History of Johns Island

Colonial era (1670–1776)

Johns Island was originally inhabited by nomadic tribes of Native Americans such as the Kiawah, who survived by hunting. By the time Europeans arrived in the area, these tribes were already settled and farming off the land. The Native America tribes in this area included the Stono and the Bohicket. Initially, the Stono and European settlers had good relations. However, after the Stono killed some of the European’s livestock, the whites murdered several Indians in retaliation. Johns Island had scattered settlements that were situated near the water by the 1670s. Maps dated from 1695 and 1711 show plantations established on the banks of the Stono River. During the colonial period, the main crop that was produced was indigo, prized for its rich blue dye. The plantations that grew crops, including indigo, relied on slave labor.

The Stono Rebellion, which occurred on Johns Island in 1739, began as an attempt by a group of slaves to escape to Spanish Florida, where they were promised freedom.Beginning in the early morning hours of September 9, 1739, a group of about twenty slaves met near the Stono River, lead by a slave named Jemmy. The group than proceeded to the Stono Bridge and raided Hutchinson’s Store. They took food, ammunition, and supplies. The group of slaves then killed the two shopkeepers, leaving their heads on the front steps of the store. The slaves then crossed the Stono River and gathered more followers as they began to walk to Spanish Florida. The runaways met with Lieutenant Governor William Bull and four of his comrades also traveling on the road. Seeing the situation at hand, Lieutenant Governor Bull and his companies rallied other plantation owners to help put down the opposition. The plantation owners attacked and put down the resistance and executed all who could not prove that they were forced to join the march.

American Revolution (1776–1785)

The American Revolutionary War arrived on Johns Island in May of 1779 as a body of British troops under the command of General Augustine Prevost. General Prevost established a small force to remain on the island, headed by Lieutenant Colonel John Maitland. Under the command of Sir Henry Clinton, more troops landed on Seabrook Island, beginning February 11, 1780. Clinton’s goal was to cross Johns Island and James Island and lay siege to Charleston. Clinton’s army crossed the Stono River and set up temporary headquarters at Fenwick Hall. Moving to James Island, marching up the west bank of the Ashley River to Old Town Landing then marching south to Charleston, Clinton besieged the city. Charleston surrendered to British forces on May 12, 1780; the occupation lasted until December 1782.

Civil War (1861–1865)

The Battle of Bloody Bridge, also known as Burden’s Causeway, occurred on Johns Island in July 1864. The site of the battle is off River Road, just north of the Charleston Executive Airport. On July 2, 1864, Brigadier General John Hatch’s troops landed in the Legareville section of Johns Island. Hatch wanted to cross Johns Island, then cross the Stono River and lay siege to James Island. The Union troops met the Confederate troops where the creek turns into swamp. Around 2,000 South Carolina soldiers held off a Union force of roughly 8,000 men. After three days of fighting, Hatch’s troops left the island.


Johns Island is located to the west of James Island and to the east of Wadmalaw Island and inshore of Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island. It is separated from the mainland by the tidal Stono River, which forms part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Roughly one-third of the island is within the city limits of Charleston. The island is home to the Angel Oak, a Southern live oak tree estimated to be 400–1500 years old and named for Justus Angel, nineteenth century owner of the land on which it stands. It is also known for its farms, producing tomatoes and numerous other agricultural products.

The population of Johns Island is growing. Between 2000 and 2010 the islands population grew by 50%, the largest increase in the history of the island. This trend is expected to continue but numerous conservation organizations are striving for ecologically friendly growth.

The island’s proximity to downtown Charleston and its scenic property have made it an active location for development. Numerous high density developments have been created in parts of the island zoned into the City of Charleston. Most of the island still rests within the jurisdiction of Charleston County.

Several movies have been filmed on the island, including The Notebook (2004).


Haynie, Connie Walpole (2007). Johns Island. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738543468.

Preservation Consultants Inc. (1989). James Island and Johns Island Historical and Architectural Inventory. pp. 4, 5, 6, 11, 14, 23, 25, 29.

Peterson, Bo (10 July 2010). “Obscure Civil War battle fought on Johns Island”. Post and Courier. Retrieved 24 October 2012.

Angel Oak Tree at AngelOakTree.com

Angel Oak Tree at AngelOakTree.org

Johns Island, SC at e.wikipedia.org