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Update to The Controversy of Fort Caroline: A Timeline of Media Events

Posted by: Chuck Meide in

There's a technical problem so I can't update my post "The Controversy of Fort Caroline," so I'm having to create a separate blog post. Hopefully this will be temporary as I wanted to put all updates about the Fort Caroline controversy in one place.

Another newspaper article came out in the Florida Times-Union, about another proposed location for Fort Caroline. This time the folks speculating tell us its on the St. Mary's River:


Archeologists Fred Cook of Brunswick and Bill Weeks, the Brunswick city manager, laid the foundation for their theory Fort Carolina that was located on a bend in the St. Marys river upstream from the city of St. Marys. That’s about 45 miles south from a site on the Altamaha River in McIntosh County that Florida State University scholars announced in February.

Cook and Weeks came to the same conclusion from differing research materials. Cook analyzed old maps, and Weeks interpreted historical writings.

I should also point out just for accuracy's sake that Fletcher and Crowe, the researchers who have proposed Fort Caroline is in Georgia, are not "Florida State University scholars." They made the announcement there and one of them got his degree there, but they are not associated with FSU.

More to read below the fold . . .

Much like Spring and Crowe before them, Cook and Weeks used old maps to try and determine where the Fort might be . . .

Working from old maps, which have little to scale, Cook kept going to one feature that most of them had in common in or near their upper left corners: a large body of water.

The maps, many that go back to the 1600s, depicted the May River as “squiggly, squirming devil” that flows from the northwest with its headwaters near a huge lake. Along the way were a couple of large tributaries, that Cook matched with modern maps.

Cook converted the dimensions of the lake to miles and said it would be 60 to 70 miles long and 20 to 30 miles wide. There is nothing in Florida that compares with that lake, he said.

“I’m sorry, but there’s no other body of water in the Southeast that large. That’s the Okefenokee,’’ Cook said.

That really just highlights the problem with using old maps to locate a landmark with precision. They are inaccurate, they depict things that aren't really there (sea monsters, anyone?), and two sets of scholars analyzing maps can come up with totally different conclusions.

The fact that I keep on coming back to is what we know about Menendez and how he took Fort Caroline. Starting in St. Augustine, at the present day Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, his men marched two days before reaching and sacking the Fort. They would not have been able to make it an additional distance to the St. Mary's River, nor would they have been able to cross the St. Johns River in hurricane conditions. We are certain of Menendez' starting point, as his first settlement has been identified archaeologically. So, I'll say it again, in my professional opinion, these alternate theories of Fort Caroline's location away from the St. Johns River just don't hold water!

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