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Palmettos on Beach
The Hunting Island Lighthouse
Keeper Dunbar Davis
 

 

 

Hunting Island is located about twenty-five miles east of Beaufort, South Carolina. The island has retained its name since colonial days in South Carolina and was originally recognized as an area of good hunting, giving it its name.

There has been no solid evidence of habitation by anyone on Hunting Island prior to the 1850s. At some point in that decade people came to the island and in 1859, construction of a lighthouse was begun. However, the partially completed lighthouse was destroyed in 1862, during the Civil War. Construction of it was not resumed until 1873, when an innovative design was created by Major George H. Elliot. This new design was a segmented cast-iron lighthouse and it was finally completed in 1875. The lighthouse was designed so that if it ever became necessary, it could be disassembled and transported to another location. It was relocated in 1889 from its original location to a point one mile away.

In August 1893, Hunting Island received the brunt of a full blown hurricane that left it flattened. The lighthouse was about the only thing left standing. All the barrier islands of Georgia and South Carolina experienced similar devastation. The storm is estimated to have killed 1000 to 2000 people, most of whom were on the islands and died from the storm surge. It would become known as the Sea Islands Hurricane.

It was as a result of that hurricane that the name Dunbar John Davis came to the attention of American citizens. He was a Keeper in the United States Life-Saving Service assigned to Oak Island Station on the nearby North Carolina coast. At the height of the storm, he and his small crew rescued the crews and passengers of four ships!

In the 1930s, Hunting Island was designated a state park by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). During that time, bridges were constructed to connect the barrier islands with the mainland.

The Hunting Island Lighthouse was taken out of service in 1933 and stood silent and unused for decades.

In spite of the increased human population, the island is known today as a wildlife preserve. There are over four miles of beaches for visitors to enjoy along with a forest in the island’s interior.

Among the wildlife found there are deer, raccoons, alligators, loggerhead turtles, diamondback rattlesnakes and over a hundred species of birds. There is a manmade lagoon which has become home to seahorses and barracuda. Each year a crowd gathers to watch tiny, newborn loggerhead turtles make their way to the ocean for the first time. This event is closely monitored by the park rangers to protect the little turtles.

In 1977, the Hunting Island Lighthouse was put on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, you can visit it and walk up the 167 steps to its impressive observation deck.

©Copyright 2008 Wilson Jay