Georgetown's first European settlement is thought to have been founded in 1526 by the Spaniard Luis Ayllon. The colony suffered from yellow fever, and its compliment of African slaves ran off with the local Chofitachiqui Indian tribe.
150 years later, fur trading posts were set up in the area, but it wasn't until 1729, over 200 years later that Georgetown was laid out.
Early products included oak, cedar and pine lumber, turpentine, pine resin, salt, hides, livestock, barrel staves, pickled beef and smoked pork. By all accounts, it was a rough and tumble town.
Old Georgetown lumber mill
Steam powered winch used to harvest cypress logs
photos circa 1890 - 1910
Indigo provided a cash crop through the 1700's, and slowly over time large cypress swamps were cleared, dikes and flood gates installed and rice was planted. It is said that it took 10 years of hard work to clear enough area for 1 rice plantation.
The area was rife with poisonous snakes and biting insects. Malaria, yellow fever and heat stroke were difficulties faced on a regular basis.
Hand processing the rice was labor intensive, but in 1793 a fellow from Mount Pleasant SC developed the rice mill. This revolutionized this process, and by 1850 Georgetown became the largest exporter of rice in the world.
These model photos were taken at the Rice Museum in Georgetown, located in the old city market.
A paper mill and a steel mill came to town this last century, but they are a mixed blessing. Spanish Moss will not grow in Georgetown due to the air pollution. (It grows in all the surrounding areas, but not within a couple of miles of the plants.)
We will delve into a bit more of the 1900's history tomorrow, but here are a few photos of Georgetown's waterfront today. Many of the piers from generations past are gone. Several fires have devastated the city - the most recent just this last fall.
But the people here have not given up. Over the last few years they have built a boardwalk that runs along the river for a good half mile.
Another blow to the city - the shrimp industry. It has plummeted over the last ten years, with the American shrimper becoming a profession in danger of being extinct within the next few years.
Numerous boats sit about the narrow river - nearly blocking it. No one seems to know which are abandoned and which are being used, but it is said that every few years the Coast Guard goes on a rampage to try to clean the area up.
But there are ample marinas, and many slips are open for those that can afford to pay to dock.
Georgetown's dry dock facility
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