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National Wildlife Refuge

21424 N. Fraser Street
Georgetown, SC   29440
E-mail: marshall_sasser@fws.gov
Phone Number: 843-527-8069
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Continued . . .

Colonial records, travelers' accounts, and colonists' correspondence provide detailed accounts of the area's Indian tribes. These tribes included the Seewees, the Santees, the Sampits, the Winyahs, the Pee Dees, and the Waccamaws. As early as 1683 in the Winyah Bay area, British colonists established trade relations with these groups.

Indian groups were depleted by European introduced diseases, liquor, and intertribal and colonial conflicts. By 1715, the Waccamaws consisted of 610 individuals dispersed in 6 villages on Waccamaw Neck. The Winyahs were reduced to one village of 106 individuals. In 1720, the Yamasee War ended both the Indian threat and trade in the area. Colonists turned to the preparation of naval stores as their main economic pursuit.

Between 1700 - 1720, the English established settlements at Georgetown, on the Winyah Bay, and up the Black, Pee Dee and Waccamaw watersheds. By 1705, large scale rice cultivation formed the foundation of the Carolina lowland economy.

Rice agricultural practices transformed the landscape with the wide scale clearing of forested wetlands and construction of dike sand tidal gates. By 1850, a number of plantations existed along the Waccamaw, Pee Dee, and Black Rivers.

Between 1792 - 1880s, several families operated ten rice plantations on Sandy Island. The plantations were Oak Hampton, Ruinville, Brickville, Mount Arena, Sandy Knowe, Oak Lawn, Oatland, Holly Hill, Pipe Down, and Hassell Hill. Many of the plantation owners who fled their estates during the Civil War returned to their lands in 1865 - 66. The newly freed African-American Sandy Islanders formed communities at Mount Arena, Brickville, Ruinville, and Pipe Down. They continued to work the Island's rice fields under contract, the provisions of which gave them wages and a portion of the harvest.

Between 1893 - 1911, a string of hurricanes devastated the area's already floundering rice economy. These storms destroyed much of the infrastructure of the rice fields as well as the rice crop nearly ready for harvest. On Sandy Island, rice continued to be of major economic importance until the mid 1940's.

By the early 20th century, many of the area's rice plantations had fallen into disrepair. A number of these estates were bought by wealthy individuals primarily for waterfowl hunting and other sporting purposes.

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