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Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1500s
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1500-15091500: Indian culture flourishes in Florida as exemplified by the woodcarving in the Calusa culture. The Calusa had been living in this area for 1,000 years prior to European contact.
May 11, 1502 - Christopher Columbus left Spain on his fourth voyage to the New World, landing back on the islands of Martinique and Jamaica in June. This voyage would take him to Central America, but not to North America.
1507 - The native population on the island of Hispaniola among the Taino population is decimated when European disease begins to affect the native population. Several epidemics of smallpox over the first fifty years after European settlement saw a decrease in their population from hundreds of thousands to less than five hundred.
1507 - A new world map by Martin Waldseemuller names the continents of the New World "America" in honor of Amerigo Vespucci's contention that Brazil and the West Indies were not the far reaches of Asia, but actually a new continent.
1510-1519March 4, 1513 - Ponce de Leon leaves Puerto Rico to explore the coast of Florida, looking for the Fountain of Youth. There were two hundred men and three ships undertaking the exploration.
April 2, 1513 - Ponce de Leon sights land near St. Augustine, coming ashore the next day and claiming the land for Spain. He names the land La Florida, after the Easter season Festival of Flowers.
1514-1515 - Bartolome de las Casas, a chaplain advocates for better treatment of the native population in the colonies, giving up his Indian slaves, and championing the cause in writings and meetings with Spanish leaders.
1520-1529January 17, 1524 - Voyage of Giovanni da Verrazzano leaves Madeira, eventually entering New York harbor during a French expedition from the Carolinas to Nova Scotia. It is regarded by many as the first European exploration of the Atlantic seaboard of North America (assuming John Cabot did not return from his last voyage there) since the Norse expeditions five hundred years earlier.
June 17, 1527 - The Narváez expedition leaves Spain to explore and colonize Spanish Florida under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez. There were 600 members of the expedition.
April 12, 1528 - After much hardship and stops in the Caribbean, the Narváez expedition reaches Florida near Tampa Bay and debarks two days later in Boca Ciega Bay, where they encounter natives of the Safety Harbor region. For the next four years, the expedition met a dire fate due to battles with natives (Timucua, Apalachee, and Tocobaga), the sea, and starvation. The expedition had split into several forces by the end of this year, and in total, slightly more than eighty members of the original expedition had survived, some reaching the Galveston, Texas area by boat.
April 22, 1529 - The Treaty of Zaragosa attempts to clarify the Treaty of Tordesillas from 1494 between Spain and Portugal. Again this treaty attempted to clarify previous boundaries agreed between only two nations, Spain and Portugal, plus earlier boundaries by the papacy. All lands would still be divided between the two nations, with the Philippines and North America to Spain, and the Moluccas to Portugal.
1530-15391532 - Four men associated with the original Narváez expedition attempt to reach posts of the Spanish Empire in Mexico. These men were Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, and a slave, Estevanico. They became the first men from Europe and Africa to enter the American west, traveling across Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.
July 1536 - Survivors of the Narváez expedition reach fellow Spaniards near Sinaloa, Mexico.
May 25, 1539 - Hernando de Soto lands in Florida with nine ships and six hundred and twenty men at Shaw's Point in today's Bradenton, Florida, and begins to explore the interior of the Americas. They explored the western coast of Florida and encamped during the winter at Anhaica in Apalachee territory.
1540-1549February 23, 1540 - Exploration of the southwest and western United States to California by European expeditions begins when Fernando Vasquez de Coronado departs Compostela, in present day Mexico, looking to conquer the Seven Cities of Gold. The two year expedition took him into the lands of the United States, into New Mexico and to the Grand Canyon. The expedition included 335 Spanish, 4 monks, and over 1,000 natives. During one scouting party, members of the expedition became the first Europeans to discover the Grand Canyon.
1540-1541 - The first war between native Americans and Europeans in the southwest occurs between troops of Coronado and the Tiwa Indians. The Tiguex war was waged near Bernalillo, New Mexico against the dozen pueblos of the tribe on the American and Mexican sides of the Rio Grande River.
1540 - The de Soto expedition continues into Georgia in search for gold and a passage west. He would proceed into the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. An ambush in northern Alabama, which may have been precipitated by actions of the expedition, by the Mabilian Indian tribe, resulted in twenty Spanish explorer deaths and the demise of thousands of Indian warriors. De Soto burned the city. He would later winter near Tupelo, Mississippi.
1541 - The Coronado expedition continues to search for the city of Quivara and traverses the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma until their final destination near Lyons, Kansas. At this time, they were only a few hundred miles from the exploration by de Soto.
May 8, 1541 - After a Chicasaw raid earlier in the year, de Soto's expedition was in dire shape, however, they push forward, reaching the Mississippi River and becoming the first documented Europeans to witness it. Hernando de Soto led his expeditionary force across the Mississippi River and would explore Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. This expedition lay claims to these territories for the Spanish. De Soto would die early in 1542.
1550-15591550-1551 - A debate over the treatment and status of Indians in the New World is held in Valladolid, Spain. The Valladolid debate pitted the Bishop of Chiapas, who stated that the American Indian was a free man deserving equal treatment to European colonists per theology. The opposite viewpoint, that Indians were natural slaves, was debated by a fellow Dominican, using claims of theology as well as natural law.
1560-15691564-1565 - A French colony is attempted in Florida by Rene de Laudonnière. It is located along the St. John's River, but is short-lived with expulsion by the Spanish holding its fate.
1564-1565 - The first known painting of American Indians by European colonists is made by French artist Jacques le Moyne.
September 8, 1565 - Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Spanish admiral, founds St. Augustine, Florida. It is the first permanent settlement in the United States and serves as a military outpost and base for Catholic missionary settlements.
1570-1579June 17, 1579 - Francis Drake claims the lands of California for Great Britain and Queen Elizabeth I. Drake is on his voyage around the world in the ship, the Golden Hind.
1580-1589August 17, 1585 - Roanoke Island colony is founded by an expedition organized by Sir Walter Raleigh (Raleigh never visited North America himself) during his attempt to colonize the area of Virginia and North Carolina. The colony fails.
June 6, 1586 - The city of St. Augustine, Florida, is razed by Francis Drake.
July 27, 1587 - A second try to colonize Roanoke Island is attempted by Sir Walter Raleigh under the governor John White. White came back to England to find more supplies, but his return was delayed due to the need for ships to fight the Spanish Armada.
July 20, 1588 - First battle of the English fight against the Spanish Armada begins, leading to their defeat nine days later and the lessening of Spain's influence in the New World and the rise of English influence in the Americas.
1590-1599August 18, 1590 - John White's return trip to the Roanoke Island Colony finds no signs of the colonists, beyond the words CROATOAN and CRO carved into tree trunks. The fate of its people is unknown to this date, and is often referred to as the "Lost Colony of Roanoke Island."
April 30, 1598 - Juan de Onate y Salazar, claims the land north of the Rio Grande River, present day New Mexico, for Spain.
History Photo Bomb
Ponce de Leon meeting the Indian tribes of Florida.
Christopher Columbus, by Ridalfo Ghirlandaio, 1520.
St. Augustine drawing in later years, 1858. Library of Congress.
America's Best History where we take a look at the timeline of American History and the historic sites and national parks that hold that history within their lands.
Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, americasbesthistory.com & its licensors.