Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Located approximately twenty-one miles south of Charleston is beautiful, scenic Kiawah Island, S.C.  "Kiawah" (KEE-a-wah) is a name derived from the Indians who lived in this area in the 1600s, where they lived, traded, fished and hunted. The local Indians had no defense against the modern firearms form the Europeans explorers and they were also very susceptible to all types of diseases, such as the flu, measles and small pox, which rapidly killed off those who were not enslaved and resulted in the demise of the local Kiawah Indians.

George Raynor, in 1699, was given title to the land of the Kiawahs, by the Lords Proprietors of Great Britain. A letter written on February 28, 1700, by William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, believed that Mr. Raynor was a pirate: "Carolina is known to be harboring suspected pirates connected with Captain Kidd. They are settled as planters, etc., and Raynor, their captain, lives in Carolina." Despite Penn’s accusation of piracy, the island stayed in Mr. Raynor’s family until 1719, when Kiawah Island was purchased by John Stanyarne.

Kiawah Island passed throughout Stanyarne’s family for over 50 years until it the Vanderhorst family purchased it. A great Revolutionary War hero, General Arnoldus Vanderhorst, twice mayor of Charleston, built his home on the eastern half of the Island in 1802. In Approximately 1802, South Carolina’s first British Consul, James Schoolbred, acquired the western half of the Island. In the early 19th century, the Vanderhorsts consolidated the title for Kiawah Island and both the Vanderhorsts and Schoolbreds, owned and occupied Kiawah Island.

After the Vanderhorsts and Schoolbreds consolidated the Island, it passed to the next generation of the Vanderhorsts, who successfully farmed cotton until the Civil War. Because of a lack of military protection during the Civil War, the island was extremely vulnerable to Union troops.  So, the Vanderhorsts abandoned the island and didn’t return till after the Civil War had ended.

In 1886, Arnoldus Vanderhorst IV’s and some of his former slaves came back to Kiawah after the Civil War to continue farming cotton, but Arnoldus IV was killed in a hunting accident. After his death his ghost of has reportedly been seen on Kiawah many times. His son, Arnoldus V, continued farming cotton attempting to continue his father’s legacy, but a series of natural disasters destroyed his work.

Over 200 the years of Vanderhorst occupation, many events occurred in the colonies that affected Kiawah Island.  There is no evidence of actual combat during wars, but there is evidence of soldiers occupying the island during times of war. During the Revolutionary War, soldiers were issued passes to allow the wounded or sick junior officers to pass through the lines to go to Kiawah for recuperation, rest and recreation, while during the War of 1812, soldiers were located on Kiawah protected the city of Charleston. On April 2, 1861, the first shots of the Civil War were fired on Ft. Sumter in Charleston harbor and could be heard on Kiawah from approximately twenty-one away.

Union troops during the Civil War scribbled the graffiti "How are you General Beauregard" and "varitas vincit" (truth overcomes) on the walls of the Vanderhorst Mansion (which still stands on Kiawah today). During World War II, the U.S. Army assigned teams to guard and patrol Kiawah’s coast.

In 1951, the Vanderhorst legacy ended, when C.C. Royal, a lumberman, purchased Kiawah Island for $125,000. Twenty-three years later, his heirs sold the same piece of property to a prominent resort developer for $18.2 million.

Kiawah, in 1974 was developed into the world-class Kiawah resort and residential area. In 1993, the current owner’s purchased the Kiawah Island Resort, which now owns and operates the Kiawah Island Resort and its facilities.

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