Announcing inaugural HISTORY DAY FOR STUDENTS at the 2018 Lowcountry Fair with Historical Flair

10/5/18 — Santa Elena History Center is putting the “FIELD” in “Field Trip!” This year the Lowcountry Fair with Historical Flair is opening a day early, exclusively for a STUDENT HISTORY DAY, to allow local students the opportunity to experience the unique culture and heritage of South Carolina first hand on the grounds of Cotton Hall Plantation.

Although the annual Lowcountry Fair and Marsh Tacky races are open to the general public on Saturday, November 3 from 11am – 5pm, students and their teachers are invited to take a field trip to see living history re-enactments, weaponry demonstrations, and selected other educational (and fun!) activities on Friday, November 2, from 10am to 2pm. The richness of our Spanish, French, English , Scottish and Native American history will be the focus of the day’s activities, along with exploring the plantation colonial sugar mill, walking through the petting zoo, and learning about Marsh Tacky horses.

As students meet and greet the gentle marsh tacky horses, they will learn about South Carolina’s heritage horse, an activity led by the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association. Other organizations on display include National Park Service with their Junior Ranger program, Coastal Discovery Museum with information about nature and their own Marsh Tacky “Comet,” Lowcountry Raptors, Morris Center for Heritage, Mitchelville, and more.

An on-site picnic area is perfect for packing a lunch to enjoy on the plantation, and there is plenty of bus parking within the 50 acre field. Many local schools have already signed up, but the more the merrier! Check with your child’s school to make sure he or she is taking part in this unique opportunity. Home school students are also welcome.

For Friday and registered school groups only, a nominal $3 admission is charged per attendee for History Day admission. LINK TO REGISTRATION FORM FOR SCHOOL HISTORY DAY!

The public is invited for the full Lowcountry Fair with Historical Flair on Saturday, which will include all these activities and much more — including the only Marsh Tacky horse races of 2018!

Cotton Hall Plantation is located off Route 17 in Northern Beaufort County. Please email Megan Morris at the Santa Elena History Center for more information at mmorris@santa-elena.org.

Marsh Tacky Horses, Historical Demonstrations, and Festival Fun at the 2018 Lowcountry Fair

9/19/18 — What could be more fun than an old-fashioned country fair, filled to the brim with historical flair? With the arrival of crisp fall air, the Santa Elena Foundation hosts the second annual Lowcountry Fair on Saturday, November 3 from 11am to 5pm at the beautiful, privately-owned Cotton Hall Plantation, only 5 miles from Interstate-95 in Northern Beaufort County.

It’s the perfect way for the entire family to spend a fall day in the Lowcountry! And the event is the host of the ONLY Marsh Tacky Horse Races in 2018!

With Hargray Communications and several other generous sponsors, plans are in place for a community event unlike any other! Moderately-priced tickets and family ticket packages allow visitors of all ages to enjoy special activities and events throughout the day at no extra cost. The fun, family-friendly atmosphere will showcase Marsh Tacky horses from around the region in obstacle courses, meet-and-greet areas and several racing heats.

“At the end of the day, we will awarding a grand champion of the horse races, but with a great community event like this – everyone wins!” said Megan Morris, executive director of the Santa Elena History Center. “This fall’s Lowcountry Fair will be a stand-out event for the community to experience local heritage mixed in with plenty of good fun, food and friendship. This continues our efforts to highlight Beaufort County’s unique history and collaborate with others in the region.”

The events featuring the Marsh Tacky horse will be the perfect complement to other headline activities, like Living History. Across a 50-acre field, over 500 years of local history will be on display with historical re-enactors showing family life, living conditions, and times of war, sacrifice, and change. From 16th century colonial times when Santa Elena was founded by the Spanish, through the American Revolution, the Civil War/Reconstruction era and up to WWII — men, women and children will demonstrate history in period costume. They will mingle with spectators, tell fascinating stories of life in days gone by, fire their weaponry, walk in a parade and engage visitors in fun, educational activities.

The most delicious local food concessions will be available for purchase throughout the day. Do you love oysters or barbecue? Why choose? Enjoy the day’s activities with a lowcountry lunch, a sweet treat, and perhaps even a local brewed beer or Spanish wine. Sip and see throughout the area with music playing and artisans displaying their original products from iron-welded signs, to local honey, and everything in between.

Children will also enjoy the exotic petting zoo, pony rides, and other fun activities. They can meet friends at the National Park Service and participate in a Junior Ranger program, or head over to see the critters brought by Coastal Discovery Museum, who have their own Marsh Tacky on site, named Comet.

And just when you think you’ve seen it all, follow a trail down to the plantation’s original operating sugar mill, still in use today. Enjoy a walk back in time to see how “sugar” was made in the antebellum South, thanks to the plantation owners who have preserved this art for decades and now welcome us to their home.

MORE DETAILS:
Tickets are available online (www.santa-elena.org/lowcountry-fair) and at the gate.
Patron Level ($100), General Admission ($20), Children 7-17 ($5)
Family Package (two Adults and 2+ Children) — $50
Active Military Families (two adults and 2+ Children) — $40
___________________________________________________________________________________________________
Food Vendors: Plums & Saltus, Q on Bay, Sea Eagle Market, Lady’s Island Single Oysters, and more
Craft Beer Tastings: Salt Marsh Brewing Company
Musical Guest (Before the races): Chilly Willy Band
Broadcast Company: Beaufort County Channel

Organizations participating: Santa Elena Living History Company, Carolina Marsh Tacky Association, National Park Service, Coastal Discovery Museum, Mitchelville, Coastal Heritage Society, Charleston Few, Men of Menendez, Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot

Lead Sponsors: Joe and Allyson Harden, Quarforth Family Foundation, Hargray Communications

Newly Discovered Fort on Santa Elena Site Reconstructed for First Time in 440 Years

March 24 2016 – A special unveiling of a 3D Scaled Model of Fort San Marcos, which was built on the Santa Elena site in 1577, will take place Friday, March 24 at the Santa Elena History Center. This never-before-seen reconstruction follows the major announcement by Archaeologists Dr. Chester DePratter and Dr. Victor Thompson, who recently discovered the long-lost fort.

“The search for this fort lasted for 23 years, and finally, last year, we found it. Fort San Marcos was an important landmark in Spain’s attempt to reclaim and hold on to Santa Elena, its northernmost colonial outpost and former capital in the 16th century,” says Dr. DePratter. “Working on this model brought the past to life for me.”

By cross-referencing analysis from the non-invasive archaeology site work, maps found in Spanish Archives, and a detailed description of the fort by a Spanish Inspector General in 1578, Dr. DePratter worked with local model-maker Alex Coplo to build the structure and its contents. The model will be installed within the main exhibit, in the historic, former courthouse on Bay Street.

“The continuous emergence of information about a ‘lost century’ of American history, much of which occurred right here in Beaufort County, creates ongoing excitement and opportunity for our community,” remarks Megan Meyer, Executive Director of the Santa Elena History Center. “Thanks to our colleagues and community supporters who have made this project possible, efforts to create a first-class History Center and claim Beaufort’s chapter in early American History are forging ahead.”

The project launches the History Center’s plans to expand the main exhibit with new aspects of this significant 16th century history, along with models, replicas and artifacts to help bring the story to life, preserve the earliest local history, and create a must-see experience for residents and visitors.

The archaeological discovery of Fort San Marcos took multiple years and non-invasive methods by leading archaeologists. The announcement of its location ran in hundreds of news outlets internationally. In the attached press release from the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA), the University of Georgia, and the Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot, further details of the finding are explained.

Casa of the Brave? (article by Island Packet)

Pieces of the Past: Story of Santa Elena emerges in fragments (article by Island Packet)

 

SANTA ELENA HISTORY CENTER One of Beaufort’s Coolest Attractions Awaits

From Dude Magazine:

Santa-Elena-and-Alvaro-ArmaThis is a very exciting time for those who have been involved in the formation of the Santa Elena Foundation. Not only have they secured a solid board of directors of some of the greatest historians of our time, that know tremendous amounts information about the 16th century, they have also secured the old federal courthouse on Bay Street, in beautiful downtown Beaufort. This will be the home of the soon to be opened Santa Elena History Center. DUDE, you are going to love this place! (read more – download article)

Efforts target bringing Beaufort County’s past into the present

CaptureFrom the Beaufort Gazette:

“More than 30 people filled the meeting room at the Beaufort County Library last week in Beaufort to hear a presentation about progress at Fort Frederick.

After watching S.C. Department of Natural Resources videos, the group piled into cars and followed DNR archeologist Meg Gaillard down to Port Royal, eventually rumbling down a dirt path behind Beaufort Naval Hospital to an 18th-century fort, thought to be the oldest tabby structure in the state and built by the British to defend Port Royal Sound and the city of Beaufort from the Spanish.” Read More at the Island Packet / Beaufort Gazette

Santa Elena History

In the mid-16th century, Spain and France competed for control of North America. The Spanish government believed it had exclusive rights to the continent by the blessing of the Catholic Church, and France disagreed. To protect its Atlantic shipping route from English and French privateers, Spain colonized points along the southeastern coast from the Caribbean to the Carolinas. One of these outposts was Santa Elena, the first colonial capital of Spanish Florida. Spanish colonists founded Santa Elena in 1566 on an island in the Port Royal Sound of present-day South Carolina. Both French and Spanish colonists occupied the site during the 16th century. Today, the Charlesfort-Santa Elena site is a National Historic Landmark important for its associations with the 16th century conflict between Spain and France for control of the New World and with officers Spaniard Pedro Menendez de Aviles and Frenchman Jean Ribault. The site is also considered archaeologically significant.

Meet The Experts

The Santa Elena Foundation in August brought together leading scholars to create a timeline of the Santa Elena settlement. The experts were historians Karen Paar of South Carolina, Eugene Lyon of Florida and Paul Hoffman of Louisiana, and archaeologists Chester DePratter, who excavated the related Huguenot settlement of Charlesfort, and David Moore, who helped discover Fort San Juan, an inland settlement near Morganton, North Carolina.

SEF Experts 2  8-14-14-0098

 

What is known about Santa Elena is the result of the work of a small group of historians and archaeologists.  We honor five of these scholars.  The group never before assembled worked recently as a team to craft a historic Santa Elena timeline.  The timeline becomes the basis for future historical and archaeological research.


SEF Experts Dr Karen Paar  8-14-14-0067Dr. Karen Paar
is an archivist and historian.  Karen Paar grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, attended Oberlin College in Ohio, and completed a Ph.D. in Latin American History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Paar wrote her dissertation on the Santa Elena colony.  As Research Assistant Professor at the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Paar continued her grant-funded research on Santa Elena.  Dr. Paar returned to North Carolina and attended library school at North Carolina Central University while working at the North Carolina State University Libraries.  Karen Paar currently lives in western North Carolina and is the Director of the Liston B. Ramsey Center for Regional Studies and Archivist of the Southern Appalachian Archives at Mars Hill University.  She continues her research on Santa Elena in her spare time.

 

 

SEF Experts Dr Paul Hoffman  8-14-14-0082Dr. Paul Hoffman: is the Murrill Distinguished Professor of History, at  Louisiana State University.  He received his PhD from the University of Florida.  Dr. Hoffman is author of the award-winning A New Andalucia and a Way to the Orient (published in 1990 and again in 2004) and Florida’s Frontiers (published in 2002); he is author of four other books, and numerous other writings.  With Dr. Eugene Lyon he worked with the St. Augustine Foundation, Inc. to propose a living history museum for the 16th century town.  Recently he edited issues of the Florida Historical Quarterly dedicated to scholarship on the 16th century.  He delivered the first Jerrell Shofner Lecture for the Florida Historical Society at the University of Central Florida (La Florida : Thoughts About a Story Still Largely Untold).  His scholarship also includes essays on the 16th century cartography of North America and the role of the ecology of the Southeast in early Spanish settlement.  He is a Fellow of the Louisiana Historical Association, and recipient of McGinty Life-time achievement award.

SEF Experts Dr Gene Lyon  8-14-14-Dr. Eugene Lyon :  A Florida native, served in the Korean War aboard the USS Hobson (DMS-26). He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of Florida, and is a specialist in Spanish Colonial Florida and the Spanish maritime system.

Lyon’s publications include The Enterprise of Florida, The Search for the Atocha, and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Sourcebook. The St. Augustine Historical Society published his book, Richer Than We Thought, and the University of South Carolina Press published Santa Elena: A Brief History of the Colony. He wrote a monograph on Spanish colonial nails. He has written many conference papers, book chapters, and five National Geographic articles—including two cover articles for National Geographic.  One of those featured previously unpublished data on Christopher Columbus’s caravel Niña.

Lyon directed the St. Augustine Foundation for fourteen years.  The Foundation holds more than a thousand reels of film of materials related to Spanish Florida.

From data in the Archives of the Indies, Lyon enabled salvor Mel Fisher to locate and definitively identify the sunken ships Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita in the lower Florida Keys.

Eugene Lyon received the grade of Official in the Order of Isabella from King Juan Carlos of Spain, and the grade of Comendador in the Order of Christopher Columbus from the President of the Dominican Republic. The City of St. Augustine granted him its highest honor, the Order of La Florida, and in 2003 the Florida Historical Society gave him the Jillian Prescott Award for lifetime service to Florida history. In 2005, he received the Mel Fisher Lifetime Achievement Award.

SEF Experts Dr Chester DePratter  8-14-14-0108Dr. Chester DePratter:  received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Georgia in 1983.  His varied interests include coastal Georgia and South Carolina geology/archaeology, migrations of Native Americans across the southeastern United States in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Civil War prison camps, and Spanish colonial ventures in “La Florida.”  As part of this latter interest he has conducted extensive excavations at Santa Elena (1566-1587). This work led to his discovery of the location of the French Charlesfort established on Parris Island in 1562. His work includes the identification of the routes of several sixteenth century Spanish expeditions to interior “La Florida” including those of Hernando de Soto, Tristan de Luna, and Juan Pardo; this work has helped redraw the map of the interior southeast and the locations of its Native American peoples in the sixteenth century.  More recently he has worked in Mississippi and identified the locations for two 1736 battles between the Chickasaw and the French colonists there.

 

SEF David Moore 1Dr. David Moore: received his B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and his MA and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.  He served as the North Carolina Western Office archaeologist for 18 years before becoming a full-time faculty member at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC.  Dr. Moore has directed the archaeological investigations at the Berry site since 1986.  He is the author and co-author of numerous book chapters and articles.  Dr. Moore and his colleagues, Dr. Robin Beck (University of Michigan) and Dr. Christopher Rodning (Tulane University) submitted a monograph on the work at Joara including the archaeological discovery of Fort San Juan established by the Spanish explorer Juan Pardo from Santa Elena in 1566.

 

 

EJF Introductory Materials

History

#6-Europe1550In the mid-16th century, Spain and France competed for control of North America. The Spanish government believed it had exclusive rights to the continent by the blessing of the Catholic Church, and France disagreed. To protect its Atlantic shipping route from English and French privateers, Spain colonized points along the southeastern coast from the Caribbean to the Carolinas. One of these outposts was Santa Elena, the first colonial capital of Spanish Florida. Spanish colonists founded Santa Elena in 1566 on an island in the Port Royal Sound of present-day South Carolina. Both French and Spanish colonists occupied the site during the 16th century. Today, the Charlesfort-Santa Elena site is a National Historic Landmark important for its associations with the 16th century conflict between Spain and France for control of the New World and with officers Spaniard Pedro Menendez de Aviles and Frenchman Jean Ribault. The site is also considered archeologically significant.

 

Charlesfort Excavation  Courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History

Charlesfort Excavation
Courtesy of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History

After Christopher Columbus opened the Americas to European colonization in 1492, private and royal ships loaded with valuable goods traveled between the colonies and Spain. One of the most important water routes was the Florida Straits between the Bahaman Islands and the Florida coast, where a strong current carries ships east out of the Gulf of Mexico and then straight north up the Atlantic coast. During the colonial era, French and English ships waited in these straits for silver-laden Spanish ships to attack and loot. To protect Spain’s interests, King Philip II of Spain decided to build towns on the Florida mainland coast to provide a safe haven for Spanish ships.

The king chose Spanish naval officer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to be the adelantado, or governor, of Spanish Florida in 1565 and ordered him to establish military bases on the mainland by the Straits. Adelantado was an elite military and administrative position created when the Christian Spaniards took the Iberian Peninsula back from the Moslem Moors. In Europe, the Spanish adelantados built fortified outposts in hostile areas and were responsible for bringing the surrounding region under Spanish control. In return for the adelantado’s work, the Spanish crown granted the individual economic privileges and honors. When it began colonizing the Americas, Spain continued to use this system. Other Spaniards to hold the title adelantado of Florida before Menéndez were Ponce de Léon, two men by the name of Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón, Pánfilo de Narváez, Hernando de Soto, and Tristan de Luna y Arellano. However, Spain failed to establish a permanent settlement in Florida until Menéndez’s expedition.

Spanish artist Francisco de Paula Martí engraved this portrait of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1791.Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Spanish artist Francisco de Paula Martí engraved this portrait of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1791.
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Menéndez is best known for founding St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European city in the continental United States, but his first colonial capital was Santa Elena on Parris Island in the Port Royal Sound. At the time, “Florida” was all land the Spanish believed was North of Mexico. Parris Island is located in present-day South Carolina. Before Menéndez arrived, his French rival, naval officer Jean Ribault, founded Charlesfort on the island in 1562 and claimed the land for France. Ribault’s fort was a blockhouse made of logs and clay, thatched with straw, and surrounded by a moat. Ribault’s expedition abandoned Charlesfort within a year and sailed south to found Fort Caroline. Menéndez arrived in the Straits in 1565 and fought Ribault’s forces on land and at sea along the Florida coast. He drove the French colonists from the Southeast, destroyed their forts, and reclaimed the territory for Spain.

When Menéndez arrived at Parris Island in 1566, he ordered his men to build a new fort, called San Salvador, and a few months later, he founded Santa Elena, the first capital of Florida. Menéndez oversaw the construction of a larger fort, San Felipe (I), after 250 reinforcements arrived on the island in the summer of 1566. Two years later, 225 settlers – including farmers, Catholic missionaries, and families – arrived in Florida from Spain and supplemented the garrisons at St. Augustine and Santa Elena. Menéndez’s city government at Santa Elena issued land for the immigrants, and by 1569, there were 40 houses around the central plaza.

For 21 years following colonization in 1566, Santa Elena’s Spanish leadership struggled to keep the coastal village working. The soil on the island could not support the farming needed to feed everyone, so there were food shortages. The Spanish were not on friendly terms with the native American Indians in the region – the Orista and Guale tribes – so the colonial farmers could not expand their farms beyond the fort’s protection. To reduce the number of people they had to feed, Menéndez’s lieutenant and kinsman, Esteban de las Alas, sent away all but 46 soldiers. This left the town vulnerable to attacks by the French and Native Americans. When ships from Spain arrived in 1571, carrying supplies and more colonists, they also brought a deadly sickness. At around the same time, a fire at San Felipe (I) destroyed the fort. Menéndez’s son-in-law, Don Diego de Velasco, oversaw the construction of a new fort, also named San Felipe (II). The purpose of this new fort was to protect and support the Spanish population during a raid.

Menéndez passed away in September 1574 and the Florida adelantado passed on to his daughter Catalina’s husband, Hernando de Miranda. Miranda arrived at Santa Elena from Spain in the winter of 1576. Upon arrival, Miranda had Velasco, who was married to Menéndez’s other daughter, arrested for mismanaging soldiers’ bonuses and took over the local government. The following summer, Miranda’s ill treatment of the Native Americans provoked violence, and both the Guale and Orista attacked the Spanish together launching an assault on the settlement and its ships. The colonists fled the town and gathered at the Fort San Felipe (II). When they were able, the surviving colonists and soldiers escaped from the island on small boats left undisturbed by the attackers. Behind them, the Guale and Orista burned the fort and sacked Santa Elena. Catalina and Miranda sailed back to Spain, and St. Augustine was the capital of Spanish Florida thereafter.

In 1577, the Spanish colonists returned to Santa Elena. Philip II appointed Menéndez’s nephew, Pedro Menéndez Márquez, as governor of Florida, which was no longer a private adelantado venture but a royal colony. Menéndez Márquez ordered his soldiers to build a new garrison, Fort San Marcos (I), and brought the Spanish colonists back to settle on the land. Under the new governor’s command, the Spanish soldiers invaded the Guale and Orista towns, which were harboring French castaways, and regained control of the island by 1580. The Spaniards’ successes at Santa Elena were short-lived, as the threat of an English empire in North America began to dawn and this changed the Spaniards’ approach in colonizing Florida. In 1586, the Spanish at St. Augustine heard of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Roanoke Island Colony on the coast of North Carolina. Menéndez Márquez also feared Sir Francis Drake’s war in the Caribbean. As Drake made his way north, he raided Spanish settlements at Santo Domingo, Cartagena, and St. Augustine. The English intended to take Santa Elena, too, but the fleet overshot it.

In response to the English threat, Spain decided to shrink the scope of its Florida colony and consolidate its colonial towns to strengthen them. Menéndez Márquez returned to Santa Elena in 1587 and ordered his men to destroy the town infrastructure and the second Fort San Marcos (II). The Parris Island colonists moved to St. Augustine and the Spanish abandoned Santa Elena for good. For two centuries after the Spanish left, Scottish and then English colonists occupied Port Royal Sound. The coastal region was a trading ground for American Indians and Europeans before plantations developed in the coastal low country in the early 1700s. South Carolina became part of the United States at the end of the 18th century, and the plantations thrived until the American Civil War.

In 1915, the United States Marine Corps created the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island. Little was known about the Spanish at Parris Island when the USMC arrived and most of the written history focused on the French presence. While the Marines settled on the island, Major George Osterhout oversaw archeological excavations at the site of one of the forts, which he believed was French, and Congress erected a monument to Jean Ribault in 1926. At the same time, a scholar of Spanish colonial studies, Hubert Eugene Bolton, began to publish articles about Spain’s presence on the island. In the 1950s, National Park Service historians reexamined artifacts recovered from Parris Island by Major Osterhout and the fort he excavated. They determined the artifacts are Spanish in origin and the “French” fort is likely Spain’s Fort San Marcos (I).

Since the late 1970s, archeologists continue to investigate the site of Charlesfort-Santa Elena for clues about its past inhabitants and the way they lived. In addition to revealing evidence of early European colonization in the United States, the site is valuable for what it can reveal about adelantado town planning. The site of Santa Elena was never reoccupied fully after the Spanish left in 1587. Archeologists today are able to explore the site to find information about what the town looked like in the 16th century. Excavations at Santa Elena reveal that the town had a central plaza with colonial buildings uniformly built around it. Visitors to Parris Island can learn about the island’s history at the nearby USMC Parris Island Museum.

Spain’s Santa Elena

#7-FtCaroline-copy-2

In 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon sailed to North America, claiming it for Spain. He named the land he discovered “La Florida” (place of flowers) because his crew arrived there at the time of “Pascua Florida” (Flowery Easter). The area the Spaniards called La Florida was much bigger than the state of Florida today.  Spanish Florida included present-day Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Virginia and Louisiana. The area was important to the Spaniards because of its proximity to the Caribbean and a major trade route to Spain. Settling there would mean Spain could use it as a base to protect their holdings from the French.

Throughout the 16th century, Spain and France both fought for territory in the Americas in a series of wars. For Spain and France, a settlement in La Florida would give a strategic advantage over the other. Unfortunately, the Spaniards had trouble establishing a settlement in La Florida.

The French knew the Spanish had failed and knew how important it was to succeed. They decided to establish their own settlement at Port Royal Sound, using Parris Island for a military advantage. The settlement would not only provide a way for the French to attack Spanish shipping, but also provide land to grow tropical crops they could not grow elsewhere.

In 1562, the French built a fort they called Charlesfort. Less than a year after arriving, they abandoned the fort because the settlers did not have enough supplies. In 1564, the French returned and settled at Fort Caroline on today’s St. John’s River in the state of Florida.

In 1565, after hearing about France’s settlements at Charlesfort and Fort Caroline, the Spanish decided to try to settle in La Florida again, including at Port Royal Sound, where they would eventually establish Santa Elena. There were many advantages to settling at Port Royal Sound. The site of Santa Elena provided a military advantage, favorable trade winds and some protection from hurricanes. The Spaniards hoped it would also provide rich farmland, a land passage to the Spanish Empire in modern-day Mexico and access to an American Indian population to increase the population within the Spanish empire.

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés was the Spanish government’s appointed adelantado, an individual responsible for the conquest of new areas. The Spanish government granted adelantados contracts that outlined exactly what adelantados  were supposed to do on specific missions. Menéndez was responsible for settling in Spanish Florida. When his contract was finalized, the French still occupied Fort Caroline near present-day Jacksonville, Fla. The Spanish government discovered the exact location after they captured three French ships sent to prey on the Spaniards in the Caribbean. The Spanish governor of Cuba sent the information to the king. The first thing Menéndez was to do after arriving in Florida was to remove the French from the territory.

Menéndez and the Spanish ships arrived at Fort Caroline in September 1565 and successfully took the fort from the French. With the French threat gone, the Spanish began preparations to establish a capital. Menéndez established settlements at St. Augustine and Fort Caroline (renamed Fort San Mateo) in 1565 and at Santa Elena on Parris Island in the spring of 1566.

A few months later, additional Spanish settlers arrived at Santa Elena and a concejo, or city government, was formed. The concejo issued town lots and farming plots to settlers. Some scholars think the Spaniards built 40 houses grouped around a central plaza, as well as nearby Fort San Felipe, by 1569. Menéndez brought his wife and their household to the settlement in 1570. The settlers faced hardships including food shortages, difficulties growing crops in sandy soil and growing hostilities with the American Indian tribes, the Orista and the Guale.

After several years, Menéndez returned to Spain to secure funding and develop a plan for expansion. While there, he died Sept. 17, 1574, passing his estate to his daughter Maria and the title of adelantado of La Florida to his son-in-law, Hernando de Miranda.

When Hernando de Miranda arrived in Santa Elena, the relationship between Spanish settlers and the Orista and Guale Indians worsened. Some Spaniards stole food from the Indians when settlers faced a shortage. This stealing pushed the Indians to attack Spanish ships and soldiers. The Spanish settlers left Santa Elena as a result of this attack. The Indians destroyed the fort and burned the settlement. After Santa Elena was abandoned in 1576, the capital of La Florida was moved to St. Augustine.

Shortly after, the Spanish crown ordered the reoccupation of Santa Elena. This time, the governor was Pedro Menéndez Márquez, the nephew of Menéndez de Aviles. However, Márquez was not given the title adelantado. La Florida was now under direct royal control. The Spanish rebuilt Santa Elena in 1577.

Sometime later, Indians told the Spaniards about a settlement in modern-day North Carolina. The new settlers were under the control of an Englishman, Walter Raleigh. Raleigh established the Roanoke Island colony in North Carolina in 1585. The English were now considered a threat to Spanish settlement in North America.

The English threat came to fruition when Sir Francis Drake’s large fleet sacked and burned Santo Domingo and Cartagena in the Caribbean and later St. Augustine.  But Drake missed the settlement at Santa Elena. He sailed north to Roanoke, rescued stranded colonists in North Carolina and sailed back to England.

Still, the threat of additional English attacks prompted the Spaniards to reconsider their settlements in La Florida. On August 16, 1587, Governor Pedro Menéndez Márquez took his royal orders to Santa Elena and evacuated the settlement, destroying the fort and houses as he left. The people moved to St. Augustine, effectively ending Spain’s settlement at Santa Elena. Today, St. Augustine is the oldest permanent city founded by Europeans in North America.

(Source: The U.S. National Park Service, nps.gov)

(source NPS.gov)