Lucas Vasques de Ayllon (1475-1526)

Written By Dr. Troy L. Kickler

A lawyer and nobleman from Spain, Lucas Vasques de Ayllon sponsored the first Spanish explorations (three total) of what became North Carolina.  He also discovered Chesapeake Bay and established San Miguel de Guandape, a settlement near what would be Jamestown.

Ayllon sponsored three missions to the New World.  In 1521, he sent Francisco Gordillo to find a Northwest Passage.  The Spaniard landed near the Cape Fear River and explored a land called Chicora (between the Cape Fear and Jamestown Island). In 1524, Ayllon traveled to Chicora for his second mission, discovered the Chesapeake Bay, and offered a report to Charles V, who made the nobleman the lifetime governor of the land that he had explored. His last mission was in 1525 to 1526.

Ayllon and approximately 500 to 600 colonists (including three monks) sailed to the New World in a convoy of 6 ships. They landed near the Cape Fear River (which they called Rio Jordan), but decided to go to a more salubrious place. They went north and established San Miguel de Guandape.  Disease, however, plagued the Spanish settlement, and the numbers dropped quickly to 150. The dead included Ayllon.

Shortly afterward, Spaniards abandoned San Miguel de Guandape and approximately eighty to one hundred horses. Many wild horses on Shackleford Banks near Beaufort, North Carolina are believed to be descendants of those that the Spanish deserted.