For thousands of years early humans called Daufuskie Island home.
Ancient piles of discarded oyster shells exhibiting pottery shards from all phases of the hunter-gathering period scatter the Island. Prior to European arrival numerous Indian tribes inhabited the Lowcountry and islands. Culturally and linguistically these tribes were of Muskogean stock. Daufuskie comes from the Muscogee language and means “sharp feather”, for the island’s distinctive shape.
As early as 1523, Spanish explorers were sailing the southeastern coast of North America in search of potential settlements. During this period of early exploration, Spanish settlers introduced their distinctive Iberian horses to the Southeastern coast. Today the descendants of these horses are known as “Carolina Marsh Tacky”. These sturdy, intelligent horses are particularly well adapted to the swampy and marshy Lowcountry region. This rare breed still exists on Daufuskie.
In 1684, Spanish soldiers enlisted the help of native warriors to fight Scottish settlers in Port Royal.
This begins the uneasy and difficult history of native entanglement in European settlement history. The inevitable clash of cultures culminated with the so-called Yamasee uprising that consisted of three brutal battles on the southwestern shore of Daufuskie Island between 1715 and 1717 that gave this piece of land the name it still bears today, Bloody Point.
The quest for religious freedom ultimately brought two European families to Daufuskie Island.
The great-grandson of French Huguenot David Mongin, and the daughter of Italian Prince Filippo de Martinangelo escaped the Inquisition and came to the Island. The story of these two founding families intertwine throughout their long history, and both rose to become powerful island plantation owners.
The American Revolution brought divided loyalties to the Lowcountry. Daufuskie received the nickname “Little Bermuda” during the Revolution due to the residents’ Loyalist sentiments. After the Revolution, Daufuskie thrived with the introduction of world-famous sea island cotton, a variety prized by European mills. High quality, sea island cotton exceeded all other long-staple cottons in fiber length, as well as fineness and strength. During this period of strong economic growth several large plantation mansions appeared.
Prior to the Civil War, there were eleven plantations on Daufuskie.
Large homes were constructed on several of these tracts – Oakley Hall at Bloody Point, Melrose, and Haig Point. The mansion at Haig Point was unique as it was built of tabby. It was the largest tabby domestic building erected in coastal South Carolina.
Early Spanish settlers introduced in the southeast. Tabby concrete combines burning oyster shells to create lime, then mixing it with water, sand, ash and broken oyster shells. Three of the best-preserved, tabby-walled single slave dwellings still stand today at Haig Point.
Early in the Civil War, Union forces occupied the Beaufort-area islands.
Union troops on Daufuskie supported the siege and reduction of Fort Pulaski protecting the Savannah River entrance. This Union presence caused white plantation owners to flee, leaving property and slaves behind. After the war, Daufuskie’s remoteness allowed Gullah culture to survive and flourish through the generations.
The Gullah language is a legacy of the original slaves and later laborers who remained once the plantations folded. The Lowcountry was remote until the mid-20th century, but the isolation of Daufuskie created the perfect climate for the language and manners of the Gullah people to remain remarkably well preserved. The language is a colorful and rhythmic blend of West African and rural English dialect that is becoming increasingly rare to hear. Daufuskie is in the center of the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
From the 1880s the oyster industry flourished on Daufuskie.
By the turn of the century the island had a population of 2,000-3,000, most of whom worked in this lucrative shellfish trade. The flat coastline, saltmarsh estuary, and natural oyster reefs, combined with a lengthy spawning season, make waters surrounding Daufuskie the perfect habitat for growing abundant clusters of meaty, briny oysters. Eventually, in the 1950s, pollution closed the oyster beds and the island’s economy declined.
Article: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daufuskie_Island