History of Bluffton, SC: Selected Links & Materials

Bluffton was first established around 1820s-1830s and was originally referred to as “May River” and later “Kirk’s Bluff.” The locale was considered healthier than staying on the plantations during the Spring and Summer so around 1830, white planters began to build summer residences for their families and laid out the streets of what we call “Old Town” now along the bluff by the May River.
Lucille Hasell Culp Collection (Copyright by Beaufort County Library) http://lcdl.library.cofc.edu/lcdl/catalog/lcdl:1591
     According to the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society’s A Guide to Historic Bluffton ( 2007), the first reference to the town as Bluffton was in a Savannah newspaper advertizement promoting “boat service to Bluffton” in 1843. (p. 9 ) For most of its history, Bluffton was a quiet sparsely populated village.  Bluffton experienced unprecedented growth in the first decade of the 21st century.  In 2000 the population was 3554. In 2010 it had almost quadrupled to 12,530. The US Census Bureau estimated Bluffton’s population in 2016 as 18,897. 
     This selective list was compiled by Grace Morris Cordial, MLS, SL, CA, Historical Resources Coordinator, Beaufort County Library, S.C. All links active on 7 June 2017.  Latest update: 7 June 2017.

Online Resources:

Bluffton Breeze (magazine). An online version of this publication is available from April 2014 at https://issuu.com/blufftonbreeze.  Includes an article or two about the history of the area every month.

“Bluffton History!” webpage is hosted by bluffton.com.

Bluffton Today (newspaper). Partial archives from 2008 to present are available online at http://www.blufftontoday.com .

Celebrate Bluffton offers a free Bluffton Buddy app that guides one along the Bluffton Heritage Trail.

“The Devil’s Elbow Barony,” by Henry A. M. Smith, South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine , vol. 13, no. 3, July 1912, pp. 119 – 215 is available online at http://www.jstor.org/stable/27575336 .

An essay about Rose Hill Mansion by Iva Roberts Welton is found at http://www.rosehillmansion.com/HistoryIndex.html.

SCIways has a “Bluffton, SC” web page at http://www.sciway.net/city/bluffton.html.

“The History of Bluffton, South Carolina” at http://www.hiltonheadisland.org/bluffton/see-and-do/history-and-museums/.

The Kirk Family Genealogy is available at http://www.rosehillmansion.com/KirkGenealogy.html.

Water Quality Concerns in the May River: Analysis of Monitoring Data Collected by the Town of Bluffton and the Palmetto Bluff Development (2010)

Check out these materials from a SCLENDS library:

Bluffton and the Okatie by Nellie Hasell Fripp.Unpublished, 1951. Note: History of Bluffton Town from 1841 to 1951 through oral histories of prominent town folk.

Bluffton Changing Tides: The Photography of Marge Agin edited by Charlene Gardner, 2012.

The Bluffton Charge: One Preacher’s Struggle for Civil Rights by Stephen S. Howie, 2000. Note: Describes some events of the Civil Rights movement in Bluffton surrounding the lives of Rev. and Mrs. John Howie.

The Bluffton Expedition: The Burning of Bluffton, South Carolina, during the Civil War by Jeff Fulgham, 2012. 

A Corner of Carolina: The Four Seasons in Hilton Head Island, Beaufort, and Bluffton by Edith Inglesby, 1968. Note: An account of the history of the area specifically detailing the natural history. Short references to historically significant people, places, and events.

A Guide to Historic Bluffton by Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, 2007. Note: Brief history of Bluffton Historical Preservation Society and Bluffton Town. Contains brief descriptions and historical information of houses in the Bluffton historic district.

A Longer Short History of Bluffton, South Carolina and its Environs by Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, Inc., 1988. Note: Explains the history of Bluffton, South Carolina from European settlement to the Civil War. Relates the history and architecture of Bluffton’s antebellum buildings and buildings dating during the time period between the Civil War and World War I. A map is included to help you find these historically relevant buildings.

The Magical Small Town of Bluffton, South Carolina and its Environs by Robert R. Long, 2013.

Northern Money, Southern Land: the Lowcountry Plantation Sketches of Chlotilde R. Martin , edited by Robert B. Cuthbert and Stephen G. Hoffius, 2009. Note: Reprints the newspaper articles that Martin wrote during the 1940s and provides updates to 2009 regarding subsequent ownership and history of the land.

Remembering the Way it Was at Hilton Head, Bluffton and Daufuskie by Fran Heyward Marscher, 2 vols.,  2005, 2007. Note: Oral histories of the 20th century. This compilation includes a variety of accounts from peoples of differing ages, social, and political backgrounds.

A Short History of the Early Days of Bluffton South Carolina by Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, Inc., 1983. Note: Explains the history of Bluffton, South Carolina from European settlement to the Civil War. Relates the history and architecture of a few historically significant buildings. Includes a map of burned houses during the Union attack on June 4, 1863 as well as correspondence and Army Reports in relation to the incident.

Visit the Beaufort District Collection Research Room for access to these materials:

SC B HOWIE.The Bluffton Charge: One Preacher’s Struggle for Civil Rights by Stephen S. Howie, 2000.

SC 283.757 CHU The Church of the Cross: An Episcopal Parish in Bluffton, South Carolina. Unpublished, 2004. Note: Provides history of Bluffton from 1854-2004 through the activities and members of The Church of the Cross. Also contains “The First One Hundred Years of History” a sermon presented by Rev. Albert Sidney Thomas at the 100 th Anniversary of the church which details the general history of the area known as Bluffton.

SC 728.8579 MAR Northern Money, Southern Land: the Lowcountry Plantation Sketches of Chlotilde R. Martin , edited by Robert B. Cuthbert and Stephen G. Hoffius, 2009.

SC 912.75799 BEA V.1 Bluffton Street Index by Beaufort County GIS Department. Unpublished, 2006. Note: Detailed mapping of Bluffton’s streets. Includes divisions for parceled land, but does not provide any land owner information. Contains a street finding guide.

SC 917.5799 GUI A Guide to Historic Bluffton by Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, 2007.

973.77579 FUL The Bluffton Expedition: The Burning of Bluffton, South Carolina, during the Civil War by Jeff Fulgham, 2012.

SC 975.79 BRE Summer Migrations and Resorts of South Carolina Low-Country Planters by Lawrence Fay Brewster, 1947. Note: Chapter II: “To ‘The Salt’” includes information about the Sea Island Resorts of Beaufort County including Kirk’s Bluff, the earlier name for Bluffton.

SC 975.799 BUD v. 1  & v. 2 The Garvin House: A Preservation and Interpretation Plan for an 1870s Freedman’s Home: July 15, 2009: and Appendix, August 15, 2009 prepared for the Town of Bluffton, South Carolina by The Living History Group, Historical Consultants, Laura Budak, Project Manager.

SC 975.799 FRI Bluffton and the Okatie by Nellie Hasell Fripp.Unpublished, 1951.

SC 975.799 ING A Corner of Carolina: The Four Seasons in Hilton Head Island, Beaufort, and Bluffton by Edith Inglesby, 1968.

SC 975.799 LON A Longer Short History of Bluffton, South Carolina and its Environs by Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, Inc., 1988.

SC 975.799 MAR Remembering the Way it Was at Hilton Head, Bluffton and Daufuskie by Fran Heyward Marscher, 2 vols. 2005, 2007.

975.799 SHO A Short History of the Early Days of Bluffton South Carolina by Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, Inc., 1983.

Archaeological Reports:

SC 975.7 ADA Intensive survey of 1.8 acres, Bluffton, Beaufort County, South Carolina by Natalie Adams, 1995.

SC 975.7 ADA Intensive survey of the Bluffton to Hilton Head Island transmission line, Beaufort County, South Carolina by Natalie Adams, 1994.

SC 975.799 ATZ Little house on the bluff: data recovery excavations at the Horskins Site (38BU1381), Palmetto Bluff, Beaufort County, South Carolinaby prepared for Palmetto Bluff, LLC by Leiellen Atz . . .et al., 2005.

SC 975.799 BRI Cultural resources inventory of Belfair’s Buckwalter Tract, Beaufort County, South Carolina prepared for Belfair Plantation, Bluffton, SC by Kara Bridgman, Archaeologist and Bruce Harvey, Historian, under the direction of Eric C. Poplin, Principal Investigator.

SC 975.799 FLE “Meet, O Lord, on the Milk-White Horse”: archaeological data recovery at Rephraim Plantation Sites 38BU1385 and 38BU1803: Palmetto Bluff, Beaufort County South Carolina: USACE P/N 2001-1G-426-C; OCRM Permi prepared for Palmetto Bluff, LLC by Joshua N. Fletcher . . .et al., 2005.

SC 975.799 HUD Late archaic settlement on the May River: data recovery at the Tree Runner Site (38BU1800), Beaufort County, South Carolina prepared for Palmetto Bluff, LLC by Connie M. Huddleston . . .et al.,2005.

SC 975.799 INT Intensive cultural resources survey for the proposed extension to Bluffton Parkway (Phase 5-B), Beaufort County, South Carolina prepared for Florence & Hutcheson, Inc., Columbia, SC, on behalf of Beaufort County, SC by Legacy Research Associates. Draft Report, 2006.

SC 975.799 LAN Cultural resources survey of the Olde Mill Run Tract, Beaufort County, South Carolina prepared for Olde Mill Run LLC by Brent Landsdell, Archaeologist and Jason Ellerbee, Historian under the direction of Eric C. Popin, Principal Investigator. Draft report, 2005.

SC 975.799 POP Montpelier Plantation (38BU1789): Antebellum Life at Palmetto Bluff: Final Report by prepared for Palmetto Bluff, LLC by Eric C. Poplin . .. et al.,2004.

SC 975.799 SCH Phase II Archaeological Testing of Site 38BU1944 in the Managed Forest of Palmetto Bluff: Town of Bluffton, Beaufort County South Carolina: Permit 2004-16-360: Final Report prepared for Crescent Resources, LLC by Ellen Shlasko and Mary C. Socci, 2008.

SC 975.799 SCH Theus Plantation: Phase II Archaeological Testing at sites 38BU1376, 38BU1377, 38BU2017 and 38BU2020: Palmetto Bluff: Town of Bluffton, Beaufort County, South Carolina:Permit 2004-16-360 prepared for Palmetto Bluff Uplands, LLC by Ellen Shlasko and Mary C. Socci, 2007.

SC 975.799 SOC Phase II Archaeological Testing of Long Island: Palmetto Bluff: Town of Bluffton, Beaufort County South Carolina: Final Report prepared for Crescent Resources, LLC by Mary C. Socci and Ellen Shlasko, 2010.

Vertical Files: In addition to maintaining an extensive vertical file collection including Bluffton-specific topics of interest, the Beaufort District Collection also maintains the following general files pertaining to Bluffton:

  • Bluffton
  • Bluffton Historical Preservation Society, Inc.
  • Bluffton Movement ( See Rhett, Robert Barnwell)
  • Sun City Hilton Head
  • Beaufort County Library – Bluffton Branch

Maps: The Beaufort District Collection houses a variety of maps depicting the South Carolina coastline and Bluffton, SC in particular. Search our online catalog for details.

SC MAP #625 Burning of Bluffton, June 4, 1863 

Images: Most images are not cataloged. There is, however, a guide to the postcard and illustrated prints collections within the Research Room. The illustrated prints collection (approximately 150 images) are listed in the Library system’s online catalog. Please consult with the librarian.

SC PRINT #94 Retreat of the Confederate Garrison, Commanded by General Drayton, from Fort Walker to Bluffton, during the Bombardment by the Federal Fleet, on the afternoon of November 7th, 1861, [1862].

Note: Current hours and branch locations are posted on the Beaufort County Library’s (SC) website.

(Original posting: 27 October 2011)

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