Santa Elena

Local Organizations Join Forces to Elevate Beaufort County’s Unique Heritage and History

6/5/2020 – Celebrating five years in operation, the Santa Elena History Center sincerely thanks the dedicated volunteers, generous supporters, numerous partners, and especially Beaufort County, for launching efforts to claim Santa Elena as America’s First Capital. Now, the Santa Elena Foundation will move on to an exciting new chapter as a part of the Coastal Discovery Museum, the only Smithsonian affiliate organization in Beaufort County.

Amid the uncertainty and change of these unprecedented times lies new opportunity. The goal of both non-profits is to better serve local communities and everyone interested in the heritage of the Lowcountry. This official collaboration will be known moving forward as the Santa Elena Center at the Coastal Discovery Museum.

Aligning efforts will allow Santa Elena’s mission – To discover, preserve, and share the untold story of America’s first and lost century through the rise and fall of Santa Elena to become part of the overall mission of the Coastal Discovery Museum – To inspire people to care for the Lowcountry. Led by archaeologist Dr. Rex Garniewicz at the Coastal Discovery Museum, the Santa Elena Center will continue to discover, preserve and educate the public about the National Heritage Landmark site of Charlesfort-Santa Elena.

“This is really one of the most incredibly complex and fascinating histories we have to tell in the Lowcountry.” According to Dr. Garniewicz “It was where the brutal rivalry between France and Spain took hold in the New World and where the Spanish based their northern operations, building forts all the way into the Appalachian Mountains. Santa Elena marks the shift from European exploration to settlement, and intense conflict with Native American populations who had already established sophisticated chiefdoms along the coast. In an intense struggle for survival, these Mississippian chiefdoms were able to defeat the Spanish in the interior and burn Santa Elena but eventually suffered great losses to their culture in the face of European colonialism. “

The shared vision is to create a new center of excellence at the museum on the historic Honey Horn property to continue all the progress that Santa Elena Foundation made in its developmental phase, including public programming, special events, educational initiatives, and outreach to students of all ages.  The center will be a resource and repository for scholarly research and publications.

Additional components are in development, such as a 1,000 sq. ft. traveling exhibition to improve the public profile of this incredible story — the story of America’s first century. The first stop is Coastal Discovery Museum’s “Discovery House” on Hilton Head Island, where it will debut in October 2020, adding to the array of local information shared on that historic site. Eventually the goal is to also connect visitors to Beaufort and Parris Island through a tour of the archaeological site and a possible onsite presence, as well as continuing support for the archaeological discoveries yet to be made.

Both institutions see this as a strong, positive move and, to make it possible, they created the Santa Elena Society as an avenue for supporters to provide funding during these challenging times to enable both organizations to seize this opportunity. This will move it forward with great diligence and ensure that future generations know and understand Santa Elena’s place in America’s first century.

“It’s been a rewarding journey for those involved in the establishment of the Santa Elena Foundation,” says Megan Morris, Foundation Director. “There are thousands of stakeholders – donors, volunteers, and partners – that helped this organization progress quickly and thanks to them, we are at a crossroads of success. We are excited to transition to the next chapter and new projects.”

Look for more information about our new initiatives, ways to be involved, and how you can support this important endeavor coming soon!

About Coastal Discovery Museum:

The Coastal Discovery Museum opened at a small mid-island storefront on Hilton Head Island in 1985, moved to 100 William Hilton Parkway in 1995 and moved in 2007 to the beautiful 68-acre Historic Honey Horn property in 2007 with a mission to inspire people to care for the Lowcountry.  Throughout its operation’s history, the Museum it has always focused on education and connecting people to important aspects of the Lowcountry’s environment, history, and art, culture and natural environments.

Since opening at Honey Horn, the museum has become a trusted community resource and source of pride among Beaufort County families and visitors.  The Coastal Discovery Museum envisions that it can help take the Santa Elena story to the next level. Since opening at Honey Horn, the Coastal Discovery Museum has welcomed over 1.3 Million visitors. Beyond this the museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate (one of only 200 organizations in the country with this important designation), has educated over 100,000 students in its standards-based school programming, holds 1,200 family and adult education programs and lectures yearly, hosts numerous large-scale, community events. The Museum has over 250 dedicated volunteers and 2,500 devoted members. Since opening at Honey Horn, the museum is financially sound, even amidst the current health crisis, and has continually operated in the black for over a decade and been able to increase programming and staffing.

SCIAA & SEF Team Up to Search for Le Prince Shipwreck in Port Royal Sound

NOAA, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology & Anthropology, Santa Elena Foundation
Shoals and Shipwrecks, University of South Carolina launches marine archaeological survey off Port Royal Sound.

 UPDATE, APRIL 2020 — This research project is experiencing some delay due to the Pandemic but will resume as soon as possible.

The South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina, Columbia will conduct a two-year search for shipwrecks offshore Port Royal Sound, South Carolina. Extending about seven miles offshore into the Atlantic Ocean, the entrance shoals at Port Royal Sound have proved to be  a “ship trap” since the earliest days of European exploration along the southeastern U.S. coastline. Historical documents suggest approximately forty vessels from the 16th to 19th centuries met their fate on and around this treacherous shoal complex with evocative names such as Martins Industry, Great North Breakers, and Cole’s Care. Shipwrecks include a French galleon called Le Prince that wrecked in 1577, the HM brig Colibri that sank on the shoals during the War of 1812, and the bark Marcia loaded with a cargo of stone and part of the Great Stone Fleet sent by the Union navy to obstruct southern ports during the Civil War. Interspersed amongst these shipwrecks lie numerous other casualties of the shoals.

The project is called “Shoals and Shipwrecks: Archaeological Explorations off Port Royal Sound, South Carolina,” and  is under the direction of James Spirek, the state underwater archaeologist and head of the Maritime Research Division at the institute.

“The resources to explore for Le Prince and other unfortunates lost on the shoals permit a sustained effort to advance our knowledge and understanding of the maritime archaeology and history of Port Royal Sound, South Carolina, and the U.S.,” said Spirek.

Other key institute personnel include Ryan Bradley, underwater archaeologist, and Dr. Chester DePratter, research archaeologist.

“This is a great opportunity to bridge  the land archaeology with underwater archaeological investigations, particularly related to early Spanish colonial endeavors associated with the 16th century settlement site of Santa Elena , “said DePratter, director of the excavations at the Charlesfort/Santa Elena  archaeological site on present-day Parris Island.

The research team seeks to continue and expand efforts to locate shipwrecks and other structures, sites, and objects of archaeological and historical significance in the area. With funding, they aim to support preservation efforts by recording and identifying their discoveries, enabling more in-depth investigations and mitigation in the future. The team will use advanced marine remote-sensing technology and visual inspections in the search area, which includes both state and federal waters. They will complement this work with historical research to develop the maritime historical context of the region.

A significant partner in the project is the Santa Elena History Center based in Beaufort is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to educating the public about the 16th century Spanish colonial presence at Santa Elena and other time periods of South Carolina and Beaufort’s history.

“Our collaborative efforts to discover, promote, and preserve this research and to educate our visitors are very valuable, especially the story of Le Prince, to create a better understanding of many significant stories during 500 years of American history, with many occurring here in Beaufort” said Megan Morris, director of the Santa Elena Foundation and History Center.

In addition to filling in knowledge gaps regarding the region’s historical maritime activities, such as transport, trade, and warfare, findings from this project will also be used to inform state and federal seafloor management decisions. Resource managers will be able to use this information to balance uses and minimize conflicts between the preservation of these archaeological remnants and competing interests in the area’s mineral resources, for example beach quality sand needed to rebuild local beaches.

Another important mission of the team is to engage the public through a variety of educational and outreach opportunities to promote an awareness and appreciation of the maritime and historical archaeological legacy in Port Royal Sound. The information derived from the project will provide the foundation for informing the public about ongoing progress and results delivered through various mediums including newsletter articles, social media postings, a webpage devoted to the project, as well as public and professional lectures. The project team will also contribute to NOAA’s Ocean Explorer website ( The team will also develop a short film about the project hosted on the institute’s YouTube Channel and at the center.

Project findings will also be incorporated into the institute’s educational programming “SUBMERGED: The Underwater Archaeology of South Carolina,” that targets middle school students in underserved school districts throughout the Palmetto State.

“The process of fieldwork and research associated with this underwater archaeological exploration will augment our educational offerings and provide students with a greater understanding of the blending of science, archaeology, and history to gain a deeper understanding of our past,” said Bradley.

A formal report documenting the scope and results will be made available for download at the conclusion of the project.

Local Tradition Continues with the Santa Elena Regatta

2/27/2020 – The Santa Elena Foundation and the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club will sponsor the Santa Elena Regatta on April 3rd, 4th, & 5th. This event is the major big boat sailing event in Beaufort each year and commemorates 453 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 April 4th, and the Pedro Menendez Cup on April 5th. 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 Morris, Foundation 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 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.
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 or by contacting Regatta Chairman, Jim Thomas through the Beaufort Yacht & Sailing Club.

Santa Elena manuscript with new research, insights in progress

2/25/20 – At the close of her special lecture at the Santa Elena History Center yesterday, Dr. Karen Paar, of Mars Hill University, signed an agreement to write a book-length manuscript on the significant story of Santa Elena from the perspective of the settlers who lived at America’s first capital in the 16th century.

Building on her research over the past 20 years, Dr. Paar will consult both primary and secondary resources to produce a cohesive and accurate portrayal of this history. She one of a few translators of 16th century Spanish and has extensively studied the Archives of the Indies.

“The goal of this book is to provide a scholarly sound, but readable, account of the history of Santa Elena and its significance for understanding the region’s history,” says Dr. Paar.
“Furthermore, I hope this book will be the launching point for further historical research and that archaeologists will find it helpful as they continue investigation into the Charlesfort-Santa Elena site on Parris Island.”

The Santa Elena Foundation recognizes great value in the work of Dr. Paar and this project, which will meet all three key elements of its mission — to discover, promote, and preserve the first century of American history through the lens of Santa Elena. The manuscript will shed new light on three important perspectives of the history– the role of conquest in America’s development, the role of women in colonization, and the depth of engagement and disruption of the indigenous communities in this land.

“Multi-national colonization is an important part of the history of this nation,” states Dr. Paar.

“And modern-day discovery of America’s first century is changing what we know about our history, how we can learn from it, and what it means to be an American,” agrees Megan Morris, Director of Santa Elena Foundation. “Dr. Paar’s research and writing parallels multiple current efforts to uncover Santa Elena and the much larger context it leads us to understand.”

The timeline for the completion of the manuscript is by May 2021, when it will then be published and disseminated.


Dr. Karen Paar is an archivist, historian, and among a handful of scholars capable of reading archaic paleography from the Columbus era. Dr. 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 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. Dr. Paar regularly lectures in support of the University of South Carolina Beaufort’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and continues her research on Santa Elena from primary source period archives on the Iberian Peninsula which will be transitioned into a book in 2021.

500+ Years of History Comes to Life, Marsh Tacky Horses, and Festival Fun at 2020 Lowcountry Fair Heritage Event

2/10/2020 – What’s more fun than a Lowcountry spring fair, filled to the brim with historical flair?  With the arrival of warmer weather, the Beaufort Heritage Tourism Corporation, Santa Elena Foundation and Coastal Discovery Museum are collaborating to bring the third Lowcountry Fair with Historical Flair on Friday, March 27 for schools and Saturday, March 28 for the public.

It’s the perfect way for the entire family to spend a day in the Lowcountry! And this “better than ever” event showcases 500+ years of history throughout Beaufort County as well as our unique ecology, culture and heritage. The events take place on the grounds of Coastal Discovery Museum, at the north end of Hilton Head Island.

Thanks to several partner organizations and sponsors, plans are in place for all ages to experience activities like the Living History Showcase, travelling Hunley exhibit, Marsh Tacky demonstrations, Lowcountry Animal programs, nature trails, and – of course – music, food, artisans, and much more! Moderately-priced tickets and family ticket packages are on sale in advance and at the gate – and with one ticket, all activities are included.

“The Lowcountry Fair is a stand-out event for the community to experience local heritage mixed in with plenty of good fun, food and friendship!” said Megan Morris, executive director of the Santa Elena Foundation. “This furthers county-wide efforts to highlight Beaufort’s unique history and collaborate with others in the region to commemorate significant moments and understand our past.”

The fair features Marsh Tackies – the SC State Horse – who will gladly meet spectators who want to learn more about the breed, and then show off their agility on during the Fun Show on the obstacle course. The Marsh Tacky is a well-protected breed due to its heritage as the horses that originally arrived in today’s America on Spanish ships in the 16th century.

The premier Living History Showcase includes early settlers through the twentieth century. Compelling historical re-enactors show 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 in period costume 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.

Among the activities, delicious local concessions are available for purchase throughout the day. Choose from a wide variety of food vendors who uniquely showcase food from around the Lowcountry — from hot lunches to special treats and even local brews. Sip and see around this unique venue with local music playing and skilled artisans displaying their original products from iron-welded signs, to local honey, and everything in between.

Discover many local organizations in the Partner Showcase. Meet friends at the National Park Service and participate in a Junior Ranger program, or head over to see what the Morris Center for Heritage, Port Royal Sound Foundation, and Mitchelville Project have to share – just to name a few!

And just when you think you’ve seen it all, follow a nature trail around the preserved grounds of historic Honey Horn, serving as Coastal Discovery Museum today. Don’t be surprised to meet their critters, like turtles, alligators, and snakes as you enjoy the waterfont view and beautiful oak trees!

With so much to do and enjoy, consult the event webpage for special program times throughout the day. While many of the demonstrations and activities will be ongoing, there will be scheduled times for weapons demonstrations, animal programs, onstage performances and more.
MORE DETAILS: Click here for the full PRESS KIT for the Lowcountry Fair!

TICKETS are available online (, and at the gate.  All tickets are non-refundable, this is a shine-only event.

ADVANCE PURCHASE (until March 20)
General Admission ($12), Children 7-17 ($5), Families (2 adults with 2+ kids) ($35)

AT THE GATE (March 28)
General Admission ($15), Children 7-17 ($5), Families (2 adults with 2+ kids) ($40)

Per person ($5) — reservations must be made in advance (

Beaufort Heritage Tourism Corp. represents: Beaufort County, Jasper County, City of Beaufort, Town of Port Royal, Town of Bluffton, and Town of Hilton Head Island

Organizations participating: Beaufort County Libraries, Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, Carolina Marsh Tacky Association, Charleston Few, Coastal Discovery Museum,  Coastal Heritage Society, Daufuskie Historical Society & Marsh Tackies, Hilton Head Archaeology Society,  Lowcountry Raptors, Men of Menendez, Mighty 8th Airforce, Mitchelville, Morris Center for Lowcountry Heritage, The Outside Foundation, Port Royal Sound Foundation, National Park Service, Parris Island Museum & Historical Society, Santa Elena Foundation

Food Vendors:  Fire & Rice Paella, Melly Mel’s, Taco Brown, Smoking Gringo’s BBQ, Hudson’s Seafood, Street Meat, NY City Pizza, Krystyna’s Polish Food, Jack Frost Ice Cream

Craft Beer Tastings: Salt Marsh Brewing Company

Musical Guest: Chilly Willy Band

Broadcast Company: Beaufort County Channel



As the entry sign to Parris Island indicates with its display of the Ribault monument along with the Marine Corps logo, there is rich heritage on this island in Port Royal Sound. Spend a day at Parris Island to learn about its 100+ years of history as a Marine Recruit Depot and its earliest history as the first European capital of North America 450 years ago!

Then, in the afternoon, enjoy a golf tournament at The Legends course, just steps away from the Charlesfort-Santa Elena National Heritage Landmark site!

Schedule for November 15, 2019:

8am Meet at Golf Clubhouse to sign-in
9am Attend Graduation of female and male recruits
10:30am Enjoy a Parris Island Museum Visit
11:30pm Lunch and Ceremony at Charlesfort-Santa Elena site with group photo
1pm Arquebus firing for shotgun start of Golf Tournament
5pm Awards and Closing Ceremony at the Clubhouse


Support this experience as a SPONSOR! To inquire about levels and opportunities:


Join the Santa Elena Living History Company!

Announcing a new season of re-enactments and interpretation of the 16th Century with our own Santa Elena Living History Company! Join other enthusiasts to bring history to life at community events and special programs.

Two meeting dates announced: Friday, August 2 and Friday September 6 — both at 4pm at the Santa Elena History Center.

The Company will work on a special showcase event, “Omnium Gatherum,” for the Fall and the annual Lowcountry Fair with Historic Flair in the Spring, along with other outings, including mingling at downtown Beaufort’s First Fridays!

Come check it out …. it’s a BLAST (literally!)
Email for more information

Beaufort Heritage Explorers SuMmEr CaMp!

Sign up for a week of exploring Beaufort History with lots of dynamic activities and presenters at the Santa Elena History Center!

Proceeds benefit participating non-profits:
Historic Beaufort Foundation, Reconstruction Beaufort Inc. and Santa Elena Foundation

At the Santa Elena History Center

Hosting organizations:  Santa Elena Foundation, Reconstruction Beaufort Inc, and Historic Beaufort Foundation

Immerse your child in a week of interesting local history from 1500s-1900s!
July 29-August 2 9:00am-1:00pm
Each day concludes with lunch from 12:15 until pick up, lunch provided on Friday

$150 per child, proceeds benefit participating non-profits

Rising 3rd grade – Rising 5TH and Rising 6th grade – Rising 8 TH grade
Bring to Santa Elena, Email to,
or mail to PO Box 1005, Beaufort, SC 29901

Schedule and topics


How did early settlers get to the New World?
  –Videos about galleons and 16th century ships, navigation tools and techniques, Recreating the true size of a caravel ship, Name and color your galleon! And make your own rope!

How did maps evolve during Age of Discovery?
  –Slideshow of maps from 1492-1607, Create your own map, Understanding Port Royal Sound     history, walk along the bluff, observe the Beaufort River


What were the early settlers like?
  –“Imagine” presentation, Tour exhibit and find crossword clues, Meet Domingo Duramano at his   “soldier’s bunk”

 What was it like to live at Santa Elena?
  –Food and cooking demonstration, Salt-making demonstration, Weaponry program, live fire!


Beaufort is now home to the Reconstruction Era National Park. Camp Reconstruction Beaufort will explore the deep history of this period and why Beaufort was so significant. Not only important to Beaufort, there’s a new wave of interest in this period spreading nationwide, acknowledging that Reconstruction is still shaping today’s narrative.

(ELEMENTARY AGES)  Campers will be transformed back in time and will learn what life was like for children their age in Beaufort. Camp counsellors will use the experiential style approach of learning and explore this deep period of history. Campers will create a Reconstruction Board game exposing them to the many historical landmarks, buildings and homes that have shaped history. Learning history will be relevant and fun!

(MIDDLE SCHOOL AGES)  Campers will dig deep into the history of what was happening during this time in Beaufort but will also explore the significance of the 13th, 14th and 15th Constitutional Amendments, all introduced and passed during Reconstruction. Campers will be encouraged to explore this period of history through conversation learning in exciting and relevant ways. Campers will create a large canvas mural of their interpretation of Reconstruction Beaufort, which will be displayed in the Beaufort Reconstruction gallery.


TOUR THE ONLY PLANTER’S HOUSE IN BEAUFORT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!  Enjoy this special program and activity: “The Mystery and Magic of Indigo and Its Role in Antebellum Beaufort”.

Campers will learn about blue dye in early cultures and how it was made. The session culminates with the participants creating their own dyed bandana, scarf or bookmark.


–Walk to St. Helena Church Cemetery (tour), Walk around downtown park/playground, Return to SEHC to make paper flowers, Pizza Party!!


Friday presentation of a plaque to the Santa Maria commemorating Beaufort port of call

The final days to tour the Santa Maria docked in downtown Beaufort are ahead. The ship and crew will welcome visitors through Sunday, April 14, 10a-7p. Tickets are for sale as you board the floating museum. Departure is set for early Monday morning with the high tide.

The presentation of a special plaque by the Beaufort Sail & Power Squadron – Americas Boating Club-will be held at noon, Friday, April 12th, onboard the Santa Maria to honor the crew.

Beaufort’s Sail & Power Squadron was instrumental in providing chart data and guidance for the Santa Maria including piloting the vessel through St Helena Sound to Beaufort. Led by Master Navigators Doug Nelson and Howard Heckrotte, five local boats and twenty Power Squadron volunteers conducted local soundings to survey and chart twenty-three nautical miles for the Santa Maria in advance of its journey to Beaufort.

Prior to this, the last depth survey was conducted in 1983, and numerous storms and shifting sand over the long time span since the last survey made it prudent to check out the route and update charts to inform the captain of the safest route.

Careful timing for the tides along with the excellent seamanship of the crew allowed for an uneventful and successful passage of the ship through St. Helena Sound, the Woods Memorial bridge and into downtown Beaufort.

Many thanks to all volunteers who helped make this first east coast visit by the Santa Maria a great success!

Special thanks to Beaufort Sail and Power Squadron, US Coast Guard, SC DNR, City of Beaufort, Beaufort Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Beaufort Area Hospitality Association, O’Quinn Marine, Shugart barges, and United Infrastructure – all of whom provided a crucial piece of the puzzle to bring and host the Santa Maria vessel and crew.



Santa Maria arrives in Beaufort, Shipwrecks of America’s Lost Century shared at Scholars Symposium, Legendary Dr. Eugene Lyon to be honored
March 27, 2019 – Before Jamestown, before Plymouth Rock, before America’s early settlers carved out the colonies, there was Santa Elena. The story of Santa Elena, and America’s First Century, are shared today with visitors at the Santa Elena History Center in Beaufort and often outside of the museum walls, like the three events announced here.

Settled by the Spanish in 1566, Santa Elena is acknowledged to be North America’s first European capital. It was founded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, a Spanish Naval Captian who went on to become a renowned explorer and then South Carolina’s first governor.

Bolstered by funds from King Philip II, who sought to secure the land called La Florida for the Spanish and to protect Spain’s lucrative treasure routes, Menendez and a brave band of 400 settlers established Santa Elena along the coast of South Carolina in present-day Beaufort. At its height, the settlement housed hundreds of men, women and children who battled disease, hunger and storms to eke out a perilous living. After more than two decades after it was founded, Santa Elena came to a sad ending. When Sir Francis Drake attacked St. Augustine in 1586, Santa Elena’s settlers consolidated with St. Augustine, Havana and other Spanish settlements.

Four hundred years later, the 16th century site of Santa Elena was discovered through archeology conducted by the South Carolina Institute of Archeology. From 1979 through the present, active projects have uncovered evidence of the story researched in historical record. The scientific proof of this history tells much about “America’s First Century” as archeologists continue to find artifacts that provide a window into how the early settlers lived.


Tour the Santa Maria in downtown Beaufort’s Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. The Nao Santa María is one of the most famous ships of humanity. On October 12, 1492, captained by Christopher Columbus, the Santa Maria led a fleet to the discovery of America and the western hemisphere, launching an age of discovery.

The modern-day replica offers a self-guided tour through the 4 decks of the Santa María, where you can find informative panels with the history of the ship, ornamental elements of the time and understand Spanish sailors from 500 years ago. Meet the crew and hear their stories! Making its first east coast stop in Beaufort, the flagship is open to the public March 29 (Weather may delay arrival) to April 7, 10a-7p.
Special thanks to City of Beaufort, Beaufort Convention & Visitors Bureau, O’Quinn Marine, United Infrastructure and the Nao Victoria Foundation.

Pay tribute to a legendary 16th Century scholar, Dr. Eugene Lyon. Integral to the slate of activities is recognition of Dr. Eugene Lyon, perhaps the pre-eminent historian of Spanish exploration and colonization efforts of North America before the arrival of the English.
The Santa Elena Foundation will culminate the Shipwreck Symposium with a dedication of the Eugene Lyon Center for Scholarship at the Santa Elena History Center on the afternoon of April 6. Aside from his work at the better known Saint Augustine, Dr. Lyon’s work with National Geographic, Spain’s Archives of the Indies, and archaeologists in the 1970’s unveiled the story of America’s First Century that is being told today at the Santa Elena History Center, where his work and a bronze Columbus statue commissioned by National Geographic is on display.

Hear latest research on Shipwrecks of the 16th century. Now, in the newest chapter of the saga of Santa Elena, South Carolina underwater archeologist James Spirek will be joined by ten eminent maritime historians and nautical archeologists at a symposium entitled, “Shipwrecks of America’s Lost Century,” April 5 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the USCB Center for the Arts, 805 Carteret St.

Sponsored by SC Humanities and presented by the South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, and the Santa Elena Foundation, the symposium will explore Spain’s colonization attempt along the South Carolina-Georgia coast in 1526, the wrecked 1565 Ribaut fleet, and the 1576 French corsair Le Prince now resting at the bottom of Port Royal Sound, just to name a few.

Sixteenth century sailing ships fell victim to shipwrecks for a variety of reasons: sometimes just pure carelessness or accidents. Other times, they were overcome by storms, by enemy warships, by scuttling and more. In fact, barely two months after discovering an island in the New World, Columbus lost his ship, the Santa Maria, on the north coast of Hispaniola, the island shared today by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Presenters at the shipwreck symposium represent a virtual who’s who of revered subject authorities:

• James Spirek, the symposium organizer and moderator, is the State Underwater Archeologist at the South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology.
His presentation is entitled, “He who has weapons in his fist, and who is the strongest, carries the day.” – French Corsairing and the Final Voyage of Le Prince.

• Carla Rahn Phillips, Ph.D., Union Pacific Professor, Emerita, in Comparative Early Modern History, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Her presentation is entitled, “Iberean Seafaring and Naval Operations during the Sixteenth Century.”

• Don Keith, Ph.D., president, Ships of Discovery, and research affiliate, Turks & Caicos National Museum. Dr. Keith has more than 45 years of experience in prehistoric and historic terrestrial and underwater archeology. His presentation is entitled, “Early 16 Century Shipwrecks in the New World.”

• Paul E. Hoffman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of History, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge The title of his presentation is “Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón’s discovery of Southeastern North America, 1521-26.”

• Barto Arnold, B.A., M.A., director of Texas Operations, Institute of Nautical Archeology, Texas A&M University. His presentation is entitled, “1554 Flota Wreck, Padre Island, Texas.”

• Roger C. Smith, Ph.D., state underwater archeologist (ret.), Florida Division of Historical Resources. His presentation is entitled, “The Old Spaniard: Exploration and Analysis of the first shipwreck to be discovered from the 1559 expedition to colonize Florida.”

• John R. Bratten, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Anthropology department at the University of West Florida. His presentation is entitled, “Ballast and Timbers Beneath the Sand: Exploration and Analysis of the Second and Third Shipwrecks to be Discovered from the 1559 Expedition to Colonize Florida.”

• Chuck Meide, B.S., M.S., director, Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. His presentation is entitled, “Jean Ribault’s Lost French Fleet of 1565: The Search for and Discovery of the Earliest French Shipwrecks in Florida.”

• Corey Malcom, Ph.D., director of Archaeology, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Key West, Fla. His presentation is entitled, “On the Eve of La Florida: The Wreck of Santa Clara and the Tierra Firme fleet of 1563-1564.”

• Brad Loewen, Ph.D., professor of Contract Period Archaeology, Post-medieval Archaeology, and Maritime Archaeology in the Anthropology department, Université de Montréal. His presentation is entitled, “The Wreck of the San Juan, a Basque Whaler at Red Bay, Labrador (1565).”

Local Tradition Continues with the Santa Elena Regatta

3/6/19 – The Santa Elena Foundation and the Beaufort Yacht and Sailing Club will sponsor the Santa Elena Regatta for PHRF sailboats on March 16 and 17, 2019. This event is the major big boat sailing event in Beaufort each year and commemorates 453 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 16, and the Pedro Menendez Cup on March 17. 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. JOIN US IN THE PARK ON SUNDAY AT NOON FOR A CANNON FIRING TO START!

“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 Morris, Foundation 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 Menendez and Jean Ribault, and to learn more about the Santa Elena Foundation 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 or by contacting Regatta Chairman, Jim Thomas through the Beaufort Yacht & Sailing Club.

Party Like it’s 1519! Commemorate Pedro’s 500th Birthday at the Santa Elena History Center

February 6, 2019 —  The year 2019 is a big one for Santa Elena founder Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, born in Spain in 1519! Join in a community commemoration of his 500th birthday with an all-day, family-friendly fiesta brimming with Spanish inspiration in downtown Beaufort at the Santa Elena History Center.

From 11am – 5pm on Saturday, March 2, regular-priced admission to the History Center will afford visitors extra special ways to enjoy Spanish culture and learn about the man who oversaw the first European capital in America. In the courtyard of the Santa Elena History Center, visitors will meet members of the Santa Elena Living History Company in an authentic 16th Century Spanish Encampment, where weapons demonstrations and flint knapping will add extra flavor! Take a step back to a time when living was much simpler, yet surviving was uncertain.

The festivities of the day kick off with a special lecture by distinguished professor emeritus Dr. Lawrence Rowland at 11am. Then, performances highlighting authentic, 16th century Spanish and Renaissance music will feature classical guitar virtuoso Ulyana Machneva and the Taylor Festival Choir of Charleston, at 1pm and 4pm respectively. All of this is included in the admission price and seating is a first come, first served basis.

Visitors will also explore the newly-enhanced main exhibit, “America’s First Century”, with dynamic new features and perspectives. Knowledgeable docents will guide you through the many displays including the debut of videos from the La Florida interpretive digital archive, the Evolution of 16th Century Maps, a display of Native American information, and a chance to don your own armor and weapons for a photo!

Another neat display for the birthday party will be birthday cards from students. All ages are invited to send in their artwork for display in the main corridor through the Spring for all to enjoy! Contact us to arrange and let your creative juices flow!

And what’s a birthday party without cake or a Spanish fiesta without sangria? Guests can have both during their explorations of the Santa Elena story and its leader Pedro Menendez! Additionally, local food trucks will be onsite for those seeking lunch fare, or you may hop on the free shuttle for a ride to the delicious downtown restaurants.

“We are excited to host the community for this birthday party – 500 years is quite the occasion!” says Megan Morris, Director of Santa Elena Foundation. “Whether you’re visiting Beaufort and looking for a local experience, have not yet explored our exhibits, or have not visited recently – this is the perfect time to come downtown to experience the Santa Elena History Center.”

The logistics of the day are simple – plenty of activities, entertainment and treats throughout the event, and parking is plentiful and free of charge too! The “Free Shuttle” will run its route through the Beaufort Cultural District all day, so hop on! hop off! to get to other destinations around town.

A fun time is ahead as we wish Feliz Cumpleanos a Pedro Menendez!

Main contact for the 500th birthday Party is Tedi Light,

Santa Elena Archaeology Updates in Post & Courier Article

Click here to see the original article by the Post & Courier:

Special Thanks to Author Robert Behre and Photographer Andrew Whitaker


PARRIS ISLAND — As archaeologist Chester DePratter walked toward the tall stone pillar on this island’s southern tip, he underscored how much our knowledge of one of South Carolina’s most historic sites is subject to change.

The impressive monument is an enlarged copy of the one French explorer Jean Ribault erected here more than four centuries ago when he founded Charlesfort in 1562, an early French outpost in the New World.

“This is not Charlesfort,” DePratter said. “The monument is in the wrong place.”

The misplaced monument may be the most prominent example of how this site’s history is being rewritten, but DePratter later points toward a large oak tree not far away for a more recent example.

It was here, under the oak, that he and archaeologist Victor Thompson recently used remote sensing devices — special equipment that detects soil disturbances underground — to find the location of Fort San Marco, one of several Spanish fortifications built shortly after Charlesfort.

This Spanish fort is just a small part of a larger story only recently coming to light, at least in a public way.

It’s a story of South Carolina’s first European settlement, one that took root a century before the English established Charles Towne — or Jamestowne or the Plymouth Colony, for that matter. It’s also a story of the former Spanish capital of La Florida.

Dr. Andrew Beall, chairman of the Santa Elena Foundation, said the young organization spent 18 months figuring if there was a story here, who knew something about it, and how to present it to the public. The work is picking up speed.

“It’s a lost century that’s not known by many,” he said.

‘One common story’

When Ribault arrived in 1562 with 27 men he considered Port Royal Sound the finest harbor in the world. Its breadth made it easily navigable and it was routinely flushed by a nine-foot tidal swing.

From the tip of Parris Island, one can look toward the Atlantic Ocean, framed by modern day Hilton Head Island on the right and Bay Island on the left.

His Charlesfort settlement would not last long. Ribault returned to France for supplies but never made it back. The remaining settlers abandoned the site.

Meanwhile, the Spanish considered this territory part of their New World claim, part of La Florida, which covered everything north of Mexico. A surviving document shows they had named this area Santa Elena as far back as 1526, said Foundation member retired U.S. Army Col. Chris Allen.

“Santa Elena is one of the oldest European place names in continuous use in the New World,” he said, surpassed in age only by Florida and Corpus Christi.

The Spanish first staked their claim by creating a garrison in St. Augustine in 1565, then a permanent settlement in 1566 at Santa Elena, building atop the abandoned French fort. Santa Elena served as the Spanish capital of Florida from 1569 to 1587.

“This was the first European capital in all of North America.”

“Nobody knows that,” Allen said. “It’s an amazing milestone in America’s evolution.”

A third European power, England, ultimately sealed the fate of Santa Elena.

Prompted by Sir Francis Drake’s attacks on Spanish holdings in the Caribbean in 1586, Spain — stretched thin financially — decided to retrench in St. Augustine.

“It dwarfed St. Augustine at the time,” Allen said. During its peak, Santa Elena had about 400 residents and dozens of buildings, including homes and churches.

Allen said the story complements, not competes with, St. Augustine’s.

“There’s no value into getting into, ‘we’re first, they’re first,’ ” he said. “It’s all one common story.”

What was learned

After the Spanish abandoned Santa Elena to retrench in St. Augustine in 1587, the site never again became a town.

More than a century later, the land eventually became part of a plantation. After the Civil War, the Marine Corps arrived here. While the corps once had an active encampment near the historic settlement, relatively little land was disturbed. In the mid-20th century, a golf course was built over part of it.

Previously, archaeologists, including DePratter and the late Stanley South, had gridded off 34 acres and conducted 1,383 shovel tests.

“What we found was the town of Santa Elena covers 15 acres,” DePratter said.

But there are few surviving structures, aside from remnants of a kiln discovered during a previous dig. The kiln, which dates to about 1585, may be the oldest surviving European kiln in North America. Little else is left over.

“The forts were made out of wood, and you know how wood rots around here, so they would rebuild them,” DePratter said. “They couldn’t fire their guns anymore because they were afraid the fort would fall down because of the rot.”

Thompson, who directs the University of Georgia’s Center for Archaeological Sciences, recently worked with DePratter on the site, using remote sensing equipment to try to create a map.

“The conditions at Santa Elena were just ideal for this type of remote sensing survey,” Thompson said. “We simply could not ask for better circumstances.”

They sent pulses and electric currents into the ground and measured differences in local magnetic fields in order to discern the locations of two missing forts, a church, shops and houses, as well as streets and a plaza.

Their work also pinpointed the likely location of native council houses from the 17th century, sites of former slave cabins, and circular figures that appear to reflect Native American occupation from about three or four millennia ago.

Among their biggest discoveries: the location of Fort San Marco, the third Spanish fort built on the site.

“As it turns out,” DePratter said, “It’s right here under this oak tree.”

Meanwhile, 12 miles away

The U.S. Marine Corps gradually has opened up the Charlesfort-Santa Elena site as more of its history has become known.

In 2007, the Marine Corps reconfigured its Legends Golf Course in 2007, moving a few of its holes further away from the most historic acreage.

The site reopened to the public Aug. 20, after restoration work was done after Hurricane Matthew damage from two years ago. Those visiting will find a trail with a series of markers explaining not only highlights about Charlesfort and Santa Elena but also its Native American, plantation and Marine Corps past.

Meanwhile, the story of Santa Elena also is told in a small exhibit inside the Marine Corps Museum, where several artifacts from past digs are on display. These include assorted pottery shards, a small crucifix, a thimble, a tiny dice made of bone and other small bits. Together, they show the primitive, frontier-like conditions of the early European presence.

But the story is best explained inside a new museum about 12 miles away in Beaufort.

The Santa Elena History Center opened in April 2016 inside the former federal courthouse at 1501 Bay St., and it has expanded its exhibits several times since. The nonprofit running it is interested not only in presenting the story but also with funding research.

Inside, its displays, video and living history try to explain both the 16th century history and the 21st century efforts to rediscover it.

Beaufort County Councilman Stu Rodman serves on the foundation’s board and helped it secure the courthouse space to rewrite the area’s history in a more expansive way.

“History is written by the victors, and the British were the victors, so the history started 50 years later in Plymouth,” Rodman said.

“Santa Elena is a pretty amazing story, and it kind of went undiscovered for a long time,” he added. “It really has renewed interest in the county and many locals about building on a lot of heritage tourism things. … We probably don’t do as much as we could to convince people to stay for an extra day or two days or a week.”

The known and the unknown

As the detailed site map takes shape, archaeologists can plan future excavations on individual structures, such as the church, a house or a fort.

“We know enough now that we can focus on small, specific targets,” DePratter said.

Before any digging begins again, DePratter and others must reprocess (wash, weigh, reanalyze and rebag) the vast trove of artifacts already uncovered since archaeologist Stanley South began work here almost four decades ago.

“Things he identified in 1979 are different than what we’d identify them as today,” DePratter said.

He estimated that only about 5 percent of the site has been explored, meaning that there is much more to discover.

As those mysteries are probed and solved, that will continue to thrust the story of Santa Elena into a more public light.

Megan Meyer, executive director of the foundation, said, “Just as fascinating as what we know is what we don’t know.”

More Information  (From the National Historic Landmark documentation of the site, approved in 2001)


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.”