Blog, Hilton Head Island History, Throwback Thursdays
Nov 5, 2015
Beaufort County in the 18th century was booming due to the ship building industry. Beaufort County’s shipbuilding industry was one of the largest in the 13 colonies. The deep-water creeks around Hilton Head and the prevalence of hardwoods (like live oak) made the island a popular place for shipbuilding.
The first sea going vessel built out of Beaufort County was the 15 ton schooner “St. Joseph”, built in 1740 for Edward Wigg and William Hazzard. After that, Beaufort County was the meca of ship building of the 13 colonies. The influential traders and merchants of the time; Edward Wigg, Robert Williams, James Edward Powell, William Lyford, Joshua Morgan, Thomas Crotty, and John Bull commissioned ships to be made of Sea Island Oaks that could weather and endure even the most treacherous of seas.
Some of the Sea Island Ships made it as far as the West Indies, all the way on the other side of the world. Others only made it as far as trading local cash crops of cotton and indigo up to Charleston and Georgetown.
In 1763 Port Royal Sound became the hub of ship building before the Revolutionary War.
The method of constructing ships in the 18th century was time consuming and full of wasteful material (which probably caused the ship building industry to eventually phase out). First, the ship builders made a small model built to scale. They would then create templates out of cloth and take the templates into the woods to find the tree that was just the right shape and size. Lines of the pieces had to follow the natural grain and sometimes a whole tree would be used to make one large structural piece.
Each live oak takes over 100 years to fully mature to a worthy ship building hardwood. Over the years, the rapid exhaustion of these trees caused the industry to die out.
Even though Beaufort County’s Ship building empire no longer exists, the Sea Island Oaks are still used to restore and create the finest of hard woods- The USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” was rebuilt in 1997 using live oaks felled during construction of Hilton Head Island’s Cross Island Parkway.
If you want to make a little piece of The Island your own, you need more than just a road map and a REALTOR. You need a partner who can make things happen.
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