Nestled on a high bluff overlooking the May River, Bluffton originally served as a home to native American tribes.
They fished and gathered oysters in the waters throughout the South Carolina Lowcountry.
King Charles II of England granted Sir John Colleton the land, which includes modern-day Bluffton, in 1718 . His grandson, also named Sir John Colleton, developed several plantations in the area. These plantations fell to ruins in 1779 during the America Revolution.
Following the invention of the cotton gin at Mulberry Grove Plantation in Savannah in 1794, cotton became a major Southern crop. Along with rice and indigo, cotton helped make plantation owners in nearby Savannah quite wealthy in the early 1800’s. However, intense heat and frequent outbreaks of malaria and yellow fever hurt production. Vaporsarising from the tidal marshes caused plantation owners to flee to Bluffton, with its high bluff, huge live oak trees and cool breezes.
Summer homes emerged in Bluffton in the early 1800s.
The official planning of Bluffton took place in the 1830s, with its streets arranged in a grid which now forms the Old Town district.
Bluffton was officially chartered in 1853, earning the official distinction of being the first town in southern Beaufort County. First settled by Lowcountry planters and Savannah plantation owners, Bluffton got its name after its signature high bluff, which provided a breezy refuge for residents.
Bluffton evacuated and many of its homes and public buildings that burned to the ground, during the Civil War. Confederate forces used Bluffton as a lookout station, reporting movements by Union troops along the river. The town rebounded after the Civil War and experienced a surge in development, due to the bridge erected to nearby Hilton Head Island in the 1950s.
In the 1990’s, the opening of Sun City Hilton Head kicked off a boom in off-island residential development.
Gated communities along Hwy. 278 and along Hwy. 170 and Hwy. 46 have since become quite popular. The town and its citizens decided to annex nearly 55 square miles of land in the late 1990’s. This increased Bluffton’s tax base. The annex made Bluffton one of the Palmetto State’s largest towns by land area.
Today, Bluffton’s original one-square mile heart and soul, known as Old Town, is a vital historic district with many structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bluffton truly is a state of mind. This town on the bluff offers a variety of quaint antique shops, restaurants and art galleries. Bluffton attracts visitors from across the Southeast and around the United States.