On June 7, 1712, the South Carolina Commons House of Assembly passed an act designating all of the land between the Combahee and Savannah Rivers (most of modern Beaufort and Jasper Counties) as the parish of St. Helena. The new parish consisted of the mainland between the two rivers and the numerous Sea Islands off Port Royal and St. Helena Sounds. British settlers anglicized the name given to the area by early Spanish settlers, Santa Elena. Although the town of Beaufort on Port Royal Island was chartered in 1711, the town and parish did not grow substantially until after the Yamassee uprising was suppressed in the 1720s. The St. Helena’s Parish church was built in 1724 in Beaufort.
In 1745 Prince William’s Parish was created out of St. Helena’s Parish because of complaints by rice planters about the difficulty of traveling to Beaufort. Similar complaints led to the creation of St. Peter’s Parish in 1747 and St. Luke’s Parish in 1767. By 1767 St. Helena’s Parish consisted of only Port Royal, Ladys, and St. Helena Islands.
Indigo was the major cash crop grown on the islands before the American Revolution, but it was replaced by Sea Island cotton in the 1790s. Large numbers of slaves were brought to the parish to work the plantations. In 1830 there were 1,063 whites and 7,725 blacks in the parish, all but 65 of the latter of whom were slaves. The parish system was abolished by the South Carolina constitution of 1865, and St. Helena’s Parish fell under the jurisdiction of Beaufort District.
Linder, Suzanne Cameron. Anglican Churches in Colonial South Carolina: Their History and Architecture. Charleston, S.C.: Wyrick, 2000.
Rosengarten, Theodore. Tombee: Portrait of a Cotton Planter. New York: Morrow, 1986.
Rowland, Lawrence S., Alexander Moore, and George C. Rogers. The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina. Vol. 1, 1514–1861. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.