Scroll through the most important moments throughout history involving the Santa Elena.
Columbus Describes His New Discovery1493
Columbus’ letter to Spain’s King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella describing his discovery of the western route to China and the Orient is published in Europe.
Media Credit: The Library of Congress Reading Room
SPAIN AND PORTUGAL DIVIDE THE NEW WORLD1494
Papal Bulls issued supporting the Treaty of Tordesillas which divided the New World between Spain and Portugal. The 1502 chart left, produced after South America was discovered, usefully depicts the Treaty line.
Columbus’ Fourth Expedition Produces Understanding of the New World1505
Columbus’ fourth expedition in 1503 produces his last understanding of the New World’s proximity to well-known Asia before his death. Rendered by Bartolommeo Columbus ca. 1505, note the proximity to Asia, the presence of Mondo Novo (South America) and the absence of any land mass north of Hispaniola and Cuba.Columbus’ fourth expedition in 1503 produces his last understanding of...
But There’s Something There…1511
Peter Martyr, tutor to Ferdinand’s and Isabella’s children, New World historian, and member of the Council of the Indies produced a map depicting the “New World” two years prior to Ponce de Leon’s discovery of La Florida and North America; the map suggests awareness of a land mass north of Cuba.
Balboa Crosses the Isthmus1513
Meanwhile, Spaniard Balboa crosses the Isthmus of Panama and discovers the “South Sea”; first inkling that the “Ocean Sea” may be two distinct oceans separated by a land mass.
First Europeans on the Carolina Coast1515
In search of slaves, Pedro de Salazar makes landfall northwest of the Bahamas; these are the first Europeans on the Carolina coast and first interaction with regional natives.
1519 - 1522
It’s Not Flat!1519 - 1522
Magellan and El Cano circumnavigate 1519-1522 confirming the “globe hypothesis” and additional information as to the major land mass separating the Atlantic from the Pacific.
- 1519 - 1522
A Colonial Marketing Plan1521
Francisco Gordillo (employed by Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón) & Pedro de Quejo transported ~60 natives from Winyah Bay (South Carolina) to the West Indies; In Spain, “Francisco el Chicorano” imparted tall tales of New World riches and wonders that resonate in Europe in concert with Ayllón’s colonial marketing plan.
Verazzano’s Survey of Eastern North America1523
Verazzano’s North American east coast survey establishes the perception of an Atlantic-Pacific maritime passage that will color European exploration ambitions through the 1580’s.
“Rio de la Cruz”1524
Under contract from Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, Pedro de Quejo conducts a coastal survey from Cumberland Island, Georgia beyond Cape Fear, NC; “La Punta de Santa Elena” (Savannah River-Tybee Island) is first reported by Quejo in May as “Rio de la Cruz” which may have later been rendered to Christianity’s finder of the true cross, Santa Elena.
Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón with ~500 colonists lands in the vicinity of South Santee River, SC, then loses his flagship and many supplies. During a reconnaissance for a better location, the current Port Royal Sound is named as “Santa Elena” on 18 August. With “La Florida”, it is one of the longest-lived European place names in continuous use in America.
Santa Elena is first depicted on European charts in 1526.
First European Municipality San Miguel de Gualdape1526
The first European municipality on US soil, San Miguel de Gualdape, is believed to have existed south of Santa Elena ~4 months, but imprecise navigation, geographic ignorance, and poor records, later combined with Spanish artifacts found among natives by DeSoto, reinforced the belief that Ayllón had settled in the vicinity of Santa Elena.The first European municipality on US soil, San Miguel de...
First African Slaves Imported on What is Now US Soil1526
The first African slaves imported on US soil were among the San Miguel Gualdape colonists and the first European-built boat in the US was constructed by the colonists during the expedition.The first African slaves imported on US soil were among...
Nárvaez’ Expedition to Find a Northern Connection to Mexico1528
Pánfilo de Nárvaez with around 400 people lands near Tampa and sets out overland in search of a northern port connection with Mexico. After eight months, only four survived including Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca who walked to Mexico City arriving in 1536; and Juan Ortiz who was found living with natives near Tampa by DeSoto in 1539.Pánfilo de Nárvaez with around 400 people lands near Tampa...
Santa Elena Included on the Latest Spanish Charts1529
Diogo de Ribeiro updated the “padron general” master map of the ever-expanding explored world to include “Santa Elena” as referenced in the 1525-26 Ayllón-sponsored voyages. Some European maps were openly published, but Spain and Portugal considered such maps to be highly classified.
English Act of Supremacy, and French Explorations of North American coast1534
King Henry VIII’s “Act of Supremacy” leads to establishment of the Church of England.
Frenchman Jacques Cartier conducts explorations of North American coast 1534 & 1536.King Henry VIII’s “Act of Supremacy” leads to establishment of...
Settlement in America Becomes a ‘Space Race’1535
French King Francis I is alleged to have gotten Papal clarification that sovereignty depended not on claims or earlier Papal Bulls, but on effective occupation.
American settlement became a European “space race”.
Cabeza de Vaca1536
Cabeza de Vaca, survivor of the 1528 Narvaez attempt arrives in Mexico City on 24 July with information describing terrain and natives along the Gulf Coast from Tampa to the Mississippi and Texas and into Mexico. He hints at rich provinces north of Mexico, and perhaps in peninsular Florida.
1539 - 1543
Gold and Silver Discovered in Peru; Silver Mines in Mexico1539 - 1543
Concurrently, Hernando DeSoto and 600+ trek through the U.S. southeast; Juan Ortiz, survivor of the 1528 Narvaez colony attempt, was found living with Native Americans near current Tampa and was incorporated into the expedition.
DeSoto found Spanish artifacts on the upper reaches of the Wateree River near current Camden, SC and incorrectly assumed that this was the “Rio de Santa Elena” that Ayllón’s San Miguel Gualdape had settled upon.
The survivors of the “reconnaissance in force” arrived in New Spain (Mexico) in 1543 and resulted in the production of a map which included the depiction of Santa Elena though De Soto never saw Port Royal Sound before his death on the banks of the Mississippi in 1542.Concurrently, Hernando DeSoto and 600+ trek through the U.S. southeast;...
- 1540 - 1542
1541 - 1543
Ill-fated French Colony Near Present-day Quebec1541 - 1543
Jacques Cartier and about 500 colonists establish Charlesbourg-Royal at Cap-Rouge near present-day Quebec, Canada; settlement lasted less than two years.
Henry II and Catherine de Medici Assume Thrones of France1547
Henry II and Catherine de Medici assume the French throne. He “worked through his twelve year reign to stamp out Protestantism in France”. Despite royal repression, exiled John Calvin’s writings cause a groundswell of Protestant growth.Henry II and Catherine de Medici assume the French throne....
Rescued from Native Americans after 10 years1549
Dominican mission to Florida Gulf Coast under Father Cancer recovers Juan Muñoz, member of the De Soto expedition who was captured by Native Americans in 1539.
Historia General de las Indias Published1552
Francisco Lopez de Gómara’s Historia general de las Indias is printed at Zaragoza. It brings together the Punta de Santa Elena and Ayllon’s tales about “Chicora” – the interior of the southeast. Other books are printed during this decade, suggesting possible riches inland with the Punta de Santa Elena as the entry point.
Prince Philip II Arranged Marriage with England’s Mary Tudor1554
Spain’s Prince Philip II requests Pedro Menendez de Aviles, a premier mariner of Spain, to accompany him to his arranged marriage with England’s Mary Tudor. Menendez de Aviles receives his second Royal marque authorizing him to fight corsairs in the Indies.Spain’s Prince Philip II requests Pedro Menendez de Aviles, a...
Santa Elena-centric Strategy Established by King Philip II1557
Royal grant issued to New Spain Viceroy Velesco to settle La Florida including the vicinity of Santa Elena.
In a royal decree 9 December 1557, Philip II established Santa Elena-centric strategy that drove Spanish activities for twenty-seven years.Royal grant issued to New Spain Viceroy Velesco to settle...
Protestantism grows, Hugeuenots Hold First National Synod1559
Philip II reemphasizes Santa Elena-centric strategy that would drive Spanish activities for twenty five years- Insists “La Punta de Santa Elena must be the first of all the La Florida settlements”.
In accordance with Philip II’s Santa Elena strategy, Viceroy of New Spain launches Tristan de Luna and 1500 people to attempt a two-phased colonization operation; establish a base at Pensacola-Mobile Bay (“Polonza”) so as to open an overland route to establish a sea-port colony on Santa Elena. The attempt failed as of April 1561 (~18 months).
Protestantism grows; Huguenots hold their first national synod in France.Philip II reemphasizes Santa Elena-centric strategy that would drive Spanish...
England Challenges Treaty of Tordesillas1560
England challenges the Treaty of Tordesillas: The Pope’s domain is of the spiritual world and does not have the authority to give or take away earthly kingdoms.
Ten-year old Charles IX (Catherine de Medici’s son) assumes the French throne.
New Spain’s (Mexico’s) Attempts to Reach Punta de Santa Elena Fail1561
Based on Luna’s failure to complete the overland road, the viceroy of New Spain (Mexico) dispatches Angel de Villafañe with orders that “a settlement be made with all haste at Punta de Santa Elena.” Villafañe abandoned the expedition & reported there was no harbor at Santa Elena which strongly suggests Villafañe was at the wrong place, or was trying to avoid responsibility for not making a settlement and generally trying to end the entire venture.
On 23 September, Philip II ordered the New Spain authorities to report on the truthfulness that Santa Elena was unsuitable for settlement but better prospects might be found north of 35 degrees (Cape Hatteras). The 1562 replies affirmed that conclusion underscoring New Spain’s antipathy towards Atlantic Coast settlement.Based on Luna’s failure to complete the overland road, the...
Jean Ribault explores the harbor, names it Port Royal, establishes Charlesfort1562
Huguenot and premier French mariner, Jean Ribault, explores the Florida-Georgia coast 1-15 May, takes soundings, finds Santa Elena 16 May and renames the harbor “Port Royal” as the “one of the fairest havens of the world”. Emplaces a stone monument and leaves around 26 men at Charlesfort (the first Protestant-related settlement attempt), returning to France for reinforcements.Huguenot and premier French mariner, Jean Ribault, explores the Florida-Georgia...
Charlesfort abandoned, leaving Guillaume Rouffi behind1563
Around 22 remaining Frenchmen build a boat and abandon Charlesfort, leaving cabin boy Guillaume Rouffi to live with the Orista Indians.
Jean Ribaut writes The Whole & True Discouerye of Terra Florida during his Tower of London imprisonment while seeking English support to reinforce Charlesfort.
Pedro Menendez’ son, Juan, is lost at sea, possibly on the east coast of La Florida.
Around 22 remaining Frenchmen build a boat and abandon Charlesfort,...
French Establish Fort Caroline on St. John’s River1564
Galileo Galilei is born 15 February. His greatest works are still fifty years in the future.
Spanish Captain Manrique de Rojas explores La Florida coast from near present-day Jacksonville northward to find Charlesfort on Santa Elena in June. Manrique captures Rouffi, removes Ribault’s French monument, and returns both to Havana on 10 July.
A second French expedition, under Laudonniere, establishes Fort Caroline on the St. John’s River 22 June with 150 soldiers and 50 civilians including four women.
A reinforcement ship arrives on 4 September, adding some colonists and removing others.
First European children born in North America (at least 8) in 1565
Guillaume Rouffi used as interpreter during Governor Mazariegos’ interrogation of eleven French-Fort Caroline deserters at Havana on 22 December.Galileo Galilei is born 15 February. His greatest works are...
Marooned Mariners Found Living with Natives After 15 Years1565
Laudonniere finds two Spaniards (Martin Gomez) shipwrecked “fifteen years earlier” off SW Florida, living with Indians in the vicinity of present-day Canaveral.
He sends Captain Thomas Vasseur to Port Royal Sound to make contact with Orista Indians. The Orista send corn and news that the Spanish had captured Rouffi.Laudonniere finds two Spaniards (Martin Gomez) shipwrecked “fifteen years earlier”...
Menendez Ordered to Eliminate Fort Caroline1565
Pedro Menendez de Aviles’ 22 March La Florida contract to settle Santa Elena is subsequently modified with orders to first eliminate the French incursion at Fort Caroline.
English Privateer Hawkins Lands at Fort Caroline1565
English privateer John Hawkins (future commander of Sir Francis Drake) lands at Ft Caroline on 3 August with Frenchman Martin Atinas, a survivor of the 1563 Charlesfort transatlantic raft trip.
Ribault’s French Convoy Lands at Fort Caroline1565
Ribault’s seven-ship colonial reinforcement convoy (700 men and 200 women) arrives at Ft Caroline 28 August.
Menendez Establishes San Agustín, Marches to Take Fort Caroline1565
Menendez off-loads troops on 8 September, thereby establishing San Agustín. Guided by a 1564 Fort Caroline mutineer, Francoise Jean, they march 3 days to capture Ft Caroline on 20 September.
On 29 September Menendez executes 111 Huguenots and takes around 15 French Catholics prisoner at Matanzas. On 12 October, Menendez executes Jean Ribault and an additional 70-150 Huguenots at Matanzas.
Some reports alleged Ribault’s red-beard “face scalp” was sent to Philip II, inciting French-Spanish animus and reinforcing the “Black Legend “of Spanish monstrosity echoed in Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.Menendez off-loads troops on 8 September, thereby establishing San Agustín....
Menendez Returns to Havana for Supplies1565
Menendez discovered the near-shore south-flowing current in the Gulfstream probably first used by Ponce de Leon; returned from La Florida to Havana for supplies in December.
Menendez establishes La Ciudad de San Salvador (Santa Elena)1566
Pedro Menendez de Aviles found Hernando Escalante Fontanza and other survivors of a 1546 ship wreck living amongst Native Americans in Southwest Florida. Chief (cacique) “Carlos” gives Menendez his sister, Dona Antonia, as a wife; Menendez moves her to Havana.
Menendez resupplies San Agustín on 21 March, moves northward in early April to find “Guermo”, a French survivor of Ribault’s September 1565 shipwreck, with the native Guale near St Catherine’s Island (he is executed as a heretic Lutheran.)
Menendez then establishes La Ciudad de San Salvador (Santa Elena) on the site of Charlesfort in late April. Guillaume Rouffi (cabin boy for Ribault 1562) is incorporated from Havana as guide and Orista interpreter.Pedro Menendez de Aviles found Hernando Escalante Fontanza and other...
1566 - 1570
Esteban de las Alas Named Governor of Santa Elena1566 - 1570
In August, Pedro Menendez designated Esteban de las Alas as Governor of Santa Elena and “Capitan General of La Florida”; Esteban conducted his duties from Santa Elena 1566-1570.
Juan Pardo Explores Present-day Carolinas as far as the Appalachians1566
Juan Pardo makes his first exploration of the Southeast, establishes garrisons at the base of the Appalachian Mountains. The largest is Fort San Juan near present-day Morganton, NC.Juan Pardo makes his first exploration of the Southeast, establishes...
Juan Pardo’s Second Expedition to the Interior1567
Juan Pardo leads a second expedition from Santa Elena to the interior.
Based on Juan Pardo’s reports, Pedro Menendez selects the area near Guatari (Hickory, NC) as the future site of his 75 mile X 75 mile estate specified in his 1565 La Florida contract.
Santa Elena Receives 225 More Colonists1568
Phase II of colonization plan – 225 civilian settlers depart Spain in October, 193 of which were in Santa Elena by August 1569. A smaller number went to San Agustin.
French and Indians Collaborate in Revenge Attack on the Spanish1568
Frenchman De Gourgues collaborates with Native Americans to execute a revenge raid against the Spanish at San Mateo (former Ft Caroline).Frenchman De Gourgues collaborates with Native Americans to execute a...
Santa Elena has Over 40 houses1569
By October, Santa Elena has 327 residents (around 200 are civilian settlers) with 40 houses. Jesuit missionary work among Native Americans near Santa Elena is initiated by Father Juan Rogel.
Christian Mission Set Out for Vicinity of Future Jamestown1570
Father Juan de Segura mission (with Native American, Don Luís de Velasco) departs to vicinity of future Jamestown on Bahia Santa Maria (Chesapeake).Father Juan de Segura mission (with Native American, Don Luís...
Santa Elena Becomes Capital City of La Florida1571
Segura mission is murdered (with one survivor harbored by friendly tribe).
Santa Elena becomes the capital city of La Florida upon arrival of Pedro Menendez and family, where they established residence in July.
The Influence of Artist Jacques LeMoyne1571
About this time, artist Jacques LeMoyne, survivor of the 1564-1565 Ft Caroline colony renders knowledge of La Florida as he and Laudonniere would have known it. Before his death in 1588 LeMoyne worked for Sir Walter Raleigh, so this chart, and its perpetuation of Verrazano’s inland sea myth, would have influenced England’s earliest New World colonization planning.
Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris1572
Admiral Coligny, Huguenot sponsor of French colonization attempts to 1555 Brazil, 1562 Charlesfort, and 1564-65 Fort Caroline, is murdered in Paris with thousands of Protestants on 24 August. The Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre was orchestrated by the Catholic Duke of Guise and Catherine de Medici.
Santa Elena Evacuated After Clashes with Alienated Natives1576
Pedro Menendez the Younger (nephew) and other officials killed at Guale (vicinity St Catherine’s Island) while delivering payroll to Santa Elena.
Leadership passes from Don Diego Velesco to an even less capable son-in–law Hernando de Miranda. Velasco and then Miranda alienates the Indians around Santa Elena and that led to attacks. Miranda allows Santa Elena and Fort San Felipe (I) to be evacuated and destroyed by regional Indian uprising in July 1576. Most settlers are sent to Havana; the formal government and a few settlers moved to San Agustín.Pedro Menendez the Younger (nephew) and other officials killed at...
1576 - 1577
Founder’s Nephew, Pedro Menendez Marques, Appointed Governor1576 - 1577
Santa Elena is converted to a Crown Colony.
Pedro Menendez Marques (the founder’s nephew) is appointed governor by Philip II and arrives at San Agustín in July 1577.Santa Elena is converted to a Crown Colony. Pedro Menendez...
1576 - 1579
French shipwreck near site of Santa Elena; a fort is built1576 - 1579
French ship, “Le Prince”, under Captain Strozzi, is shipwrecked in vicinity of Santa Elena in December. A fort is built near St Helena Sound.
Eventually the Frenchmen are dispersed in multiple Indian villages around Port Royal Sound, Guale near Saint Catherine’s Island, and with the Cherokee beyond the Appalachians through 1579.French ship, “Le Prince”, under Captain Strozzi, is shipwrecked in...
Spanish Military Re-occupy Santa Elena1577- 1587
Pedro Menendez Marques arrived at San Agustín in July. Spanish military reoccupied and rebuilt Santa Elena.
Fort San Marcos (I) is built as a pre-fabricated fort in San Agustín, transported to Santa Elena and assembled on the Santa Elena site. Later, Fort San Marcos (II) was built with a water-filled moat closer to the shoreline ~1583, then dismantled on 16 August 1587.
1577 - 1580
Francis Drake heads for the New World to plunder, winds up sailing around the world1577 - 1580
Privateer Frances Drake departs England to plunder Spanish New World riches and ends up circumnavigating the globe. Investors gain a 470% return at Spaniard’s expense of treasure and detailed charts. It is impossible to suppress knowledge of the feat, Queen Elizabeth gives up pretention of disinterested detachment, and endorses Drake through knighthood in 1581, thereby adding to the growing tension with Spain’s Philip II.Privateer Frances Drake departs England to plunder Spanish New World...
The end of Le Prince survivors1579
Spanish military under Pedro Menendez Marques eliminate pockets of French Le Prince survivors and execute Le Prince Captain Strozzi in San Agustín.
Civilian Settlers Return to Santa Elena1580
Civilian settlers return to Santa Elena; “La Florida” government remained in San Agustín, but Santa Elena expanded to 60 houses, though many of these were occupied by soldiers and their families, not civilian settlers.
San Agustín Sacked by Sir Francis Drake1586
Enroute to his primary target of Santa Elena, San Agustín (population about 280, of which 205 are civilians) is sacked by Sir Francis Drake and stripped of all iron, doors, and other useful items.
Santa Elena is spared by navigational chance as Drake may have sailed past La Punta de Santa Elena at night.
After by-passing Santa Elena, Drake evacuated Lane and the Roanoke Colony in June.
Santa Elena is abandoned again; Spanish consolidate at San Agustín1587
Pedro Menendez Marques is ordered to find and destroy the English incursion at Roanoke in June.
Against settler protests, Santa Elena abandoned in August, consolidating La Florida settlement around St. Agustín. Spanish missionaries continued to visit the Sea Islands until 1684.Pedro Menendez Marques is ordered to find and destroy the...
Philip II orders map of the New World updated1593
Philip II orders an update to the map of the New World consolidating all geographic knowledge gained through the 80 years of Spanish experience in America.
The English Arrive at Jamestown1607
Armed with the knowledge and experience gained during the 16th Century, around 100 English arrive at Jamestown.
The Jamestown leaders would have had direct access to the work of artist Jacques LeMoyne and the map at left, which was drafted by John White upon his 1586 return to England aboard Drake’s Golden Hind from the Ralph Lane Roanoke colonization attempt.
Note the slight misplacement of Saint Helena to the NE of Port Royal underscoring imperfections in primary source transcription and/or navigation.
Jamestown Colony Secures Second Round of iInvestment1609
Second charter of the Virginia Company, around 200 investors support Jamestown colony. An innovation: colonial venture financing.Second charter of the Virginia Company, around 200 investors support...
Harry Woodward Becomes First English Settler in the Carolinas1666
Under the auspices of the Lords Proprietor, ship’s surgeon Henry Woodward arrives at Port Royal Sound to become the first English settler of the Carolinas.
Woodward lived among the Indians, but was eventually taken by the Spanish to San Agustín, picked up by pirates, shipwrecked in Nevis, then joined the 1670 Lords Proprietor settlement fleet bound for Port Royal Sound.Under the auspices of the Lords Proprietor, ship’s surgeon Henry...
English colonists arrive, find Spanish-speaking Native Americans, relocate to found Charles Towne1670
English colonists arrived at Port Royal Sound to find Spanish-speaking Indians and learn of Spanish fort and missions on nearby coast to south. Colonists divert settlement north to establish Charles Town, founded as first English colony in what is today South Carolina.English colonists arrived at Port Royal Sound to find Spanish-speaking...
Spanish fleet eliminates Scottish settlement at Stuart Town1686
Spanish fleet arrives in Port Royal Sound to enforce territorial claims to La Florida and eliminates the Scottish settlement at Stuart Town.
The Spanish ships continue northward to burn Charleston, but a storm defeats the Spanish fleet.Spanish fleet arrives in Port Royal Sound to enforce territorial...