Hilton Head History

Hilton Head History is a little surprising to anybody who comes to visit as a tourist today. It is almost hard to imagine that it used to be all cotton plantations and timber factory...

At first there were Indians. Spanish were the earliest confirmed visitors in 1521 conquering the land. However in 1663 King Charles II granted the area known as Carolina to the English. William Hilton claimed the Island in the name of the British Crown and named it after himself. Rice, indigo and cotton plantations were developed. By 1860 there were 24 plantation on the Island, populated mostly by slaves. The Civil War and abolition of slavery altered the Island's life. Plantation owners and families were forced to leave. By 1868 military occupation of the Island ended and the Island was left with only few thousand of inhabitants. Cotton plantations were running until the crops were vastly damaged by insects. The Island fell into poverty for over ninety years. A small population of African Americans (mostly former slaves) maintained living modestly on the Island. Their culture and language known as Gullah is now part of our Legacy.

In early 1950's the Island experienced it's re-birth. This came with Charles Frazer who in 1956 created a plan for a Resort Community - Sea Pines Plantation. His vision, enthusiasm and action changed the Island to what we see now. The bridge was built creating a passage to the Island from the mainland. That first bridge was replaced in 1982 with the current four-lane bridge. The current communities are often called plantations but of course cotton fields were replaced by golf courses and beautifully designed resorts. None of those developments intrude into the natural beauty of the Island.

There are three places on the Island that I definitely recommend to visit if you want to know how it all started: Welcome Center and Honey Horn. Both are Coastal Discovery Museums.

Another interesting place to visit is Compass Rose Park, where Hilton Head's history is literally written on the walls.

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