Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spanish Explorers in Virginia

Most people think that the English were the first Europeans to explore what is now Virginia, founding Jamestown in 1607. There is evidence, however, that the Spanish beat the English to Virginia by several decades.

An attempt at colonization was made in 1570, when Governor Pedro Menendez of Florida, authorized an expedition. At the time, it was believed that the Chesapeake Bay was the long sought short passage to China. Jesuit missionaries convinced the Governor to send their small unarmed expedition to the area as a forerunner to future colonization. On September 10, 1570, a small band of Jesuits headed by Father Segura, vice provincial of the Jesuits settled near a place the Native Americans called Axacan. The nearest surviving Indian word that suggests the name, is "Occoquan”. One historical school places the unfolding drama in a village located on the Occoquan River in Northern Virginia.

The Jesuits were convinced that they could gain the trust of the natives and willingly convert thousands to Christianity for one simple reason; they were accompanied by a prince of that country who had converted to Christianity in Spain itself.

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