Once a Knight is Enough

Knight Genealogy

by Laura Knight


Chesapeake Bay
Chronology of Exploration and Settlement

In 1524, Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, (1485–1528), in service of the French crown, sailed past the Chesapeake, but did not enter it or explore it. The following year,  Spanish explorer Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón sent an expedition out from Hispaniola which reached the mouths of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. It may have been the first European expedition to explore parts of the Chesapeake Bay, which the Spaniards called "Bahía de Santa María" ("Bay of St. Mary") or "Bahía de Madre de Dios."("Bay of the Mother of God").

The Chesapeake Bay is an estuary to the North Atlantic, lying between the Delmarva Peninsula to the east and the North American mainland to the west. It is the ria, or drowned valley, of the Susquehanna River, meaning that it was the alluvial plain where the river flowed when the sea level was lower. The Bay's geology, its present form, and its very location were created by a bolide impact event at the end of the Eocene (about 35.5 million years ago), forming the Chesapeake Bay impact crater and the Susquehanna River valley much later. The Bay as it is now, was formed starting about 10,000 years ago when rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age flooded the Susquehanna River valley. The image below is a satellite view of the region.

Chesapeake Satellite


In 1561, an expedition sent by Ángel de Villafañe captured a Virginia Indian boy from the Chesapeake Bay region and took him to Mexico. The boy was instructed in the Catholic religion and baptized Don Luis, in honor of Luis de Velasco, the Viceroy of New Spain. The Spanish took him to Madrid, Spain, where he had an audience with the King and received a thorough Jesuit education. Some Dominicans heading for Florida as missionaries took Don Luis with them, stopping at Havana where they abandoned their plans for Florida.

Later, in 1565, the Spanish succeeded in founding a stable settlement at St. Augustine, Florida, the first founded by Europeans in North America. Following this, in 1566, they established a military outpost and a Jesuit mission in Florida on an island near Mound Key, called San Antonio de Carlos. Then they established small Spanish outposts along the eastern coast into Georgia and the Carolinas, the northern-most at Santa Elena on an island off Port Royal, South Carolina. It was from Santa Elena that Juan Pardo was commissioned to lead expeditions into the interior looking for a route to Mexican silver mines. He founded Fort San Juan in 1567-68 at the regional chiefdom of Joara as the first European settlement in the interior of North America in western North Carolina, and five other interior garrisons. All were soon destroyed by the Indians. Archeological evidence has been found at Fort San Juan and Joara.

In 1570, Father Juan Bautista de Segura was the Jesuit vice provincial of Havana, Cuba, and he had just withdrawn the Jesuit missionaries from Guale and Santa Elena. He wanted to found a mission in Ajacán without a military garrison, which was unusual. His superiors' expressed concerns but gave him permission to found what was to be called St. Mary's Mission. He set out in August together with Father Luis de Quirós, former head of the Jesuit college among the Moors in Spain, six Jesuit brothers, and a Spanish boy named Alonso de Olmos, called Aloncito. Don Luis went with them to serve as their guide and interpreter. They stopped at Santa Elena for provisioning.

On September 10, the party landed in Ajacán on the north shore of one of the lower Chesapeake peninsulas.[8] They constructed a small wooden hut with an adjoining room where Mass could be celebrated.

Don Luis tried to locate his native village of Chiskiack which he had not seen in ten years. He was said to recognize distant relatives among the Indians on shore, so the missionaries disembarked. He soon left the Jesuits, settling with his own people at a distance of more than a day's travel. When he failed to return, the Jesuits believed that he had abandoned them. They were frightened to be without anyone who knew the language, although they were able to barter for some food. The mid-Atlantic region was enduring a long period of drought which led to a famine.

Around February 1571, three missionaries went toward the village where they thought that Don Luis was staying. Don Luis murdered them, then took other warriors to the main mission station where they killed the priests and the remaining six brothers, stealing their clothes and liturgical supplies. Only the young servant boy Alonso de Olmos was spared, and he was put under the care of a chief.

A Spanish supply ship went to the mission in 1572. Men came out in canoes dressed in clerical garb and tried to get them to land, then attacked. The Spaniards killed several, and captives told them about the young Spanish boy who survived. They exchanged some of their captives for Alonso, who told them about the massacre of the mission brothers. Floridian Jesuit Missionary Father Juan Rogel wrote an account to his superior Francis Borgia, dated August 28, 1572. That month, Floridian Governor Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived with armed forces from Florida to avenge the massacre of the Spanish and hoping to capture Don Luis. His forces never discovered Don Luis, but baptized and hanged eight other Indians and killed a total of 20 in their attack.

The Spanish then abandoned plans for further activity in the region. Rogel noted that it was more densely settled than more southern areas of the East Coast, and that the people lived in settlements. Remaining Jesuits were recalled from St. Augustine and sent to Mexico. In 1573, Spanish Florida's governor Pedro Menéndez de Márquez conducted further exploration of the Chesapeake Bay but did not attempt further colonization.

In 1585, Sir Walter Raleigh and Humphrey Gilbert founded a colony at Roanoke Island (off the present-day coast of North Carolina) for the Virginia Company. This was the first time that the English approached the mouth to Chesapeake Bay between the capes of Cape Charles and Cape Henry. The history of the Lost Colony is well enough known that we need not recount it here as we are concerned with our target: Chesapeake Bay.

Two decades later, in 1607, Europeans entered Chesapeake Bay for the second time. Captain John Smith of England explored and mapped the Bay between 1607 and 1609, resulting in the publication in 1612 back in the British Isles of "A Map of Virginia" reproduced below which is a 1630 version of the map. Smith wrote in his journal: "Heaven and earth have never agreed better to frame a place for man's habitation."

Chesapeake 1612

At present, the climate of the area surrounding Chesapeake Bay is more or less humid subtropical, with hot, very humid summers and cold to mild winters. But that was not always the case as we have seen.

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