1519–1797 » 1519-1698

1519: Spanish explorer Alonzo Alvarez de Pineda searches the coast of the Gulf of Mexico for passageway to the Pacific Ocean

He was the first European to see Mississippi and produced a fairly accurate map of the coast from Florida to Texas.

1528: Expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez sails from Spain with 300 colonists to settle Florida and search for gold

Alvar Nunez Cabez de Vaca and three other survivors of the Narvaez expedition left Apalachee Bay, Florida, in hastily constructed boats after a failed expedition into the interior. They followed the gulf shore west, probably passing through the Mississippi Sound, but the Mississippi River mouth pushed them out into the Gulf where a hurricane separated them and sank some of their boats.

1539: Hernando DeSoto’s expedition from Spain lands in Florida

DeSoto brought over 600 soldiers, along with horses, pigs, and war dogs.  The nine ships also carried priests, craftsmen, and a physician.

1540: Great undocumented population movements take place all across the South

Archaeological studies and seventeenth-century narratives document native population reduction and a trend toward settlements further in the interior, away from the Mississippi River.

December 1540: DeSoto’s expedition first known Europeans to enter Mississippi

Map showing De Soto's route (MDAH Collection)
Map showing De Soto's route

DeSoto encountered the Chickasaw, Chakchiuma, and Alabama in the northern part of east-central Mississippi and later the Tunica, Quapaw, or an unidentified group such as Taposa or Ibitoupa at Quizquiz in northwest Mississippi.

Link to the catalog

1541: DeSoto winters in Chickasaw town of Chicaca

1541: In the spring, DeSoto reaches the Mississippi River near Memphis

Probable route of DeSoto to Mississippi River (MDAH Collection)
Probable route of DeSoto to Mississippi River
Link to the catalog

March 1541: Chickasaws attack Desoto’s expedition during the night

Desoto had demanded the Chickasaw provide 200 burden bearers and women to help the Spaniards with the next part of their journey.  A number of DeSoto’s men were killed and many of their horses and pigs and remaining equipment were destroyed or lost.

1542: DeSoto dies and is buried secretly in Mississippi River

1673: Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet begin exploring Mississippi River

Map used by European explorers, 1584 (MDAH Collection)
Map used by European explorers

They reached Mississippi in July and explored as far south as the mouth of the Arkansas River near present-day Rosedale before turning back.

Link to the catalog

1682: Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle navigates Mississippi River to its mouth and claims all lands drained by river for France

He was commissioned by King Louis XIV to explore New France and find a route to Mexico in return for a trade monopoly. He established the site for Fort Prudhomme—not a real fort—at a location he encountered Chickasaw hunters on the third or fourth Chickasaw Bluffs at or north of Memphis.  He established and claimed Louisiane, or the entire Mississippi Valley and lands drained by its tributaries, for New France.

1685: The English from Charles Towne, in present day South Carolina, penetrate to the Mississippi River

They established direct contact with the Chickasaws in the present day Tupelo area.

1685: Henri de Tonti descends river looking for LaSalle and colonists on La Belle

La Salle intended to colonize Louisiane at the Mississippi River mouth. However, he overshot far to the west, and the colonists landed in present day Texas.

1686: French Arkansas Post established among Quapaws/Arkansas on Arkansas River

1690: Chickasaws likely absorb remnant groups from edge of Mississippi Valley, such as Taposa, Ibitoupa, and some Chakchiumas

The Napissa joined Chickasaws, and the Tioux abandoned Pearl River near present-day Jackson and sought refuge among the Natchez. This shifting took place over a twenty-year period. The Tious were with the Yazoos, Tunicas, Koroas, and Ofos on the lower Yazoo River near present-day Redwood. They migrated south around 1700. Some joined the Natchez, but others joined various groups such as the Bayogoulas.