PILGRIMS BEFORE PLYMOUTH
Three hundred and seventy-eight years ago a band of French
Huguenots knelt on Florida soil not far from the mouth of the St. Johns
River. Their faces lifted reverently to the sky, they gave devout thanks
for a safe voyage from France. Thus was enacted the first Protestant
religious service on the North American continent.
The rising sun pushed back the mists and shadows through the
surrounding woodland. It pressed warmly on the green turf and
undulating marchland, and danced in bright reflection across the lapping
blue waters of the lagoon.
A metallic glitter flashed from burnished helmet, from linked mail
corselet, from halberd and arquebus. Brown savages, slipping in ever-
increasing number from the forest, drew cautiously nearer. They stared
in silent awe, thinking that the bearded white strangers worshipped the
Jean Ribaut, leader of the Huguenots, sailing along the Florida
coast had discovered the mouth of the St. Johns River the evening
before. He had anchored until morning. At sunrise on May 1, 1562, the
Frenchmen disembarked in small boats, crossed the bar, and landed on
the north shore. In commemoration of the day, Ribaut called the broad
stream he had entered the River of May.