Museum French Charlesfort

A French Colony on Parris Island, 1562-1563

On May 17, 1562 two French ships sailed into “one of the greatest and fiercest havens in the world.” Their leader, the Huguenot Jean Ribaut,named it Port Royal. Intent on founding the first Protestant colony in the New World, Ribaut erected a stone pillar to solidify France’s claim to the region. He selected Parris Island and set his men to constructing “Charlesfort.” Leaving about 30 men to prepare the colony, Ribaut returned to Europe for settlers and supplies. War in Europe, however, delayed his return. As the months passed, the men of Charlesfort lost hope and decided to return to France.

Building their own ship here on Parris Island, with the help of Indians for rope and food, the colonists sailed for France in the spring of 1563.

Months later, having run out of food and fresh water, alive only by eating a shipmate, about 20 survivors were rescued in the English Channel by the very expedition Ribaut had finally arranged to return to Parris Island. The new expedition did sail on, but instead of recolonizing Charlesfort, instead built Fort Caroline near today’s Jacksonville, Florida and established their new colony there.