ribault and his marooned sailors marched northwards and were eventually located by Menéndez with his troops and summoned to surrender. Believing his men would be well treated, Ribault capitulated. Menéndez then executed Ribault and several hundred Huguenots (Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, chaplain to the Spanish forces, identifies them as "all Lutherans," and dates their execution 29 September 1565, St. Michael's Day.)[g] as heretics at what is now known as the Matanzas Inlet. (Matanzas is Spanish for slaughters.) [h] The atrocity shocked Europeans even in that bloody era of religious strife.

The Spanish destroyed Fort Caroline and built their own fort on the same site. In April 1568, Dominique de Gourgues led a French force which attacked, captured and burned the fort. He then slaughtered the Spanish prisoners in revenge for the 1565 massacre.  The Spanish rebuilt, but permanently abandoned the fort the following year. The exact location of the fort is not known. [h]

We are no longer attacked by the native peoples or the Spanish. We promise, we love them and they love us. Florida is a great place to be a Huguenot. This is just one of the many history topics. Come join any chapter. Everyone is welcomed. 


[a]  (Chuck Meide; John de Bry (2014). Charles Dagneau; Karolyn Gauvin (eds.). "The Lost French Fleet of 1565: Collision of Empires". 2014)  

[b]  (James Evans (12 September 2013). Merchant Adventurers: The Voyage of Discovery that Transformed Tudor England. Orion Publishing Group. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-297-86689-3.)

[c]  Davis, T. Frederick (October 1933). "Fort Carolina". Florida Historical Quarterly. 2. Florida Historical Society. 12: 77. Retrieved 6 March 2014.

[d] Cannavale, Matthew C. (2006). "Florida, 1513-1821". Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-7922-6409-5.

[e] Bennett, Charles E. (1964). Laudonniere & Fort Caroline: History and Documents. Gainesville: University of Florida Press; reprint, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-8173-1122-3.

[f] Harry Kelsey (2003). Sir John Hawkins: Queen Elizabeth's Slave Trader. Yale University Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0-300-09663-7.. See a translation of Laudonnière's account of the visit on pp. 543–45 of Richard Hakluyt, Principall Navigations, Voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation (London: George Bishop and Ralph Newberie, 1589).

[g] René Goulaine de Laudonnière, A notable historie containing foure voyages made by certayne French captaynes vnto Florida (trans. Richard Hakluyt; London: Thomas Dawson, 1587), 51–52.

[h] "The End of the Colony", National Park Service [2017]


2. The Florida Department of State - Division of Historical Resources has a number of great resources available on our Florida Huguenot Ancestry. For more information check out these links at:



3. Looking for current, active and ongoing original research?  Here is one of our favorites! Check out Dr. J. Michael Francis;  chair of the Florida Studies program at University of South Florida St. Petersburg,


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