The Scots disembarked near present-day Beaufort, calling their settlement Stuart’s Town. The site was promising, but Stuart’s Town lay on the disputed frontier between rival Spanish and English claims. It was also occupied by several feuding Indian nations.
Stuart’s Town was a Scottish colony founded in 1684 and envisioned by the Lords Proprietors as a counterweight to the somewhat ungovernable English settlement at Charleston. Establishing New World colonies was difficult and dangerous work, but when the proprietors sought new settlers in 1680, they found willing recruits among Scots Covenanters (Presbyterians facing persecution for their adherence to the Covenant of 1638). The Covenanters wanted political autonomy and freedom of worship, and after securing guarantees from the Lords Proprietors, the new colonists set sail in March 1684.
The Scots disembarked near present-day Beaufort, calling their settlement Stuart’s Town. The site was promising, but Stuart’s Town lay on the disputed frontier between rival Spanish and English claims. It was also occupied by several feuding Indian nations. The colonists negotiated an alliance with one local nation, the Yamassee, and thereby inherited the Yamassees’ ongoing conflict with the Timucuans, who were under Spanish protection. Peace held for a few months, but in March 1685 several Scots accompanied a Yamassee raid against the Timucuans at Santa Catalina. The incursion earned little more than a few slaves but generated considerable Spanish wrath.
Retribution arrived in August 1686. Three Spanish galleys and some 150 troops overran Scottish defenses. The Spanish allowed the colonists to escape but thoroughly plundered the town before burning it. Their ships then headed north, toward the English settlements on the Ashley, which survived thanks to a providential storm that scattered the Spanish fleet. Charleston was saved, but Stuart’s Town–the first Covenanting colony–was not rebuilt.
Insh, George Pratt. Scottish Colonial Schemes, 1620–1686. Glasgow: Maclehose, Jackson, 1922.
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.