Georgetown – Georgetown, South Carolina
South Carolina | SC Picture Project | Georgetown County Photos | Georgetown
Georgetown and Georgetown County were named for Prince George, who later became King George II of England. Colonial planters and their slaves began settling the area in the early 1700s, focusing on the crops of indigo, and later, rice.
In 1765, Georgetown was decreed a “pretty little Town” on the Sampit River (see a vintage photo of the Sampit River) by a traveling Englishman, though in fact the city sits on two other rivers as well – the Waccamaw and PeeDee. (In addition, the Black River and the North and South Santee flow into the surrounding county.)
When the American Revolution began in 1775, it all but stopped the indigo trade out of Georgetown, which primarily exported to England. Luckily for Georgetown, the transition from indigo to rice was an easy one, as the field structures require many of the same types of water distribution. Merchants and plantation owners quickly became rich on “Carolina Gold,” the nickname for rice at the time.
The Civil War and the end of slavery brought a crushing blow to rice production in Georgetown. Competition had already begun in non-slavery-based economies like Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, and California. These western states benefited from modern harvesting equipment, but coastal South Carolina’s wet, muddy soil couldn’t support the heavy machines. In the face of these obstacles, rice could no longer sustain Georgetown, and the area harvested its last commercial rice crop in 1919.
Aided in no small part by the rivers that surround it and flow into the Atlantic Ocean, Georgetown was able to rebound by attracting new industries. Timber, paper, and steel industries flourished for much of the twentieth century.
Like all of America, Georgetown has suffered in the recent economic recession. ArcelorMittal, one of the city’s largest employers, has instated both temporary shutdowns and permanent layoffs. It hopes to keep its doors open but has been forced to close several of its other plants around the country. Another major employer, International Paper has faced layoffs too. In this time of uncertainty, Georgetown’s leaders remain optimistic, and are looking for new avenues to prosperity.
One major boost to Georgetown’s economy could come from Santee Cooper, which has created the Palmetto Wind Research Project to determine whether there is enough offshore wind to build a wind farm on South Carolina’s coast. If South Carolina embraces wind technology, it could bring 11,000 jobs to our state! (To put this in perspective, ArcelorMittal and International Paper combined only employee about 1,000 people.)
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