Fort San Juan

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Fort San Juan (1567-1568) - A Spanish Colonial Fort established in 1567 near present-day Morganton, Burke County, North Carolina. Named Fort San Juan after Juan Pardo builder of the fort. Abandoned in 1568. Also known as Fort San Juan de Xualla, from Xualla, a native American town (said by some to have been Cherokee: now Joara) above the junction of the Tuckaseegee and Oconna-Luftee rivers in Swain County, North Carolina.


Fort San Juan was a Spanish colonial fort built by the first Juan Pardo Expedition (1566-1567) in 1567 at an Indian village known as Joara near present-day Morganton in Burke County, North Carolina.

Captain Juan Pardo arrived at Santa Elena, now Paris Island in South Carolina on 18 Jul 1566, with 250 men. Pardo and his men built Fort San Felipe, the second fort at Santa Elena. Pardo was then tasked to take 125 men and build a road to Mexico. His expedition followed a curious route via Indian trails from Santa Elena into northeastern South Carolina and finally to the present-day Indian town of Joara in early January 1567. Jorda seems to have been a large and important Indian village in western North Carolina. Pardo needed such a strong support base because his garrison relied on the Indians for protection and food.

In January 1567, Pardo left for Santa Elena leaving some 30 men to garrison the fort for the winter. When Pardo returned in September 1567, he found the garrison gone to the village of Chiaha in Tennessee.

When Pardo departed Fort San Juan in March 1568 for Santa Elena, he left a total of 120 men stationed in five small forts and a garrison of 15 to 30 men at Fort San Juan. The Indians destroyed all six forts including Fort San Juan in May 1568, killing all but one of the Fort San Juan soldiers. The sole survivor, Juan de Badejoz, walked back to Santa Elena in thirty days, evading the Indians by traveling at night.

Current Status

The probable site was excavated in 2004, about five miles north of Morganton. The excavations confirmed the site location and provided many artifacts. Exhibits are at the History Museum of Burke County in Morganton. The excavated site is visible in Google Maps.

Location: Near Morganton, Burke County, North Carolina.

Maps & Images

Lat: 35.82389 Long: -81.73349

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: .....'

GPS Locations:

See Also:


  • Roberts, Robert B., Encyclopedia of Historic Forts: The Military, Pioneer, and Trading Posts of the United States, Macmillan, New York, 1988, 10th printing, ISBN 0-02-926880-X, page 624.
  • Beck Robin A.Jr., Moore, David G., and Rodning, Christopher B., Identifying Fort San Juan: A Sixteenth-Century Spanish Occupation at the Berry Site, North Carolina, Southeastern Archaeology, 25(1), Summer 2006, pages 65-77, Pdf


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