Vicar's Note: Many friends have inquired about the inspiration for the name of St. James-Santee. At long last, we can shed some light on our namesake - Ap. 1, 2013.
(Okay, we can now admit that this was an April Fool's Day post - ed. 4/5/13)
(Okay, we can now admit that this was an April Fool's Day post - ed. 4/5/13)
Life of St. James Santee by Bruneau Chastaigner
Recent research on the first settlers of St. James Santee Parish has uncovered interesting information about the French Protestant refugees who sailed up the Santee River in January, 1687 and established a settlement on a 25 foot high limestone bluff about 25 miles from the mouth of the river.
Even more exciting for the Parish and the congregation is the identity of the person for whom the parish was named. Congregants and historians have long pondered the identity of St. James Santee and we can now say with certainty and assurance who he was and give a brief biography of his life.
As is true for a number of the early French Protestant immigrants, it is often difficult to find documentation for their lives, beyond a few mentions in deeds and other documents. However, recent excavations of an Indian settlement located in the wilds of Hell Hole Swamp have yielded tantalizing clues as to the life and death of an eighteenth century man who until this discovery had been hidden in the mists of time. We will begin with what was known before the startling discovery in Hell-hole Swamp. 
Stories about descendants of the first European explorers to establish a foothold in Carolina have long abounded – stories centered around a cabin boy who was part of the garrison left at Charlesfort (located on what is now known as the Parris Island Marine Corps Facility near Beaufort, SC) when Jean Ribaut returned to France in 1562. All that was known of this young lad, named Jacques and aged about 14 years when his compatriots set sail for France the following year in a makeshift boat, is that he had been sent to stay with Native Americans near Charlesfort, in an effort by the desperate French garrison to remain on friendly terms with the neighboring tribes who were being influenced by Spanish conquistadors, notably Hernando de Manrique de Rojas who commanded the Spanish force in Cuba. With Jacques was another young French Protestant boy named Henri.
The two young French Protestants, whose surnames have never been found, had been with the Native American tribe for about two weeks when he and several young tribesmen were sent inland to undergo cleansing rituals pursuant to their being accepted as full adult members of the tribe. A few days after the young men had left the settlement, word arrived that that they should return to Charlesfort, but by that time even the most valued Native American scouts could not find their trail – a heavy rain had washed out all trace of it and what was left of the French garrison set sail without its youngest members. Later that year Hernando de Manrique de Rojas commanded the Spanish ships which were sent to destroy the remains of Charlesfort. In this they succeeded and reports of the expedition include one passage which refers to their discovery and apprehension of a young French boy whom they found living near the fort. He was taken by the Spaniards and his fate is unknown. The Spanish records make no mention of his name or of another European boy.
Until the recent discovery of a worn dispatch case in a shell midden on a small knoll in the depths of Hell-hole Swamp the above is all that was known of young Jacques, abandoned in the wilds of pre-Colonial Carolina before the land even bore that name. The notes and memoir contained in the dispatch case have changed that and its discovery adds immensely to the early history of South Carolina. The existence of the shell midden was long-suspected, but was only discovered by hunters last fall. Its excavation is on-going, under utmost secrecy to protect the delicate nature of the work, but the contents of the dispatch case have been shared with the Parish of St. James Santee due to the details and their intimate connection with the history of this place.
The aforesaid dispatch case contained, wrapped in well-greased bearskin, a small notebook written in French. With it were found several letters which offer corroboration of the story which follows. The quotes from the notebook and letters have been carefully transcribed and are as accurate as such items can be under the circumstance. Future study may help with some of the more obscure passages, but in the interest of public disclosure it is imperative that this finding be made known now.
The notebook found in the dispatch case includes entries made by several different hands beginning with a short entry dated “Fall, possibly October, 1563,” evidently written by someone in a state of great emotion, as its contents show the writer must have been. The entry, translated from the French, is as follows. “Henri was taken by Spanish soldiers last week – I watched, but could do nothing to save him – they burned the fort, what remained of it and left with Henri. I am alone here, except for my native companions, on whom I now depend for my life.”
The next entry is dated “Summer 1567, possibly August,” and reads as follows,
I have kept track as best I could of the years, but the months and days escape me – I estimate them by examination of vegetation and stages of the moon, things I scarcely noticed until my stay here. I write because I have heard news which should distress me, but which comes as a relief in some way. Until now, I have not seen the need for writing – now I thank my Lord that I was taught my letters by my loving parents and continued my learning by keeping the ship’s log for our Captain and writing letters for the crew members. Several months past, spies from the Westoes were captured – I know because I was with the party which captured them. I learned that a French fort built leagues south of this place some years past, the news kept from me until now for fear I would try to escape to them, was attacked by Spanish forces some two years past and the French garrison massacred. The Spanish then rebuilt the fort and another one, both of which were recently, not two moons past, attacked and destroyed by a French fleet, identified by me as the Westoe captives described the flags, colors and armor. Having passed some four years with this tribe and being now held in regard and esteem by them, having married by their custom and now being father of two young children, I have cast my lot here and find myself strangely relieved to have escaped the need to decide between my former life and this one now afforded me – and at peace. I have not abandoned the faith taught me by my dear parents, nor shall I abandon my heritage. I have somewhat learned the language of my new people, but I speak French to my wife who has learned a little of it and I will continue to do so with my children. My Bible affords me great solace and is the only item I have left from my former life. Until this incident, I did not see the need for writing, but I now understand that, if not in my time here, at some time in the future this story may bring solace to others.
My first son, named Henri for my lost former companion, was born a year previous in the fall of 1566. He came to being in the settlement camp of the Cassiqe of Kiawah with whom we have friendly relations.
Spring, 1568 - my second son, named Jacques, was born in our settlement some seven days journey north of Charlesfort from where we moved when the Spanish began building a fort there. It is part of the land traversed by the Kiawah and Sewee in their movements during the year.
Autumn, 1570 – my daughter, named Isabella for my mother, was born. Both she and my first-born son Henri died some months later, before the real cold began. They were accorded the rites according to the custom of my tribe, their bones now placed in jars beneath the soil of my new land. I said prayers over them as best I could in my native language.
1581 – my wife died in the hottest part of the year. She was a true Christian, although not baptized as such. My son Jacques is now about the age I was when I left my family in Languedoc and sailed for this land. He is ready to become a man according to the custom of our people. I have taught him my native language as best I can and to write and read from the book of Holy Scriptures which I have had with me since I left France. serves us well.
1591 – my grandson Jacques was born – he has the same red hair of my grandfather and my son Henri.
1594 – the birth of my granddaughter Isa.
There are more entries in the same hand until the following entry, “Spring 1601, my father Jacques died this morning during our yearly gathering with the Kiawah. My family is now settled north of here on the banks of Bowat, south of Avendebaw, home of my dear wife and birthplace of our son Jacques. I have tried to continue the teachings of my father. My daughter learns well, but Jacques is not as attentive.”
This entry is followed by an entry which is thought to read as follows. “My first son, named Henri for the lost son of my grandfather, was born during the great storm of 1635. He lived two days and followed his mother.
My second son, named Jacques for my grandfather, my father and myself, was born during the coldest season in 1638.” These entries were both written in a third hand, much less legible than the former two.
The third writer made several more entries and then recorded that his father, Jacques, son of Ribaut’s cabin boy, died during a hurricane in the year 1640, possibly during the month of September, while his tribe was camped at a settlement some 15 miles inland from the mouth of the Santee River, as best as can be determined from the sketchy notes and drawings in the notebook.
From other entries, it appears that the third writer married at least twice, and possibly three times and that his children were born and lived on the Santee. His entries continue until the final one in his hand which is as follows, “In the year 1670 during the time when the trees are greening and the wild turkeys raise their young, three large ships such as brought my grandfather to this land, as was told to me when I was young, entered the big Sewee waters. I saw them with my son Jacques and my grandson Jacques. They all spoke a different language than that taught me by my father and grandfather, but there was one who answered me when I addressed him with the words of my grandfather. They left to live below us with the Kiawah tribe. We remain with the Sewee, the tribe of my mothers.”
Following this and entered in the fourth hand found in the notebook is, “I, Jacques of the Sewee, record the death of my father, Jacques, during the time when the river ran high between the great cold and the great heat in the year 1671.” The next entries appear to record various excursions made to “a settlement begun by the new people near our Kiawah allies.” The fourth writer includes descriptions of “waters full of the white ones large vessels” and alludes to problems between the “white ones” and his people.
Several pages of the notebook are badly damaged at this point and will need to be conserved before there is any hope of deciphering them, if that is even possible. The legible entries begin again with the following, “1681, at the time the bear disappear before the deep cold comes, my mother followed my father, my wife followed them and took with her my son and daughter. I do not know who will be the guardian of this story when I follow my wife and children. I am now some 46 years of age according to the way my father taught me. I will try to maintain contact with the white ones who speak my father’s language who arrived in this land in a great warship two seasons past.”
Other damaged pages follow and then the entry, “The white ones have arrived on our land, sailing up the Santee in a small vessel, they were first only 7 or 8, but more followed – they have settled north of our main village and were fearful of us until I met with them and hailed them in their tongue which is the language of my fathers. They marveled at my red hair and my knowledge of their language and customs, even more when I read my fathers’ entries to them. They had heard of Ribaut and the Spanish forts and told me many things I did not know. The have books like my Holy Scriptures and were astonished when I showed them mine. They invited me to join them in their settlement, called Jamestown, they say it is the same as my name, but in another tongue and named for a great king who lives beyond the great salt waters from where come the storms and which bring the big ships. Our king, whom they call Jeremie, was hesitant to trust them, but they have kept their word some ten years now and have not ventured past the waters of Wambaw or encroached on our settlement there. It is true that one of their elders, a man called Arnaud Bruneau, for they have two names and I am known to them as James Santee, requested permission to use the island located at the mouth of Santee for his own – we were willing since there are many other island we can use to make our salt and that is what he want to do – he said the land reminded him of his home across the great waters. I have chosen his son as the guardian of my family story and he assures me he will guard it well.”
There are several other entries, alluding to problems between the Native Americans and the immigrants, but the writer was insistent that it was English settlers who were causing problems, not the French Protestant immigrants. He mentioned his having rescued “my friend Paul’s nephew Henri, a name in my family also, from being bitten by a large alligator while the boy was playing in a pirogue which capsized near the mouth of the Santee when he was with his uncle and grandfather. From other entries and from several of the letters, written in good French, but signed with an as yet unidentified anagram, it appears that Jacques Santee quickly became a good friend to the French Protestant settlers on the Santee River, helping them learn the land and how to hunt, as well as interceding for them when there were problems between them and the local tribes.
The entries end abruptly, but one very fragile letter written in French and dated Santee, 2 Apr 1699 provides at least a partial explanation of what became of Jacques Santee. It, too, ends with the cryptic anagram which has yet to be deciphered. It reads, in part, “My good friend and fellow Christian, Jacques Santee, has gone – his tribe is decimated and almost extinct – how I grieve for him and them. He was a true Christian – amazing to find him here when we arrived on these foreign shores – welcomed by him in our native tongue, albeit a bit garbled and old-fashioned, and shown every courtesy by him and his fellow, I cannot call them savages as do the English, they were every bit as fine as we, better in some instances, especially the last. Jacques Santee, a saintly man who knew the Holy Evangelists better than I myself; who quoted them in his daily life and had taught his fellow beings to honor them and fear the Lord, our Saviour – what an incredible man to find here in these wilds. He taught me how to hunt the deer and wild turkey, how to fashion a call to bring them close, how to tickle fish from the sweet flowing rivers and creeks, to make and then use a small pirogue made from the trees which rise in the swamps. He laughed and wept with me – an older, wiser man than I who had seen much hardship, who watched the young men of his tribe paddle down the Santee and into what they know as the Great Waters, seeking redress for wrongs done them by unscrupulous, greedy traders – and then his death at the hands of a Spanish war party which happened on him while he was helping some of our elders harvest salt flowers [fleur de sel] at the mouth of the Santee on Bruneau’s Island. I did as he asked and buried his journal and the letters he held dear, adding this to it, on the hummock we happened upon one fall afternoon while hunting and musing on the mysteries of life. I wrapped the whole in greased bearskin to ward off the damp and sealed them inside the dispatch case I brought with me from France. His body was taken by the old women and children of his tribe to be ritually stored with the bones of his family, of which he was the last remaining member. They gave me a lock of his hair – he wore it long – a huge mane of red which reminded me of my neighbor’s son in Languedoc, whose name escapes me at the moment. Jacques Santee – he taught us well and was a true saint – holding fast to the beliefs passed down to him by his father from his father and grandfather – a true Protestant and believer, untainted by the heresies around him – he not only led me home through the dark and treacherous swamps and poccosins we traversed, he conversed with me concerning my thoughts and beliefs and held me fast to the true Religion, though his was far stronger and more sure than my own. I hope to honor his memory by persuading the elders to name our church after him – and if we are able to work with the English and retain our beliefs as members of the one, true Religion, to continue his memory in the name of this land – St. James, Santee – they need not know it honors one they would have called a savage, but whom I know to have been a Christian man, a saint as we are all called to be.
 The following information concerning Charlesfort and the French, Spanish and Native Americans is taken from documents located in the archives on the Caribbean island of Mentira. MeNTira -A3E789 – folio 2BS3.
 MeNTira –A3E789 – folio BS 3-4.
 MeNTira – A3E789 – folio BS 5-6.
 MENsonGEs et Maudits Pensees – BS.
 The dispatch case and its contents are still being studied by researchers and historians in the Hell-hole Swamp Museum and are not yet available to the public. The story which follows was written using the information contained in the contents of the case.
 We are most grateful to the Hell-hole Swamp Museum for sharing this information with us. Please note that the spelling in the notebook is quite difficult to decipher and in some cases almost illegible. It is being examined by scholars and historians and subjected to DNA tests to prove its authenticity and anyone who believes this is a true April Fool or a Poisson d’Avril as Saint Jacques would have said.