There are few places as rich with American history as Bluffton, South Carolina. It was incorporated in 1852 as a one-mile square town, gaining its name from the fact that its location is on a bluff above the May River. During the Antebellum Era, which lasted until 1860, Bluffton was a bustling, wealthy town known for producing sea cotton. Its location made it a hot spot for shipping and trade, and it came to attract many wealthy families. However, Bluffton got quite the shake-up in June of 1861, when it became the site of the first shots fired in South Carolina in the Civil War. The conflict caused widespread damage and forced nearly all of the residents to evacuate. After the war, Bluffton struggled to recover, as many of the town’s former families lost their wealth and moved elsewhere in search of better opportunities. 

Today the town of Bluffton is once again thriving and full of life, but the remnants of the past are evident everywhere you look. Many of the same buildings that looked on as Union and Confederate soldiers exchanged shots in the streets are still standing, and Bluffton hosts countless visitors and history buffs each year who seek to unlock the secrets of the town’s past.

One of the first stops for anyone seeking out history in Bluffton is the Old Town area. With buildings and homes that date back to the Antebellum era, it’s a hot spot for anyone looking to feel like they’ve traveled back in time. Many of the structures here have been lovingly cared for to maintain their original appearance, but have been transformed into art galleries, cafes, and boutiques. Since the May River was the hub of commerce and community in the town’s founding days, many of the oldest buildings and artifacts can be found along the banks of the river.

One popular attraction is the Cole-Heyward House, one of a handful of homes remaining from the Antebellum area. It was built as a summer home for a local plantation owner and has been virtually untouched by time, giving visitors the chance to tour the original slave cabin and summer kitchen as they were in the 1880s. Another prominent historical site on the May River is the world-famous Bluffton Oyster Company. Having been in operation since 1899, it’s one the oldest continuously operating businesses in South Carolina. When locals and visitors want fresh seafood, they know The Bluffton Oyster Company is the place to go.

It's hard not to feel astonished by the layers of history that define Bluffton, South Carolina. The trees and buildings here have endless stories to tell, and if you’re curious enough, you just might be able to hear the whisperings of those stories as they float by on the Carolina breeze.

Posted by Russell Fielden on


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