Historian recounts story of America’s Lost Century

The University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts, in partnership with the Santa Elena Foundation, will present a lecture delivered by Dr. Larry Rowland, local historian and professor emeritus at USCB, titled “The Story of Santa Elena: America’s Lost Century” at the university’s historic campus on Sunday, October 19, at 4 p.m.

The belief that the first settlement by Europeans in North America occurred in Jamestown or Plymouth is contradicted by the earlier explorations and conquests of the Spanish. “The discrepancy of denoting the location of the first settlement elsewhere is complicated, but best explained as a case of the English recording the story of North America before Florida’s history had chance to be uncovered. It was not until the 1920s that historians started recording the Spaniard occupation of territories in the New World,” says Rowland.

The story of Santa Elena has been neglected for the better part of 100 years, despite the exceptional efforts of historians and archaeologists.  “The story of Spanish colonization outside of the State of Florida is not well known while at the same time preserved as a matter of record for quite some time in the General Archive of the Indies in Seville, Spain,” says Andy Beall, executive director for the Santa Elena Foundation.

The story of Santa Elena has not caught fire previously, while the stories of Roanoke, Jamestown, and St. Augustine were promoted actively by local residents, organizations, and governments. “That Santa Elena laid buried under several feet of soil for the past 450 years is a likely explanation for why the story of the settlement is not well known.,” says Beall.

Dr. Rowland’s two-hour, interactive lecture on October 19 will bring to light the historic significance of the Spaniard presence in Beaufort County and will also reveal the many “firsts” recorded at Santa Elena, which include the first ship built in North America and the first church. The lecture will appeal to a wide audience and is intended to spark interest in local history as well as serve as a call to action to make the story of Santa Elena a part of the living history in Northern Beaufort County.

With the establishment of the Santa Elena Foundation Northern Beaufort County is poised uniquely to add another attribute of cultural heritage tourism to its roster. Perhaps the biggest benefits of cultural heritage tourism are diversification of local economies and preservation of a community’s unique character.  Based upon data from research studies by Dr. Robb Cary of Clemson University and Dr. John Salazar of USCB, the leaders of the Santa Elena Foundation believe a successful project may increase economic output from tourism by 5 percent to 20 percent in Beaufort, Port Royal, and Lady’s Island.

A ticket for the lecture costs $25 and can be ordered online at www.uscbcenterforthearts.com or by calling the box office at 843-521-4145.

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