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

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.

Tickets are available online ( 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

MCRD Parris Island completes restoration of Charlesfort-Santa Elena historical site

Aug. 31, 2018 — Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island personnel have completed restoration work on the Charleston-Santa Elena National Historic Landmark, which was damaged during Hurricane Matthew in October 2016 and by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

On Oct. 8, 2016, the site, which is located on the depot, suffered considerable soil displacement caused by the uprooting of trees during the storm. MCRD PI officials conducted surveys on the site Oct. 12 and 18, and discovered the tree damage and accumulated vegetation from salt marsh over-wash had created a public safety issue, and the potential to put archaeological and anthropological resources at risk, leading to the temporary closing of the site.

Despite several budget and funding difficulties, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic which provides services to Parris Island, contracted with environmental engineering and services company TetraTech to conduct damage assessments of the site, as well as take conservation measures to protect historic resources while observing environmental and safety requirements. In December 2017, January 2018, and July 2018 contractors and MCRD Parris Island personnel oversaw restoration of the site, ensuring the work followed guidelines set by the state of South Carolina and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Restoration work was completed July 25, 2018 and reopened to the public following a safety review on August 20, 2018.

In 2001, the Charlesfort‐Santa Elena archaeological site complex was designated a National Historic Landmark. Charlesfort (1562 to 1563) was a French site established by Jean Ribaut and Santa Elena, founded in 1566, was the first capital of Spanish Florida. The importance of the site transcends the 16th century, with the oldest artifacts dating from 8,000 to 6,000 BC. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Charlesfort/Santa Elena site was cleared and used for plantation agriculture, and after the Civil War, it was home to families of freed slaves.

Spanish Naval Cadets Make Port of Call in Lowcountry, Visit Santa Elena to Understand Significant, Linking History

7/20/18 — Throughout its year-long, global sailing voyage, the magnificent Spanish Navy Training Vessel, ELCANO, made strategic Ports of Call with one single stop in the United States – Charleston, South Carolina. The vessel is named after Spanish explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano, captain of Ferdinand Magellan’s last exploratory fleet and the man who completed the first circumnavigation of the world in 1522.

During the crew’s time in the Lowcountry, Spanish Embassy and Military leaders thought it imperative for the young men and women to spend a day at Santa Elena to learn about our Spanish – American connections from the 16th Century.

Both the Santa Elena History Center and the Santa Elena historic landmark site on Parris Island gave the sailors an understanding of what their 16th century predecessors endured and accomplished as they explored and settled the New World, notably Santa Elena (1566-1587).

Informative sessions and tours led by Dr. Larry Rowland and Dr. Chester DePratter shared insight into the navigational challenges, settlement efforts, and conflict/hardships faced by the soldiers and settlers who put their lives on the line to claim the New World for Spain. Today’s Beaufort, SC and Port Royal Sound were Santa Elena, and North American land north of present-day Mexico was Spain’s La Florida. The cadets learned that Santa Elena served as the capital of La Florida, and Spanish Naval Captain Pedro Menendez built his home here with his family in 1571.

The cadets stood on the ground where their ancestors once stood, and observed the natural harbor that made it possible for ship fleets to sail in from the Atlantic Ocean. Without a doubt, the same harbor today, Port Royal Sound, could accommodate the present-day training vessel, ELCANO. The four-masted vessel is 371 feet long, making it the third-largest tall ship in the world. First launching in 1927, it has sailed the furthest, covering more than 2,000,000 nautical miles in its history.

The Santa Elena Foundation is proud to help host the Spanish Military Attache, Captain and Officers of ELCANO, and her crew. Both Mayor Billy Keyserling and Mayor Sam Murray granted keys from the City of Beaufort and Town of Port Royal for the sailors to display aboard ELCANO, which is now en route back to Spain.

Award for Partnership and Collaboration bestowed upon Santa Elena Foundation, USC-Beaufort

April 19, 2018 – The Santa Elena Foundation, along with the University of South Carolina Beaufort, is proud to announce statewide recognition for a progressive partnership.

The prestigious “Engaged Community Partner” honor comes after three years of working together during the establishment and ongoing growth of the Santa Elena History Center thanks to USCB Administration, Professors, and Student support.

As stated in the official press release from the University of South Carolina, the South Carolina Engaged Community Partner Award is presented to a community partner that has worked to support the civic mission of their partnering campus and enhanced the quality of life in the community in meaningful and measurable ways.

“Our working with many departments and levels of USCB is creating a dynamic work-study opportunity for local students. From Heritage Tourism studies to History and Spanish enrichment, and even computer programming, both the Foundation and University have benefited greatly from this partnership. The potential for more collaboration knows no boundaries,” says Megan Meyer, Foundation Director. “Santa Elena Foundation want to be a vibrant cultural resource for the community, especially local students.”

Examples include, Dr. Brian Canada, associate professor of computational science, and his students worked to establish an “Education Station” at the Santa Elena Museum with computer games to educate the public on the history of the Spanish settlement of Santa Elena in Beaufort in the 1500s. By serving on the Board of Directors, Martha Moriarty, Ph.D. associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and institutional effectiveness and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Larry Rowland have also been instrumental in this partnership.

“We are grateful to SC Campus Compact for the recognition of the hard work and dedication of our faculty, staff, students and community partners,” said Eric Skipper, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at USCB. “These recognitions also serve as a model of exemplary service for the entire USCB community.”

Archaeologists work to create detailed map of 16th-century Spanish town on Parris Island

March 7, 2018 — Less than two years after discovering the location of an elusive Spanish fort on present-day Parris Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina, archaeologists have begun mapping a complex and vast array of archaeological features that can provide insight into over 4,000 years of history in the region, including a focus on the 21 year occupation of Santa Elena (1566-1587) to paint a picture of what life was like during the once-capital of Spanish La Florida. (Click here for the full report:

In 2016, University of South Carolina archaeologist Chester DePratter and Victor Thompson, an archaeologist from the University of Georgia, pinpointed fort San Marcos at Santa Elena, founded in 1577 by Pedro Menendez Marquez, the governor of Spanish La Florida.

Archaeologists began excavating the remains of the Charlesfort and Santa Elena site since 1979, but they have never had a good map of the settlement. In a recent paper published in the journal, “Remote Sensing,” DePratter and Thompson discuss how they used remote sensing technology to map the various significant occupations of the site including those of Native Americans, French, Spanish, plantation owners, Freedmen, and World War I era U.S. Marine Corps.

“By combining traditional shovel testing with remote sensing using radar and other instruments, we are well on the way to constructing a detailed map of the Spanish settlement,”
says DePratter, who conducts research through the university’s South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s critical to gather the data necessary for putting together a comprehensive tool that will help us better understand what happened not only during the Spanish settlement of Santa Elena 450 years ago but throughout history.”

The team’s most recent work provided new insights into the Spanish presence at Santa Elena occurring between 1566 and 1587. During its early years, the settlement went from military outpost to capital of Spanish Florida, but it was abandoned in 1576 due to a Native American attack. It was reoccupied in 1577 with the construction of fort San Marcos, but a decade later the town was again abandoned. At its peak, Santa Elena covered nearly 15 acres and had about 400 residents.

Under the sponsorship of the Santa Elena Foundation in the summer of 2016, Thompson and DePratter worked with a University of Georgia archaeology field school to look beneath the surface of the 15-acre site. They sent pulses, and electric currents into the ground and measured differences in local magnetic fields in order to map the remains of Santa Elena. They worked to pinpoint locations of some of the lost Spanish buildings, including two missing forts, a church, shops, and houses, as well as the town’s streets and plaza.

While the “focus” of the work was to test the viability of using modern remote sensing methods in conjunction with previous shovel test data to provide comprehensive distribution data on all of the components of the site over 4000 years of occupation, the work also led to important new discoveries, including:
1) “the probable location of the remains of two native council houses that date to the mid-17th century”;
2) areas that represent “rows of dwellings for enslaved peoples. and,
3) circular features in the northern portion of the site dating to the Late Archaic/Early Woodland period of Native American prehistory, 2750-1360 BC. are roughly the same diameter of “shell rings” of the region and possibly represent a “Stallings period Circular Village”

“There are few sites in country that afford the kind of window into the past, such as we have at Santa Elena,” says Thompson, who directs UGA’s Center for Archaeological Sciences. “The conditions at Santa Elena were just ideal for this type of remote sensing survey. We simply could not ask for better circumstances.” DePratter says Santa Elena is the best preserved 16th century town in the country, in part because of its location, which is underneath a former military golf course that has no standing structures on it. Currently, the site is closed to visitors while the Marine Corps finalizes restoration from the recent hurricanes which caused safety hazards from fallen trees. Analysis, assessments, and protection of the resources were necessary before downed trees could be removed. The Marine Corps plans to re-open the site to visitors in the next few months.

No archaeological excavations have been conducted at Santa Elena since 2008, but the mapping project will likely provide the impetus for more detailed work on the site in the coming years. “Now that we have collected all the data with three instruments, we will move forward with detailed interpretations of our results to create the final site map,” Thompson says. “Once it is completed, it will be one of the best and most completely mapped sixteenth-century sites in the United States.”

“Once we have a detailed site map, we can focus on individual structures—a church, a house, a fort—rather than just having to open large excavation units in the hope of finding something interesting,” says DePratter.

SCIAA archaeologist Stanley South, who died in 2016, found the remains of Santa Elena in 1979, with DePratter joining the project in 1989. The Charlesfort/Santa Elena National Historic Landmark is located on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. The current remote sensing work is funded by the Santa Elena Foundation and SCIAA’s Archaeological Research Trust and supported by the University of Georgia’s anthropology department.

About Chester DePratter:

Chester DePratter is a research professor at the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina. He has worked on a variety of Native American sites, primarily in South Carolina and Georgia, and written numerous articles on prehistoric archaeology, exploration routes of Spanish explorers and the early European presence in the southeastern United States. Since 1989 he has focused on 16th-century Spanish site of Santa Elena and the search for the French site of Charlesfort and on the archaeology of Yamasee Indian sites in South Carolina. He is curator of the exhibit at the Santa Elena History Center in Beaufort, South Carolina.

About Victor Thompson:

Victor Thompson is a professor of archaeology and the director of the Center for Archaeological Sciences at the University of Georgia. His research focuses on applications of archaeological science to the study of colonialism, socio-political complexity and the historical ecology of wetland and coastal environments. He uses a number of specialized methods in his research, including the analysis of monumental architecture, shell midden archaeology, stable isotopes, remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS).

About the Santa Elena Foundation:

Established as a 501(c)3 in 2014, the Foundation’s mission is to discover, preserve, and share America’s first – and lost – century through the rise and fall of Santa Elena. In addition to supporting research, the Foundation operates the Santa Elena History Center in downtown Beaufort, SC where visitors can learn about 16th century history and the 21st century re-discovery through exhibits, videos, programs, and living history.

‘Historic Collaboration’ Launches Free Shuttle for all in Downtown Beaufort

Experience Beaufort History Badge

‘Historic Collaboration’ Launches Free Shuttle for all in Downtown Beaufort

For Immediate Release
February 28, 2018

Beaufort, SC – A collaboration between downtown organizations focused on Beaufort’s history — Beaufort History Museum, Historic Beaufort Foundation, Santa Elena Foundation, and Spirit of Old Beaufort — is established collectively as “Experience Beaufort History.” In addition to creating a single avenue for convenient, custom ticket purchases, the effort will now help visitors travel to each destination and around downtown.

The Experience Beaufort History partners see great value in launching a free shuttle that will loop the main areas of downtown Beaufort to improve mobility, lessen the burden of parking, and serve customers of all businesses in the downtown area. The effort has full support from the City of Beaufort, Beaufort Cultural District, and downtown merchants.

The free shuttle will run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am-5pm in an ongoing loop that includes Bay Street, Carteret Street, Craven Street and Scotts Street. The route will stretch from the Santa Elena History Center to the USCB Campus, including stops at Beaufort History Museum, Verdier House, City parking areas, and the Waterfront Park.

“How wonderful that all organizations came together to create a strong history network and offer a special service in the free shuttle. We all work hard to preserve and promote the rich heritage of beautiful Beaufort and want to make sure that everyone who comes downtown can enjoy it all too,” says Megan Meyer, Director of Santa Elena History Center. “May this trial service in the spring prove to be a great solution for residents, visitors, merchants, and our own organizations.”

The “Hop On! Hop Off!” shuttle model will allow users great flexibility to ride the shuttle, and stops will be identified with signage. Route maps will also be available at the Visitor’s Center, Marina, and each museum. And, yes, there will be no charge. The organizations, from their operational funds and Accommodations Tax Funds, are underwriting the shuttle for a trial period in March, April, and May.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit


Contact:  Megan T. Meyer
Executive Director, Santa Elena Foundation

Historic Beaufort Foundation
208 Scott Street, Beaufort, SC 29902

Beaufort History Museum
713 Craven Street, Beaufort, SC 29902

Spirit of Old Beaufort Tours

New Year brings New Offerings, Lower prices, and Variety of Activities to Santa Elena History Center

January 26, 2018 — One of Beaufort’s newest historic destinations, the Santa Elena History Center, is offering great incentives for visitors in order to continue putting a spotlight on a “lost century” of American history – much of which happened in Beaufort County.

The main exhibit is expanded with multiple new panels and showcase elements, including replica 16th century weaponry and information about the creation of an overland passage that stemmed from Santa Elena to the Appalachian Mountains; the exhibit now also includes interpretation of significant archaeological discoveries such as the kiln and the well.

Updated admission prices to tour the History Center and the main exhibit will better accommodate families, students, and locals. Student price has decreased and children up to seven years old are free. The History Center continues to offer free admission to Active Military and First Responders. In 2018, locals who pay tour admission once may present their receipt when returning with out-of-town guests for no charge until year-end.

Additionally, the well-received program series continues with a variety of presentations developed to share the intriguing local, and often early, history from many perspectives each week for public enjoyment. The new year brings a significant reduction in the cost to attend programs at the Santa Elena History Center. Now, Annual Passholders are admitted at no cost and other attendants are requested to make a donation of their choice. Those who are interested in sharing their own presentations and programs are welcome to contact the History Center.

Other events on the docket for 2018 include the Annual Santa Elena Cup regatta with the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club (March 16-17) and the second Annual Lowcountry Fair with Historical Flair at Cotton Hall Plantation (November 3). More events and activities will be announced regularly and posted on the website calendar at

This year, plans to explore and research new aspects of this relatively untold history will add dynamic programs, announcements and features to the History Center. The story will come to life as The Santa Elena Company, a growing group of 16th century re-enactors, plan training and activities throughout the year. Those interested are welcome to join the fun!

The Santa Elena Foundation would like to express gratitude to all who made 2017 a successful year — the Volunteers, Annual Passholders, Local Businesses, Partner Organizations, and all who visited – and may 2018 be another great year to gather around a community initiative as important as preserving our earliest history, Santa Elena. All are welcome to join is this incredible project and blossoming community institution!

To learn more about the Santa Elena History Center, becoming an Annual Passholder, school field trips, the calendar of events, and more visit


A community event unlike any other, sponsored by the Santa Elena Foundation!

October 18, 2017 — What could be more fun than an old-fashioned country fair, filled to the brim with historical flair, held at a beautiful, local plantation?

With the arrival of crisp fall air, the Santa Elena Foundation is hosting the first annual Lowcountry Fair on Saturday, November 18 from 10am to 4pm at Cotton Hall Plantation, off Highway 17 in Northern Beaufort County.

The fun-filled Saturday is headlined by Marsh Tacky Horse Races, providing an exciting show for all who attend.  The Carolina Marsh Tacky Association showcases this unique breed, originally introduced by the Spanish explorers of the 16th century. The Marsh Tacky is the SC State Heritage Horse and one of the most endangered breeds in the world.  Before they race in the afternoon, these beautiful horses will be on display in fun show demonstrations.  Be sure to bring your chairs!

The Lowcountry Fair will also showcase multiple living history re-enactments from the Colonial era Men of Menendez to Revolutionary and Civil War re-enactors and more, performing throughout the day, along with weapons demonstrations.  For children, petting zoo, pony rides, and sugar cane mill tours will bring delight. On stage, a variety of live performances – from The Chilly Willy Band to flamenco dancing demonstrations — will fill the afternoon.  Broadcasting by the County Channel and use of a Jumbotron display will keep fair-goers from missing any of the action on stage, throughout the fairgrounds, or on the racecourse. All of the activities and festive entertainment are included in the admission price for the day.

Come hungry for a special lunch and explore the local palate as many have throughout history. The finest local food will be for sale from restaurant partners Eat Local Beaufort (Plum’s, Saltus, Hearth), Q on Bay, Lady’s Island Oysters and Sea Eagle Market.  For dessert, the food truck “It’s Only Fair” will sell fair-themed goodies.  Beer, wine, and general refreshments will also be available for purchase.

One of the most significant events of the day will be a presentation by Count Alvaro Armada Barcaiztegui, a descendent of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, the founder of Santa Elena in 1566 and Governor of La Florida until 1574.  Arriving from Spain to attend the Lowcountry Fair, the Count will bestow the Foundation with an original 16th century medal and a letter signed by Pedro Menendez, dated in Santa Elena in 1571.

“Our Board and Volunteers wanted to give the community an event unlike any other – to commemorate our history and celebrate our local culture – and that’s just what the Lowcountry Fair with Historical Flair will bring. Of course, none of this could be accomplished without the support of our local community,” remarked Megan Meyer, Executive Director of the Santa Elena History Center.

Special thanks Joe and Allison Harden who generously offered use of Cotton Hall Plantation and Ameris Bank, Gold Sponsor. These other community-minded businesses and individuals have also made this a stand-out event as sponsors: Beaufort Memorial Hospital, Dude Magazine, Grayco, Lowcountry Real Estate, Sheldon Plantation, Southern Palmetto Landscaping, TD Bank, Visible Displays, Adams Outdoor Advertising, Creative Interiors, Compass Rose Travel, Cuthbert House Inn, Spirit of Old Beaufort, Tacaron Trading, Eat Sleep Play Beaufort, Printology, Robinson Grant & Co, as well as Andy and Laura Beall, Greg and Sarah Dyson,  Dr. and Mrs. Larry Rowland, Russ and Sandy Dimke.

Tickets are available for purchase online ( and at the event admission gate. If purchased in advance, bring confirmation of your tickets to the gate for entry. Prices are: $20/adult and $10/child (5-17), $50 for families, and $40 for active duty military families (show ID).  Patron tickets, which include seating for lunch and finish-line seating for the races, are available for $100. Event sponsorships are also still available starting at $500.

To visit the website for Santa Elena’s Lowcountry Fair, visit learn more about the SC Marsh Tacky Association, visit

Marsh Tacky horses racing Santa Elena presents A Lowcountry Fair with Historical Flair featuring Marsh Tacky horse races

Unique Collaboration Brings Together a Charity, University and Business

July 13, 2017 — A convergence of three local institutions – one with college coursework focused on local history, one a local business that supports educational initiatives, and one a new history center seeking dynamic ways to tell a story – have led to the establishment of the Education Station, sponsored by Kinghorn Insurance of Beaufort, at the Santa Elena History Center.

Professor Dr. Brian Canada, of University of South Carolina Beaufort, challenged his students to create programming projects with a Santa Elena theme in mind. This resulted in a myriad of games developed around the story of Santa Elena,the Spanish settlement of 1566 on Port Royal Sound.

“From building puzzles of old maps to racing in ships across the Atlantic and conducting commerce throughout the village – the variety and quality of games produced by local students, about local history, is very impressive,” remarked Megan Meyer, Director of the Santa Elena History Center. “We’re so grateful that the team at Kinghorn Insurance believed in this project and made it possible. Furthermore, we are grateful to Dr. Canada and USCB students for contributing one-of-a-kind games to share with the public.”

These games are available for children of all ages to enjoy during their visit to the Santa Elena History Center, adding to the menu of child-friendly resources and showcasing the work by USCB student in a public institution. Due to success of this project, Dr. Canada will continue it with future classes, allowing the inventory of games in the Education Station to remain dynamic.

“Kinghorn Insurance of Beaufort is honored and proud to partner with Santa Elena and USCB to help promote education for youth in the community. This new partnership will provide an opportunity to better understand the rich history, culture, significance and beauty of the Lowcountry. Kinghorn Insurance of Beaufort would also like to thank the many individuals that have donated time, talent and money to develop the Santa Elena Foundation as it truly has become a gem of Beaufort.”


Lowcountry Fair & Marsh Tacky Races Coming to Beaufort in November 2017

A community event unlike any other, hosted by Santa Elena Foundation

 June 1, 2017— Mark your calendars for a unique community event on a local plantation this fall as the Santa Elena Foundation presents “A Lowcountry Fair with Historical Flair.”

The fun-filled day will include Marsh Tacky Horse Races, Horse Fun Shows, Living History Re-enactments, Weapons Demonstrations, music and special performances, children’s petting zoo and activities, festive refreshments, and much more on the private grounds of Cotton Hall Plantation in Northern Beaufort County on November 18, 2017 from 10am-4pm.

“The Lowcountry Fair will be a stand-out event for the community to enjoy and experience early local heritage mixed in with plenty of good fun, food, and friendship,” remarks Megan Meyer, Executive Director of the Santa Elena History Center. “This furthers the promotion of our efforts to highlight Beaufort County’s unique history and collaborate with many organizations and individuals throughout the community.”

Headlining the event are the Marsh Tacky Horses, whose races will provide an exciting show for the crowd. Led by the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association, the races will showcase horses from all parts of the southeast and bring awareness to the special breed originally introduced by the Spanish explorers of the 16th century. The Marsh Tacky is the South Carolina state heritage horse and one of the most endangered breeds in the world. They once roamed freely by the hundreds through the South Carolina Sea Islands and Lowcountry but their numbers neared extinction as tractors, trucks, and development took the place of horsepower. Today, only around 400 Marsh Tacky Horses remain.

“We are excited to bring the Marsh Tacky Race back to the Lowcountry – as we strive to save the breed, it’s important to celebrate their historical significance,” says Jackie McFadden, secretary of the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association. “By partnering with the Santa Elena Foundation the day of racing will be even more enjoyable with a myriad of other activities on the grounds of such a special place.”

Tickets will be available for purchase in advance (online) and at the gate on the date of the event. Levels include: $20/adult and $10/child (5-15), $50 for families, and $40 for active duty military families. Also available to help the event generate proceeds for the Santa Elena Foundations mission are Patron tickets at $100 and recognized sponsorship levels starting at $500.

The event is weather contingent and all donations will benefit the Santa Elena Foundation.

To learn more about the SC Marsh Tacky Association, visit



Replica Columbus Ships ‘Nina’ and ‘Pinta’ to Sail Into Downtown Beaufort

April 4, 2017 — In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, leading to the discovery of a “New World” and marking the beginning of America’s earliest history. This earliest chapter of our nation’s history – and the local story of 16th century settlement Santa Elena – is shared with visitors daily at the Santa Elena History Center.

On Friday, April 20, the ‘Pinta’ and the ‘Nina’, replicas of Columbus’ Ships, will sail into Port Royal Sound and be open to the public for tours in downtown Beaufort on April 21-25 until departure on April 26.

The ‘Nina’ was built completely by hand and without the use of power tools. Archaeology magazine called the ship “the most historically correct Columbus replica ever built.” In 2005, the ‘Pinta’, also a caravel, was launched in Brazil and is known as the first ship to sight land in the New World. Historians consider the caravel the Space Shuttle of the fifteenth century.

Both ships tour together as a new and enhanced ‘sailing museum’ for the purpose of educating the public and school children on the ‘caravel’, a Portuguese ship used by Columbus and many early explorers to discover the world. Before him, the Old World and the New remained separate and distinct continents and ever since their fates have been bound together for better or for worse. The ships allow visitors to see what it was like aboard the ships that carried Columbus and crew across the ocean.

“What a special activity for us to enjoy here in Beaufort this spring, a year after the Santa Elena History Center’s Grand Opening ,” remarks Megan Meyer, Executive Director of the Santa Elena History Center. “We hope many people will take advantage of this unique “sailing museum” to learn about the Columbus ships, and visit the Santa Elena History Center to learn what occurred during the next 100 years – much of which took place right here in Beaufort County.”

While in port, the general public is invited to visit the ships for a walk-aboard, self-guided tour. Admission charges are $8.00 for adults, $7.00 for seniors, and $6.00 for students 5 – 16. Children 4 and under are Free. The ships are open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. No reservations necessary.
Teachers or organizations wishing to schedule a 30-minute guided tour with a crew member should call 1-787-672-2152 or email Minimum of 15 at $5.00 per student.

For more information about the replica ships and Columbus Foundation Inc., visit

To learn more about the Santa Elena History Center, visit

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.

Local Quilters Master the “Santa Elena Challenge”

March 3, 2017

Beaufort, SC – The most recent product of the Santa Elena Foundation’s efforts to collaborate with the community may surprise you. This year the local Sea Island Quilters accepted a challenge to make quilts with a “Santa Elena” theme.

Now on display are dozens of handmade quilts – true pieces of art – at the Santa Elena History Center. Quilters used their imaginations to create original wall hangings with portrayals of scenes from our local, 16th century history.

“What a neat way to have our local history interpreted,” says Megan Meyer, Santa Elena History Center Director. “This project exemplifies the ripple effect that the increased awareness of the Santa Elena story is having on our great community.”

The unique display will be available for the public’s free viewing from March 1-March 15 on the first floor of the Santa Elena History Center.

To learn more about the Santa Elena History Center and upcoming events, visit

Tradition Continues with the Santa Elena Regatta

March 3, 2017

Beaufort, SC – The Santa Elena Foundation and the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club will sponsor the Santa Elena Regatta for PHRF sailboats on March 25 and 26, 2017. This event is the major big boat sailing event in Beaufort each year and commemorates 451 years since the founding of Santa Elena on Parris Island in the spring of 1566.

This regatta is a combination of the Jean Ribault Cup which will be sailed on March 25, and the Perdo Menendez Cup on March 26. The Ribault and Menendez Cups are sailed as separate events and the results from them will be combined to determine the winner of the Santa Elena Regatta and the recipient of the Founder’s Cup.

The Founder’s Cup trophy is unique and quite an honor for the winner. Their name will be etched on the base of a bronze statue of Pedro Menendez, Santa Elena founder, which was donated by Count Alvaro Armada of Spain, the 20th generation descendent of Menendez.

Geography not only plays a major role in the historical references but also in the race logistics. The plan is for the Ribault Cup to be sailed in Port Royal Sound and the Menendez Cup in the Beaufort River starting at the Waterfront Park.

“What a great partnership. The Regatta is a wonderful tradition for the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club and, now, the Santa Elena Foundation,” says Megan Meyer, Santa Elena History Center Director. “Its significance is further realized as we think back 450 years ago… when earliest European settlers too sailed into Port Royal Sound to establish their settlements in the New World.”

The regatta is open to boats with a PHRF rating that are at least 22” LOA. Boats that are 18’ LOA and over will be considered on a case by case basis. Trophies will be awarded for both the Ribault and Menendez Cups as well as to the overall winner of the Santa Elena Regatta.

There will be several social events associated with the regatta including a kickoff Skippers Meeting and cocktail party on Friday night before the racing starts, an Awards Dinner on Saturday night and an Awards Presentation on Sunday after the racing is over. All social events will take place at the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club.

For more information about the historic, local significance of Pedro Melendez and Jean Ribault, and to learn more about the Santa Elena Foundation visit

To see the Regatta Information and other upcoming events on the Santa Elena calendar, visit

Full details of the regatta are in the Notice of Race which can be found on the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club web site at

New Exhibit on 16th Century Navigation Unveiled at Santa Elena History Center

For Immediate Release
August 3, 2016

Beaufort, SC – Following an exciting port of call in Port Royal by El Galeon, the replica 16th Century Spanish Ship, and thanks to a grant from Beaufort 300, the Santa Elena History Center is opening a new exhibit titled “A Spanish Galleon’s Voyage.”

Visitors can learn about the preparation and packing of ships that carried hundreds of hopeful settlers and their supplies to the New World during the time of Santa Elena’s founding in 1566. The exhibit includes interpretive panels, video, and a model ship donated by a local family.

“This is another exciting, new feature at the Santa Elena History Center,” says Executive Director Megan Meyer. “All ages will enjoy learning about the ships and life at sea as a significant aspect of the 16th century history that occurred around Beaufort.”

Long-Lost Fort on Santa Elena Site is Discovered  

The Santa Elena History Center is commissioning a 3-D Scaled Model of Fort San Marcos to be prominently displayed in the the main exhibit.

To learn more about this project and make a gift of any amount toward the $15,000 goal, please click here.

July 28, 2016

Beaufort, SC – The Santa Elena Foundation is excited to announce that Dr. Chester DePratter and Dr. Victor Thompson located the long-lost Fort San Marcos, which was built on the Santa Elena site in 1577.

The Santa Elena Foundation supported the effort, which took multiple years and non-invasive methods to make the discovery. 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.

“The volunteers, Board members and staff – this entire community who has helped bring this story to life – could not be more excited for Prof. DePratter and Dr. Thompson,” says Dr. Andy Beall, Chariman and CEO. “Days like today are the reason we established the Foundation with a vision to uncover this significant history.”

With plans underway for Phase Two of the Main Exhibit.  This emerging information can be incorporated to share more information. The Re-Elect Pedro Menendez Campaign is leading the marketing and fundraising efforts for this expansion of the story.

To learn more about the Santa Elena History Center, visit

Click here to read the article in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

The Santa Elena Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Beaufort County, South Carolina.  The mission of the foundation is to expand the story of European colonization of North America through discovery, preservation and promotion of Santa Elena, a 16th Century Spanish settlement and colonial capital in the present-day United States.

Three Beaufort History Museums Forge Visitation Partnership

Beaufort History Museum logoHistoric Beaufort Foundation logoSanta Elena History Center logo small square
Carla Marsh

July 6, 2016

For Immediate Release


Three Beaufort History Museums Forge Visitation Partnership
Sticker Identification System Assures Discount

            Beaufort, SC – July 6, 2016 – Three museums located in Beaufort’s downtown historic district will now offer visitors the opportunity to receive a discount on tickets.  The Beaufort History Museum, Historic Beaufort Foundation and Santa Elena History Center have forged a partnership and are launching an innovative plan to encourage museum visitation.    Here is how it works:

  • Purchase a full price ticket at any participating museum and receive a sticker from that museum with your ticket.
  • The museum sticker entitles the wearer to $1.00 off full price admission at the other two museums.

The museums are all within easy walking distance of each other and provide a scenic route through Beaufort’s downtown area.  Each has a different mission, distinctive presentation and unique perspective so that a visit to all of the venues enhances learning and deepens the cultural experience:

The Beaufort History Museum: 713 Craven Street (Arsenal) c.1798 – Housed in the historic 1798 Arsenal, the Museum tells the story of the 500-year history in the Beaufort area through artifacts, photos and tours given by knowledgeable docents.

Historic Beaufort Foundation: 801 Bay Street (Verdier House) c. 1804 – The only planter’s house in Beaufort open to the public. The mission of Historic Beaufort Foundation is to support the preservation, protection and presentation of sites and artifacts of historic, architectural and cultural interest throughout Beaufort County.      843-379-3331

Santa Elena History Center: 1501 Bay Street (Old Courthouse)– More than 40 years before the English settled at Jamestown, the Spanish established a town in 1566 on the shores of Port Royal Sound in present-day Beaufort County. Come to this newly opened interpretive center to learn the history of Santa Elena.  (843) 379-1550

For more information on the Museum Pass Program please call or visit any of the participating organizations or visit their website.

Santa Elena Foundation Announces 450th Commemoration Schedule, Grand Opening of History Center

For Immediate Release
April 4, 2016

Beaufort, SC – During the upcoming month of April 2016, the Santa Elena Foundation will host a series of events, along with partner organizations throughout Beaufort County, to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the establishment of Santa Elena, the 16th century Spanish town on present-day Parris Island, in 1566. This date was nearly forty years before the founding of Jamestown and about sixty years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

The significance of the 450th Commemoration is coupled with the grand opening of the Santa Elena History Center and the inaugural exhibit, “Santa Elena: America’s Untold Story.” The events on April 30 fulfill our mission to promote, preserve and discover a lost century of American history. Efforts bring international attention to the story of Santa Elena that is expanded by ongoing discoveries from historical research and archaeology across the Southeast and at the archives of Spain.

Eminent archaeologists and historians from across the country will gather for a Scholars Conference in Beaufort on April 15 to share with the public their studies of early Spanish colonization in America, 16th century exploration of la Florida, and recent archaeological findings.

“The Santa Elena Scholars Conference will be the first time this group of scholars have come together to collaborate and share their knowledge with the general public under one roof,” said Dr. Chester DePratter, Lead Archaeologist for Santa Elena. “Join us at the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Center for the Arts to enjoy this unique opportunity to hear special presentations by those scholars and scientists who made the discoveries.”

As part of the commemorative celebrations, a replica of the flagship that sailed from St. Augustine to settle Santa Elena 450 ago years will return to Port Royal Sound on April 21. The voyage re-enacts the travel by Pedro Menendez de Aviles and hundreds of Spaniard colonists who established Santa Elena as the major settlement in Spanish North America. The floating museum, run by the Nao Victoria Foundation of Spain, will dock at the 11th Street docks in the Town of Port Royal. Public tours of the 170-foot long, 500-ton vessel will be available from 10am to 7pm, April 23 – May 1.

“Over a span of just a few months, the Santa Elena Foundation transformed the old Federal Courthouse Building into an interpretive museum to tell this important history,” said Dr. Andy Beall, Executive Director of the Santa Elena Foundation. “We hope the 450th Commemoration and Grand Opening will launch the History Center into success as an educational and entertaining destination for visitors and local residents.”

Further, the 450th Commemoration of Santa Elena launched a county-wide effort to promote the vast historic and cultural heritage of Beaufort County. Hosted by FirstShore and the local Chambers of Commerce, the 2016 Beaufort County Spring Tour will take place April 24-May 1. Organizations throughout Beaufort County are celebrating the Santa Elena 450th by hosting events themed around Spanish history, the Port Royal Sound, and life throughout the area in the 1500’s.
To learn more about the Santa Elena History Center’s 450th Commemoration, visit

For information about the Beaufort County Spring Tour, visit

The Santa Elena Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Beaufort County, South Carolina. The mission of the foundation is to expand the story of European colonization of North America through discovery, preservation and promotion of Santa Elena, a 16th Century Spanish settlement and colonial capital in the present-day United States.

Special thanks to Beaufort County, Town of Port Royal, Nao Victoria Foundation, O’Quinn Marine, Accion Cultural de Espana, City of Beaufort, Hargray Communications, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, and many organizations and individuals who have supported the Santa Elena project, especially the April 2016 commemoration events.

Santa Elena Foundation Announces Meaningful New Partnership with Local, Industry-Leading Hargray

March 2, 2016

Beaufort, SC – The Santa Elena Foundation and Hargray Communications announced today a multi-year partnership in which Hargray will provide leadership support of the Santa Elena History Center in downtown Beaufort.

With the fast approaching April 2016 grand opening of the Santa Elena History Center’s new exhibit, Hargray leaders decided now is the right time to help bring America’s Untold Story to the community and help the Foundation fulfill its mission to discover, preserve and promote the “lost century” of American History, much of which occurred in present-day Beaufort County.

“The efforts of the Board, volunteers, and supporters of the Santa Elena Foundation over the past two years have focused on opening the Santa Elena History Center and showcasing the inaugural exhibit,” says Dr. Andy Beall, Executive Director. “To have the support of a leading community organization like Hargray to give us a final push at this critical point, is truly remarkable.”

In addition to the Santa Elena History Center ribbon-cutting and grand opening, April will host the 450th commemoration of Santa Elena’s founding in 1566. The month will begin with a regatta for the Jean Ribault and Pedro Menendez Cups, hosted in Port Royal Sound by Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club. Then on April 15, scholars from around the United States will confer on Beaufort to provide a day-long Scholars Conference supported by Beaufort County at The Arts Center of Beaufort. Finally, at the end of the month, on April 30, the ribbon will be cut, the public will enjoy the Inaugural Exhibit, and a BBQ Festival and Celebration will be held at the corner of Bladen and North Streets.

Representatives from Hargray will be present to help cut the ribbon and are working closely with the Santa Elena team to further promote the History Center as a key cultural destination in Beaufort County.

“What an important story and unique opportunity for our community,” says Chris McCorkendale, Senior Vice President, Sales and Business Development for Hargray. “Our team is proud to partner with the Santa Elena Foundation and help make the History Center a success so that students, residents, and visitors can enjoy access to such a rich resource.”

To learn more about the Santa Elena History Center, visit


The Santa Elena Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Beaufort County, South Carolina. The mission of the foundation is to expand the story of European colonization of North America through discovery, preservation and promotion of Santa Elena, a 16th Century Spanish settlement and colonial capital in the present-day United States.

Hargray Communications is a leader in the telecommunications industry, dedicated to meeting the communication needs of our residential, business, large enterprise and resort customers. The mission is to envision and deliver customer delight through a team of more than 350 employees, including 100+ service technicians, who all live, work and contribute in our Lowcountry community. Hargray is committed to excellence, delivering the most advanced technology and the best customer service.