Beaufort, South Carolina, History
Beaufort, SC, has one of the most diverse and eventful histories among all communities of its size in the U.S. Beaufort experienced numerous European explorations and various aborted attempts at colonization before it was successfully taken over by the British in 1711, who founded the city that year. After Charleston, Beaufort is the second oldest city in South Carolina.
The city grew slowly in the beginning, while suffering several attacks from Native Americans before it began to prosper as a center for shipbuilding. In later years it emerged as an aristocratic center for the thriving cotton-growing economy of Lowcountry plantations up through the Civil War. Beaufort was ravaged by natural disasters as well as a declining economy after the Civil War. However, it bounced back in the second half of the 20th century, and quickly earned recognition as one of the most livable towns in the United States.
Beaufort's Historic Character
Much of the historic character of Beaufort remains intact today due to dedicated preservation efforts to protect its historic architecture. Many of the South's most magnificent pre-Civil War in-town manions are in Beaufort. They were built in the first half of the 19th century on the strength of the cotton export trade.
In 1711, Beaufort was chartered as the second major settlement in SC, and named after the second Duke of Beaufort, Henry Somerset. Beaufort grew in population and prestige from 1733 onwards with the founding of Georgia as a buffer colony.
The city earned fame for its shipbuilding enterprise, and indigo and rice trade by 1776. In the next century, the impact of the Civil War on Beaufort was huge, with an amphibious attack and eventual occupation of the area made it one of the first communities in Deep South to go in the hands of the Union. However, Beaufort was fortunate to escape much of the turmoil of the Civil Rights era. Jim Crow laws in the city were eased in the 1960s, schools became fully desegregated by 1970, and Beaufort chose its first Afro-American to city council around the same time.