Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region


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Refuge History

Cape Romain Lighthouses. Credit: Tricia Lynch/USFWS
  Cape Romain Lighthouses. Credit:
Tricia Lynch/USFWS

The refuge is rich in the history of South Carolina. Sewee Indians inhabited the area before the arrival of the settlers. The tidal creeks and bays provided the natives with ample supplies of fish, oysters, and clams. Several native middens are located on the refuge. English settlers in South Carolina made their first landing in the New World on Bulls Island to replenish their stocks of wood, water, and food before proceeding further south. They eventually established the first permanent European settlement in South Carolina at the present city of Charleston.

Bulls Bay and the creeks behind Bulls Island were reputed hideouts for pirates plundering ships along the coast. The remains of the Old Fort on Bulls Island are believed to have been a martello tower built in the early 1700's. Stories of retreating British warships restocking supplies on Bulls Island during the Revolutionary War, Confederate blockade runners using refuge tidal creeks, and the Union troops destruction of the martello tower, used as a Confederate powder magazine, are documented.

In 1925 Gayer Dominick, a banker and broker from New York, purchased Bulls Island with the intent of making it a private hunting preserve. He had the Dominick House built and made improvements to the existing impoundments to attract waterfowl. In 1936 Mr. Dominick conveyed the island to the Service to become part of the refuge.

Two lighthouses, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still stand on Lighthouse Island. The first was built in 1827 and is the oldest of its kind still standing in the United States. The second, built in 1857, stood watch over the coastal area until 1947. Although neither is operational, they are still used as daytime landmarks for ships and fishermen.


Last updated: February 12, 2013
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