Beaufort County Library Logo
Former Blue Channel Seafood facility , Town of Port Royal
Former Blue Channel Seafood
facility, Town of Port Royal
Frequently Asked Questions
about Beaufort County, SC

(See "Industries
and Agriculture")

(Origin of the Name)

(How to Pronounce It!)

(Name for Residents)

Cities and Towns


County Seat


Famous People

(Recipes for Lowcountry Specialties)

Frogmore Stew
(Recipe and History)

Geographic Features

Ghost Stories of
Beaufort County

Gullah Dialect
Sea Island Culture

(A Timeline)

and Agriculture

(Sea Islands:
Origins of Names)

Land Area


(Internet Sites)

Longitude and
of key locations

(Plecia nearctica)

Movies in

When and Where

and Exhibits

of Interest


of Interest

Spanish Moss:
Its Nature,
History and Uses

The Cement
of the


Local Topics!

(Origin of the Name)

Beaufort County was named for one of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, Henry Somerset, the Second Duke of Beaufort.

How to Pronounce It)

The Beaufort of South Carolina is pronounced "BYOO-fert" (as in "beautiful"). The Beaufort of coastal North Carolina is "BOH-fert" (as in "Beauregard"), which is also the correct pronunciation of the Duke of Beaufort's name.

(Name for Residents of the City )

Those who claim the city of Beaufort as their residence are called Beaufortonians (as with "Washingtonians", the accent is on the -ton- syllable and the -o- is long: oh).

Cities and Towns (Incorporated Areas)

City of Beaufort (County Seat): population in 2000 Census 12,950.
Town of Port Royal: 2000 Census: 3,950.
Town of Hilton Head Island: 2000 Census: 33,862.
Town of Bluffton: 2002 Census: 1,275.

Countywide population:

2000 Census population was 125,212 (70.7% White; 24.0% African American; 6.8% Hispanic; 0.8% Asian; 0.3% Native American). See also detailed information.


Temperate to semi-tropical. Winters are moderate, summers hot. Snowfall is rare, but electrical storms are common, particularly in summer months. Average annual rainfall is 47.9 inches. The average annual humidity is 75%. Beaufort's annual mean high temperature is 76.5 degrees F, and the annual mean low temperature is 57.2 degrees F. Prevailing gulf breezes temper the summer's heat.

County Seat

The City of Beaufort: population in 2000 Census: 12,950.


University of South Carolina at Beaufort ( is a two-year regional campus of the state university system, offering undergraduate studies in the humanities, education and business. A USC-B campus on Hilton Head Island offers courses to students in that part of the county as well. The Campus Library holds a state documents depository collection, and academic collection in the humanities and sciences,and is open to the general public.

The Technical College of the Lowcountry ( offers programs of vocational-technical education in industrial skills, business, practical nursing, computer science, cosmetology and the first two years toward a bachelor's degree. The TCL's Learning Resource Center is also open to the general public and includes curriculum-support materials with emphasis on computers, nursing and business.

Webster University and Park College offer additional programs through their extension service.

Famous People

See Famous People of Beaufort County .

Recipes for Frogmore Stew and
Other Lowcountry Specialties


Geographic Features

Beaufort County lies in the southeastern corner of the state along the Atlantic Coast and the Inland Waterway. It is the heart of the area known as the Lowcountry and the Sea Islands. Beaufort County's 637 square miles encompass 64 large- to moderate-sized islands, about 2,000 smaller ones, and a portion of the mainland. The mean average elevation is 21 feet above sea level, with elevations ranging from sea level to 42 feet above at the highest point. The Broad River divides the county into two major segments, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Port Royal Sound at about the mid-point of its coast. The Coosaw River empties into the Atlantic at St. Helena Sound at the county's northern border, which is shared with Colleton County. Beaufort County also borders Hampton County on the Northwest and Jasper County on the West and Southwest. Marshes, creeks, inlets and swamps are the geographical features of Beaufort County along with the islands, rivers and beaches.

Ghost Stories of Beaufort County

The Gullah Dialect
and Sea Island Culture

Hilton Head Island
Frequently Asked Questions

(A Timeline)


  1. The recorded history of the area now known as Beaufort County goes back to 1561 (or earlier) with the Spanish explorations of Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon.

  2. In 1562, Huguenots, under the leadership of Captain Jean Ribaut* established the short-lived French settlement of Charlesfort on present-day Parris Island.
    The alternate spelling, "Ribault", reflects the archaic French writing system of the 16th century. Whatever the spelling, the most accurate pronunciation of "Jean Ribaut" for English speakers is "zhahn ree-BOH" (the "zh" is like the "s" of "pleasure").

  3. In 1566, the Spanish, led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles, returned to build the settlement of Santa Elena (also on Parris Island).

  4. By 1588, Santa Elena had been abandoned, though the Spanish continued to claim sovereignty over the region.

  5. In 1629, Charles I claimed the Carolinas for England.

  6. The first Englishman to explore this region was Captain William Hilton, who arrived in 1663 and gave a favorable report upon his return to Barbados.

  7. In 1666, Lt. Col. Robert Sandford came to Port Royal and left a young English surgeon, Dr. Henry Woodward, with the Indians; Sandford recommended that an English colony would thrive in the area.

  8. In 1670, English colonists were dispatched from Barbados with the intention of settling on Port Royal Island, but were persuaded by the Indian chief and Dr. Woodward to move instead to Charles Town, some sixty miles to the North.

  9. A group of Scottish traders attempted a settlement called Stuart Town in 1684.

  10. Stuart Town was destroyed by a Spanish attack in 1686.

  11. Beaufort Town was founded by the Lords Proprietors of Carolina in 1710.

  12. The Yemassee Indian War of 1715 slowed early growth of the newly founded Beaufort Town.

  13. In 1729, the province was transferred back to the Crown and with this new stability Beaufort developed into one of the wealthiest, most aristocratic and cultivated towns of its size in America at the time. Beaufort prospered under the plantation system with rice, indigo and finally cotton as prime crops.

  14. Although Beaufort was occupied by British troops from 1779 to the end of the Revolution, it was spared destruction and so quickly recovered, enjoying its greatest period of prosperity in the first half of the nineteenth century.

    The "Secession Oak: in Bluffton

    "The Secession
    Oak" in Bluffton
    Photograph by Dennis Adams
    (August 29, 2002)

    The "Secession House" in Beaufort
    "The Secesion House" in Beaufort(1113 Craven St.).
    Photograph by Dennis Adams (August 20, 2002)

  15. Bluffton’s "Secession Oak" may already have been two centuries old on July 31, 1844, when as many as 500 people met beneath its canopy. According to Janice Hunter Cantrell (in the Bluffton Historical Preservation Society’s No. II: A Longer Short History of Bluffton, South Carolina and Its Environs, they had come to hear their congressman, Robert Barnwell Rhett, "who had been so vociferously agitating since the 1820s for … Secession". And so began "The Bluffton Movement", which "led to South Carolina’s withdrawal from the Union on December 20, 1860 – the first state to secede."

    A plaque in the basement of "The Secesion House" in Beaufort, SC. (1113 Craven St.) reads, "In this house the first meeting in favor of secession
    was held in 1851."

  16. Federal Troops occupied Beaufort early in the Civil War. In November of 1861, Union naval and army detachments subdued Confederate forts off Port Royal Island, established a strong blockade base on Hilton Head Island, and occupied the town of Beaufort not only for the duration of the war, but for years afterward. As a Federal base of operation in the South, the town escaped destruction during General Sherman's "March to the Sea". Most land owners suffered ruin, however, when their houses were confiscated by the Federal government and sold for taxes. On the other hand, many of the freed slaves were able to buy land for the first time.

  17. In 1862, the Penn School was founded on St. Helena Island as a school for African-American Sea Islanders.

  18. Beaufort was slow to recover from the hardships of Reconstruction. The ravages of the boll weevil to the cotton crop and the vast devastation of the hurricane of 1893 slowed progress.

  19. The Fire of 1907 destroyed much of downtown Beaufort.

  20. The era of the military bases began on October 28, 1915, when the Marine barracks on Parris Island commenced full recruit training operations. The Naval Hospital facilty was completed in 1949, and in 1960 the Marine Corps Air Station at Beaufort was officially commissioned. These installations are a major part of the economy to the present day.

  21. It was not until World War II that Beaufort County really began to recover from its severe depression with the growth of the Parris Island military installation, the emergence of vegetables and seafood as exportable commodities, and -- most recently -- the advent of tourism and resort and retirement communities.

  22. Major commercial development of Southern Beaufort County than began on Hilton Head Island in the 1950s grew dramatically in the last third of the 20th century. In the 1990s, the Sun City housing development in Okatie and growth in the Bluffton area brought more residents and business "South of the Broad (River)."

  23. The 2000 Census showed that Beaufort County had the fastest-growing population in the state.


Industries and Agriculture

Tourism and recreation, seafood fishing, military installations, manufacturing, and South Carolina Ports Authority. Leading industries in number of 1991 employees were services (38.2%); retail trade (31.4%); finance, insurance and real estate (8.8%). 34 companies had more than 100 employees, and Beaufort County Memorial Hospital was a major employer.
Vegetables -- especially tomatoes -- are the principal source of crop receipts in Beaufort County. Other crops include timber, soybeans, beef, pork and eggs. There were 120 farms totaling 44,800 acres in 1992.

Beaufort continues to be a favorite choice of major film companies. The Big Chill, The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, Disney's live-action version of The Jungle Book and Forrest Gump are among major productions recently filmed in the county. Author Pat Conroy has set Beach Music, The Prince of Tides, and other of his novels in Beaufort's Lowcountry setting. (Source for post-1990 figures: Profiles of America: South Region -- Volume 3).

Islands: Origins of Names
See also our Web page on the nature of the Sea Islands

Lady's Island

There is no simple answer for Lady’s Island. In Names in South Carolina, Claude Neuffer wrote that "Lady's Island was so called because it was on the day of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, that the island was claimed for Spain by explorers in 1525." The History of Beaufort County by Lawrence S. Rowland, Alexander Moore and George C. Rogers, Jr., gave quite another origin: "Lady's Island was named after Lady Elizabeth Axtell Blake and is sometimes called Combachee, Combee, or Comber Island". By the way, the proper spelling is "Lady's Island", not "Ladies Island" or "Ladies' Island".

St. Helena Island

Names in South Carolina (Volume V, page 18) confirmed that St. Helena Island "received its name from one of the captains in the party of the Spanish explorer Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon. This captain called it Punta de Santa Helena". In English, this "Punta de Santa Helena" is "St. Helena Point" or "St. Helena's Point".

Other Beaufort County Islands
Names in South Carolina)

Among other Sea Island names, Port Royal is most regal, so named by Huguenot explorer Jean Ribaut for its kingly ocean sound. Hilton Head Island honors English seafarer William Hilton, and Parris Island preserves the name of a Colonial Treasurer of South Carolina. While Dataw ("Green Wood") was a legendary Muskogean chieftain, the native American word,
Daufuskie (an Indian War battleground), means "Place of Blood". Several of Beaufort’s barrier islands were once known as "hunting islands" ("Isles des Chasseurs" on a 1777 French map): 18th century planter John
Fripp, Sr. owned one such isle that likely bears his name, and our Hunting Island State Park has kept the original title.

Land Area

The total land area of Beaufort County is 637 square miles.

Area of Major Sea Islands and Water Areas in Beaufort County
(in square miles)

Area of Major Sea Islands in Beaufort County

  • Hilton Head Island (not including Pinckney Island): 46.6 square miles
  • Port Royal Island (including Cat Island, Distant Island, etc.): 46.0 square miles
  • St. Helena Island (including Dataw Island): 44.7 square miles
  • Lady’s Island (including Coosaw Island): 22.7 square miles
  • Parris Island: 12.8 square miles
  • Daufuskie Island: 8.0 square miles
  • Hunting Island: 2.5 square miles
  • Fripp Island: 2.0 square miles
  • Harbor Island: 0.7 square miles

Area of Water Surfaces in Beaufort County

  • Non-forested wetlands: 321 square miles

  • Bay/Estuary areas: 337 square miles.


  • These calculations, provided by Joe Noll of the Beaufort County Geographic Information Systems Department (June 2000), are taken from the "National Wetlands Inventory" and are not official Beaufort County statistics.

Longitude and Latitude
of Key Locations
(in degrees, minutes and seconds)

City of Beaufort:
Longitude: 80 degrees 40' 12"W
Latitude: 3
2 degrees 25' 53" N
Town of Hilton Head:
Longitude: 80 degrees 40' 14"W
Latitude: 3
2 degrees 13' 09" N
Town of Bluffton:
Longitude: 80 degrees 51' 38"W
Latitude: 3
2 degrees 14' 13" N
Longitude: 80 degrees 41' 24"W
Latitude: 3
2 degrees 33' 23" N
St. Helena Island (Frogmore):
Longitude: 80 degrees 33' 39"W
Latitude: 3
2 degrees 23' 12" N


Beaufort Museum and Arsenal features local artifacts and natural history.
(713 Craven Street, Beaufort, SC 29902; TEL: 843/525-7077).

Coastal Discovery Museum ( offers programs, activities, and exhibits year-round to make learning about Hilton Head and other sea islands an enjoyable experience for island visitors and residents alike.
(Location: North end of Hwy 278; Mailing address: P. O. Box 23497 Hilton Head Island, SC 29925; TEL: 843-689-6767, ext. 225).

The John Mark Verdier House Museum presents an early 19th-century home in the Federal style of architecture. (801 Bay Street, Beaufort, SC 29902; TEL: 843/524-6334).

Lowcountry Estuarium "A Coastal Learning Center" of local marine ecology. Grand opening: Saturday October 5th, 2002. Hours of Operation: Tuesday-Saturday:11:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. (Location: N. E. corner of 14th Street and Paris Avenue, Town of Port Royal; Mailing address: P.O. Box 608. Port Royal, SC 29935-0608; TEL: 843/524-1559).

Parris Island Museum (
Highlights history of the island and of the United States Marine Corps. Hours: 10-4:30,
seven days/week, and 10-7 Thursday preceeding graduation.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Bldg. 111
PO Box 5202
Parris Island, SC 29905/228-2951
(TEL: 843/525-2951)

The York W. Bailey Museum
, at the Penn Center, Inc. ( Penn Center, Inc. St. Helena Island, offers displays on Sea Island culture, history and environment, as well as about the history of the Penn School, local artifacts and connection between Africa and the people of the Sea islands. (P. O. Box 126, Saint Helena Island, SC 29920-0126; TEL: 843/838-8562).

Hunting Island State Park ( has beaches, historic lighthouse and facilities for camping, swimming, fishing and picnicking.

Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge: bird-watching and nature observation, hiking and bicycling trails.

Beaufort Historic District (Downtown Beaufort): the entire district is on the National Register of Historic Places. Antebellum homes, churches and commercial buildings. Annual Tour of Homes (the John Mark Verdier House on Bay Street is a museum home open to the public year-round).

Penn Community Services of the Sea Islands (Saint Helena Island): formerly Penn School, site of the earliest education facility for freed slaves (1862). On the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic Forts include the (French) Huguenot Charlesfort and Spanish Forts San Felipe and San Marcos on Parris Island; colonial British Fort Frederick in Port Royal; pre-revolutionary Fort Lyttleton and post-Revolutionary Fort Marion on the same site at Spanish Point in Beaufort; Civil War forts Beauregard on Bay Point and Walker on Hilton Head Island; Spanish-American War Fort Fremont at Land's End (at the end of Land's End Road on St. Helena Island).

Sheldon Church Ruins: Prince William's Parish Church on SC Secondary Road 21, built between 1745 and 1755, and burned in both the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars. See also
The Chapel of Ease Ruins.

Hilton Head Island is a well-known resort community with hotels, beaches, tennis, golf, boating, fishing and other recreation.

Boating: Seventeen marinas and numerous public boat ramps are located in Beaufort County.

Spanish Moss
Its Nature, History and Uses


The Cement of the Lowcountry

Local Topics!

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