Tracing the Origins of Georgetown, South Carolina

Welcome to Georgetown, South Carolina, the home of some of America’s most beautiful beaches, historic sites, and centuries-old culture. Located in the state's southeastern corner, Georgetown has a colorful history spanning over three centuries.

From its founding in 1729 to its development as a major shipping port and tourist destination, Georgetown has seen many changes over the years. This coastal city has grown and evolved since its founding to become a hub of commerce and industry. 

Along the way, its people have adapted to the changing world and greatly contributed to the national and global community. From its founding to its current prominence, tracing the origins of Georgetown is a story worth exploring.

Overview of Georgetown's History

Georgetown was founded in 1729 by colonial settlers from Charles Town, now known as Charleston. The abundant fish resources in Winyah Bay and the nearby ocean attracted these settlers. As a result, Georgetown quickly developed into a major shipping port and center of trade. In 1820, Georgetown was officially recognized as a town by the South Carolina legislature and was named after King George II.

During the 19th century, Georgetown continued to play an essential role in trade. By 1880, it was among the largest ports on the East Coast and served as a shipping hub for cotton, tobacco, and other commodities. The city also attracted many visitors to enjoy its beautiful beaches, fishing grounds, and other attractions. 

The 20th century brought more advancements to Georgetown, including an improved port system, increased tourism, and economic prosperity. Despite these advances, much of Georgetown’s natural beauty and historic charm has remained intact. Today, Georgetown is a vibrant city that offers visitors a charming beachside experience, modern amenities, and attractions. 

Early Settlement and Development

The first settlers to arrive in Georgetown were a large group of colonists from Charles Town who sailed up Winyah Bay in 1729. The settlers were primarily English Protestants seeking religious freedom from the Church of England. They were also looking for economic opportunities, which they found in the abundant natural resources around Winyah Bay. 

The settlers quickly established a community called Prince George Parish, named after King George II of England. Soon after settling in Prince George Parish, the settlers began to build homes and businesses along with various other infrastructures needed to support their new settlement. 

By 1735 Prince George Parish had grown significantly and was officially recognized by King George II as an official town. Around this time, a new port system was built, allowing larger vessels to enter the harbor and transport goods further inland. This development helped fuel further economic growth in Georgetown and contributed to its status as one of America’s busiest ports during the 18th century. 

The Rivertown Era 

In its early days, Georgetown was known as “the Rivertown” because of its proximity to the ocean and Winyah Bay. As a result, it became an essential stop for merchant vessels traveling between Europe and North America. Many of these ships stopped in Georgetown to take on provisions or advantage of the city’s lucrative trading opportunities that flourished during this era. Due to its thriving trade economy and strategic location, Georgetown rapidly expanded during this period resulting in significant growth in population size and infrastructure development. 

The “Golden Age” (1820-1880) 

In 1820, Georgetown was officially recognized by the South Carolina legislature as a town, meaning it could now elect its own governing body and enjoy some autonomy from Charles Town (Charleston). This ushered in an era known as “the Golden Age,” which saw unprecedented growth for Georgetown due to increased trade relations with Europe and North America and increased tourism from wealthy visitors who wanted to take advantage of Georgetown’s beautiful beaches and other attractions. By 1880 it had become one of the largest ports on the East Coast, with an impressive network of roads leading away from the harbor that allowed merchants to transport goods further inland. 

The Industrial Era (1880-1920) 

In 1880, Georgetown entered what is known as its industrial era, beginning with the construction of railroads that connected it with interior cities such as Columbia and Summerville, making it easier for merchants to move goods between them. These railways also opened up several new markets for Georgetown products, such as rice and tobacco, further sparking economic growth. This period also saw diversification away from shipping, eventually leading to more manufacturing businesses such as masonry work and sawmills, giving more job opportunities for locals and increased prosperity over time.

The Coming of the Railroad

Georgetown started to come on its own with the arrival of the first railroad in 1884. The railroad helped bring more visitors to Georgetown by providing easy access from cities like Charleston or Savannah without traveling by boat or horse-drawn carts like before. With this newfound access came even more economic opportunities that resulted in further growth for Georgetown over time.  

The railroad also opened up access to new markets outside of Georgetown, making it easier for local businesses to expand their operations beyond their current location. This included foods like shrimp and oysters sold by local fishermen to markets all over South Carolina, thanks to improved transportation options provided by the railroad tracks going through Georgetown. 

The Modern Era (1920-Present) 

Following World War II, Georgetown saw renewed growth due in part to improved transportation links, including significant highways that led directly into town, making it easier for visitors to come by car rather than boat or train. This newfound accessibility allowed many new visitors from all over America, resulting in increased tourism, which has been one of the main drivers of economic growth since then, alongside commercial fishing industries that have flourished thanks to an ever-increasing demand for seafood products both domestically and abroad. 

Today's Tourist Destination 

Since then, much has changed, yet much has stayed the same about historic downtown Georgetown which remains essentially unchanged since colonial days with its cobbled streets and freshly painted churches reminding us all what life must have been like centuries ago when wandering ships brought exotic goods across oceans still largely uncharted by sailors then or now! The unique charm of this sleepy little coastal town endures much as it did during those times, drawing more tourists every year who come here seeking relaxation and exploring all that incredible history offered by such a fantastic place! From its pristine walking paths along Winyah Bay & Ricefields Tours, guests can get up close & personal with wildlife like dolphins & alligators just offshore! To fun historical sites like Tobacco Warehouses & Revolutionary War Battlefields! Its family-friendly picnic areas with magnificent views encompass something for everyone who visits!  


Georgetown's history is rich with culture and tradition dating back centuries ago when it was founded by colonists seeking religious freedom while simultaneously benefiting from its strategic position along Winyah Bay & The Atlantic Ocean! Though much has changed throughout the years, this charming city has retained much of its old-world charm while embracing modern amenities & building upon its rich portfolio of attractions making it a favorite destination today among beachgoers & history-buffs alike! Contact for more information.

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