The First Settlers

Your ancestors were the first settlers of the country? They came over on the Mayflower? This will come as a surprise to many but the Pilgrims were not the first European settlers in America. They weren’t even the first English settlers. This fact is often overlooked in the scramble to form history around Thanksgiving.

Just over 100 Pilgrims arrived in 1620 in Massachusetts followed six years later by the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam, now New York.

But in 1607 a group of English colonists – 104 people sailed from England – arrived in Virginia and established the first permanent English settlement in America. How could you forget Captain John Smith and Pocahontas?

In 1565 the Spanish established a colony at St. Augustine in Florida. St. Augustine is the oldest continually occupied European settlement in America thanks to about 100 settlers and even more soldiers who came ashore that September.

The oldest [and largest] European settlement in what is the continental U.S. was made on August 15, 1559, when Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano and over 1,400 people settled on Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island on the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico. They called it Pensacola. Just a month later a hurricane struck the colony. Many were killed. Half the ships sank and supplies were ruined. The survivors stayed on but the natives weren’t friendly and famine set it so they left in in 1561. Presumably no settlers stayed behind in Pensacola and left descendants. The Spanish did not return and reestablish the colony until 1696.

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