Beaufort Area History
Sheldon Church Ruins & Graveyard|
The native Indians were living here seasonally as early as 4000 BC. Evidence of early
settlement remains today in the form of a 3400 year old "Indian shell ring" in Hilton Head Island's
Sea Pines Forest Preserve.|
Written history began 500 years ago with the discovery of the area by Spanish Captain Pedro
de Salaza in 1514. Thus, Beaufort County was the site of the second landing on the North
American continent by Europeans, in 1514. The first landing --Ponce de Leon at St. Augustine--
was only a year earlier.
The seaport of Beaufort is located at the head of one of the largest natural harbors on the
Atlantic coast, which explains the early interest of the Spanish and French explorers that followed .
When they sailed up the sound in the 1520's, they found a land inhabited by many small tribes of
Native Americans, the largest of which were the Cherokees and the Catawbas.
French explorers visited this area long before the English arrived. In 1562, Captain Jean Ribaut
and his Frenchmen entered the sound which he named Port Royal. They settled near the present town
of Port Royal. As they were Huguenots, this was the first Protestant settlement in the United States.
When Ribaut returned to France for reinforcements the soldiers who were left behind revolted, built
themselves a ship, and sailed for France the next year. This was the first ship built in America to cross
the Atlantic Ocean.
After the French fled, Spaniards from Florida built Fort San Felipe on Parris Island in 1566 and made
the new settlement there, known as Santa Elena, the capital of La Florida Province. In 1576, under
attack from Native Americans, Santa Elena was abandoned, but the fort was rebuilt the next year.
Archeologists have positively determined the location to be on the Parris Island golf course.
In 1587, England's Elizabeth I sent Sir Francis Drake to drive the Spanish from "La Florida". The
Spanish decided to concentrate their forces in St. Augustine, and withdrew from Santa Elena.
South Carolina was again left to the Native Americans. But, English development plans formally began
on March 24, 1663, when King Charles II granted the Coastal Area to 8 Lord Proprietors. They named their
territory "Carolina" in honor of King Charles I.