Sunday, July 25, 2021

GUEST POST: America's Earliest Colonial History by Shannon McNear


French Florida

A fellow history-nerd friend messaged me a while back:
You know how every time one thinks one has history down and then another obscure fact crops up that changes everything? Yeah, that. The first interest in colonizing America wasn't fueled by Queen Elizabeth, who was hoping to stop Spanish expansion. Before that, Jean Ribault landed on the shores of Florida hoping to set up a colony. For Huguenots, I believe.
Take a peek at this beautiful website. You're welcome. Makes me long to write a story about this man and the people he sought to defend--although now, alas, I am head down in a story series featuring another, but maybe not so different, group.

That group would be the famed Lost Colonists of Roanoke Island.

These days, even the word "colonial" has a bad name.

Emperor Gojong of Joseon (Korea)
Truth is, every empire down through history has sought to grow their holdings and increase their wealth by annexing other lands and peoples. I was recently reminded of this while my youngest girl and I were watching, of all things, a Korean drama set during the early 1900's, a particularly turbulent time of Korean history. Joseon (Korea) was just beginning to open up to Western ways, just beginning to not immediately put Christians to death, and struggling to find her place between China, Russia, America, and Japan. The latter, that tiny but ridiculously ambitious island nation, made no secret of its desire to make Korea a colony of Japan. Ruthlessness and political maneuvering were the standard of the day, and corruption abounded.

Good Queen Bess at her coronation
Not so very different from the time of Queen Elizabeth. "Good Queen Bess" furthered her father's move in breaking away from the Church of Rome by establishing the Church of England. Bloodshed between Catholics and Protestants abounded, and religious views were the standard by which political views were judged. Ireland suffered a harsh and bloody takeover by England for reasons which I will not get into here, but doubtless that set the precedent for what later happened on American shores. When Elizabeth granted Sir Walter Raleigh his charter for a colony in the New World, she was very clear, however, that it was at least in part for the purpose of furthering the Gospel to unreached peoples, even though plenty of folk in England were unhappy enough with the way things were going in the newborn Anglican Church that they wished to either purify the Church (thus, Puritans) or create their own group entirely (Separatists).

Of course, the Spanish were feared the most. Spain already had holdings across South America, and their treasure galleons were the most coveted prize of English privateers. Staunchly Catholic to the point of meting out torture and death to those who disagreed (the Spanish Inquisition, anyone?), they were equally ruthless on the sea. The English were by far not the only ones to suffer at Spanish hands. As outlined in the website I shared above, French Huguenots sought refuge on what is now the Florida and South Carolina coast, but were seen as a threat to Spain's supremacy in the New World and met with death once their Protestant leanings were made known.

Marker at Fort Matanzas National Park

Lee Miller theorizes in her book Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony that the group which set sail in 1587 under Governor John White, seeking to establish the first permanent English settlement in the New World, were Separatists. If so, the fate of French Huguenots would have been fairly fresh, and avoiding the Spanish at all costs would have been uppermost on their minds. Brandon Fullam makes the case in The Lost Colony of Roanoke: New Perspectives that this would have been a good reason why they settled on Roanoke Island rather than going north to the Chesapeake area as originally planned. Maybe it's just my own firm Christian faith, but I find the Separatist theory quite compelling. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that a people group migrated in search of religious freedom, would it?

Releasing December 1, 2021:  Daughters of the Lost Colony: ELINOR

In 1587, Elinor White Dare sailed from England heavy with her first child but full of hopes. Her father, a renowned artist and experienced traveler, has convinced her and her bricklayer husband Ananias to make the journey to the New World. Land, they are promised, more goodly and beautiful than they can ever imagine. But nothing goes as planned from landing at the wrong location, to facing starvation, to the endless wait for help to arrive. And, beyond her comprehension, Elinor finds herself utterly alone. . . .

The colony at Roanoke disappeared into the shadows of history. But, what if one woman survived to leave a lasting legacy?

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Transplanted to North Dakota after more than two decades in the Deep South, Shannon McNear loves losing herself in local history. She’s the author of four novellas and four full-length novels, with her first novella, Defending Truth in A Pioneer Christmas Collection, having the honor of being a 2014 RITA® nominee, and her most recent novella, The Wise Guy and the Star from Love’s Pure Light, being a 2021 SELAH winner. Yet her greatest joy is in being a military wife, mom of eight, mother-in-law of three, and grammie of four. She’s also a contributor to Colonial Quills and a member of ACFW. When not cooking, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the northern prairies.


  1. Welcome to HHH and thanks for the interesting post! I love the line in your bio, "leaking story from her fingertips"!

  2. Welcome. Thank you for a very interesting post.