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History of Daniel Island, SC

Daniel Island, South Carolina is an island laden with history. The small island has played a huge role in the development of South Carolina’s economy and to an extent, the world at large. It’s place in the history of South Carolina is very important and thanks to the efforts of such institutions as the Daniel Island Company, Brockington Associates, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Office of Coastal Resource Management, much of Daniel Island’s history has been preserved even in the midst of recent development on the island. Here is her intriguing story.

The first known inhabitants of Daniel Island were Native Americans. Their name for the island was Etiwan or Ittuian and their presence on the island has been dated as far back as 2500 B.C. Arrowheads and pottery shards were found that date as far back as 10,000 years ago during excavations on Daniel Island. The existence of a sixteenth century Indian Village on Daniel Island has been proven by extensive excavations and research conducted by archaeologist Brent Livingston. His research has shown that there were semi-permanent villages located on Daniel Island evidenced by the location of refuse pits and the findings of other artifacts such as glass beads that were used by the Spanish and English to trade with the Native Americans. Shards of pottery were also found that date from 1400-1500 BC.

When the first English settlers arrived in the area in 1670, the Etiwan Indians inhabited Daniel Island. The first English settlers who came into South Carolina on the ship Carolina, from Barbados, to live and work on Daniel or Etiwan Island were Originall Jackson and John Norton. These two men, Jackson a carpenter and Norton a joiner, formed a partnership and cleared land on Etiwan and planted there until 1673. According to Daniel Island historians Michael Dahlman and Michael Dahlman, Jr., after some debate within the governing council, these two men were officially granted land on the island with the second land grant to be recorded in South Carolina.

Others who were officially granted land on Daniel Island in the late seventeenth century were William Jones who received 210 acres, William Thomas received 810 acres, Mathew English and John Morgan, William Jackson received land in 1677, Richard Codner, James Hutton and then Robert Daniell from whom the island’s present day name was derived. With a large grant of 972 acres given by the Lords Proprietors, Robert Daniell became the owner of all land that had not been previously granted in 1696. He paid 20 pounds per thousand acres and by 1715 the name of the island slowly evolved from Etiwan Island to Daniell, Daniels and then Daniel Island.

As the number of landowners on Daniel Island grew, her role in the economic history of the colonies grew as well. The three most well known and revenue producing products for South Carolina were rice, cotton and indigo. Daniel Island had her hand in all of these products except rice. The island was not situated far enough upriver for rice fields and thus did not have the freshwater that was needed to cultivate rice. Other products made on Daniel Island were bricks, lime, timber and ships.

The first product that was exported from the Carolinas was timber. Because of Daniel Island’s location and its abundance of yellow pine and live oaks, it quickly began to play an integral part of this early colonial industry. The timber was used mainly for construction of Charles Towne and it was also sold as firewood and to build masts and spars for ships. The plantations on Daniel Island often had saw mills on location and they would supply timber to the shipbuilding industries located on the island.

Another early industry on Daniel Island was brick making. The clay from the Wando basin was used to manufacture the bricks. According to the Dahlmans’ book Daniel Island, residents of the island had noted as early as 1664 that the mud on the island was ideal for making bricks. After a fire destroyed much of the city of Charles Town in 1713, the Assembly required that all new buildings were to be constructed of brick only. This of course caused a boom in the brick making industry.

Bricks were made during the off season when crops were not being tended and those who worked the bricks were very specialized in their craft. They would mix clay dug from what were known as borrow pits with sand, lime and water by hand. The clay was then pushed into hardwood molds where they would then dry for several days until the clay hardened and then they were fired and cooled for several weeks.

The lime used to make the bricks was also manufactured on Daniel Island. Lime was also used in the building of homes and other structures. As the Dahlmans’ explain in their book Daniel Island it was used in “cement that used shells as an aggregate, and in the plaster that covered the inside walls of wealthier families’ homes.” Most of the materials used to make lime were found on Daniel Island. Shells from the shell middens left by Native Americans were used, oyster shells, coral and limestone which were found on the banks of the Wando were also used in the production of lime. Oak firewood used in the kilns was also readily available right on the island. There was a lime kiln on Thomas Lesesne’s plantation and there may have been others as well Shipbuilding, as mentioned above, was a major industry on Daniel Island.

The two main shipyards on Daniel Island were the Fairbank Plantation Shipyard and the Moonham Plantation Shipyard. The former was owned by renowned shipbuilder Paul Pritchard. He built “Gun Boat No. 9” for Washington and the John Adams at his other shipyard on Hobcaw Creek. Gun Boat No. 9 was used in the Mediterranean by the U.S. Navy to protect the African Coast against the Barbary Pirates in the early 1800s. Richard Fordham built ships on his plantation Moonham. The plantation was located on Ralston-Creek and there he mainly built smaller craft used for local trade. The ships were used to carry goods up and down river to and from plantations.

Famous Landowners

Robert Daniell was a Captain, a Major, a merchant, a Deputy-Governor, a Governor and a Landgrave. For the best understanding of the man for whom Daniel Island was named for, it’s important to understand the roles he played in the development of the colony of Carolina. The best place to start is with a description of a landgrave. A landgrave was the highest form of nobility there was in South Carolina. In order to be a landgrave, a person had to own a barony which was made up of several thousand acres.

The colony of Carolina was originally set up by the Eight Lord’s Proprietors as follows: There were to be counties established consisting of 480,000 acres each, then each of these counties were subdivided into forty parcels of 12,000 acres each which were made up of eight baronies, eight signiories, and twenty-four colonies. Four of these baronies were granted to landgraves, the highest form of nobility in the colony and then two of these were granted to caciques or lesser nobles in the colony. However, as noted below, there came a time when the Lords Proprietors felt that it was necessary to begin selling these titles to help the colony flourish.

Robert Daniell was granted one of the baronies known as Winyah Barony in which he received 48,000 acres of land in South Carolina as part of a patent he was given by the Lords Proprietors. A historian of South Carolina history from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Henry A.M. Smith, best explains Daniell’s ownership of land in South Carolina as follows:

Robert Daniell first appears on the record on 3rd of June, 1678, when a warrant was issued to survey out a lot in Charles Town for him. On 4th April, 1679, he appears as sailing from Barbados for Carolina…On 15th December, 1680, and on 10th May, 1682, he is mentioned under the title of “Capt.,” as owning lands in South Carolina. On 7th May, 1682 he is granted lot 34 in Charles Town, and he is again referred to by that rank in a deed dated 1693 and in a will, making him an executor, in 1695. In May and August, 1692, we find him styled “Major;” and on 24th November, 1693, he is styled “Major,” and commander of the ship “Daniel of Carolina;” and on 12th September, 1696, 10th March 1696/7, and 10th January, 1697, he is styled “Major” in the communications from the Lords Proprietors to the Governor and Council at Charles Town. In 1702 he is styled “Col.,” and so again in 1710, 1712, and 1716. In what service or how he obtained his successive promotions the record does not disclose.

Robert Daniell inherited his place in the world through his father’s legacy as a ship and land owner in London. His brother was a captain in the East India Company on the ship New London and just like his brother and father, Robert was involved early on in the maritime business. He traded between London, Barbados and Bermuda and from Barbados he eventually found his way to South Carolina. Daniel did much for the colony after having accrued a substantial amount of wealth.

In 1680 he joined the Goose Creek Militia led by Colonel George Chicken. He also took part in a defense against an invasion of Carolina by Spanish warships in 1686 that had anchored off the coast of the Port Royal River near present-day Beaufort. Robert Daniell, along with 90 men, was sent by Governor James Colleton to help ward off the Latin intruders. After rounding up a sizeable Native American force to accompany them, Daniell and his crew arrived at Port Royal on August 26th. The next day a hurricane struck the South Carolina coast and totally destroyed Daniell’s vessels. According to Daniel Island historians Michael Dahlman and Michael Dahlman, Jr., there was never any evidence that Daniell actually engaged the Spanish in battle, but the Spanish quickly retreated back to St. Augustine after the storm hit.

Besides his military exploits, Daniell remained a ship captain and merchant for several years and continued to acquire land in the South Carolina Lowcountry and in downtown Charleston. His holdings on the peninsula included lot number 299 which Daniel acquired in 1694/5. The first land grant that was given to Daniell on Etiwan Island was a plot of land along the Wando River. He developed it into a Pier known as “Daniell’s Pier” and a settlement of sorts that had slaves working there. The island to the north of the Daniel Island (where Blackbaud Stadium is today) was acquired by Daniell as well and at the time it was called Brady Island or St. Jogues Island. This island was sold in 1715 to Richard Codner.

Daniell’s influence in the colony became increasingly important as he served in the eighth, eleventh and fourteenth assemblies in Carolina. He also acted as a judge, Chief Justice, and a tax commissioner for the colony. After traveling to England to help the Lord’s Proprietors revise the Fundamental Constitutions for the colony, he was given the title of landgrave in 1698 along with the right to sell six other titles of landgrave and eight titles of cacique. He then held land all over the Lowcountry including the remaining lands on Daniel Island, lands on Parris Island and lands in the present-day Georgetown area.
As his land holdings grew as well as his stature in the colony, Captain Daniell eventually became Deputy Governor and then eventually Governor of North Carolina. He fought against the Tuscarora Indians successfully in 1711 and as a result was granted another landgrave with 48,000 acres in 1713. He also fought for the colony of South Carolina in 1715 against the Yemassee Indians and he then became the 18th governor of the colony in 1716. He was only governor for a short period of time and died at age 72 in 1718. He was buried on Daniel Island and survived his wife Martha and five children. His grave marker was found in 1895 it was moved to the main graveyard at St. Philip’s Church in Charleston.

Today Daniell has left a lasting impression on the history of the colonies. One of the most significant is the island that now holds his namesake. His contributions to the development of our nation at large include his development of lands throughout North and South Carolina, his extensive involvement in the defense of the most influential and important colonies in the New World and his helping to shape the way in which our early governments were formed. There is even a Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Colonists named after him in Athens, Georgia.

Another large landholder on Daniel Island in colonial times was the French immigrant Isaac Lesesne. Although his family in France was very wealthy, because of his religious beliefs as a Huguenot or French Protestant or non-Catholic, he and his family had to flee France after the Edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685 by King Louis the XIV the Sun King. The Edict was established to protect those who publicly worshipped as Protestants. However, after it was revoked, the Huguenots were severely persecuted and forced to leave France. Many of these families immigrated to the Carolinas as a result. Lesesne’s plantation was approximately 171 and was known as The Grove.

The Grove played an integral part in the economic development of the Lowcountry in the colonial period. Naval stores, lumber and lime were some of the goods produced there. The Lesesnes also grew cotton, indigo, and raised livestock. They had a store in Charles Town where they sold their wares. It is interesting to note that Lesesne’s plantation furnished the builders of Charleston’s oldest church building, St. Michael’s Church with 5,312 bushels of lime.

After the death of Issac Lesesne, Sr. his son Isaac Lesesne, Jr. took over the plantation. He added several acres to the plantation and upon his death it was 988 acres. The Grove was divided between his three sons and his oldest son, Isaac Walker retained the northern portion which continued to be known as the Grove. The Lesesne family held onto the plantation for just under a century. It was purchased in 1808 by Joshua Leavitt.

Brady’s Island or St. Jogues Island was owned by a very famous Charleston furniture maker Thomas Elfe. Elfe came to Charleston via Philadelphia and made quite a name for himself as a cabinet maker. According to an entry in the South Carolina Encyclopedia, Elfe was in addition to a cabinetmaker, a philanthropist, a jurist, a real estate speculator and a “family man.” His obituary described him as “honest and industrious.” Industrious he was as is evidenced by the fact that at the time of his death, his estate was estimated at £38,243.1632 Sterling.

In 1765 he bought his Daniel Island plantation which consisted of 250 acres. The location of his main plantation home, according to the Dahlman’s book, was located where Blackbaud campus is today. On his plantation he produced fruit, wool, firewood and of course lumber for his thriving cabinet business. His shop was located at 54 Queen Street and you can see some of his pieces at the Charleston Museum. His wife Rachel continued to live on the plantation after his death. After she died in 1805, her son George took control of the plantation and in 1826 it was sold to John Farr for $3,500.


With all of the activity that occurred on Daniel Island during colonial times, one has to wonder, how did people get back and forth from the island? Not only did the colonials need a way to get back a forth to the island, they also needed a way to carry the goods they produced back and forth to Charleston. Because Daniel Island is situated along the Wando River, the early settlers built boats called perigoes or canoe boats that were capable of carrying upwards of 50 barrels of produce. Piers were built by both Captain Daniell and Richard Codner to service these vessels.

Roads were also built by landowners at their own expense until the Lords Proprietors finally realized the need for roads to aid in the development of commerce in their colony. They imposed a tax at “the equal charge and labor of all the male persons above the age of sixteen yeas and under sixty that lived or owned land on or adjacent to the road.” There were acts passed in 1703, 1709, and 1712 that created public roads on the island. According to Daniel Island there were main roads that serviced the island. One was south of Flagg Creak and it went from George Smith’s plantation that included a bridge that went over the creek. Another went from Robert Daniell’s plantation to Fogarty plantation in Cainhoy and another went from Codner Plantation to Daniell Road.

In the mid-eighteenth century, Ferries played a major role in the development of transportation on the island. Charles Codner of Codner Plantation was granted the right to operate a ferry from his land to where the old navy base is located today in North Charleston. After Codner’s Plantation was purchased in 1765 by Joseph Scott, the Ferry continued to run.

Another entrepreneur who operated a ferry from Daniel Island was John Clement. He began his stint in the ferry business on Edisto Island and in 1785 began to operate off of what is now known as Clement’s Ferry Road. It is believed that Clement used a newer style ferry boat that was flat and easily navigated by using the slow lowcountry tides. Clement used his own finances to build a causeway through the marsh which created a more direct route from Clement’s Ferry to its several stopping points. Clement also built a ferry that went across Clouter Creek. This ferry was navigated with a rope and pull system. John Spring and John Gordon, brick makers on the adjacent Thomas Island, purchased the ferry after the death of Clement’s son. The ferry was in operation until the end of the War Between the States. When the ferry stopped operating on the island the only way to get to her was through Strawberry Ferry across the Cooper River or though Cainhoy and then across the Wando.

When commercial truck farming became a big industry on Daniel Island in the late nineteenth century there was once again a need to get goods to and from the island in a quick and easy way. So the A.F. Young Company who purchased the southern portion of the island in 1905 built three piers along the Wando and one on Beresford Creek. They were Scott Pier, Acme Pier, Mitchell Pier and Pole Grove Pier.

Eventually the island became fairly remote and there were no vehicles on the island. Everything was done by mule, horse or oxen and the only a mail ferry made frequent trips to the island. The boat was named Lucas and later the Euklid. People could take the boat back to Charleston for 15 cents a trip. The American Fruit Growers Association who eventually came to the island also operated a ferry boat called the Blue Goose. It was used mainly by the managers who lived on the island.

In 1940, according to the Dahlman book there was Ford Model T, a white truck and several tractors. These vehicles probably made their way over to the island because in 1939 a bridge over the Wando finally allowed trucks and cars to cross onto Thomas Island. Until then, the islanders used a narrow wooden plank that went above the marsh to get back and forth from Thomas Island to Daniel Island. Sometimes people would take rowboat operated by “Walter.” Many had the option of taking the ferry but because of the cost it was not the primary to transport people on and off of the island.

Of course, after Henry Guggenheim purchased much of Daniel Island in 1946, many things changed on the island including the roads and transportation. In the early 1990s, things changed drastically for the island with the opening of Interstate 526. The present day roads on the island were begun in 1994.
Truck Farming

After the War Between the States, many landholders on Daniel Island lost their property because of debt or sold it to make do. Thus the island was consolidated between two landowners, George Cunningham who owned the major portion on the south side of the island and the Furman family who owned approximately 1,000 acres on the northern part of the island.

George Cunningham, a Tennessean, moved to Charleston in 1852 and got involved in cattle. He purchased 2,398 acres on Daniel Island in 1876. On Daniel Island he raised livestock but his primary focus was cotton. He managed his lands by creating small farms that were operated by families and there were nearly a dozen families who lived and worked on the land by 1902. He also used migrant labor to help with the harvesting and planting of the cotton. After his death in 1902 the families who worked and paid mortgages on his land included the Pickens, Denis, Bellinger, Campbell, and Kinlock families. Three years after his death, Cunningham’s lands were sold to a company out of New York called A.F. Young and Company.

A.F. Young and Company used their lands on the island for what was known as “Truck Farming.” These were vegetable farms and they traded or bartered their goods rather than sell them for cash. This is where the word “truck” comes into play. It comes from an old English word “trukken” which means barter. The company built several buildings on the island including a warehouse complex and three piers.
Houses were built for the families that lived and worked on the island on the truck farms. They did not have to pay rent but they were expected to work only for A.F. Young. According to the Dahlman book, each home had four rooms with a brick fireplace. Larger homes were built for the managers at each of the eight farm units that the company developed on the island. The eight units were Center, Scott, 15 Acre, Barfield, Isaac, Mitchell, Pole Grove and Acme. The main crops grown on the units were asparagus, cabbage, cucumbers, potatoes and beans.

A.F. Young and Company was purchased in 1921 by the American Fruit Growers. This company built a packing shed on Beresford Creek and added a general store, post office, a school and more homes on the island. A full time overseer was brought in to manage all of the farms named Harry Hetzel. Under his leadership the amount of produce that came out of Daniel Island doubled. The main crops were potatoes and cabbage. The Fruit Growers continued operations on Daniel Island until 1945 when their property was purchased by John F. Maybank, the governor of South Carolina’s brother.
John Maybank continued to operate the truck farms until he sold 2,938 acres to Harry Frank Guggenheim in May of 1946. Harry already owned land in the area. He first purchased land there in 1935 after he returned from Cuba as the U.S. Ambassador. One of his lawyers, Paul Berringer, had a brother, Victor, who worked for Sumter Hardwood Company in Sumter, S.C. Paul and Victor along with Victor’s manager in Sumter, Frank Traver, worked for Guggenheim and helped him purchase upwards of 10,000 acres in which he named Cain Hoy Plantation. He spent his winters on the plantation and frequented downtown Charleston and thus he was dubbed “winter resident of the Lowcoutnry.”

Guggenheim mainly used Cain Hoy as a hunting plantation and in 1962 the property was granted status as a private hunting club. However, Guggenheim also profited from the land by operating a timber company that sold logging rights to Coastal Lumber Corporation. He also bred thoroughbreds on Cain Hoy and established Cain Hoy Stables in the 1940s. According to Daniel Island it was considered one of the best thoroughbred breeding programs in the country. One of his horses Dark Star won the Kentucky Derby in 1953. He bred many other champions at his stables including Bald Eagle and Ragusa. After he was diagnosed with cancer in 1969, Guggenheim began to sell his horses and shut down Cain Hoy Stables.
The land that Guggenheim purchased in 1946 on Daniel Island included the lower two-thirds of the island. Guggenheim immediately got rid of the truck farms and began to transform the farms into pasture for cattle. Guggenheim had 220 heads of cattle on Daniel Island only thirteen months after he purchased the property. According to the Dahlman history of Daniel Island, “The labor needs of a cattle ranch are significantly less than those of a truck farm, and within a few years of Guggenheim’s 1946 purchase…only a few buildings noted on the 1947 inventory remained. Those who had lived and worked on the island were allowed to disassemble their homes and have them rebuilt on Thomas Island.”

Guggenheim sought to complete his landholdings on Daniel Island by purchasing the “Furman Track” or the remaining 1,000 acres of land on the island. The Furman family owned the land since 1878 and used it to grow sea island cotton and timber with a little truck farming in between. Guggenheim purchased the tract in 1955 for $70,000. He expelled the remaining families on the island and expanded his cattle farms.

After Harry Guggenheim died in 1971, Cain Hoy Plantation was put into a trust with Peter Lawson-Johnston as trustee. After Lawson-Johnston’s death the property was placed in the hands of the Guggenheim Foundation. Truck farms were again built on the land and tomatoes and cucumbers were the main crops. John Murray kept the northern portion of the island as a cattle farm until the 1990s.
Development and Annexation

The Guggenheim Foundation refused to sell the land to developers for several years but eventually decided to allow the City of Charleston to annex Daniel Island. After some heated debates and battles over the issue, and promises made by the city of Charleston to provide sewer and water service, construct public buildings and parks, the Guggenheim Foundation agreed to the annexation. Then in 1992 the State Ports Authority purchased 800 acres on the western and southern portions of the island. Perhaps the biggest sign that Daniel Island was on the road to development was the opening of the Mark Clark in June of 1992.

The development of Daniel Island was planned with great care. In an article dated June 1990, Dr. James Hester, the Guggenheim Foundation President stated, “it would be a permanent shame not to develop the area as sensitively as possible.” Their plan consisted of a mixture of business, residential and open space. The foundation formed the Daniel Island Development company to develop the island. It’s president, John H. Alschuler, Jr. said in an article by Lyn Riddle that “There will be no locked gate and no hidden gates constructed by price barriers…We want to create new neighborhoods and truly have public open space.”
Today, Hester and Alschuler’s vision for Daniel Island has become a reality. With a mixture of single-family and town home neighborhoods with the first homes built at Codner Ferry Park, businesses such as Blackbaud, Drs offices, restaurants, shopping, public and private schools with the construction of Bishop England High School in 1998, the Family Circle Tennis Center and several parks and public spaces, Daniel Island is truly a city within a city. No longer is Daniel Island, as Alschuler put it, “a really unique entity…with 4,000 to 5,000 acres under single owners without a structure on it at the heart and center of a city.”