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of Hilton Head and the Low Country
hauntingly beautiful landscape of the Lowcountry- comprised of
the four counties of Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper- harbors
a past of discovery and settlement, bloodshed of battles, agricultural
riches, vast plantations, and a modern evolution ever-concerned
with preserving the fertile land and the beauty over which it
was long-ago fought.
tribe names of its earliest native American inhabitants are found
all over South Carolina today. Edisto, Ashepoo, Combahee, Yemassee,
and Daufuskie Island, a Creek Indian word meaning "land with
a point", all echo the native American history of the region.
Relics unearthed in the Lowcountry, and on Hilton Head Island,
point to inhabitance as early as 10,000 B.C. Coastal Discovery,
the Museum of Hilton Head Island, displays a variety of artifacts
that represent Native Americans way of life. The Museum displays
the history of the Lowcountry expertly through its informative
and fascinating exhibits and tours. (See inset for more information
on the Museum).
1525, Spanish sailors encountered a prominent headland on the
coast of South Carolina and named it "la Punta de Santa Elena."
The anglicized St. Helena (near Beaufort) survives and is one
of the oldest continually used European names of geography in
from throughout Europe came to South Carolina on their oceanic
travels to discover new lands to claim for their royal crowns.
The French briefly interrupted the early Spanish occupation, then
returned in 1680 when 45 Huguenots immigrated to the new colony.
1663, the abundant, untamed island was surveyed by William Hilton,
an English sea captain, sailing from Barbados in search of tropical
lands on which to establish profitable English plantations. Hilton
then claimed it for the British crown, establishing the legacy
with his own name... Hilton's Headland.
touted the island's beauty, encouraging settlement there. English
settlers waited for the threat of both Spaniards and Native Americans
to dispel before colonizing in 1670 to found South Carolina's
first permanent settlement at the confluence of the Ashley and
Cooper Rivers, then called Charlestowne, now Charleston. Immigrants
from Switzerland and lowland Scots from Northern Ireland settled
the early townships. In the early 1700's, the current town of
Beaufort was chartered, becoming the second English settlement
in South Carolina.
As the Lowcountry grew, plantation owners looked for new crops
to thrive in this welcoming climate. The early 1800's saw the
advent of agriculture to the rich island soil, and among the crops
grown was Sea Island Long Staple Cotton, which flourished in the
warm subtropical climate. Rice and indigo were also grown. These
labor intensive crops allowed planters to prosper during the pre-Civil
War time period; however, with the onset of the war, gracious
homes and prolific crops were abandoned by the planters. The striking
blow was what was later seen as the largest naval engagement of
the entire war, The Battle of Port Royal. In many ways, Hilton
Head remains much the same as its earliest beginnings. Yet, it
has emerged to become a relaxed, easy-paced environment that is
home to over 27,500 residents and considered the preferred vacation
destination for over a million and a half visitors each year.
The "modern" Hilton Head Island has existed for only
a few decades. Its development began in the fifties. The first
bridge was erected in 1956.
Vacationers come for the scenery as well as for the limitless
attractions and recreational opportunities like the more than
twenty championship golf courses and hundreds of tournament-quality
tennis courts. Hilton Head Island as we know it today experienced
a rebirth during the 1950s and beyond due to a man named Charles
Fraser. He had inspiration to create an unprecedented resort community
which would encompass uncommon beauty and spirit while preserving
the land's inherent natural endowments. With exactingly careful
preparation, Fraser developed Sea Pines, the first planned island
community. Since then, his same environmentally sound covenants
have become effective guidelines for all subsequent development.
hidden Hilton Head can be discovered by learning about its history
while seeing the sights. Some of the island landmarks include:
Baynard Ruins in Sea Pines, the ruins of Braddock's Point Plantation
House; Steam Cannon at Port Royal; Cotton Hope Plantation; Fort
Mitchell, on a bluff overlooking Skull Creek; Rose Hill Plantation
House, just over the bridge; the Zion Cemetery; and Baynard Mausoleum,
the final resting place of many Revolutionary War soldiers.
still much like a time when the earliest inhabitants lived off
of the land and over the waters, the island is further favored
with an abundance of things to do and see. Through it all, the
island begins and ends with the windswept beauty that the passage
of time has not erased.