Kiawah Island History and Facts
Kiawah Island Historical Timeline
Kiawah Island’s rich history spans centuries. Native Americans, English colonists, American plantation owners, and even a supposed pirate all left their stamp on Kiawah. Primarily utilized for agriculture, the Island also served as strategic outposts during the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The land has changed hands only a few times since the Island was deeded to Captain George Raynor in 1699. View our timeline to learn more.
Cassique, chieftain of the Kiawah Indians, leads English colonists to settle at Charlestowne Landing
Kiawah Indians cede Kiawah Island to the English Lord’s Proprietor, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury
John Stanyarne acquires Kiawah Island
Revolutionary War begins. Arnoldus Vanderhorst II, Governor of South Carolina, acquires title to Sandy Point area of Kiawah Island
British burn the home of Arnoldus Vanderhorst II
General Nathaniel Greene arranges a truce for American officers to use Kiawah for rest and relaxation; the officers stay at the Gibbes plantation on the Kiawah River
Mary Gibbes Middleton marries James Shoolbred, British Consul for South & North America
Vanderhorst home rebuilt, cotton production begins on Kiawah Island, slave population rises from 13 to 113
During the War of 1812, fortifications are built on the north end of Kiawah to maintain control of the Stono and Kiawah Rivers
Elias Vanderhorst inherits Kiawah Island from Arnoldus II, and continues production of cotton
Civil War brings Confederate troops, who occupy and destroy Shoolbred plantation
Union troops establish fortifications and a landing along Bass Creek
Union Troops almost demolish Vanderhorst plantation home
55th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers leave graffiti messages on Vanderhorst walls
Arnoldus Vanderhorst IV manages the postbellum Vanderhorst plantation, returns to cotton crop
After death of Arnoldus IV, wife Adele Vanderhorst and Quash Stevens, son of Elias Vanderhorst, manage plantation
Adele Vanderhorst purchases the Gibbes property, uniting Kiawah under a single owner for the first time in almost 200 years
Arnoldus V rents out the Vanderhorst home for $500 for the hunting season
Daily passenger and freight service by boat from Kiawah to Charleston begins
Adele Vanderhorst dies
Arnoldus V dies; Charlie Scott, last African American tenant farm worker on the Island, is paid $100 a year to serve as caretaker
C.C. Royal purchases Kiawah from the Vanderhorst estate to use for logging and timber
C.C. Royal develops the first summer home neighborhood on Kiawah along the beach and names the street Eugenia, after his wife
The heirs of C.C. Royal sell Kiawah to Kuwait Investment Corporation; an extensive environmental inventory is conducted, a master plan for development is drawn
Real Estate sales begin and the Kiawah Island Inn opens
Marsh Point (now known as Cougar Point) golf course, designed by Gary Player, opens
Turtle Point, designed by Jack Nicklaus, opens
Osprey Point golf course, designed by Tom Fazio, opens
Real estate developer Kiawah Resort Associates (KRA), owned by Charles P. Darby III and Patrick W. McKinney, et al, purchases Kiawah’s Undeveloped lands and all resort assets and amenities
Town of Kiawah is incorporated
Hurricane Hugo hits the Charleston area KRA sells resort assets to Landmark Land Co.
USA beats Europe in dramatic finish of the Ryder Cup Matches at the new Ocean Course designed by Pete Dye
William H. Goodwin purchases Landmark’s former resort assets
The Kiawah Island Club (KIC) is founded
Darby family acquires Vanderhorst home and begins restoration
Kiawah Island Club’s River Course, designed by Tom Fazio, opens
Kiawah Island Club’s Cassique Course, designed by Tom Watson, opens
Kiawah Partners break ground on Freshfields Village
The Sanctuary hotel at Kiawah Island opens
New Ocean Course Clubhouse opens for Senior PGA
PGA Championship played at The Ocean Course
Ocean Park neighborhood debuts.
Kiawah Island Facts
Key Kiawah Island geographic and lifestyle information at a glance
A causeway joins this private island to the mainland, so getting here is easy. Kiawah is just a quick, 33-mile trip from Charleston International Airport (CHS), and 10 miles from Charleston Executive Airport (JZI).
Kiawah Island weather is temperate, with an average high winter temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and an average high summer temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, the coldest month is January, the warmest is July, and the rainiest is August.
Kiawah Island is home to 18 species of mammals (including dolphins, red foxes, bobcats, white-tailed deer, and river otters), 30+ species of reptiles (including American alligators, Loggerhead sea turtles, and diamondback terrapins), and 300 species of birds (including Wilson’s plovers, Least terns, king rails, and nighthawks).
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Kiawah Island’s full-time resident population is approximately 1,400, with tourist and part-time resident population numbers ranging between 8,000 to 10,000 per day during the summer; the median age is 61 years old.
Incorporated in 1988, the Town of Kiawah aims at providing a responsive local government and maintaining local control of available, existing technical services by interfacing with boards and committees. It operates as a Mayor-Council form of government.