South Carolina's Third Oldest City
Founded in 1729, Georgetown is the third oldest city in South Carolina and was named for George, Prince of Wales, who later became King George II. Settled by migrating families from Charleston, the colonial residents made their livelihood as traders, merchants and planters. Taking advantage of British bounties for indigo, highly prized as a clothing dye in Europe, an elite class of indigo plantation owners and merchants evolved and formed the Winyah Indigo Society, which in 1755 established one of the first free schools in America. The Revolutionary War brought an end to the indigo trade with England, but saw the emergence of local patriots, including Thomas Lynch, Jr. one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Frances Marion, the illustrious "Swamp Fox". Following the war, local planters made fortunes cultivating rice - Carolina Gold - in the area's low - lying river estuaries. It was a glamorous and genteel era of enormous wealth, aristocracy and plantations. Though spared much of the ravages of the War Between the States, the social, political and economic upheaval that followed caused the rice culture to ultimately collapse. Without slave labor to cultivate the rice crop, most of the plantations were doomed. A series of severe hurricanes in the late 1800's delivered a final, devastating exclamation point. The Downtown Historic District contains more than 50 historic homes, buildings and sites dating back to 1737. The Rice Museum on Front Street offers a fascinating glimpse of the most gracious and colorful chapter in Georgetown's history.