Bluffton South Carolina History
Bluffton currently ranks as the fastest growing town in Beaufort County, SC. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the region encompassing southern Beaufort County was called Granville County of St. Luke’s Parish. Lord Cardoss, who was the leader of the neighboring Scottish settlement in Beaufort, invited the Yamasee Indians to settle down in the area. As a result, the Yamasee Indians created a settlement of 10 towns in the area with more than 1,200 inhabitants.
The Town of Bluffton was gradually built on two adjacent parcels of land in the Devil’s Elbow Barony. These parcels were bought by James Kirk and Benjamin Walls. The earliest homes in the area were built during the early part of 19th century. They were built by the area plantation owners who were looking for cool river breezes and high ground as a respite from the unhealthy conditions they faced on Lowcountry cotton and rice plantations.
Various tidal coves provided wonderful locations for housing and easy accessibility by water gave additional incentive for expansion. Originally, the community came to be known as “Kirk’s Bluff” or “Kirk’s Landing.” During 1830s, the first streets in the area were formally laid out. The name of Bluffton was finalized in the early 1840s as an agreement between the Pope and Kirk families.
In the 1850's Bluffton was a hotbed of secessionist fervor. Several state leaders met under the "Secession Oak" above to call for South Carolina to leave the Union.
The Town continued to be a commercial center until the completion of the bridge at Port Wentworth over the Savannah River and the Coastal Highway (US 17). These structures made riverboat travel and trade less lucrative. However, the town continued to remain popular as a vacation destination. The development of Hilton Head Island and other related developments in the 1990s brought back the opportunities for commercial activity to the Town. Bluffton was designated a National Historic District in 1996, with two contributing sites and 46 contributing buildings.
While all this was happening on the Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, right across the water, was experiencing a totally separate history.