50 Interesting Facts about South Carolina

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 15, 2017
  • South Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies that formed the United States.[6]
  • While the British originally established Carolina as one settlement, they divided it in 1729 into North and South Carolina to make governing easier. To this day, surveyors walk through the landscape to figure out exactly where the lines are.[5]
  • South Carolina is home to the legendary “Hell Hole Swamp.” Every year, it hosts a festival complete with a tobacco-spitting contest and the 10K Hell Hole Gator Trot, which is also known as “Redneck Run.”[3]
  • South Carolina is the only state in the United States to own and operate its own school bus fleet.[5]
  • The majority of South Carolina’s population is white (68.6%), with African Americans accounting for 28.7% of the population. The Hispanic community is growing and amounts to 3.7% of residents. There are also small numbers of Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.[5]
  • Shaped like a triangle, South Carolina’s land area of 30,109 square miles (48,460 sq. km.) makes it the 11th smallest state in the nation and the smallest state in the Deep South. It would fit inside Alaska, the largest state, 21 times.[5]
  • The largest Gingko farm in the world is in Sumter, South Carolina.[5]
  • Hilton Head boasts 39,000 permanent residents and approximately 2.5 million visitors annually
  • Hilton Head, an island off the coast of South Carolina, attracts over 2 million tourists every year. The island is named for Captain William Hilton who discovered it in 1663 and named it after himself.[4]
  • In 1900, nearly 6 of 10 South Carolinians were African American. Many left the state in the early 20th century for better job opportunities in the Northern states. Today about 3 of 10 South Carolinians are African Americans.[5]
  • Weird laws in South Carolina include 1) If a man proposes marriage to a woman, by law, the marriage must take place, 2) It is illegal to keep a horse in the bathtub, and 3) When approaching an intersection in an automated vehicle, the driver must stop 100 feet from the intersection and fire a gun or rifle to warn horse traffic.[5]
  • South Carolina is the only state in the U.S. that grows tea.[4]
  • South Carolina’s state flower is the Yellow Jessamine. Children, mistaking the flower for honeysuckle, have been poisoned by sucking its nectar. The nectar is also toxic to honey bees.[1]
  • Sweet grass basketry is one of the oldest crafts of African origin in America. The grasses used in the baskets are from wetlands and marsh areas in South Carolina’s Low Country. During the days of plantations, large workbaskets were used for collecting and storing rice, grain, cotton, fish, and shellfish.[1]
  • Drayton Hall is one of the oldest and best-preserved plantations not only in South Carolina but also in the entire United States. It has survived, nearly intact, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, hurricanes, and several earthquakes. The mission was originally built for John Drayton (1715-1779) after he bought the property in the late 1730s.[1]
  • South Carolina was one of Blackbeard's romping grounds
  • Famous South Carolinians include Blackbeard, John C. Calhoun, Chubby Checker, Stephen Colbert, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Grimke, Andrew Jackson, Jesse Jackson, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Mary-Louise Parker, Strom Thurmond, and Vanna White.[6]
  • South Carolina was the first state to ratify the Articles of Confederation. It was the 8th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, on May 23, 1788. It was also the first state to vote to secede from the Union, which it did on December 20, 1860. The state was later readmitted to the United States on June 25, 1886.[6]
  • Humans settled South Carolina about 15,000 years ago.[6]
  • Approximately 30 Native American tribes lived in South Carolina at the time the first Europeans arrived in the region. The largest were the Catawba, Cherokee, and Yamasee tribes.[6]
  • The first European in South Carolina was Francisco Gordillo in 1521 from Spain. At the time, no settlements were attempted, but several dozen Native Americans were enslaved.[6]
  • The first attempt of any European settlement ever in the United States was in South Carolina. In 1562, Jean Ribault attempted to establish a Huguenot presence on Parris Island, but Spanish soldiers killed him and his followers in 1565.[6]
  • South Carolina houses the only colony of free-ranging rhesus monkeys in the United States. There are about 3,500 monkeys on Morgan Island, which is also known as Monkey Island.[6]
  • The South Carolina official dance is the Shag.[5]
  • The largest tires in the world, earthmover tires that measure 14 feet across, are made in Lexington, South Carolina.[5]
  • South Carolina is home to the legendary Angel Oak Tree, which shades an area of 17,000 square feet with its enormous limbs. This Live Oak tree is considered to be over 500 years old and is one of the oldest living things east of the Mississippi. The tree gets its name from the Angel family who once owned the land the tree is on, on John’s Island, south of Charleston.[4]
  • According to legend, ghosts of former slaves appear as angels around the tree
  • Nearly a quarter of the soldiers from South Carolina who fought in the Civil War were killed during the war.[6]
  • Columbia is the capital of South Carolina. Named for Christopher Columbus, it is 100 years older than the United States of America. It is known for its beautiful old buildings and its azaleas.[6]
  • South Carolina’s Atlantic coastline is about 187 miles (300 km) long. But if all the bays, inlets, and islands are included, the state has 2,876 miles (4,628 km) of coastline.[6]
  • On average, about 10 tornadoes touch down in South Carolina each year, usually in the spring.[6]
  • About 2/3 of South Carolina is forested, and almost 3/4 of the forests in the state are privately owned.[6]
  • On average, 28.5 million people travel to South Carolina each year.[6]
  • Harriet Tubman served with the U.S. Army in South Carolina as a scout, spy, nurse and soldier
  • On June 2, 1863, Harriet Tubman, who had been born into slavery, led Union troops on a raid to Hilton Head, South Carolina. The raid liberated 800 men, women, and children from slavery.[4]
  • South Carolina is one of the top three peach-producing states in the nation and, not surprisingly, the state fruit is the peach. However, before it was known as the Peach State, it was the Iodine State.[4]
  • South Carolina is home to the world’s hottest chili pepper, Smokin’ Ed’s “Carolina Reaper,” grown by Ed Currie of the PuckerButt Pepper Company. Currie’s peppers are so hot that often people who eat them will spasm and vomit.[7]
  • South Carolina was named after King Charles I and Charles II. The name “Carolina” is from the Latin “Carolinus” meaning “of Charles.”[4]
  • The first club for golfers in the United States was created by Scottish settlers in Charleston, South Carolina, on September 29, 1786.[5]
  • Charles Town in South Carolina established the first free or public library in the American colonies in 1698 and the first public museum in 1773.[5]
  • Wild hogs roam much of South Carolina. They were originally brought to the U.S. by the Spanish in the 1500s and they are a continuing problem in the state. They prey on wildlife and livestock and their rooting and nesting behavior promotes soil erosion. Additionally, they contribute to the spread of tree disease and hinder attempts at reforestation.[6]
  • South Carolina is divided into three distinct land regions. The largest is the Coastal Plain, which covers about 2/3 of the state. The Piedmont includes most of the other 1/3, with the Blue Ridge accounting for just 2% of the South Carolina land.[5]
  • The earliest house found in South Carolina was built about 3,000 years ago. It was a small, D-shaped hut that could shelter a small group of people.[4]
  • South Carolina is home to the Sandhills, which are ancient dunes from what used to be South Carolina’s coast 20 million years ago when the ocean level was higher or the land was lower.[5]
  • The Sandhills are the remains of former coastline when the ocean level was higher
  • By the middle of the 18th century, 9 out of the 10 wealthiest people in the American colonies lived in South Carolina. All 9 lived in the Charleston area and had grown rich running rice, cotton, or indigo plantations.[4]
  • The South Carolina state flag dates back to 1775 and is full of symbols from the Revolutionary War. The blue background matches the color of the colonial soldiers’ uniforms. The crescent is borrowed from the soldiers’ hats. The palmetto tree represents a successful stand against a British attack.[5]
  • South Carolina is called the Palmetto State, named for the distinctive tree that grows along its coast. Additionally, palmetto trees are historically important because they were used to build Fort Moultrie, the site of the American colonists’ first victory during the Revolutionary War. Reportedly, British cannonballs would just bounce off of the soft Palmetto walls.[1]
  • South Carolina does not have any professional sports teams. There is no NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, or MLS.[4]
  • South Carolina has some unique town names, including Welcome, Due West, Coward, and South of the Border.[4]
  • The Baha’i faith is South Carolina’s second-largest religion, after Christianity. Founded in Iran in 1844, the Baha’i faith teaches two principles: 1) the oneness of mankind and 2) the oneness of world religions.[2]
  • Weaving is part of the Gullah heritage
  • The Gullah are descendants of enslaved African slaves who live in the Low Country region of South Carolina. Living in relative isolation, they have preserved much of their African linguistic and cultural heritage. The term “Gullah” may derive from Angola, where ancestors of some of the Gullah people likely originated.[4]
  • South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond was the first U.S. senator ever elected by write-in votes, on November 2, 1954.[5]
  • South Carolina boasts the world’s largest collection of outdoor sculptures, at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet. The state also has the oldest landscaped gardens in the U.S., at Middleton Place near Charleston.[5]
  • Several popular movies were filmed in South Carolina, including Full Metal Jacket, Prince of Tides, The Swamp Thing, Sleeping with Enemy, and The Notebook.[8]
References

1Crane, Carol. P is for Palmetto: A South Carolina Alphabet. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2002.

2Hawes, Jennifer Berry. “How the Baha’i Faith Became South Carolina’s Second-Largest Religion.” The Post and Courier. Updated June 22, 2014. Accessed: February 24, 2015.

3Hell Hole Swamp Festival.” Discover South Carolina. 2014. Accessed: February 24, 2015.

4Hoffman, Nancy and Joyce Hart. South Carolina (Celebrate the States). New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2010.

5Schuetz, Kristin. South Carolina: The Palmetto State (Exploring the States). Minneapolis, MN: Bellwether Media, 2014.

6Somervill, Barbara A. South Carolina (America the Beautiful). New York, NY: Scholastic Press, 2009.

7South Carolina Man Grows the Hottest Pepper on Earth.” Daily Mail. Updated December 26, 2013. Accessed: February 24, 2015.

8The Swamp Thing.” IMDB. 2015. Accessed: March 3, 2015.

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