Palmetto Bluff History
The oldest artifacts found at Palmetto Bluff, stone tools made by Paleoindians, date to 10,000 B.C. Following these early visitors, generations of Native Americans came to Palmetto Bluff to harvest oysters and fish in the rivers, and to hunt and gather in the forests. Today, archaeologists find oyster 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 uninhabited.
In 1730, British naval officer Admiral George Lord Anson purchased the property. However, Anson never lived here. Instead, after sailing around the globe and capturing Spanish galleons, he returned to England to enjoy his fame and fortune. In 1757, Anson divided his May River estate into parcels that were sold as individual plantations.
In the antebellum era, Palmetto Bluff was comprised of 21 plantations. One of the plantation owners was Thomas Fenwick Drayton, commander of the Confederate soldiers at Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island during the Battle of Port Royal. In this battle, General Drayton faced his own brother, Captain Percival Drayton, commander of a Federal gunboat. The Union navy easily defeated the Confederate forces and General Drayton was forced to order a retreat.
Wilson Village Ruins
Contributing to the rich history of Palmetto Bluff, the ruins that grace the Village Green are all that remains of R.T. Wilson, Jr.’s “Palmetto Lodge.” Shortly after the turn of the twentieth century, R.T. Wilson, Jr. entertained lavishly in his magnificent 72-room home, complete with grand ballroom. The Palmetto Bluff estate was designed with guests in mind. Visitors arrived at the estate by way of a Savannah Line steamship, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, or the Seaboard Airline train. The social pages of the New York Times listed the comings and goings of the New York elite with frequent mention of individuals “leaving today to visit Mr. and Mrs. R.T. Wilson of Palmetto Bluff, S.C.” Guests would stay for weeks, enjoying Mrs. Wilson’s lavish parties. One can only imagine the elegance and bounty of the meals served there, with the freshest of ingredients harvested from the surrounding waters and woods, and the produce of Wilson’s extensive farms.
The Wilsons’ pastoral winters at Palmetto Bluff came to a sudden and tragic halt in 1926 when, during their occupancy, a fire broke out in the attic of their mansion that could not be controlled. The destruction of the 14-year-old mansion was heartbreaking to Richard Wilson Jr., who is reported to have wept profusely at the loss and had to be twice carried from the burning building. In ill health, with liver and other problems, he made no attempt to rebuild the mansion and sold the entire property, including the sawmill and other business properties, to the Varn Turpentine and Cattle Company in 1926.
The art of the Carolina Lowcountry has evolved as a distillate of the history and geography which make Palmetto Bluff – and this region – unique in the world. It ranges in style from the primitive folk art of the Sea Islands to the exquisite and sophisticated “naïve” paintings of Jonathon Green – from the Charleston etchings of Hutty and Verner, to the stunning landscapes of Ray Ellis and Wes Fraser. The quality of light in the Lowcountry, in all seasons, has been compared to that of Provence, and this may help to explain why the region has been a magnet to artists all over the world for many years. But the most compelling draw is the stunning natural beauty of the rivers, marshes and maritime forest, as well as the hope, optimism and warm good nature of the people which characterize this rare and mystical place.
The Gullah are descendants of enslaved Africans who lived in the Lowcountry region. The Gullah culture is rich in heritage particularly on the Hilton Head and Daufuskie Islands, stemming from the slave descendants who stayed and made the area their home. Their culture arose from slaves brought to South Carolina and Georgia from countries like Sierra Leone and Angola to work the rice, cotton and indigo plantations thriving in the region. The owners left their plantations in the capable hands of African overseers, a practice they kept up well into the American Civil War. Both of these circumstances provided opportunities for the Sea Island slaves to keep their African traditions alive with a richer quality than inland cities and states had.
Gullah people continued to practice their traditional culture with little influence from the outside world well into the 20th century. Historians, linguists, and anthropologists have flocked to study their culture. The Gullah preserve their unique way of life and have developed local museums, exhibits, festivals and raised awareness of their culture. Just over the bridge on Hilton Head and across the waters to Daufuskie are back roads still unpaved, with homes built by freed slaves and the Gullah still practicing their native trades of ship building, shrimping, basket weaving, and oyster harvesting.
Situated along the coast of South Carolina between Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, Palmetto Bluff is a 20,000-acre development encompassing an extensive nature preserve; walking trails; a vibrant Village center complete with river access, an array of land activities and a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. Montage Palmetto Bluff, an award-winning resort and Spa rests within Palmetto Bluff.
Wilson Village is a place rooted in time, a picture-perfect small town village, resting along the May River, from the very best of the good old days. An expansive village green, charming restaurants, boutiques, and a genuine sense of good old-fashioned community, it’s the very ideal of a simple, memorable place where you enjoy everyone you meet and everything you do.
Every day here brings something new and refreshing. A breakfast at Buffalo’s, and an afternoon treasure hunt in the local boutiques. An enriching family tour of the History Center, a kayak adventure from Wilson’s Landing, then a quick trip to RT’s Market for dinner fixings. It’s the rare place where life is what you make it, nothing more, nothing less – the perfect place at the perfect pace for your perfect vacation.
Located just beyond Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton is a quaint, charming, coastal town whose name refers to its location atop a scenic bluff along the May River. Antebellum homes, historic churches and unique shops rest along the oak-lined streets of Bluffton’s downtown historic district, offering a taste of Lowcountry living. The feeling in town often referred to as “A Bluffton State of Mind” is apparent as you explore unique artisan shops, galleries, restaurants and boutiques.
A mere 30 minutes away, on Hilton Head Island, are some of the region’s most pristine beaches, a wealth of restaurants, world-class golf courses and tennis. The ideal day excursion, the island can be visited in one of our complimentary Cadillac or via our daily boat trip over to Harbour Town.
Tucked into narrow interlocking streets and adorned by natural foliage and centuries-old, moss-draped live oak trees, downtown Beaufort is one of the gems of the region. The city’s historic district can be explored with a professional guide either by walking, by horse-drawn carriage, or touring van. The downtown area has an eclectic array of shops and art galleries. Fine homes from the Civil War era can be found in the eastern portion of town, many with unrivaled water views.
Just 30 minutes south of Palmetto Bluff is the historic port-city of Savannah. Savannah’s Historic District is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States, with 22 park squares, historic buildings and the oldest antebellum rail facility in America. Home to Savannah College of Art and Design, one of the nation’s premier art institutes, the city abounds with art in a variety of forms. Savannah’s cobblestone streets welcome visitors to explore the architecture, beauty, history and shops independently or through one of the many guided tours.
Location & Directions
To Locate Palmetto Bluff Using a GPS Unit
Please use the address 477 Mount Pelia Rd, Bluffton, SC 29910.
From Savannah Airport
Exit airport and follow signs to I-95 North. Take I-95 North to Exit 8 in South Carolina (16 miles). At Exit 8, go right on Hwy. 278 East and proceed to SC 170 (8 miles). Exit right on SC 170 and follow it to the traffic circle (4 miles). Proceed around traffic circle. Take the third exit, heading East on SC 46. Proceed to Palmetto Bluff entrance (2 miles). The entrance to our South Carolina resort will be on your right; proceed to Welcome Gate.
From Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Once off Hilton Head Island, continue to Hwy 278/SC 46 intersection (5 miles). Go left on SC 46 and proceed to first stop sign ( 2 miles). Go right and continue on SC 46 to Palmetto Bluff entrance (5 miles). The entrance to Palmetto Bluff will be on your left; proceed to Welcome Gate.
From Charleston, South Carolina
Take Hwy. 17 towards Beaufort, SC. Follow Hwy 17 to I-95 South. On I-95 South, take exit 8. At the traffic light, turn left onto Hwy 278. Take the SC 170 exit and turn right. At traffic circle (4 miles) take the third exit, heading east on SC 46. At approximately 2 miles, the Palmetto Bluff entrance will be on your right.
From Beaufort, South Carolina
Take SC 170 towards Bluffton and go to SC 46 intersection (22 miles). Proceed around traffic circle. Take the third exit, heading East on SC 46. Proceed to Palmetto Bluff entrance (2 miles). The entrance to Palmetto Bluff will be on your right; proceed to Welcome Gate.
From All Other Points
Take I-95 to Exit 8 in South Carolina. At Exit 8, take Hwy. 278 East and proceed to SC 170 (8 miles). Exit right on SC 170 and follow it to the traffic circle(4 miles). Proceed around traffic circle. Take the third exit, heading East on SC 46. Proceed to Palmetto Bluff entrance (2 miles). The entrance to our South Carolina resort will be on your right; proceed to Welcome Gate.