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
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 islands
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.