The region became the home base of the “Goose Creek Men,” the politically and economically powerful faction that consistently challenged the authority of the Lords Proprietors in the colony.
(Berkeley County; 2020 pop. 44,972). European settlers came to Goose Creek early in the history of the Carolina colony. The unusual name of the waterway may have resulted from its frequent sharp curves that suggested a goose’s neck. The rich soil along this Cooper River tributary attracted planters from Barbados, who comprised some of the first settlers. Settlers included Sir John Yeamans and Sir Peter Colleton. The region became the home base of the “Goose Creek Men,” the politically and economically powerful faction that consistently challenged the authority of the Lords Proprietors in the colony. While white inhabitants were largely Anglican, many Huguenots were established there after 1700, including the Izard family on the Elms plantation. The Anglican parish of St. James Goose Creek was established in 1706, and the present church was completed in 1719.
By the eighteenth century this prosperous area was famous for its rice production. The prosperity continued throughout the century, and in 1790 the first U.S. census counted a population of 2,787 in St. James Goose Creek Parish, 2,333 of whom were slaves who worked the massive rice plantations. Goose Creek remained a major rice producing region into the nineteenth century, but the Civil War and the end of slavery brought about the demise of the great rice plantations. Hurricanes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries completed the job by destroying rice field dikes.
In the early twentieth century, wealthy northerners bought up land around Goose Creek for hunting preserves and winter homes. The African American population left in large numbers, moving to nearby Charleston or migrating to northern cities. By 1940 the Goose Creek area was a predominantly white community of about five hundred people. Prosperity returned about this time. In November 1941 the United States Ammunition Depot was established near Goose Creek. This facility became the Naval Weapons Annex in 1959. During the same period, industrial development soared in nearby Bushy Park, bringing in even more people.
With growth, the need for an incorporated town became apparent. In 1961 a part of the old Goose Creek area was incorporated into a new town with the same name. In 1978 the Naval Weapons Station was annexed. As a result, the population of Goose Creek underwent a five-fold increase, from 3,656 in 1970 to 17,811 by 1980, making it the largest city in Berkeley County. The continued growth of the Charleston area helped to turn much of Goose Creek into a predominantly white bedroom community. The names of the great plantations that once dominated the area are preserved in the names of housing subdivisions such as Crowfield and Otranto.
Heitzler, Michael J. Historic Goose Creek, South Carolina, 1670–1980. Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, 1983.
Stockton, Robert P. Historic Resources of Berkeley County, South Carolina. Columbia: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1990.