The History of Stuarts Town

Stuarts Town, 1684

"Some deputies from Scotland came here to look at the country which pleased them very much; they bought two counties, or provinces, and are preparing to bring over 10,000 people to settle them; I have no doubt that a number of others will follow shortly, people arrive every day from all parts to inhabit this country. That will make Carolina powerful and flourishing in a very short time."

- Louis Thibou, Huguenot refugee in Charles Town, 1683

In October of 1684, roughly 150 Scottish colonists landed at Charles Towne on board a commercial vessel, the Carolina Merchant. They were the first of three ships bound for the colonies, in hopes of establishing what they thought would be a permanent settlement composed of people fleeing religious persecution in their homeland.

One month later, on November 2, 1684, a group of 51 settlers led by William Dunlop and Lord Cardross disembarked on Port Royal Island. A town was surveyed with 220 house lots with garden space and an additional 50-acre farm tract assigned to each household. These lots were taken up slowly; these immigrants encountered many challenges in their transport across the Atlantic, and still others once they arrived in Charles Towne (present-day Charleston).

Within a year 41 house lots were taken up with an additional unknown number claimed in the second year of occupation. A church was constructed first, followed by a home for Henry Erskine, Lord Cardross, the leader of the settlement. The minister’s dwelling followed before any other work was done. A fort was built for defense, because there was always the threat of attack by Carolina’s enemies, the Spaniards, who resided in St. Augustine some 200 miles to the south. An unknown number of houses were then built with some reported to be as “good as in all Charlestoun.”

Despite their planning, the colony did not thrive. By the summer of 1686, only two dozen settlers remained. An uneasy relationship had developed between Stuarts Town and surrounding settlements. Due to their support of local Yamasee Indians in a raid on a Spanish mission, the Scots soon incited an attack by Spaniards. On August 17, 1686, a contingent of Spaniards and their Indian allies arrived at Port Royal, routed the colonists, and destroyed Stuarts Town, burning its houses, fields, orchards, and fort. Stuarts Town was never reoccupied.