Daufuskie Island planters raised indigo in the eighteenth century and Sea Island cotton during the antebellum period. After the Civil War, Daufuskie’s economy was based on cotton, lumber, and oysters.
Daufuskie Island, one of the Sea Islands, is near the mouth of the Savannah River at the southern tip of Beaufort County. Eight miles square and inhabited by just 279 residents in 2000, the island is bordered by salt marshes and oyster beds that are affected daily by six-to eight-foot tides. Live oaks, palmettos, magnolias, and pines thrive in the semitropical climate.
The name Daufuskie is attributed to a Creek Indian word meaning “land with a point.” Various Native American groups inhabited Daufuskie until the early eighteenth century. In 1714 Colonel Robert Daniell of Charleston received a barony that included the island. The southern tip of Daufuskie, Bloody Point, was named for the blood shed during the Yamassee Indian War. In 1715 the Carolina Scouts attacked a band of Yamassee and Creek Indians who had staged an assault on the island. Yamassees from Spanish Florida continued to raid the area intermittently until 1728.
Daufuskie Island planters raised indigo in the eighteenth century and Sea Island cotton during the antebellum period. After the Civil War, Daufuskie’s economy was based on cotton, lumber, and oysters. Most residents worked either as pickers or in the cannery owned by L. P. Maggioni and Company from Beaufort. Men sailed to beds to handpick the oysters. Pollution from the Savannah River caused the failure of the industry by 1959.
Because of the island’s geographic isolation (no bridge connects Daufuskie to the mainland), native Daufuskie Islanders have maintained many of their Gullah traditions. Several historic churches, homes, and schools on the island reflect this culture. The author Pat Conroy taught in the two-room Mary Fields School in 1969 and then documented his experiences in his novel The Water Is Wide. The isolation of Daufuskie’s Gullah culture ended in the early 1980s, however, when developers purchased portions of the island and established high-income residential and resort communities.
Burn, Billie. An Island Named Daufuskie. Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Company, 1991.
Rowland, Lawrence S., Alexander Moore, and George C. Rogers. The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina. Vol. 1, 1514–1861. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.
Slaughter, Sabra C. “‘The Old Ones Die and the Young Ones Leaving’: The Effects of Modernization on the Community of Daufuskie Island, South Carolina.” Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1985.