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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Georgetown Steel Mill from across Winyah Bay
Georgetown Steel Mill from across Winyah Bay December 1999 Photo: Scott McCrea

A Day in the Life of Georgetown, December 1999

Georgetown, South Carolina, is the third oldest city in the state. Before European settlement, about twenty tribes of Sioux populated the region. In the first permanent European settlement, English settlers from Charleston made their way northward into the region, establishing trading posts with the Indians. As early as 1690 rice was grown in South Carolina, mostly by French Huguenot settlers who used the European methods of rice growing employing impoundments along swamps and streams. When it was discovered that African slaves from the Senegal-Gambia region of West Africa possessed an in-depth knowledge of rice agriculture, it was their technology in the tidal-flow technique, along with the five rivers in the Georgetown region, that made rice-growing an economic success in South Carolina. In the early 1700s, indigo was introduced in the region. The varied economy of indigo and rice, as well as naval stores and lumber, turned Georgetown into a major trade center. By 1840, Georgetown produced one-half of the rice crop in the United States, giving the county the highest per capita income in the United States. However, after the Civil War, rice planting declined and never again regained its importance, and the region suffered economically during Reconstruction.

In 1903 the establishment of the Atlantic Coast Lumber Company revived the local economy; in 1937 the International Paper Company opened in Georgetown providing further economic stimulus. Georgetown Steel, a ferriduction plant, arrived in 1970 to boost the economy. In last quarter of the 20th century, tourists have been attracted to Georgetown by 20 miles of white sand beaches, dozens of golf courses and country clubs, miles of fresh-water rivers, and a well preserved historic district; tourism has become a major industry in the area.

This project materials include a four-page report, thirty photographs, a brochure on Georgetown's Rice Museum, a videotape entitled "The Garden of Gold," and several pieces on the restoration of Brown's Ferry Vessel, an 18th century river freighter which, overloaded with commercial cargo, had sunk to the bottom of the Black River in Georgetown County about 1730. The goal of James Fitch, the Director of the Rice Museum, and Scott McCrea, photographer for the Rice Museum, was to document the way of life as lived in Georgetown, shaped by its long history, at the beginning of a new millennium.

Originally submitted by: Ernest F. Hollings, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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