It was in 1562 that the first French Huguenot expedition, organized by Admiral Gaspard de Coligny and led by Jean Ribault, landed on the bluffs of the St. John's River, and staked their claim to the site. The second expedition, led by Ribault's second-in-command, René Goulaine de Laudonnière, returned on June 22, 1564, and by June 29, his men had constructed a fort named in honor of King Charles IX of France. The following day, Laudonnière held a service of thanksgiving in which, he wrote, “On the morrow about the break of day, I commanded a trumpet to be sounded, that being assembled we might give God thankes for our favourable and happie arrivall. Then wee sang a Psalme of thanksgiving unto God, beseeching him that it would please him of his grace to continue his accustomed goodness toward his poore servaunts, and ayde us in all our enterprises that all might turne to his glory and the advancement of our king.”
This Thanksgiving service took place 54 years before the Berkeley Hundred Colony, Virginia Thanksgiving celebration (December 19, 1619) and 56 years before the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving celebration at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, in the autumn of 1621. Although summer may not seem to us today to be the ideal season for thanksgiving, yet we can take every opportunity to remember with gratitude "the grace of God's accustomed goodness to his poor servants," and today, we might give special thanks to him for the legacy of those brave French Huguenots souls who settled in Florida 450 years ago and staked a claim for the banner of Christ in North America. "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5.18).