This marker commemorates the French Huguenot landing near this site on May 1, 1562, and their lives as colonists on the land until 1565. Hoping to escape religious persecution in Western Europe, the Huguenots set sail to this un-colonized portion of the New World, establishing La Caroline in June of 1564.
Between May 1562 and September 1565, the Huguenots shaped history by establishing many "firsts": The first Protestant prayer on American soil, offered by Jean Ribault; 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 native Timucua life; the first recorded birth of a European child in the continental United States; the first international port of trade when Englishman John Hawkins exchanged goods with La Caroline's leader, Rene de Laudonniere; and with the 1565 Spanish attack on the colony, the first battle between European forces on soil that later became the United States.
The August 1565 Spanish attack on La Caroline failed. As the French pursued the settlement's defense, their forces were separated and their ships destroyed in a storm. Most of the shipwrecked Frenchmen were massacred by the Spanish at Matanzas Inlet after refusing to renounce
their religious beliefs. In September, the Spanish again attacked the colony, leaving few survivors.
The colony's lasting legacy is illuminated through Congressman Charles E. Bennett's words, "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."
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 defending the colony on September 29th and October 12th, 1565
Dedicated October 10, 2016 commemorating the 450th Anniversary Year