Once the Indians had been subdued, settlers returned to Santa Elena. Bernaldo de Quirós rebuilt the town during his tenure, and when he departed in November, 1580, the town contained more than thirty houses. By 1580, the population of Santa Elena had grown to about 400 people; there were no settlers at St. Augustine at this time.
Gutierre de Miranda resumed his command at Santa Elena in November, 1580, and he built a sizable estate nearby. Following the defeat of local Indian populations, existence in Santa Elena was relatively peaceful, and it is easy to imagine that the people residing there must have had great optimism concerning their future in this new land.
This optimism may have been shaken by word of an English settlement to the north. In 1584, the English made their first effort to claim part of Spanish Florida by settling a colony at Roanoke on the North Carolina coast.
Two years after that first attempted settlement at Roanoke, word arrived in Florida that Francis Drake and a large expeditionary force had attacked several major Spanish settlements in the Caribbean, and that he might be intent on an attack against Florida. As a result of this warning, an effort was made to strengthen fortifications at both St. Augustine and Santa Elena. Gutierre de Miranda undertook the work at Santa Elena, and soon Fort San Marcos was surrounded by a newly excavated moat, reinforced curtain walls, and new casemates and gun platforms. A contemporary diagram detailing the work accomplished by Miranda at Fort San Marcos. In June, 1586, an English fleet commanded by Francis Drake attacked and destroyed the town of St. Augustine. Santa Elena was not subjected to attack by Drake. The destruction of St. Augustine forced the Spaniards to consolidate their limited supplies and personnel in a single Florida outpost, and St. Augustine was chosen due to its proximity to Cuba. Santa Elena was abandoned in the summer of 1587; the town and fort were dismantled, and materials not worthy of salvage were burned.
Following this second abandonment, Santa Elena was never reoccupied. In the subsequent decades, the Spanish maintained a series of missions extending along the Georgia coast with priests occasionally visiting the Indians in the vicinity of Santa Elena, but the town of Santa Elena was never reestablished.
The Charlesfort/Santa Elena Project