Fifty-two years before the celebrated landing of English settlers at Plymouth Rock, in what is now Massachusetts, three Englishmen traveled this South Texas area. They were sailors who had gone to sea in 1567 with Sir John Hawkins, an admiral of the fleet of Queen Elizabeth I, on a trading voyage. At Vera Cruz, Mexico, on Sept 26, 1568, Sir John was attacked by the Spanish, losing five of his six ships. Forced by famine and overcrowding to lighten the remaining crippled ship, he put ashore 114 of his men on October 8, 1568, near Tampico. Most went south, only to be captured by the Spanish; 26 went north, had Indian fights and other misfortunes. Of the 26, only Richard Browne, David Ingram, and Richard Twide ever reached England again. That Browne, Ingram, and Twide passed through this part of Texas is evident by Ingram's testimony, given to her Majesty's secretary in 1582. He told of cannibal Indians along the Gulf Coast, described the lush grass at the Rio Grande's mouth and the sandy regions north of that river, told of large "musquetas" and of eating prickly pear fruit.
In 11 months of steady walking—only once resting as long as five days—they reached Frenchmen in Nova Scotia, and a ship captain took them to Europe.