Recent finds suggest that people arrived in the area now called South Carolina over 50,000 years ago. Native American tribes such as the Cherokee, Creek, and Santee have lived here for thousands of years.
In 1670, the English established a large settlement in the region. Then in 1710 they divided the territory into two colonies: North and South Carolina. Soon after, European settlers came to build plantations to grow rice and indigo, a natural dye used to color cotton. Slaves were brought from Africa to work on those plantations.
Soon South Carolina and the other American colonies wanted independence from England. This led to the American Revolution, which began in 1775. During the war, South Carolina hosted more battles than any other colony. It became a U.S. state in 1788.
South Carolina was the first state to leave the Union in the years leading up to the Civil War, which started in 1861. It rejoined the United States in 1868.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
The Carolinas were named after King Charles I of England.
The state’s nickname, the Palmetto State, was coined in honor of the state tree, the sabal palmetto. During the Revolutionary War these trees were used to build forts because their soft wood could absorb cannonball impacts.
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
Shaped roughly like a triangle, South Carolina is bordered by North Carolina in the north, the Atlantic Ocean in the east, and Georgia in the south and west. The state can be divided into three regions.
The Blue Ridge Mountain Province stretches across northwestern South Carolina. Its forested peaks include the state’s highest point, Sassafras Mountain.
The Piedmont Province stretches southeastward from the mountains to the midlands of the state, covering about a third of the state. Its hills rise higher toward the west. Along its eastern edge are the Sandhills, which are topped with coarse sand that scientists believe was created by ancient oceans.
The Atlantic Coastal Plain covers the remaining two-thirds of the state, extending west from the ocean, where the land is generally flat and includes rivers and swamps. The coastline also features sandy beaches such as Myrtle Beach. Farther inland are fertile hills. The central part of the plain contains the forested Pine Barrens.
Wild pigs, bobcats, gray foxes, and river otters are some of the mammals that live here. Several of the state’s avian species are named after the Carolinas, including the Carolina chickadee and Carolina wren. South Carolina is home to reptiles such as American alligators, corn snakes, and gopher tortoises. Amphibianslike the eastern narrowmouth toad and pine barrens tree frog can also be found in the state.
Though South Carolina’s best-known tree may be the palmetto, other trees such as loblolly pines, live oaks, and southern magnolias grow in the state. Local wildflowers that share their name with the state include the Carolina wild petunia, Carolina phlox, Carolina desert-thorn, Carolina silverbell, and Carolina geranium.
South Carolina’s forests cover more than 67 percent of the state, and they’re also one of the state’s biggest natural resources—particularly loblolly pine. South Carolina is also one of the nation’s top producers of kaolin (natural clay), mica, and vermiculite, a mineral that’s often used for insulation or for growing plants.
—On Hilton Head Island visitors can find a mysterious circle of 4,000-year-old shells called the Sea Pines Shell Ring. It may have been a ceremonial area for Native Americans.
—At Patriots Point in Charleston Harbor, visitors can explore naval ships including a submarine, a destroyer, and the U.S.S. Yorktown aircraft carrier.
—Baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson; civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman; and musicians James Brown, Chubby Checker, and Dizzy Gillespie were all born in South Carolina.