Edisto Beach: A Look at the Beginning

There are people, numerous people, who flock to Edisto Beach year after year because of its apparent seclusion. They like that that nothing-to-do really means there’s everything in the world to do that matters – like visiting with friends and family while the Atlantic crashes onto the shore or nursing a beer on a rocking boat waiting for a tug on the line.

This sentiment has been around as long as Edisto’s been around. When the natives lived on the land, instead of making peace with the European explorers, they left, because to them, an Edisto that would change was no Edisto at all.

Then in the early 20th century, islanders got upset when John McConkey, owner of the land the beach was on, began to develop it so that it could become a vacation destination. In fact, those most familiar with Edisto can tell you that when you make the turn onto the beach right by the Pavilion the sign that reads Palmetto Boulevard bares another marker that says “McConkey Boulevard.”

But McConkey didn’t get to experience Edisto as a vacation destination because as his tombstone says he was “cruelly murdered” and plans for the development of Edisto stalled. (By the way, nobody ever found out who killed McConkey).

It wasn’t until the 1920s that a new development plan was put into place to turn Edisto Beach into a vacation spot. This plan was carried out by a Sumter, SC company and supported by the Seabrook family, which was one of Edisto’s most prominent families at the time.

Few people built cottages on the beach at this time because the location was so remote and then the Depression came and that really crippled efforts to get the beach going.

But for the handful people who did build beach cottages at that time it was a like living in paradise.

Nowadays, people comment on there is very little commercialization on the beach, but back then there was absolutely nothing. That means there were no roads, no electricity, no grocery stores, no sandwich shops. All that existed were the houses and the beach.

And that’s just how they liked it.

The summer crowd loved having unfettered access to the sand dunes, ocean, ample fishing, crabbing, shrimping, and shelling, and everything else we do today. They were a close bunch that enjoyed their time together then as we all do today.

So as you can see, the first vacationers loved Edisto for the same reasons we all love it and even though it has changed (and you can’t really get mad at the fact that we now have roads, electricity, and indoor plumbing) the fundamental feeling the beach gives has never and will never change.

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  1. We own properties on Edisto Beach. From the first time we rented a vacation home here to the time we bought our first home at Edisto Beach, we were in love with the fundamental nature of the town, beach, and island.
    We want it to remain as it is today. Developers develop land for their own profit. Not for the good of the community. Any statements otherwise are meant only to further the interests of those seeking to make gain for themselves at the expense of others.
    Leave Edisto as Edisto.

  2. An interesting take of the “development” of Edisto Beach, but not one that I’ve heard before. My memory tells me that the Edisto Beach Company bought McConkey’s Island from George Washington “Washie” Seabrook in 1925 and it was the EBC who surveyed lots and laid out the streets of Edisto Beach. The late J.G. Murray told the tale of Locksley Hall (Seaside), the McConkey brothers, their sisters and the Seabrook brothers (Mitcie & Washie who were from Wadmalaw Island, and not Edisto) with great elegance. Both Nick Lindsay & Charles Spencer cover the development of Edisto Beach well in their well documented books, but neither mention any development by James or John McConkey of lots on Edisto Beach. It was Charleston County who should get the “credit” for renaming Palmetto Boulevard, McConkey’s Boulevard, without consulting the residence in the late 50s. The 7 or 8 resident families and the approx. 300 summer cottage owners refused the accept the name change and forced the reversion to Palmetto Boulevard a few years later.

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