If this land could talk

A history as rich as the land itself.

 

From the beginning, it was clear that Palmetto Bluff was destined to be a place, not a project. The intrinsic value here lies in the natural beauty, vastness and richness of its sea island landscape. We have set out to preserve and protect one of America's treasured landscapes while creating a human settlement for those who will cherish this unique environment. By allowing the land to guide us rather than imposing a developer template, we have crafted a plan that respects its topography, wetlands, and the miles of marsh and river edge. At the heart of this place, a village has been re-created. We connect with the island's colorful history, and continue its centuries-old legacy of living well. The Lowcountry, and all it entails, is integral to Palmetto Bluff. 

An early history.

 

The oldest artifacts at Palmetto Bluff date back to 10,000 B.C. Following these early visitors, generations of Native Americans came to The Bluff to harvest oysters and fish in the rivers and gather in the forests. Today, archaeologists find oysters shells, bones and fragments of clay pots and stone tools as evidence of the prehistoric people. However, by 1562, when Jean Ribaut arrived at Parris Island, the land of Palmetto Bluff appeared to have been basically uninhabited. In 1730, the land was purchased by British naval officer Admiral George Lord Anson who never lived here and eventually sold his May River estate as individual plantations. 

Palmetto Bluff was comprised of 21 plantations during the antebellum era. One of the plantation owners, Thomas Fenwick Drayton, was also the commander of the Confederate solders at Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island during the Battle of Port Royal. When General Drayton went up against his own brother, Captain Percival Drayton, commander of the Federal gunboat, the Confederate forces were easily defeated and forced to order a retreat. 



The Wilson era. 

 

In 1902, Richard T. Wilson, Jr., a wealthy New York banker, purchased Palmetto Bluff and an era of lavish entertaining was born. Though originally intended to be a hunting estate, because Wilson's wide Marion was such a New York socialite, they began construction of a grand mansion to be the centerpiece of the property in 1910. The four-story home that overlooked the gorgeous May River became what is now the Village Square and included a ballroom, library, servant's quarters and numerous guest bedroom - perfect for entertaining guests from the New York and Newport social scenes. Guests would arrive by steamship or railroad and stay for weeks at a time, enjoying Mrs. Wilson's lavish parties and all the amenities the land had to offer. 

On March 26, 1926, the great mansion caught fire, and R.T. Wilson's idyllic retreat was reduced to ashes. After being led away from the roaring flames twice, a distraught Wilson was unable to face rebuilding. Months later, the property was sold to J.E. Varn, and Wilson, who returned to New York City, passed away a mere three years later. 

The Union Camp Era Union Bag Company bought the property in 1937 for its significant timber reserves. Originally acquired for its 20,000 acres of pine and hardwood resources, company officials quickly realized that the 32 miles of riverfront and spectacular maritime forest offered much more than that. The company then created a conservation-based Land Use Plan to protect this pristine place, and to this day, Palmetto Bluff's beauty can be traced back to the stewardship of Union Bag. In the early 1970s, Union acquired the Camp Paper Company of Virginia, and then became known as Union Camp. Union Camp used the property as a hunting retreat for clients, and today, more than half a century after its original inception, the memory of the Lodge and the "Union Camp Years" occupies a prominent place in the history of this fabled property. 



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