Johns Island, once known as St. Johns Island, is the largest of the sea Islands and is the fourth largest island on the entire east coast. Johns Island was included in a land grant to Lord John Colleton of Barbados, where the name St. John’s derived. Johns Island is approximately 75,000 acres and is protected from the ocean by the barrier islands of Kiawah and Seabrook. And is steeped rich in agriculture that dates beyond its settlement by European settlers. In the 1520’s Spanish explorers noted the Cusabo, Stono, Bohicket and Kiawah Indians had organized cultivated plots of corn and other crops in cleared fields. The Spaniards ,however, were in search of gold and precious metals and left the Lowcountry in search of finer treasures. In 1663 The English Lords Proprietors of Carolina received their charter from King Charles II of England. The English settlers, saw the land as their tie to the New World and took great pride in establishing roots. This is evidenced today by the families that still remain on the Sea Islands, some still on land granted to their families by the King.
During the Colonial period many types of settlers came to Johns Island including Quakers, Huguenots, Scotch Presbyterians, Dutch and Swiss. Crops of rice and indigo created fortunes and elaborate plantations like Fenwick Hall, Brick House, and Mullet Hall . After the Revolutionary War cotton became the primary plantation crop which brought great wealth and fame to the Sea Island planters. During the time of reconstruction, after the War between the States, the Freedman’s Bureau began land reform and schools for newly freed African Americans.
The economy on the island centered on farming and lumbering. Johns Island has always been a place where change has been sustainable.