The Santa Elena Conference

Thanks to all who participated in the events commemorating the 450th anniversary of Santa Elena and the Grand Opening of the Inaugural Exhibit “Santa Elena: America’s Untold Story.”  Go to our “Visit” Page to plan your next trip to the Santa Elena History Center and check out all the wonderful “Events” we have each week.


A video from the 2016 Scholars Conference can be viewed here:

Santa Elena and Sixteenth-Century La Florida
April 15, 2016

Center for the Arts, USC Beaufort
Beaufort, South Carolina

Welcome to the Santa Elena Conference sponsored by the Santa Elena Foundation and the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina. This one day conference brings together a group of eminent historians and archaeologists to share their understanding of the importance of Santa Elena in the history of Spanish Florida and the world.

1565St. Augustine and Santa Elena were the first two towns established by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. He had been sent by Philip II, King of Spain, to reclaim La Florida following French intrusions at Charlesfort in 1562 and Fort Caroline in 1564. Once he had defeated the French colonists in 1565, he turned to establishing Spanish settlements and exploring north to Chesapeake Bay and west to New Spain.

Santa Elena was founded in 1566 on present-day Parris Island, and in 1571 it became the capital of Spanish La Florida and the home of Pedro Menéndez and his family. After a ten year occupation, Santa Elena was abandoned for a year due to Indian attack. Soon after the abandonment, a French ship, Le Prince, wrecked at the entrance to Port Royal Sound. Upon learning of this new French intrusion, the new Governor of Florida reestablished Santa Elena in 1577 and tracked down the Frenchmen who were dispersed among the local Indian towns. Santa Elena was then occupied until 1587 when it was again abandoned and never reoccupied.

This Conference, held on the 450th anniversary of the founding of Santa Elena, examines the interactions between the French and Spanish forces that competed for control of this part of the New World. Historians and archaeologists on the program have spent their long careers focused on this time long ago when Santa Elena was a major place known to all.

Presenters include: Robin Beck, Kathleen Deagan, Chester DePratter, J. Michael Francis, Carl Halbirt, Paul Hoffman, William Kelso, James Legg, Eugene Lyon, John McGrath, David Moore, Karen Paar, Christopher Rodning, James Spirek, David Hurst Thomas, and Victor Thompson.

Registration is required. Attendance is free, thanks to the generous support of Beaufort County, the University of South Carolina at Beaufort Center for the Arts, and the Santa Elena Foundation.