Historical & Museum Spanish Santa Elena

Santa Elena I

The initial colony of 1566-1576

After learning of the new French colony in Florida, the King of Spain sent Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to remove to remove them. In 1565, his forces attacked and destroyed Fort Caroline. In January 1566 Menéndez brought about 80 men with him to Parris Island and built a fort to ensure no future intruders returned.

By 1569 the Spanish colony grew to almost 200 men, women,and children, and Santa Elena became the capital of Spain’s "La Florida." Crops were raised and livestock tended, but food was often scarce. Supplies were infrequent. Disease took its toll.


Then, after Menéndez died in1574, Don Diego de Velasco became governor. Unpopular with the people he also could not getalong with local Indians. His actions soon led to warfare and Indians began attacking the colony. Hernando de Mirandatook control in February 1576, but it was too late to stop the violence. Undersiege by 500 Indians, the town’s women, many now widows, forced Miranda to abandon Santa Elena in late June 1576. All that remained was burnt to the ground.

Santa Elena II                                       

The second colony, 1577-1587

In October 1577 the Spanishreturned to Santa Elena. Pedro Menéndez-Marqués,the new governor, brought with him from St. Augustine a prefabricated wooden fort which was assembled in six days. From 1577 to 1580 the Spanish fought an aggressive war against those Indians involved in the 1576 attack.

By November 1580, the fighting subsided and Gutierre de Miranda became governor of Santa Elena. With over 400 residents, life in the colony was reasonably peaceful until 1584, when the English placed a colony on Roanoke Islandin North Carolina. In addition, the Englishman Francis Drake began attacking Spanish posts. These threats enticed the Spanish to builda new fort on Parris Island, Fort San Marcos, which is still partilly visible today. In June 1586, Drake attacked San Augustine. He then headed for Santa Elena, but a storm blew his fleet off course, saving the colony. Fearing his return, Santa Elena was abandoned in August 1587. Spain then concentrated its colonies at San Augustine, closer to Spanish strong holds in the Caribbean and Mexico and easier to get supplies from Europe.