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Hilton Head Island History

Archaeologists have found evidence of Woodland Indians living on the Island all the way back to 10,000 BC.

Spanish explorers first discovered the area in 1525.

In 1562 the French came to the area and built Port Royall close to the present town of Port Royal.

In 1663, William Hilton, an English sea captain, sailing from Barbados discovered the beautiful, untamed island and naming the Island Hilton's Headland claimed it for the British.

In 1670, braving the danger from the Spaniards and Native Indians, English settlers founded Charlestowne, South Carolina's first permanent settlement, where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers come together to flow into the Atlantic ocean.

The first European settler on Hilton Head Island was Col. John Barnwell. Col. Barnwell was granted a 1,000 acres on the Island by the Lord Proprietors.

During the American Revolution, Island settlers were on the side of the Colonists and endured frequent raids by the British.

After the war, the Hilton Head prospered due to a rich Island soil and the introduction of Sea Island Long Staple Cotton, rice and indigo.

During the Civil War, Island settlers were forced to abandon their homes and crops when a small fleet of Yankee ships invaded the area and set up a blockade of Savannah.

After the Civil War, small communities consisting of former slaves began on the island helping to preserve the rich "Gullah” culture that can still be found today.

Electricity and telephone service reached the Island in the 1950’s and 1960’s respectively. Bridges were built to replace the ferryboats used to access the Island.

Since 1970 the area has experienced a period of rapid growth with the population rising from 2,500 to 33,682 in 2000.

Today, vacationers come to enjoy the beautiful Island scenery and rich history as well as abundant attractions and recreational opportunities including over 20 championship golf courses and 100's of tennis courts.




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