This April marks 450 years since a band of Spanish settlers landed their ships on what is today Parris Island. The explorers would go on to create one of the most significant early Spanish settlements in North Ameria in a colony they called Santa Elena.
The colony was lost to history for almost 300 years until it was rediscovered in the 1970s under a golf course at Marine Corps Recruit Deport Parris Island.
To commemorate the historic colony, a Beaufort non-profit, The Santa Elena Foundation, hopes to make April a month filled with events for people to remember the stories of those settlers and their small city.
The foundation plans to bring an authentic wooden replica of a 16th century Spanish ship to the Port Royal Sound as well as host a grand opening of its full exhibit on the history and rediscovery of Santa Elena.
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“April of 2016 was always a date we were thinking about since we started the foundation about two years ago,” said Andy Beall, executive director of the foundation, which has quickly created a history center and found support among local leaders. “We wanted to celebrate the anniversary in a big way and really draw attention to the history.”
16th century ship arriving on Port Royal Sound
Foundation leaders hope spectators will get a glimpse of what it might have looked like when explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles first sailed into the Port Royal Sound in 1556 when a replica similar to his ship sails into the Port Royal Sound on April 21.
The El Galeon, a 175-foot, 495-ton authentic wooden replica, is fashioned to look like part of Spain’s West Indies fleet, just like the vessel Menendez boarded to come to the New World centuries ago. The ship will be docked in Port Royal Sound and open for tours through April at the Port Royal Docks, at 1699 11th St. in Port Royal.
New exhibit opening
The Santa Elena Foundation first opened the Santa Elena History Center in November in the vacated federal district courthouse building at 1501 Bay St. in Beaufort. On April 30, an interactive historic exhibit will open in the center featuring a video produced by the foundation and a presentation of the historic colony presented in part around the replica of a ship's hull.
Other April events from the Santa Elena Foundation include an academic conference with presentations from historians and archaeologists, an inaugural regatta in Port Royal Sound, a parade of students down Bay Street to the Santa Elena History Center and a Catholic Mass on the Santa Elena site on Parris Island.
To find out more about the events visit santa-elena.org.
Schedule of Santa Elena Foundation April Events
April 1-3: The Santa Elena Regatta in the Port Royal Sound, including the Jean Ribault Cup and Pedro Menéndez Cup
April 7: Parade to the Santa Elena History Center with third graders from Beaufort Elementary. The students will march down Bay St. and arrive at the center at 10:00 a.m. for a field trip.
April 15: The Santa Elena Conference 2016 will bring eminant historians and archeologists to the USCB Center for the Arts to present on a variety of topics related to Spanish Floria from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00p.m. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP at santa-elena.org.
April 21- April 30: The El Galeón, a 175-foot, 495-ton authentic wooden replica of a galleon that was part of Spain’s West Indies fleet will be docked in the Port Royal Sound and open for tours at the Port Royal Docks, at 1699 11th St. in Port Royal.
April 30: Grand Opening Celebration at The Santa Elena History Center at 1501 Bay St. including an exhibit ribbon-cutting at 11:00 a.m.. A Barbeque Festival will be held in the courtyard across North Street from the History Center from 12:00 p.m. To 3:00 p.m.