In the 1660s several attempts were made by British-Barbadians to colonise the coast of Carolina. The Spanish had built a fort at Port Royal in the 1520s but had deserted the area in 1587, leaving the British with an opportunity to settle the area between Virginia and Florida. Sir John Yeamans, a planter, militia colonel, judge and council member of Barbados, was appointed governor of a colony which was attempted at Cape Fear in present-day North Carolina. Governor Yeamans left Lt Colonel Robert Sandford as Secretary of the Colony with orders to explore the region. While exploring, Sandford met a native leader who went on to play an important role in the history of South Carolina. John Peyre Thomas, Jr describes what happened in his article The Barbadians in Early South Carolina (first published in 1930 and recently republished in South Carolina and Barbados Connections: Selections from the South Carolina Historical Magazine:
One of the places [Sandford] visited was Port Royal and among the Indians who came to see him was a Cassique* of the country of Kiawah, who urged him to go to his country, assuring him of a broad and deep entrance and promising a large welcome and plentiful entertainment and trade. Sandford proceeded with his explorations, taking the Indian for a pilot, and finally found himself before the river that led into the country of Kiawah. He did not make a landing, though he was persuaded that it was an excellent country. He called the river Ashley in compliment to [Proprietor] Lord Ashley.
Sandford, having concluded his voyage, returned to the [Cape Fear colony at] Charles River, but the Barbadian settlement there [called Charles Town] was finally broken up and abandoned in the summer or fall of 1667.
…The failure of the settlement at Cape Fear and the glowing account which Sandford had given of the country at Port Royal in his Relation, published in 1666, induced the Proprietors to turn their attention to that part of the coast of Carolina.
In 1669 another expedition of three ships was sent to Carolina, reaching Bull’s Island.
The Cassique of Kiawah, presumably the same who had tried to persuade Sandford to visit the country of Kiawah, now again came to the ship and repeated the favorable accounts that had been given of his country. Taking the Indian with them, they sailed for Port Royal, where they made a short stay. However, no settlement as such was made at Port Royal. …The expedition then left Port Royal upon the arrival of the sloop procured at Bermuda and, after a stop at St. Helena and after much discussion, it was determined to favor the Kiawah country, and the vessels stood to the north and entered the waters forming what is now Charleston Harbor. The colonists landed from the Carolina and the Bermudan sloop early in April, 1670, in the country of Kiawah on the west bank of the river which Sandford, in passing had named the Ashley. …So it appears that an Indian chief, the Cassique of Kiawah, is responsible for the final location on the Ashley. In Narratives of Early Carolina, A. S. Salley, Jr., states that the pride which the Cassique of Kiawah took in his harbor and his country was responsible for the settling there of the first English colony in South Carolina, and he adds that the “same pardonable pride in the place is still characteristic of the inhabitants of the Kiawah country.’
*The title ‘cassique‘ was used in Carolina for the lesser nobility that the Proprietors intended to start in the colony as well as native tribal leaders.
Also see: Barbadians & anti-democracy in Carolina