History

Who was Jean Ribault?

Reprinted with permission of the artist, Calvin Bryant

Jean Ribault was a French Huguenot during a time of great religious wars in Europe. King Charles IX was persuaded to let Captain Ribault led an expedition to the “new world”, made up primarily of Huguenots, in order to claim the land for France and establish a Protestant settlement. On February 18, 1562, three ships sailed from LaHavre, France. Ribault was an excellent navigator and in six weeks they reached the coast of Florida. Sailing northward they soon found the mouth of a large river. Because it was the first of May, it was called The River of May, later renamed the St. Johns River.

Captain Ribault erected a stone column, adorned with the Royal Coat of Arms, at the site of their landing where Mayport is now located, to claim this area for France. His description of this land as “the fairest, fruit fullest and pleasantest” he had seen anywhere still rings true for many residents and visitors.
It was two years later that the fort known as Fort Caroline was built on a high bluff of the River May. New colonists included several families to whom a number of children were born. In 1565, the Spanish attacked, massacred most of the French colonists, destroyed the column and took control of the fort and the river. One ship with about fifty survivors escaped and returned to France.

Gaetan Ribault, 24th great grandson of Jean Ribault, with some chapter members, in front of his famous ancestor’s memorial

Located at Fort Caroline National Memorial, a stone column that is a replica of the one placed by Jean Ribault when he arrived on these shores sits atop St. Johns Bluff and provides a commanding view of the St. Johns River. Built in 1924 by the Daughters of the American Revolution, this memorial commemorates the 1562 arrival of French Huguenot Jean Ribault. On a clear day, you can see the Atlantic Ocean and Mayport Naval Station five miles to the east with river activity, wildlife and the marshes below.

Click here to watch The 450th Anniversary of Jean Ribault’s Landing

Jean Ribault Chapter

The Jean Ribault Chapter was organized January 9, 1953, in Neptune Beach, Florida, by Janice Smith Brown, the organizing regent. The chapter name was chosen in honor of Jean Ribault, the leader of the French Huguenots who came to the shores of the renamed St. Johns, more than four centuries prior, seeking to form a colony for religious freedom. 

For more information about joining our dynamic chapter, click here