A Fresh Look at the De Soto and Pardo Chronicles

Chiaha . . . An Itza Maya Province in Western North Carolina – Part Five

by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner

Reading the itineraries of two Spanish explorers in the 16th century may not be the most exciting pastime in the world, but it is necessary. You see, three decades ago, some professors assumed that most people would never have access the eyewitness accounts of these journeys and so . . . let’s say . . . took some liberties in how these expeditions were described to the public. Those liberties are being treated as facts. Then along came the internet.

The six authors of the De Soto Chronicles provided varying details on the location of the capital and province of Chiaha. When interpolated, they provide enough information to pinpoint the exact location of Chiaha’s capital. In no way does the “official” location of Chiaha from the 1980s, Zimmerman Island, Tennessee, meet these criteria.

Also, I found suspicious omissions and obvious redactions in the section of the English translation of the Pardo Chronicles that dealt with the journey from Joara to Chiaha. The suspicions are reinforced by the fact that the public does not have access to the original Spanish text of Juan de la Bandera’s report on the Pardo Expeditions. The original Spanish language texts on the De Soto Expedition are readily available.

Charles Hudson’s edited version of these chronicles have the Pardo Expedition reaching the land of the Tokahle (TokaE) from Joara by crossing over a mountain in one day. That would be impossible, if the location of Joara was at the Berry Archaeological Site in Burke County, NC. The province of the Tokahle was about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of the Berry Site!

Excerpts from the De Soto Chronicles

Hernando de Soto became wealthy, plundering the Inca Civilization, as an officer of the Pizzaro Expedition in Peru. He used that wealth to buy political influence with the king and viceroy. They granted him the right to become governor of any lands in Southeastern North America that he conquered for Spain. He personally funded most of the cost of his expedition.  De Soto recruited a small army of men, who expected to become wealthy from plundering the Native Americans of the Southeast.  Things did not turn out well for these conquistadors.

The De Soto Expedition initially started out with approximately 622 men and a small herd of pigs.  The number steadily declined to the point that about 300 survived the entire route to Mexico City. However, many of the 300 pigs survived to become the ancestors of the endemic herds of wild pigs in the Southeast today. The pigs also carried several virulent European diseases that depopulated broad swaths of Alabama, central Tennessee and western Georgia, long before there were serious attempts to colonize those regions.  

A report by the king’s agent was submitted to Spanish King Charles V in 1544, but it does not contain any specific details on Chiaha. Several distinct journals or descriptions of the Hernando de Soto Expedition were published in the 16th or early 17th century.  They include:

1544 – Luis Hernández de Biedma – He was the King’s agent responsible for the royal property with the expedition. His report was filed in the Royal Archives and exists today. He mistakenly called Chiaha, Chisca, and provided very little geographical information . . . other than saying that the expedition ascended great mountains (the Blue Ridge) then came to the source of a great river (Little Tennessee or Tuckasegee) then followed it all the way.  The Tuckasegee merges with the Little Tennessee River upstream from the Little Tennessee River Gorge. Like all other credible sources, De Biedma places Chiaha on a long narrow island in a fast-running, broad mountain river.  Unlike the others, he did not mention that the island was at the base of a deep gorge. Another description that agrees with other versions is that the towns and villages in the Province of Chiaha were fortified with log palisades.

1557 – Gentleman of Elvas – He was a Portuguese hidalgo or knight of noble birth. His memoir was published and sold to the public. The location of the capital of Chiaha was a long, deep gorge, which was downstream from the convergence of several fast-running Maya cities.  In addition to cultivating salvia, corn and beans at a large scale, the people of Chiaha were very skilled at refining cooking oil from hickory nuts.

“The Governor departed from Xuale (at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountain Escarpment) Within five days the Governor came to Guaxule.”

“The Governor departed from Guaxule, and in two days’ journey came to a town called Canasagua.”

“From the time that the Governor departed from Canasagua, he journeyed five days through a desert; and two leagues before he came to Chiaha. On the fifth day of June, the Governor entered into Chiaha.”

1544/1556 – Rodrigo Ranjel – He kept a diary, which has been lost. It was apparently used by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés in writing his La historia general y natural de las Indias. Oviedo died in 1557. The part of his work containing Ranjel’s diary was not published until 1851.

“On Tuesday, May 25, they left Xuale and on that day went up a very high range.   . . . [five days transpired] . . . on the last day of May (May 31) they left Guaxule.  . . . on the next day, they passed by Canasoga and camped in open country.  . . . It was Saturday, the fifth of June that they crossed an arm of the river, it was very broad, and entered Chiaha.”

Little Tennessee River Gorge exactly matches the terrain around Chiaha. Several islands were covered by Fontana Lake.

“On Monday, June 28, the Governor left Chiaha, and passing five or six villages, camped in a pine grove for the night.  . . . On Friday, the sixth of July, the Governor arrived in Coste. The village was on an island in the river, which there flows large, swift and hard to enter.  . . . There in Coste they found in the trunk of a tree, as good of honey and even better than could be had in Spain.”

1605 – Garcilaso de la Vega, known as El Inca (the Inca). He did not participate in the expedition. He wrote his account, La Florida, decades after the expedition, based on interviews with some survivors of the expedition. Some parts are considered by many scholars to be unreliable. On the other hand, it provides plausible details that other versions missed.  For example, it states that the people of Chiaha raised honey bees and also that the members of the expedition passed many fields of salvia that was cultivated along rivers in the province.  He uses Ychiaja for the name of the capital, which is correct Itza Maya grammar.

The Juan Pardo Expeditions

Captain Juan Pardo arrived in the new Spanish colony of Santa Elena in 1566 to take command of its garrison and supervise construction of Fort Filipe.  In December he led a company of 120 soldiers to explore the interior and demand submission of the Native American provinces, towns and villages to the King Filipe II of Castille and Aragon (Spain).

Expedition One to the Blue Ridge Mountains

On December 1, 1566,  Pardo departed Santa Elena. Pardo was instructed by Governor Pedro Menéndez de Avilés not to obtain details for the villages within 40 leagues (104 miles ~ 167 km) of Santa Elena because their caciques were very submissive, plus the terrain was rough and swampy. The first village beyond the 40-league range was recorded as GuiomaE.

The expedition headed generally northward until reaching the powerful province of Joara.  He arrived in Joara in the third week of December and found the mountains behind the town, impassible due to snow.

The Berry Site in Burke County, NC is in the Piedmont and bears no resemblance, whatsoever, to Cuenca, Spain.

The site of Joara was described as being at the foot of a high mountain escarpment, where a fast-running river burst through a gorge. It was formed by four smaller rivers, converging upstream.  The location reminded Pardo of his hometown – Cuenca, Aragon.  In typical Spanish arrogance, Pardo renamed the town Cuenca. 

Two locations match that description exactly . . . Lakes Keowee/Jocasee in extreme northwestern South Carolina and Lake Hartwell on the South Carolina-Georgia border.  The Berry Site near Morganton, NC does not.  In fact, many of the village names, which appear in the Pardo Chronicles can be found in modern place names near those two lakes.

Jocasee River Gorge in South Carolina matches exactly the terrain described by Juan de la Bandera for the terrain around Joara. The main Native American trade trail, connecting the Keowee River with the Tuckasegee River, passed through here. No archaeological work was done prior to creation of this chain of reservoirs.

De la Bandera stated that Joara contained many temples, plazas, streets and houses.  The Berry Site, near Morganton, NC contains one three feet high mound (if that much) and apparently no other earthworks. It appears to have had perhaps a dozen occupied houses at any given time.

While in Joara, Pardo’s men constructed a fort out of timbers and earthworks, named Fort San Juan.  The 30-men garrison was to be commanded by Sergeant Moyeno.

In mid-February, 1567, a messenger arrived in Joara, with orders from Governor Pedro Menéndez de Avilés for Pardo to return to Santa Elena immediately.  Spanish spies in France had sent word that there were men in France planning to attack the Spanish settlements in La Florida to obtain revenge for the massacre of Fort Caroline.  Pardo left the 30 men behind at the garrison of Fort San Juan.

Pardo reached Santa Elena on March 7, 1567.  He soon received “official” written orders from the Governor in Santa Elena and the Viceroy in Habana de Cuba were to find a land-based route from Santa Elena to the silver mines in Zacatecas Province, Mexico, plus establish peaceful relations with all the chiefs and tribes . . . but with the King of Spain as their new sovereign.  The first expedition included no more than about 120 men, plus five officers, but the size of Pardo’s company grew steadily smaller as small garrisons were established near major Native American towns.

Pardo stayed in Santa Elena almost five months in case the rumors were true about a French attack. In fact, a fleet commanded by Captain Dominique de Gourgues, left France on August 22, 1567 bound for La Florida to seek revenge for the massacre of most of the colonists at Fort Caroline and Jean Ribault’s fleet. 

The Mulberry Site (38Ke12) is located on the Wateree River in Kershaw County, SC.

Expedition Two to the Northern South Carolina and Western North Carolina

Captain Pardo led his men out of Santa Elena on September 1, 1567.  The expedition first returned to GuiomaE.  Pardo demanded maize from them to feed his company.  He also ordered them to build granary for curing the Spaniard’s share of the crops. The chiefs were paid with one axe each, plus some enameled buttons. Of course, it never dawned on Spanish that if they forced the Native Americans to provide such large quantities of their primary food source, they would experience food shortages.

On September 11, it reached the Province of Canos. The people of Canos had been already required by the Spanish to build a warehouse to store maize, which then would be given to the Spanish.  This is prime evidence that someone else had already made contact with them other than Pardo.

The chiefs of several villages, which were vassals of Canos were gathered in Canos to greet Pardo.  Most of the village names are recognizable villages or tribes from north-central and northeast South Carolina in the region around Spartanburg, Gaffney, Chester, Rock Hill, Florence and Cheraw. These villages were Canos, Elasi  (Foothill Creeks), Sanapa, Unaguqua, Vora, Issa (what the Catawbas called themselves), Catapa (Creeks whose main province was in North-Central Georgia), Vehidi (Pee Dee Creeks), Otari (Siouans also in Georgia), Uraca, Achini, Ayo and Conasaca (Conasauga).  Pardo’s men constructed Fort San Tomas near Canos.

In 1700, British explorer, John Lawson, paddled up the Santee River to north-central South Carolina.  In his memoir, he remarked that almost every village in this region spoke a language that was different than neighboring villages.  He suspected that they also had a trade lingo, which enabled them to communicate with each other.

Anthropologist Charles Hudson equated Canos with Cofitachequi,  since the site for Cofitachequi, chosen by South Carolina archaeologists was near Camden, SC, which would seem to be a logical place for tribal representatives in that region to gather.  However, the Camden site is over a hundred miles from the sea, while Cofitachequi was described as being two days walk from the sea (25-30 miles).  Today, all of the  place names associated with Canos such as Conestee, Conasauga and Conasee are in northern Georgia and western North Carolina.

On September 13, 1567,  the Pardo Exhibition arrived in a province, they named Tagaya.  However, the ruler of that province was also listed as Tagaya, so they might have not discerned the province’s real name. At this village were oratas or chiefs from other villages: Unharca, Harape (Ilape), Suhere, Suya, Uniaca, Sarati and Obehere.  

Harape was the capital of the Pee Dee Creeks. They later moved westward to Georgia and joined the Creek Confederacy, where they became known to English-speakers as the Hillabee Creeks.

The capital of the Sara-ti Creeks appears on Johann Lederer’s 1771 map of Carolina. It is located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains and farther south than a Wataree Province.

On September 15, 1567, the Pardo Expedition arrived at the village Aracuchi.  On September 17, the Spaniards arrived at the village Otari.  The villagers had constructed a house and granary in anticipation of their arrival. That same day, Guatari Meco (Wataree King) and Orata Chiquini  (Chief of a Chiquini village) arrived in Otari. 

Pardo decided to establish a mission at Otari, which would be operated by a friar and two Spanish boys.  During that era, it was customary for both friars and priests in rural areas to be furnished with teenage boys as “assistants.” 

On September 20, the Pardo Expedition arrived at the village of Quinahaqui.  While at Quinahaqui, Pardo was visited by the oratas of Ytaa, Cataba and Uchiri.   Uchiri means Uchee Tribe. On September 21, the Pardo Expedition arrived at Guaquiri.

At this point, there is something terribly wrong with the Herbert Ketchum translation of the Pardo Chronicles. It is not clear as whether the author, Juan de la Bandera or the translator had been munching on hallucinogenic morning glory seeds.

Pisgah Mountains in Western North Carolina

Expedition from Joara to Chiaha and Kaushe (Coosa)

Earlier in the document,  we were told that Pardo arrived in Joara during the third week of December 1566.  However, in the paragraph after the arrival in Guaquiri, we are told that Pardo discovered Joara in September 24, 1567 and stayed there until September 1, 1567! (a translator’s typo?)  It is this passage that encouraged North Carolina academicians to designate the Berry Site as the location of the “great town of Joara” . . . when in fact, it was obviously a small village, with a single dinky mound.   I live in walking distance, here in the Nacoochee Valley, of at least two dozen Native American structures, which are much large edifices.

The next part of Ketchum’s translation of De La Bandera’s report is initially contradictory with the previous paragraphs, but then totally refutes a location for Joara in the Burke County, NC (Headwaters of the Catawba River).  This text states that on October 1, 1567,  Pardo led his men up the mountain that was immediately behind Joara.  (The previous section said that he departed on September 1).  He stated that it took four hours to climb the mountain and on the other side was the village of TocaE. 

Unfortunately,  everywhere one searches, the label of Joara and Fort San Juan are on a level field in Burke County, NC.  The archaeologists, responsible for this situation, just didn’t look at the terrain maps.  First of all, the terrain described by De La Bandera is not the terrain in Burke County.  The Berry Site is 10 miles (16 km) from the base of the first ridge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It is not in a gorge or at the foot of a mountain escarpment. 

Nothing about the Berry Site matches De la Bandera’s descriptions.

Climb the first ridge and you come down into a gorge.  Climb the next ridge and you come down the extremely steep slopes of Linville River Gorge. There is no way that the 300 horses and riders could have crossed the smaller gorge then 2,800 feet (853 meter) deep Linville Gorge in four hours.  De La Bandera said that the capital of the Tokah was on the other side of the mountain ridge.  On the other side of the ridge is the Toe River Gorge.  There is no place to cultivate large fields of crops in the Toe River Gorge.  Spruce Pine, NC is 20 miles from the Berry Archaeological Site.

Tuckasegee Community in Jackson County, NC is the probable site of TokahE.

There is one archaeological site on the west slope of the Blue Ridge, which fits the description of the town of TokahE.   It is a large, proto-Creek town site, adjacent to the Forks of the Tuckasegee River (Tokah-descendants of-people) in Jackson County, NC and was excavated by archaeologist Bennie Keel in 1975 as part of his dissertation work.  The town was abandoned around 1600 AD.  Part of the town site was reoccupied by Cherokees around 1700 AD.  

Another possible location is Cashiers, NC, which was on a major trade path that connected the Keowee River with the Little Tennessee River.  This would place Tanasqui at Franklin, NC.  The Nikwasi Mound site was originally on an island in the Little Tennessee River.

The terrain of Jackson County, NC is identical to that described by De la Bandera

Pardo is suddenly in western North Carolina

This is one of the sections, where the only available translation of Juan de la Bandera’s report is highly suspect.  There are several typos, dates missing, words missing or sections of paragraphs missing.  In one paragraph, the Pardo Expedition is leaving Joara.  At the beginning of the next paragraph, they are in a region immediately east of the Tugaloo River in South Carolina and the next paragraph they are on the Tucksegee River.  In the next paragraph  It is quite possible that someone intentionally redacted a paragraph or two, which conflicted with the plans to equate Joara with the Berry Site near Morganton, NC. 

At the TocaE village,  Juan Pardo was introduced to the orata of Uastque (probably a Uchee), who said that he had journeyed 17 days from the west to meet the Spanish.  The Tokah were ancestors of the Creek towns of Tuckabatchee (Tokahpasi) and Broken Arrow.   Up until the late 1600s, they lived east of the Tugaloo River in the extreme northwestern corner of South Carolina. That would be about 100 miles (160 km) southwest of the Berry Site.

On the next day, October 2, Pardo’s company entered Cauchi.  Both TocaE and Cauchi are Spanish interpretations of Creek tribal names, all North Carolina literature calls them “Cherokee” towns. Cauchi was probably the large multi-mound town on the Tuckasegee River in Cullowhee, NC . . . but this is not certain.  Tuckasegee is the Anglicization of the Muskogee-Creek words “Descendants of Tokah – People.”  On October 3, Pardo observed a man, wearing an apron.  It was explained to him that the man was a hermaphrodite, who only did the things that women do.

In the past there were two islands here in the Tuckasegee River.
There is a large Proto-Creek town site that formerly had a mound near the confluence of the Tuckasegee and Oconaluftee Rivers. The mound was used for fill-dirt in the early 20th century without being investigated by professional archaeologists.

Without giving a date,  we are next told that Pardo entered a town, also named Olameco, which was on an island, named Tanasqui, where two “copious” rivers meet. The location is probably a large horseshoe bend just downstream from where the Tuckasegee and the Oconaluftee River meet. One can still see in the terrain where the river once also flowed at the base of the horseshoe bend.  As stated early, the alternative location would be an island in the Little Tennessee River in Franklin, NC, which is now called the Nikwasi Mound.

Juan de la Bandera stated that a timber palisade with three towers had been built across the island to protect the town.  Archaeologists Madeline Kneberg Lewis and Thomas Lewis set a new standard for their profession, while excavating the town, visited by Pardo.  They also discovered the timber palisade, described in De La Bandera’s report.

On October 7, 1567,  the Pardo Expedition arrived at town named Chiaha.  The men crossed “three copious rivers” in order to reach the fortified island.   The town was also called Olameco.  The alternative name of the town is highly significant, because Ola is the Alibaamu (Alabama) word for king . . . so olameco must mean “high king.”  The English translation says that they stayed in Chiaha for eight days, but then later says that they left the town of Chiaha six days after arriving.

On October 13, 1567, the Pardo Expedition left the capital of Chiaha and went five leagues ( 13 miles ~ 21 km) They slept in a spot in the country.  Here they were met by three village officials: Otape Orata, Jasire Orata and Fumica Orata.  On the 14th they broke camp and traveled through rough terrain five more leagues. They climbed a high mountain and slept on the other side of the gorge.  Here they found a reddish rock, which miners within their party, said was silver ore.  This location is probably the Nantahala Gorge, because there is still silver ore on the upper sides of the gorge.  

On October 15, 1567 Pardo arrived at a town named Chalahuma.  This is an Alibaami (Alabama) word meaning “Red Fox.”  So, the Alabama People were also in the Southern Highlands.

Citico Creek near the Satipo town site on the NC-TN line

On October 16, 1567, Pardo arrived at the town of Satapo.  We can place this town precisely.  The site was still occupied in the 1700 and known to English speakers as Satipo, Saticoa, Seticoa, Citico or Citigo. It is at the confluence of the Little Tennessee River and Citigo Creek.  This is proof that Chiaha was upstream on the Little Tennessee River . . . NOT on the French Broad River.  The professors of the De Soto Route Consortium should have noticed this and immediately X’ed Zimmerman Island as a location for Chiaha.

Satipo is a Panoan word from Peru.  It is also the name of a city and province in Peru, plus in the 1500s, it was the name of the capital town of the Satile in Southeast Georgia on the Satilla River.

The cacique of Satipo said something interesting to Captain Pardo.   Satipo was about 12 miles ( 19 km) downstream from Cholahuma.  He confided, “Many Spaniards have come through these parts by foot and by horse.   They have all been killed by the cacique.”

Members of the De Soto Expedition were not killed by the Natives in the Little Tennessee River Valley.  This means that there were several expeditions into the Southeast’s interior that have been overlooked by academicians or else were not recorded in the Spanish Colonial Archives.

In the following paragraph, it is that night of October 16, 1567.   The Spaniards heard a great number of Indians arrive at the outskirts of Satipo.   They continued to hear war whoop and shouts much of the evening, so they placed additional guards around the camp. 

An Indian informant arrived to tell the Spaniards that a large band of warriors had arrived from the town of Coça and they had been joined by war parties from the Uchee Tribe and Olameco.  (Olameco could be the capital of Chiaha or the Tanasqui.) The paragraph states again that many Spaniards had come through that region and had been killed.  The plan was to kill the members of the Juan Pardo Expedition, where those Spaniards had been killed.  In a later paragraph, Juan de la Bandera states that the Indian war parties were waiting in three locations to ambush the Spaniards.

The next day, Pardo asked the cacique of Satipo to furnish some men to be porters for their group.  The cacique pretended to oblige the demand, but did not return after leaving supposedly to gather porters.  At that point the officers, sergeants and corporals gathered together to discuss the situation.  They all agreed that the party should not continue toward Coça.  They decide to return to the capital of Chiaha, which was three days away. They also decided to build a fort somewhere near the capital of Chiaha and leave a garrison there.

On October 19, 1557,  they arrived in Chiaha and summoned its orata. Apparently, their Spanish interpreter could not understand the language spoken by this leader, so another interpreter arrived from the village of Oluga to aid communication between the Orata of Chiaha and the Spaniards. The cacique told the Spaniards that the prospect of war with Coça troubled him greatly.  He had five brothers, who had accompanied Soto to Coça.  They had been kept in Coça as slaves ever since then. The interpreter also stated that all the towns between Satipo and Coça were demanding that Pardo pay them for any food they took to eat.  

The Spaniards built a fort in four days. No name for the fort is given in this section of the report, but later is listed as Fort San Pandro. It was garrisoned by 25 men, who were commanded by Corporal Marcos Jimenez.  Pardo led the remainder of his company out of Chiaha on October 22, 1557 and headed toward Cauchi.   As soon as the party arrived in Cauchi, they laid out a fort named San Pablo.  The fort was finished on October 30, 1557. Corporal Flores was given command of the fort and assigned ten men.

When Pardo arrived in Cauchi, its orata was not there.   However, the orata of Canosaqui (Canosaga in the De Soto Chronicles) was there.  On the 29th of October, oratas from Utahaque, Andoque, Enhuete, Guaruruquete and Anshuete came to Cauchi to visit Pardo. Later in the day, leaders arrived.  They were henehas (sun lords) who functioned as circuit judges.  Their names were Cauchi Orata, Canasahaqui Orata, Arasue Orata, Guarero Orata, Joara Chiquito Orata, Arande Orata, plus two other heneha oratas.

On November 1, 1567,  Pardo and his men entered the town of Tocahe and was well-received.  The next day, the orata of Cauche arrived in Tocahe.  He was returning from taking some captive women to Joara. On November 3, 1567,  the expedition left Tocahe and headed southward toward Santa Elena. They traveled 5 leagues (13 miles ~ 21 km).  This seems to be the typical distance traveled each day, when the author did not state a distance. They traveled five more leagues the next day and camped in a ravine.  They traveled 4 leagues (10.4 miles ~ 16.7 km) the next day.  At this camp site on November 5, they were visited by the Joara Mico (king) who brought food with him.

The expedition arrived in Joara on November 6. Thus, the distance between a major Tokahle village and Joara was 14 leagues, 36.4 miles or 58.6 km.  The text said that they were heading southward toward Santa Elena.   It would be impossible for Joara to be in Burke County, NC, since Joara was described as being south of the Tokahle province.

It should be emphasized that Joara was the only Native American community, which Juan de la Bandera called a “city.”  He states in the next paragraph, “While he was in the city, on November 16, there came five caciques . . . Quinihaqui Orata, two Catapa Oratas, Guaguiri Orata and Ysa Orata.  . . . Being in the city, as said, on November 20, there came 16 caciques.

In a subsequent paragraph, the edited version of Bandera’s report states that Fort San Pedro is 50 leagues (130 miles ~ 209 km) west of Joara.  This number vastly exceeds the total of distances between villages, described earlier in the report, or even the distance between the Burke Site and Zimmerman Island, TN (103 miles ~ 166 km). 

On November 24, 1567,  two leaders, Chara (Sara) Orata and Adini Orata showed up to bring food and profess homage to the King of Spain.  Pardo and the remainder of his party, who were not manning forts, departed southward that same day.  While traveling to Issa,  they encountered a “crystal” mine on November 26. They arrived in Issa on November 28 and stayed in the region, prospecting for “crystals” until December 12.  They arrived at Quinahaqui on December 13.  They arrived at Guatari on December 16 then began building a fort there.  Pardo designated Corporal Lucas de Canizares as the commander and assigned 16 men to him.  It was named Fort Santiago.

On January 7, 1568,  Pardo and his remaining men departed Guatari and stayed in Aracuchi.  They departed Aracuchi on January 12 and returned to Ilasi.  On January 17, he arrived in Illasi. He departed from Ylasi on January 21 and headed back to Canos. During that portion of the journey,  the Spaniards had to wade through a swamp about was about 2 ½ miles (4 km) in width. On the 25th he arrived in Canos, where a large house had been built to serve the needs of Pardo’s band and the government of Spain.  A substantial amount of corn was already stored there, which was to be transported by the natives to feed Santa Elena.  Most Spaniards in the American colonies considered it beneath their “dignity” to grow crops.  

For several days, the remaining soldiers under Pardo’s direct command dispersed in order to bring together the corn demanded of the natives.  The company reunited on February 11 in the village of Coçao.  The continued passage toward Santa Elena was slowed because there were many swamps and the soldiers were hauling a considerable amount of corn. 

Ancestors of the Creeks definitely grew Sweet Potatoes!

The company stopped to spend the night at the village of Aboyaca.  The Spaniards were fed by the local cacique a meal of meat and sweet potatoes.  This is proof that sweet potatoes were grown in the Southeastern United States prior to the arrival of British planters.  Our history books say otherwise.  In fact, the Creek word for sweet potato, aho, is a Peruvian word for the sweet potato. In fact,  on the night of February 14th, the Spaniards stayed in a village named Ahoya, which means “Sweet potatoes – place of.”  On February 19th, they departed Ahoya and headed toward Orista.

After arriving in Orista,  the Spaniards began construction of a casa fuerte or blockhouse.  It was completed on March 2. The blockhouse was named “Nuestra Señora” and the town of Orista was renamed “Nueva Esperança.”   The inhabitants of Orista obviously did not have any say-so in the matter.  The arrogance of the Spaniards seemed infinite. Sergeant Pedro de Hermosa and 30 men were left there to garrison the fort.

About that same time, Pardo learned that some of the Indians in Ahoya had killed a Spaniard garrisoned there.  Their orata was now imprisoned and destined to be executed.  The inhabitants of the village burned their homes and fled into the wilderness.

Santa Elena . . . the first capital of La Florida

On March 2, 1567  Pardo and his few remaining soldiers left Orista and headed southward to Santa Elena.  The day of their arrival in Santa Elena is missing from the text.  Pardo learned in early April that all of the garrisons that he had established in the interior had been wiped out, save one man, by the inhabitants.  The lone survivor had been lured into spending the night with his Native American mistress, when his fort was scheduled to be destroyed.

The ruins of Fort San Mateo on the Altamaha River are still visible

With half the total number of soldiers sent to Santa Elena now dead, Pardo did not dare seek revenge, since Santa Elena was still anticipating an attack by French ships.   Indeed, on April 18,1568 a combined army of Frenchmen and Native American warriors* from the Georgia coast first sacked two out forts on the Altamaha River then captured Fort San Mateo. All Spanish soldiers, who were not killed in battle were later hanged.

*The internet articles on Fort San Mateo by the National Park Service and internet are inaccurate. All of the tribes listed in the attack were indigenous to the Georgia coast and were NOT Timucuans from Florida. They later moved to the Chattahoochee River or NE Georgia to escape the Spanish. Their remnants joined the Creek Confederacy in the late 1600s. The Eufaula Creeks are descended from the Satile. Saturiwa was not their name, but the title of their king. It is a Panoan word from Peru meaning “King of the Colonists.”

The books written by Southeastern professors in the late 20th century stated that the Spanish never ventured into the interior again.  However, we know from English scholar, Richard Hakluyt,  many traders traveled to the Kingdom of Apalache in present-day Georgia to exchange European goods for gold, copper, gems and food.  Juan de la Bandera wrote that many Spaniards ventured into the Southeast, after the De Soto Expedition.

Now you know!


  1. Howdy, Am I looking at Jocasee wrong or are those terraces?

    On Sun, Feb 6, 2022 at 9:17 AM The Americas Revealed wrote:

    > alekmountain posted: ” Chiaha . . . An Itza Maya Province in Western North > Carolina – Part Five by Richard L. Thornton, Architect and City Planner > Reading the itineraries of two Spanish explorers in the 16th century may > not be the most exciting pastime in the world, but” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe they are terraces, but have not been able to get up there this winter to check them out, because of car trouble. I have also found terraces overlooking the site of Chiaha. They are normally under Fontana Lake, but when the lake was drained seven years ago, they became visible on the satellite image.

      Liked by 1 person

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