The History of Folly Beach – A Timeline

The word “Folly” is an Old English word meaning an area of dense foliage

1600’s Early settlers found an Indian tribe, the Bohickets, inhabiting the island

1696 Folly Island was deeded to William Rivers.

1744 Folly was passed down through a generation and sold to Henry Samsways whose deed referred to the Island as “Coffin Land” and a map from 1780 depicts Folly as such. However, a map dated 1800 shows Coffin Land as the western end of Folly Island where the State Park is now. The name Coffin Land came from the fact that it was customary for ships with plague or cholera victims to the leave the ill travelers on barrier islands before they entered the Charleston port. On their way back out to sea, they would pick up the survivors and bury the dead.

1832 The ship Amelia wrecked on Folly Island while sailing from New York to New Orleans. Twenty of 120 passengers died of cholera while marooned on Folly Island and Charleston cut off communications and supplies to the Island, fearing it would spread into Charleston and become an epidemic.

1838 Thomas Gillespie, a Scottish captain, died on Folly. His marker still stands at the southeastern end of the Island.

1860’s The first shots of the Civil War were fired by Citadel Cadets on Morris Island. Three months later Beauregard’s men fired on Ft. Sumter. The Union army took Folly Island and Morris Island on their way to Charleston

1920’s Rumors of bootlegging on the Island. The original Pavilion was built.

1930’s The new Atlantic Pavilion, Boardwalk, Pier and Oceanfront Hotel were built where the Holiday Inn now stands.

1932 Nine families lived on the Island year-round

1934 Gershwin stayed at 708 West Artic and wrote Porgy & Bess. He also judged a local beauty contest.

1937 Over 15,000 people were at the Pier for the 4th of July celebration

1940’s Many homes were built, improvements made to roads & utilities

1955 Elmer “Trigger” Burke (the man who killed Joseph “Specs” O’Keefe of the $1.2 million Brinks robbery) rented a cottage on Folly and was arrested by the FBI on the corner of Erie & Center Street.

1956 The wooden Folly River bridge was replaced with a concrete bridge

1957 The Oceanfront Hotel and Pavilion and Joe’s Restaurant burned

1960’s Ocean Plaza was opened with 1700 feet of boardwalk, pier, amusement rides, shops, roller skating and concessions. This was the Golden Era of Folly Beach. The first surfboard on the Island was introduced by Pat Thomas.

1964 Palm reading was banned on Folly

1967 Horseback riding was banned on the Island

1977 The Pier burned again, suspected arson

1985 Holiday Inn was built

1989 Hurricane Hugo destroyed many homes and devastated the beaches

1995 The current Pier, restaurant and tackle shop was built

Resource: Time and Tide on Folly Beach South Carolina, Gretchen Stringer-Robinson (1998)