Exploring Our Parks: Fort Fremont gives a glimpse into Spanish-American War history

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 12:11 PM EDT
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ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. (WTOC) - A landmark of Spanish-American War history in Beaufort County is being uncovered and open to explore.

Fort Fremont on St. Helena Island was once a strategic American defense post more than 120 years ago.

“It was built in 1898 and it was built specifically because of the outbreak of the Spanish-American War,” Ray Rollings of the Friends of Fort Fremont said. “This fort had to be built rapidly to protect the Navy Yard, in case of Spanish attack, that was a driver.”

Fort Fremont sat across the Beaufort River from Parris Island. The Naval Yard was home to the only dry dock south of Norfolk, Virginia, built to support the Atlantic Fleet. Protecting the station, the ships and Port Royal Sound were paramount.

“For 350 years people have been building forts here to try to hold this harbor so this is one of the great harbors between New York and Key West,” Rollings said.

More than 100 military personnel manned the fort and it’s three 10-inch cannons and two rapid fire guns. No shots were ever fired from the fort and the military deactivated it in 1912.

“The property fell into several different private landowners,” Passive Parks Manager Stefanie Nagid said.

The Lands End community on St. Helena Island grew up around the old fort, absorbing most of the original 170 acres. The 15 acre site that exists today was purchased by Beaufort County through the Trust for Public Lands for $5.4 million to create a historic site and passive public park.

A group of volunteers known as the Friends of Fort Fremont have spent years working with the county to clear the land and preserve the short, but important history. A new, history center at Fort Fremont will include dioramas of the site.

“This is a little snapshot of history,” Rollings said. “It’s a picture of a time when the United States was emerging as a major power. There was nothing here before and nothing afterwards so this serves as just a little snapshot of this time and period and technology.”

Go to fortfremont.org for more information and plan a visit.

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