Site of Historic Indian Town Preserved (SC)

Beaufort County — September 16, 2004: Today, Beaufort County completed its acquisition of the Altamaha Town Preserve from the Trust for Public Land (TPL) under the County’s Rural and Critical Lands Program. The site, known to have been a Yemassee Indian Town dating back to the early 1700’s, is one of the more important historic site acquisitions in Beaufort County. Located in the Heyward Pointe planned community now under development, the 100.1-acre site includes a stand of 200-300 year-old live oaks and other mature hardwoods and pines with stunning views of the Okatie and Colleton Rivers.

“This is the most significant historical land purchase ever made by Beaufort County,” says Beaufort County councilman Peter Lamb. “The Trust for Public Land deserves high praise for its skillful negotiation of this project.”

The Trust for Public Land completed its acquisition of the property from Hazel Point, LLC following its completion of boundary surveys, environmental audit of the property, and appraisal and title examination, for $3.1 million. A Master Plan for the property was recently completed by LandPlan Partnership, Inc., under contract to the Trust, and has been incorporated into Covenants adopted by the County and placed on the property to protect its archaeological and historical qualities and to govern future development in public use.

The State of South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCNDR) has tentatively approved funding under its Heritage Trust Program to assist in the preservation of the site. It is currently working with Beaufort County officials to develop a mutually acceptable Management Plan for the property to protect those assets.

According to the State, two significant archaeological sites make up the majority of the 100.1 acres on the Altamaha Town Preserve. Evidence of Native American, African American and Euroamerican cultures is present in artifacts, features and deposits buried beneath the ground. Most of these are hidden from view. These resources are unique, sensitive, fragile and non-renewable.

The first site, known as Altamaha Town, is a Yemassee Indian town dating from approximately AD 1690 to 1715. This site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was the hometown of a chief who ruled ten such towns throughout the upper reaches of the Port Royal estuary and the ACE Basin. Other important archaeological components of the site spanning the last 4000 years include a Late Prehistoric period earthen mound dating from the Late Woodland or Mississippian periods ca. 1500 to 500 years ago. This mound, along with a second, may contain numerous human burials. A second area of significance is Heyward Plantation, an 18th and 19th century plantation also located on the site along with two cemeteries possibly related to the plantation.