Edisto

At the time of English colonization, the Edisto Indians were a tribe living between the Savannah and Edisto Rivers.

At the time of English colonization, the Edisto Indians were a tribe living between the Savannah and Edisto Rivers. Originally inhabitants of St. Helena Island, the tribe relocated in the late 1500s to Edisto Island. The English captain William Hilton first contacted this tribe when his ship, Adventure, visited St. Helena’s Sound in 1663. Hilton observed that the Edistos knew many Spanish words and had regular visits from the Spaniards at St. Augustine. He also made records of the Edisto villages, noting that each contained a round house of about two hundred feet in diameter covered with palmetto leaves.

In 1666 Robert Sandford made contact with the same tribe. Sandford was met by an Edisto chief named Shadoo, who insisted that the group visit his nearby village. Touring the Edisto settlement, the Sandford party described the same round council house as noted by Hilton. The men wrote, “Round the house from each side the throne quite to the Entrance were lower benches filled with the whole rabble of Men and Women and children in the center.” Of particular interest to the group was the chief, a woman who extended great hospitality to the group. The cultural exchange went quite well, and the Edisto chief returned with Sandford to spend the night as a guest aboard his ship.

Eventually, Edisto land was acquired by treaty by the Carolina colony between 1670 and 1686, as were the lands of most smaller coastal tribes, such as the St. Helenas, the Ashepoos, and the Stonos. Coastal tribes such as the Edisto could not withstand occasional English slave raids and epidemic diseases. Most tribes lost their identity, and remnants were adopted by tribes further inland.

Crane, Verner. The Southern Frontier, 1670–1732. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1928.

Josephy, Alvin M. 500 Nations: An Illustrated History of North American Indians. New York: Knopf, 1994.

Milling, Chapman J. Red Carolinians. 1940. Reprint, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1969.

Salley, Alexander S. Narratives of Early Carolina, 1650–1708. New York: Scribner’s, 1911.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Edisto
  • Author
  • Keywords Edisto Indians, inhabitants of St. Helena Island, William Hilton, Edisto villages, Robert Sandford, Edisto chief named Shadoo, English slave raids and epidemic diseases
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date September 17, 2021
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 1, 2017
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