Historical Markers StoppingPoints.com Historical Markers, Sightseeing & Points of Interest Scenic Roads & Points of Interest
About Us | Photo Gallery | Free Widgets | Featured States | Search Site
Home North Carolina Cherokee County City of Murphy Historical Markers Juan Pardo

Juan Pardo

Peachtree Street, Murphy, NC, USA
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"In 1567 an expedition of Spaniards, sent out from Florida by Pedro Menendez de Aviles and led by Juan Pardo, passed near here."
     Spaniards established a settlement in present-day North Carolina over twenty years before the first English colonies on Roanoke Island. During the sixteenth century, Spanish galleons arrived in North America to spread Christianity among the native inhabitants, and—more importantly to them—to become wealthy by discovering lodes of silver and gold. In 1540, conquistador Hernando de Soto, after a two-year foray into the Southeast, decided to construct Santa Elena (St. Helena), his headquarters for future operations, in present day South Carolina. It was from the Spanish base in December 1556 that leader Pedro Menendez de Aviles sent another, “more obscure” conquistador, Captain Juan Pardo, to command an expeditionary force of 125 men to forge a direct route from present-day South Carolina to silver mines in northern Mexico.

     Four State Highway Historical Markers (erected on the eve of World War II) designate Pardo’s route based on findings from John R. Swanton’s 1939 report to Congress on the quadricentennial of Pardo’s expedition. Subsequent research has placed Pardo and his men in the Catawba River valley. Pardo’s journey took him through the western Piedmont and, in the process, the Spanish captain utilized maps from de Soto’s 1540 expedition. Consequently, the party visited several Indian villages that had been documented twenty years before.

     One such settlement was Joara (Xuala), built by ancestors of the Catawba Indians, and located at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in what is now Burke County. Archaeologists have positively identified the site (known as the Berry Site for modern-day owners) of Fort San Juan near Morganton. In early 1556, Pardo reached Joara, which he soon renamed Cuenca (after his hometown in Spain). He also established Fort San Juan (the earliest known European settlement in modern America’s interior) and was preparing to depart when recalled to Santa Elena, leaving thirty men to protect what Pardo had hoped would be the northernmost boundary of Spain’s territory, La Florida. He wished to return and continue marching toward the silver mines in Mexico, but his dreams for the New World dissolved in the spring of 1568, when the Catawbas fought back.

     While in Santa Elena, Pardo learned that the inhabitants of Joara had risen up against the outpost and quickly overwhelmed the token number of Spanish guards, of whom one managed to return to St. Elena to inform Pardo. The reasons behind the attack remain a mystery, but factors such as European disease (to which Indians were not immune), abuse, and unfair trading could have provoked violence. Due to limited supplies and poor relations with the native peoples, the Spanish soon were forced to abandon their colonization efforts.

Charles Hudson, The Juan Pardo Expeditions: Exploration of the Carolinas and Tennessee, 1566-1568 (1990)
Andrew Lawler, “Spain Makes a Stand,” Smithsonian website: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/issues/2006/march/digs.php?page=1
David G. Moore, Robin A. Beck, Jr. and Christopher Rodning, “Joara and Fort San Juan: Culture Contact at the Edge of the World,” Antiquity, LXXVIII, no. 299 (March 2004)
Chester B. DePratter, Charles M. Hudson, and Marvin T. Smith, “The Route of Juan Pardo’s Explorations in the Interior Southeast, 1566-1568,” Florida Historical Quarterly, LXII, no. 2 (1983)
Exploring Joara Foundation website: http://www.warren-wilson.edu/~arch/ejf.php