It All Began in Mayport

On Saturday October 10th, 2015 at 12:30pm, there is a special Memorial Marker Dedication Ceremony in Mayport, Florida. Congratulations to St. Augustine on their 450th celebration, however, It All Began in Mayport!

Following the dedication ceremony, there will be music, food vendors, and presentations such as, “Where was Ft. Caroline?” at the Marine Science Center (1347 Palmer St) at 2:45pm.

Join us for a FREE ride on the St. Johns River Ferry while attending Ferry Fest. The pedestrian-friendly ferry is a transportation link for SR A1A connecting the north bank (Mayport) and the south bank (Ft. George Island) of the St. Johns River. The ferry is appropriately named the “Jean Ribault”, after the French explorer to land here in 1562.

Why is Jacksonville at the heart of the First Coast? The text below from the new Memorial Marker says it all.


This marker commemorates the landing of the French Huguenots near this site on May 1, 1562, and their lives as colonists on this land until 1565. Hoping to escape religious persecution throughout Western Europe, the Huguenots set sail towards this un-colonized portion of the New World, establishing the colony of La Caroline in June of 1564.

In the days between May 1562 and September 1565, the Huguenots shaped history by establishing many of our nation’s  “firsts”:  The first Protestant prayer on American soil, offered by Jean Ribault after their landing in 1562; the first settlement of men and women seeking religious freedom; the first Colonial Thanksgiving, celebrated June 30, 1564; the first known commercial artist of North America, Jacques le Moyne, who documented the lifestyle of the native Timucua; the first recorded birth of a European child in the continental United States; the first international port of trade established when Englishman John Hawkins arrived in August 1565 and exchanged goods with La Caroline’s leader, Rene de Laudonniere; and with the Spanish attack on the colony in 1565, the first battle between  European forces on soil that later became the United States.

Viewing La Caroline as a threat to control Florida, the Spanish forces failed in the first attempt to take the colony in August 1565.  As they pursued defense of the settlement, French forces were separated when their ships were destroyed in a storm. Most of the shipwrecked Frenchmen were massacred by the Spanish at Matanzas Inlet after they refused to renounce their religious beliefs. In September, the Spanish again attacked La Caroline, leaving few surviving colonists. 

The lasting legacy of the colony can be illuminated through the words of Congressman Charles E. Bennett, “The Fort Caroline settlement set a new pattern for religious freedom in America-a pattern which was to be imitated until religious liberty and personal freedom became the great trademark of the United States.” 

Dedicated October 10, 2015 on the 450th Anniversary in honor and memory of the La Caroline colonists who perished September 20th at the St. Johns River and Jean Ribault and his men who died at Matanzas in defense of the colony on September 29th and October 12th, 1565.

Helpful Links

Dedication Ceremony event
Marine Science Center in Mayport
St. Johns River Ferry
Friends of the Ferry

Explore, learn, and enjoy Jacksonville’s amazing history. At this event you will be celebrating our French heritage and supporting the St. Johns River Ferry.


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