Santa Elena was settled by families transplanted from Spain. The local economy was dominated by farmers, artisans, and merchants, but poor land, a lack of supplies, and increasingly hostile relations with local Native American groups (largely as result of the community’s poor leadership) resulted in the settlement’s abandonment in 1576. In an effort to thwart French designs on the area and to reduce attacks on Spanish fleets, Spain established a new fort, San Marcos, near the former Fort San Felipe in 1577. In the next few years, a new influx of Spanish colonists rebuilt Santa Elena. They farmed better land farther inland; the community flourished and grew larger than the former colony of Santa Elena. Nevertheless, after Sir Francis Drake burned St. Augustine, Spanish officials determined that resources should be devoted exclusively to the southern region, and in 1587 ordered residents of Santa Elena to destroy the fort, as well as their homes, and to abandon the settlement.
While Spain made no further efforts to establish permanent settlements in South Carolina, Franciscan friars from missions farther south continued to visit Native American communities in South Carolina, an effort began by Jesuits in 1568. A Yemassee Indian revolt against the Franciscan missions on the Georgia sea islands slowed these missionary efforts in South Carolina, and Spain’s
attention to the region subsided after failed efforts to rebuild Santa Elena in the early seventeenth century.
The Spain-South Carolina connection resurfaced during the American Revolution. In 1776, Francis Salvador, a businessman in Charleston, South Carolina, whose ancestors had fled Spain along with other Sephardic Jews, fought on the U.S. side and died in the Revolutionary War. Jorge Farragut, a South Carolinian who had migrated to the area from the Spanish island of Minorca, fought in the South Carolina navy and also was among the first Latino Revolutionary War heroes. The South Carolina navy also collaborated with Spanish forces in Cuba during the war to protect South Carolina’s coast.
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