Parris Island is home to U.S. the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, but many before have occupied this historic islet.
Parris Island is four mile south of the City of Beaufort, South Carolina. It was first colonized by Europeans in 1562. A French expedition, led by Jean Ribaut, temporarily settled on the island. This was the first semi-permanent European settlement in what are now considered the United States. Four years later, Spanish Conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded a town named Santa Elena on the island. It was the capital of La Florida from 1566 to 1587, during which time Spanish explorers sailed from Santa Elena to explore the Tennessee Valley and Chesapeake Bay. An expedition also traveled overland into the interior to western North Carolina and points west.
After coming under English control, they granted the island to Robert Daniell in 1706. It became known as Port Royal Island. It later came into the hands of Colonel Alexander Parris, sometimes spelled “Paris”, Public Treasurer of South Carolina. After his death in 1736, it gradually became known as Parris Island (and the name Port Royal Island was applied to a different one to the north). In the early years of the Marine Corps presence, they referred to it as Paris Island.
The Union Army captured Parris Island in 1861 during the Civil War.
It became a coaling station during the war. After the war, through the efforts of African-American Congressman Robert Smalls, it continued as a coaling station for the US Navy. It became known as the Port Royal Naval Station. The Navy purchased the island outright in 1883. In the early 1890s, he naval station constructed a dry dock.
In 1915, Parris Island became the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, which it has remained ever since. About 19,000 Marines pass through boot camp every year. The general public is welcome visit the Parris Island Museum and observe the 3,000-acre training center and recruit training in non-restricted.
The National Register of Historic Places cites the Charlesfort-Santa Elena Site and Parris Island Drydock and Commanding Generals House on its list.