Fun Awaits in Georgetown, South Carolina
by: Bobby McDonald
Georgetown, South Carolina, the site of the Hopkins County Dixie Darlings' National Softball Tournament, is the third oldest city in South Carolina, and the county seat of Georgetown County. The city is located on the Winvah Bay at the confluence of the Great Pee Dee River, Waccamaw River, and Sampit River. Georgetown is the second largest seaport in South Carolina handling over 960,000 tons of materials each year.
Georgetown occupies a unique place in American History, as some historians claim that American history began here in 1526, with the earliest settlement in North American, by Europeans with African slaves. It is believed that in that year the Spanish, under Lucal Vasquez de Avllon, founded a colony on the Waccama Neck, called San Miguel de Gualdape. The colonly failed for multiple reasons, among which were a fever epidemic and a revolt of the African slaves, who fled to join the Cofitachiqui Indians in the area. Having failed as farmers, the surviving Spanish built a ship from local cypress and oak wood and sailed to the Spice Islands in Maritime Southeast Asia. After settling Charles Town, in 1670, the English established trade with the Indians and trading posts in the outlying areas became settlements.
By 1721 the colonial government granted the English residents petition to found a new parish, Prince George Winyah, on the Black River. In 1734, Prince George Winyah was divided, and the newly created Prince Frederick Parish Congregation occupied the church at Black River. Prince George Parish Winyah then encompassed the new town of Georgetown on the Sampit River. In 1729, Elisha Sereven laid the plan for the town of Georgetown and developed the city in a four-by-eight block grid. Today, referred to as the "Historic District," the original grid city is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It bears the original street names, lot numbers and many of the original homes.
The Indian trade declined soon after Georgetown was established and local planters began to cultivate indigo as the major cash crop in the area, with rice as a secondary crop, both heavily depended on slave labor. Many slaves were imported from Africa to work the fields and contribute to the local economy.
Prosperous Georgetown planters, father and son, Thomas Lynch Sr. and Thomas Lynch, Jr. signed the Declaration of Independence. And, the area was one of the major areas of conflict during the American Revolutionary War when American patriot, Francis Marion "The Swamp Fox" led many guerrilla actions agains the British in this area.
Following the American Revolution, rice surpassed indigo as the staple crop. It was cultivated on the swampy lowlands along the rivers, where enslaved labor built large earthworks: the dams, gates and canals to irrigate and drain the rice fields during cultivation. Large rice plantations were established around Georgetown on its five rivers.
By 1840, Georgetown County produced nearly one-half of the total rice crop of the United States, and became the largest rice-exporting port in the world. Wealth from the rice created an elite European-American planter class; they built stately plantation manor houses, bought elegant furniture, and extended generous hospitality to others of their class. Their relatively leisured lifestyle for a select few, built of the labor of thousands of slaves, lasted until 1860, when the Civil War began.
Many of the old plantations are still standing today, including Mansfield Plantationon the banks of the Black River. Joshua Ward's main Brookgreen Plantation is now the center and namesake of the Brookgreen Garden Park.
Georgetown offers a variety of seafood dining adventures, the nearby Waccamaw Wildlife Refuge, that is ideal for bird watching, and all kinds of river adventures on the Pee Dee River, and other major rivers in the area.
Steeped in rich American history, offering quaint and delicious seafood establishments, and serving as an Atlantic Coastal seaport city, the attractions are countless to occupy your time in Georgetown, South Carolina!
Best of Luck Dixie Darlings!!!