Pawleys Island History

A Brief History of Pawleys Island

The earliest known residents of Pawleys Island were the Waccamaw & Winyah Natives.  The term Chicora, meaning "the land" is frequently used by locals and it derived from these first inhabitants.  Their language family was Siouan, one of five Native American families found in the historical region.  The Winyah Tribe has no surviving descendants.  The Waccamaw on the other hand, are an active tribe and are recognized by the state of South Carolina and govern themselves.   The Waccamaw ancestors were river dwellers that occupied the land along the Waccamaw River (including Pawleys Island) from the Winyah Bay near Georgetown, SC all the way to Lake Waccamaw, NC.  They were primarily farmers and had private & community gardens that included pumpkins, squash, melons, and tobacco.  They also domesticated animals including deer & fowl. 

The Waccamaw people may have been one of the first mainland groups visited by the Europeans.  Some of the Waccamaw were carried off into slavery around 1521 via the Spanish by ships.  When the Europeans made contact, it nearly wiped out the population, mostly because of the disease they brought with them, as the Natives had no defense for it.  And, because of the need of the colonists needing labor, they were also forced into slavery.  In 1600, their population was around 900 and in 1715, dropped to about 610.  In 1720, they encountered the colonists in a brief war, accounting for at least 60 deaths or captivity.  When the king of England ordered all owners to free their slaves in 1752, the owners would not have it, because it would have devastated the plantations.  With the order of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, thousands of Native Americans walked off the cotton fields along with the African Americans.  Click here for more info on the Waccamaw

George Pawley was an early settler from the European colonization.  His name, Pawley, was given to the community.  Pawleys Island quickly became a refuge from mosquitoes during the summer because of its natural breezes.  Affluent families would move to summer cottages here to avoid mosquitoes which brought malaria and other sicknesses.  Pawleys Island had occupants mostly of wealthy plantation owners and rice platations.  The Alstons, an historical and affluent family within Pawleys Island area, were visited by George Washington in 1791.  The term arrogantly shabby started because of the cypress sided cottages on the island.  Most of these cottages did not survive Hurrican Hugo, thus allowing for more luxurious homes.  There are 12 residences dating from the late 1700's to mid 1800's that still stand in the historic district.  When staying in Pawleys Island, you will notice the lack of new development.  In general, the locals don't encourage it.  Once of many reasons is preservation of the area.  It remains a quaint and relaxed atmosphere, which is a rare find amont the USA Eastern Coastline. 

Pawleys Island was one of the last areas of the Grand Strand to be developed.  The Grand Strand area itself did not develop into a major area until the early 20th century. There are several historical locations and areas you should check out while in Pawleys Island.  For more information, or a brochure package, call 843-907-8787.