The profile of town residents became increasingly white, professional, and conservative. Indeed, South Carolina’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, James B. Edwards, hailed from Mount Pleasant. However, Mount Pleasant’s rapid growth also sparked concerns over suburban sprawl and strip development.
(Charleston County; 2020 pop. 92,799). Mount Pleasant was a small village until the 1970s, when it began a dramatic expansion to become the sixth-largest municipality in South Carolina. Lying on the north side of Charleston harbor, Mount Pleasant occupies what was formerly Christ Church Parish. James Hibben laid out the village in 1803 on the site of the former Mount Pleasant plantation of Jacob Motte. In 1837 the villages of Mount Pleasant and Greenwich were combined and incorporated as the town of Mount Pleasant. The municipal limits later expanded with the annexations of Hilliardsville in 1858 and Lucasville and Hibben’s Ferry Tract in 1872.
In the eighteenth century the beachfront locale was a popular haven for Christ Church elites, including Charles Pinckney. Although many colonial residents were rice planters, shipbuilding was also an important component of the early Mount Pleasant economy. With the decline of rice cultivation in the parish in the early nineteenth century, agriculture dwindled in importance to Mount Pleasant, although the town remained a retreat for wealthy planters and merchants. After the Civil War, white and black farmers turned to truck farming. Large planters established commercial farms worked by black wage laborers, while tenants and small landowners grew produce to supplement farm incomes. Commercial fishing and small-scale manufacturing also gained importance in the late nineteenth century. By 1883 Mount Pleasant had a population of 783, four miles of shell-paved streets, nine stores, a sawmill, and a brick and tile factory. In that same year Mount Pleasant became the Berkeley County seat, but it was annexed back to Charleston County in 1895.
Mount Pleasant stagnated in the early twentieth century. Area farmers struggled against competition and a lack of modern transportation links, while a hurricane in 1911 destroyed farmlands and fishing facilities. The situation improved somewhat with the expansion of the Georgetown Highway (U.S. Route 17) and the opening of the Grace Memorial Bridge across the Cooper River in 1929. Black residents near Mount Pleasant tapped into the roadside tourist trade by selling sea grass “show baskets” to passing motorists.
Growth remained modest until 1970. The expansion of the port of Charleston, the growth of lowcountry tourism, the construction of a second Cooper River bridge, and the advent of new highways contributed to a tremendous expansion in population. Between 1970 and 1990 the Mount Pleasant population soared from 6,155 to 30,108. By 1990 seventy-two percent of the Mount Pleasant workforce held “white collar” jobs, which helped give the town one of the highest per capita incomes among South Carolina communities. The profile of town residents became increasingly white, professional, and conservative. Indeed, South Carolina’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, James B. Edwards, hailed from Mount Pleasant. However, Mount Pleasant’s rapid growth also sparked concerns over suburban sprawl and strip development. By employing subdivision covenants, development restrictions, and downtown revitalization projects, town leaders worked to balance the human scale and charm of the “Old Village” while providing the services and efficiency of a modern urban hub.
Gregorie, Anne King. Christ Church, 1706–1959: A Plantation Parish of the South Carolina Establishment. Charleston, S.C.: Dalcho Historical Society, 1961.
McIver, Petrona Royall. History of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. 2d ed. Mount Pleasant, S.C.: Christ Church Parish Preservation Society, 1994.