How Did Europeans Come to Settle In Gwinnett County Before Anywhere Else?

The story goes that in 1566 six survivors of a failed French colony in Jacksonville, Florida moved to what is now Gwinnett County, Georgia and created a settlement they called Melilot. There they lived peacefully among the Apalache tribe of Indians and were later joined by survivors of the British lost colony of Roanoke. At least that’s the theory of Richard Thornton an architect and historian. He bases this on a letter.

According to Thornton, it compliments a book published two years earlier by the Rev. Charles De Rochefort, the letter’s addressee, and verifies Rochefort’s assertions that six survivors of a failed French colony in Jacksonville, Fla., arrived in the Apalache Kingdom in 1566.

Survivors from the infamous Roanoke Colony in present-day Virginia arrived in 1591, and more English colonists came in 1621. They all lived in peace with the Apalache Indians, intermarrying and building a thriving society.

via Was Gwinnett County home to America’s earliest European colony? | Gwinnett Daily Post.

Map of Melilot

This map from the Library of Congress shows Melilot, the colony that architect and historian Richard Thornton believes was founded in present-day Gwinnett County.

While there is evidence, such as a map and some mysterious stone structures that Thornton claims are ruins from the colony, this really all boils down to speculation. Still, it is tempting for me to accept this hypothesis as fact because if it’s true then Melilot is in my own backyard. How cool would that be for anyone.

Stone structure at Little Mulberry Park, Gwinnett County, Georgia

Architect and historian Richard Thornton believes that stone mounds like this one in Gwinnett’s Little Mulberry Park were part of Melilot, which he contends was the earliest English settlement in North America.

Also it would go to explain the strange stone structures that are found in Little Mulberry Park. I also like the  fact that this would give a better ending to the Lost Colonists of Roanoke than being slaughtered by Chief Powhatan.

However, it’s hard for me to imagine the six French colonists traveling all the way from Jacksonville or the survivors of Roanoke Island traveling all the way from Virginia to wind up in Auburn, Georgia. And how did this get left out of the history books, especially if they built a thriving society? Why don’t we see more archeological artifacts in the area?

But it is a great story. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see if any more supporting evidence comes up for Thornton’s theory. I’m really hoping it does but for now I’m skeptical.

 

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