References to the Spanish occupation
of the islands are somewhat sketchy. In fact, the Spanish largely
ignored this whole area, after its initial exploration, until spurred
into action by French settlement.
Jesuit missionaries were brought to the
Guale coast by Menendez de Ariles after he expelled the French from
Fort Caroline. They stayed only until 1570 when, after an Indian uprising,
the Guale missions were abandoned. There appears to be no firm
evidence of a Jesuit mission on Sapelo although popular literature refers
The Franciscans arrived in 1573 and there
is a reference to the presence of the convent of San Jose de Zapala
(the first mention of the name to become Sapeloe/Sapelo), which in 1616
housed six priests, on subsequently being martyred by the Indians.
It is assumed that with the abandonment of Santa Catalina de Guale on
St. Catherines in 1686, the area became too fraught with risk and that
San Jose was also deserted.
Spanish ceramics have been found at Kenan
Field, Bourbon Field, to the north of the large shell ring, and at
High Point. An unusual occurrence is the absence of cultigens, particularly
maize, contrasting with other Spanish sites in the surrounding counties.