Port Royal, South Carolina



The museum is currently closed until we find our new home.  The museum will continue to feature the history of the Town, the Port Royal Railroad and the shrimping/fishing/crabbing industries in Port Royal along with their impact on the development of the Town.

We are always interested in acquiring more artifacts that pertain to Port Royal. Please contact us to discuss any donations you may wish to make.

Our museum’s previous home:

The Union Church – Circa 1878

According to an article written in 1882 in the Palmetto Post, the church was constructed in 1878 on a lot of land donated for the purpose by Mr. D.F. Historic Union ChurchAppleton and the cost was nearly $1,000.00. Established as a free church, it was used by Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists on alternating Sundays.

In recent years, the church has been used as a theatre, a museum and as a base for the Foundation.  Now, the Union Church is owned by St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and is their home for worship.  

Town of Port Royal

Port Royal was the first settlement of the New World, predating Jamestown by 45 years and St. Augustine by three years. Our town lies on Port Royal Island, adjacent to the deepest natural harbor on the Atlantic coast of the United States, Port Royal Sound, and boasts the only public shrimp dock in South Carolina.

Jean Ribaut recognized the value of this ample anchorage when he established a French colony on nearby Parris Island in 1562 and he stowed on the entire region a name well suited to this lovely and commodious harbor – Port Royal. Since that time, Port Royal has been ruled under seven flags: French, Spanish, English, Scottish, Confederate, USA and South Carolina.

Fort Frederick was constructed between the years of 1731 and 1734, of tabby, on the banks of the Beaufort River. The fort was named after the eldest son of King George II. Completed on January 24, 1734 according to plan, the walls were 5 feet high and 5 feet thick at the top. When the Journal reported in 1740 that the fort did not provide adequate cover or shelter for the men in time of action, it was then decided that in order to protect its occupants, the Fort walls needed to be raised by 3 feet on the land side and 4 feet on a side fronting the river. By 1758 Fort Lyttleton was considered to replace Fort Frederick.

When it was incorporated on March 9, 1874, Port Royal boasted the largest cotton compressor in the world. A booming trade in phosphate and lumber brought hundreds of ships to the harbor. The Port Royal Railroad connected the town to Augusta, Georgia, which had high hopes of emerging as the next Atlanta in the economic chaos that followed the civil war. At that time this harbor was deeper than those of Charleston and Savannah, Georgia.
When Edgar Nicholas laid out Port Royal at the end of Reconstruction, he ambitiously envisioned Port Royal becoming a major center of commerce in the United States. The names of the avenues- Paris, London, Richmond, Madrid, Columbia and Edinburgh- are from the Capitols of the countries whose flags have flown over Port Royal. The expansive proportions of the town’s original design, with 25 foot X 100 foot lots X 500 foot blocks, are yet another reminder of the grand expectations of the new industrialists who founded Port Royal.

Port Royal Oyster FactoryIn 1903 an oyster cannery was established in Port Royal. The state’s first shrimp docks and packinghouse, established around 1926, soon followed it.

By 1940 state of the art crab cannery had moved into the town. Port Royal became an important center for seafood production and distribution.
The second World War brought heightened military activity to neighboring Parris Island. The rest of Beaufort County, including the town of Port Royal, rode high on a wave of prosperity as the area filled with wartime workers.

In 1959, the South Carolina State Ports Authority re-commissioned the Port, and by the 1990s Port Royal had become one of the most desirable areas of Beaufort County to live in, thanks to its neo-traditional developments, progressive leadership, and commitment to the arts.