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South Carolina State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1521—Spaniard Francisco Gordillo explores the Carolina coast

1670—England establishes Albemarle Point, its first in South Carolina

1729—South Carolina becomes a royal colony

1780—The Battle of Kings Mountain

1788—South Carolina becomes the 8th state

1832—The Ordinance of Nullification was passed by South Carolina

1860—South Carolina is the first to secede from the Union

1861—Confederate troops fire on Fort Sumter; start of the Civil War

1868—South Carolina is readmitted to the Union

1953—The Savannah River Nuclear Energy Plant produces nuclear material

1989—Hurricane Hugo kills 20 and causes $5 billion in damages

Several Native American groups lived in South Carolina when European explorers first arrived in the early 1500s.  Largest among these were the Cherokee, Catawba, and Yamasee.  In 1521, Spaniard Francisco Gordillo explored the Carolina coast.  Lucas Vásquez tried to establish a colony near the Winyah Bay region five years later, but due to disease the colony failed.

France attempted settlements in South Carolina as well, but they also failed.

England began settlement of the Americas during the 1600s.  In 1670, the first permanent European settlement of South Carolina was established at Albemarle Point.  In 1680, the settlement was moved to Oyster Point and renamed Charles Towne.  Now it is known as Charleston.

Several battles were fought during the early 1700s.  Colonists received little help from England, but rallied together to defeat French and Spanish troops.  They were also victorious against Indian attacks and pirates that raided ships along the coast until 1718.

In 1719, South Carolina became a royal colony.  Plantations grew rice and indigo and sold them to England.  Several colonists came from Pennsylvania and Virginia to settle the area.  Charleston became an important center for trade.  The nation’s first theater and museum opened there.

Many important battles were fought in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).  British troops attacked Charleston several times, finally capturing the city in 1780.  That same year, Britain captured Camden and controlled most of South Carolina.  Huge colonial victories in South Carolina occurred at Kings Mountain in 1780 and Cowpens in 1781.  By 1782, British troops fled from the state into Virginia.  After the war, South Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution and became the 8th state of the Union on May 23, 1788.

During the early 1800s, South Carolina’s economy depended highly on trade with England. Federal laws raised tariffs in 1828 and 1832 which discouraged trade.  South Carolina responded with the Ordinance of Nullification; it stated the tariffs were null and void.  Congress passed a bill in 1833 to help South Carolina, and the Ordinance of Nullification was repealed.

In 1850, disputes rose over permitting slavery in newly organized states.  Abraham Lincoln, a Northerner, was elected president in 1860.  South Carolina feared slavery would be abolished and became the first state to secede from the Union on Dec. 20, 1860.  Ten other states soon joined them to form the Confederate States of America.

The first shots of the Civil War (1861-1865) were shot by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  South Carolina’s economy suffered greatly during the war.  Trade was completely stopped as Union ships closed Charleston Harbor.  In 1865, the entire city of Columbia was burned along with many plantations throughout the state.

South Carolina was placed under militia rule during the Reconstruction period.  A new state constitution freed slaves and allowed blacks the right to vote.  South Carolina was readmitted to the Union on June 25, 1868, but federal troops did not withdraw from the state until March 1877.  By 1895, blacks again had lost many of their rights in South Carolina and cities became segregated.

Industrial growth helped South Carolina’s economy during the late 1800s.  The textile industry became its leading business.   Boll weevils ruined cotton crops during the 1920s.  Although cotton remained the largest crop, farmers began planting tobacco, soybeans, wheat, and fruits.  The Great Depression (1929-1939) hurt South Carolina as mills closed and prices for crops dropped.

The economy slowly recovered during the 1930s.  World War II (1939-1945) brought work to Charleston, where over 200 fighting ships were built.  In 1941, the Santee-Cooper Dam was built to supply electric power to growing industries.  In 1953, the Savannah River Plant began production of nuclear materials.  Industry continued to expand during the 1960s.

After the U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled segregation in public schools unconstitutional in 1954, South Carolina integrated schools.  Blacks now voted in large numbers and several were elected to serve in the government.  By the 1970s, most segregation had ended in South Carolina.

Recently, industrial growth continues as businesses come to South Carolina internationally.  State officials are concerned about the growing air and water pollution problems.  South Carolina continues to be one of the fastest growing states in the South.