AN UNTOLD TREASURE FOR MORE THAN 300 YEARS
AN ISLAND OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCESpring Island is indeed unique and its story is the same. The historical record tells a passionate story of Lowcountry natives, industrious plantation owners, agriculturalists, quail hunting enthusiasts and most recently, land developers endeavoring the risky and courageous preservation of this long treasured property.
In the 1700’s an infamous Native American slave trader named John Cochran set his sights on Spring Island. The Island’s high bluffs gave him a vantage point over the mainland and various neighboring settlements of the Yemasee tribes he preyed upon. Lord Colleton deeded Cochran the land in 1706. Eventually, Cochran added Callawassie Island to his trading post. During a revolt incited by the Yemassee and other native tribes in 1715, now known as the Yemassee War, Cochran and his family were killed along with nearly 100 other English settlers. The Island then passed through 3 generations of Cochrans and various relations of the Cochran family before it eventually settled into the hands of industrious, George Edwards in 1801.
George Edwards set about clearing fields and cultivating Sea Island Cotton. With the help of 253 listed slaves, Edwards would produce 3,000 bushels of vegetables and a cotton crop worth $100,000 annually (would total close to $3 million today). During his tenure, Edwards built much of the original infrastructure that can still be seen around the Island today, not the least of which was a tabby mansion at the end of now Old House Road. This dirt road, lined with ancient Live oaks now leads to the tabby ruins (the most significant in the Southeast) of the Edward’s mansion and it’s out-buildings which were burned by Union troops during the Civil War when the mansion and Island were abandoned.
In 1912, Colonel William Copp became owner of Spring Island after purchasing it at public auction. Copp constructed 35 identical cabins and he and laborers began planting a large number of crops and raising livestock on the Island. Copp built a stately home which he named Bonny Shore. Although no longer standing, the Bonny Shore name remains as a designation of the area in which it stood, and now features a large waterfront gathering spot enjoyed by the Island’s current residents.
In 1964, Elisha Walker bought Spring Island for $401,500 (today’s equivalent is $3.2 million). Walker, a wealthy financier from New York, was a nature enthusiast and avid quail hunter. He put $1 million each year into developing the Island as a quail habitat. Mule-drawn wagons, Tennessee walking horses and world-class hunting dogs made Spring Island one of the South’s legendary quail hunting plantations at this time and left much of the natural beauty untouched.
Walker’s death in 1972 placed the land into the Walker Trust. As much of the area experienced a great deal of growth in these years as a resort location, Spring Island remained undeveloped and wild. As a testament to how little Spring Island has changed, Walker’s daughter still calls the Island home today.
In 1990 a group of three couples purchased Spring Island from the Walker Trust, marking the first time in the Island’s history that it was owned by more than a single individual. Jim and Betsy Chaffin, Jim and Dianne Light and Peter and Beryl LaMotte purchased Spring Island with a vision of developing the area while protecting its natural state. That same year, the group established the non-profit Spring Island Trust to steward this special location. The Trust’s mission is three-fold: protection and management of the Island’s natural environment, ongoing documentation of its history and promotion of its availability as an inspiration for the arts.
With their vision for Spring Island, the new owners embarked to develop a low-density community reducing the existing 5,000 dwelling county permit down to a permit for a maximum 500 homes on the Island’s 3,200 acres. A 1,000 acre Nature Preserve was established at this time. World-renowned Lowcountry land planner and landscape architect, Robert Marvin was brought in to develop a plan that would protect irreplaceable natural treasures like the Live oak forest and the Great Salt Pond.
Though Marvin has since passed, his final Master Plan is a great legacy. The result: a low-impact, environmentally friendly community consisting of three moderate density neighborhoods and the remainder left for large private land parcels meant for larger family homes. His creation of the “Nature Curtain” makes it so that none of these homes are visible even from Spring Island’s roads keeping the natural environment as the centerpiece of the community.
THEN AND NOW
Today, Spring Island is unrivaled in it’s lifestyle, bio-diversity, comfort, and real-life experiences that combine local flavor with global sophistication. Although secluded from urban sprawl, Spring Island is conveniently connected to the nearby town of Beaufort, South Carolina and Hilton Head Island.
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Spring Island Realty
38 Mobley Oaks Lane | Okatie, SC 29909