A world-famous resort, Kiawah boasts expansive beaches, as well as superb tennis and golf facilities.

(Charleston County; 2000 pop. 1,163). Kiawah is a small barrier island situated south of Charleston between the mouths of the Stono and North Edisto Rivers. It is named for the Kiawah Indians, who lived in the vicinity at the time of European contact. In 1699 the Lords Proprietors deeded the island to George Rayner. Twenty years later the island became the property of the planter John Stanyarne, who cleared land for indigo production and built a sizable house that came to be known as the Vanderhorst mansion. In 1772 the island was inherited by Stanyarne’s two granddaughters, Mary Gibbes and Elizabeth Raven Vanderhorst, wife of Arnoldus Vanderhorst. Kiawah would remain in the possession of the Vanderhorst family for the next 180 years. Indigo gave way to cotton planting on Kiawah by the start of the nineteenth century and remained the primary economic activity on the island into the twentieth century. A series of hurricanes and the arrival of the boll weevil decimated Sea Island cotton by 1918, however, and Kiawah’s cotton fields reverted to woodlands. In 1952 C. C. Royal Lumber Company purchased the island from the Vanderhorst family for $125,000. Shortly thereafter, Royal constructed a bridge that connected Kiawah to Johns Island. In 1974 Royal’s heirs sold the island for $17,385,000 to Kiawah Island Company, Inc., a subsidiary of Kuwait Investment Corporation, which developed an upscale resort and residential community. In 1988 the town of Kiawah Island was incorporated. A world-famous resort, Kiawah boasts expansive beaches, as well as superb tennis and golf facilities.

Leland, John G. A History of Kiawah Island. Kiawah Island, S.C.: Kiawah Island Company, 1977.

Town of Kiawah Island 10th Anniversary Celebration. Kiawah Island, S.C.: Town of Kiawah Island, 1998.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Kiawah Island
  • Author Ford Walpole
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/kiawah-island/
  • Access Date May 31, 2020
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 8, 2016
  • Date of Last Update January 19, 2017