Kiawah Island History
Kiawah Island, SC > Kiawah
On March 10, 1675 history was made when the Kiawah Indians sold their land to the English for the cost of assorted goods like hatchets, cloth and sundry other items that the Indians desired. After this initial purchase the ownership of the Island was passed on and divided up among different individuals like Captain George Raynor (1699)and John Stayarne (1737) who were the primary owners.
At Stayarne’s passing in 1772 his accumulated wealth was valued at 146,247 pounds or approximately 2.5 million dollars which included his eight plantations, townhouse and the hundreds of slaves that lived on the Island as well. In his will the Island was split into two, the western half going to one granddaughter Mary Gibbes while the eastern side went to the other granddaughter Elizabeth Vanderhorst. This establishment of two plantations would last well into the twentieth century.
Elizabeth and her husband Arnoldus Vanderhorst II built their own plantation house and kept relatively few slaves that tended to subsistence crops like peas, corn and indigo. Their plantation would then be destroyed during the American Revolution in 1780 only to be rebuilt five years later. Once the war ended Arnoldus started planting a new crop, cotton, that not only increased the number of his slaves from a few hundred to over a thousand but brought great fortune to the Vanderhorsts.
This half of the Island was passed on through the Vanderhorst family for several generations until the end of the Civil War when, beset by illness and war losses, black freedmen became abundant. Although there are only fragments that can be pieced together there came to be a man by the name of Quash that was half-black, half-white, his lineage being intertwined with that of the Vanderhorsts and who came to some power during his time.
As the primary caretaker “Miss Adele,” a widower, Quash would later be called the “Cassique (chief) of Kiawah” by his beloved Adele. As one of the few black men on the island that could read and write Quash would become one of the most noted individuals in Kiawah Island history. Quash would later leave the island and purchase his own plot of land on nearby Johns Island where he raised his family including grandson Harold Arnoldus Stevens who became the first African American on the New York State Supreme Court.
After the somewhat tumultuous first few hundred years on the island, the 1900’s brought peace and a renewed interest in Kiawah’s land. People started to purchase plots to build their homes on and real estate on the island came to be considered some of the best in the Charleston area. The Kuwait Investment Company took great interest in the area and, after purchasing it from the Royal family who had owned it previously, began in earnest residential development on Kiawah Island. When they were unable to complete their initial development plans due to stock market problems in the 1980s, Kiawah Resort Associates took over undeveloped parcels of land and still continue today to develop and maintain the beauty and privacy that is associated with Kiawah Island. Several golf courses, hundreds of gorgeous homes and world-class hotels later, the island has become a focal point of the Charleston area not only to travel to but to make a home on.