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Dewees Island facts for kids

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Quick facts for kids
Location Atlantic Ocean
Adjacent bodies of water Copahee Sound
Area 485.623 ha (1,200.00 acres)
State South Carolina
County Charleston
Additional information
Official website

Dewees Island is a barrier island about 11 miles north of Charleston. The inlet between it and the Isle of Palms is shown on early maps as Spence's Inlet, but is today called Dewees Inlet. The island is private, consisting only of residential properties and a wildlife preserve. It is accessible only by ferry or private boat.


Probably one of five original hunting islands of the Sewee Indians, the island was under British proprietorship until it was eventually owned by Thomas Cary in 1700. In 1702 he sold Sessions Island (now Capers Island) to William Capers and in 1706 he sold Bull Island to John Collins. Dewees Island was then known as Timicau Island, and somewhere between those two sales, Thomas Cary sold the island to Roger Player, where it passed through a succession of owners, including Arnoldus Vanderhorst. During that time, the island was known as Vanderhorst Island. Sometime after Vanderhorst's death in 1765, the island was conveyed to Cornelius Dewees, of Dutch origin, who changed the name to Dewees Island. Over time the island has been home to Indians, Revolutionary War soldiers, and Civil War blockades. It has a World War II submarine tower. Dewees Island residents during the 19th century were represented primarily as oystermen and farmers in census records. In the 19th century rice planters began farming on Dewees.

Before 1898 land ownership on Dewees Island was complicated by wars, legal disputes and uncertainty. In 1898 John Murphy, a Charleston contractor and alderman, purchased land on the island and became the single owner. On the island Murphy grew artichokes, cane for chairs and raised pigs. Contracted workers harvested oysters and clams. Murphy owned a steamship, Undine, which he used to visit the island.

A family (Huyler) lived on the island for much of 1925–52. According to the Dewees Island POA, "The island was purchased by RS Reynolds in 1956 and used as a hunting retreat. An investor partnership bought Dewees in 1972..."

The first modern residential homes on Dewees were built in the 1980s on the south end of the island by the Royalls, Bobby Kennedy and others. After the island was devastated by hurricane Hugo, in 1989, the investors invited John Knott to consider further development, and "Island Preservation Partnership" was formed in 1991. With great sensitivity to "living in harmony with nature", the island was laid out to accommodate 150 building lots, and the infrastructure was put in place.

In 1991 Knott, with the Royalls, R. Kennedy IV and others, formed an investment group aimed at developing and preserving the island. "Sales and building followed quickly," according to the POA. The first new homes were built in the 1980s. The island was ceded to the owners in 2007 and has since been managed by the Property Owners Board and the Utility Board.

In 2015, the island had 150 home sites and very strict building codes requiring a "small footprint and very little clearing of natural vegetation." Information as to the sale of homes or lots was available from two agencies, Dewees Real Estate and Carolina One Real Estate and some were also listed on the Dewees Island POA organization web site. Home rentals were available and could be searched and booked on several web sites. The Community Center, with its full kitchen, included facilities for social and recreational functions as well as a pool and tennis courts. There were no restaurants or stores.


The Dewees Islander passenger-only ferry runs between the Isle of Palms and Dewees Island, a 20-minute trip. Do note that the ferry is "private transportation for the owners, their families and guests, renters on the island and service providers. Everyone who rides the ferry must be pre-registered by an owner in order to be allowed entry to the island." The primary mode of transportation on Dewees is electric golf carts; the use of gas-powered vehicles is prohibited, with exceptions for some work vehicles used for construction and maintenance.


Dewees is a private island managed by the Dewees Island Property Owners Association ("POA").

Water, sewer, garbage removal, recycling and a few other services are provided by a separate company, the Dewees Utility Corporation ("DUC").


Approximately 2,000 people visit Dewees Island each year. The visitors include owners, owners' guests, renters and ecotourists on specially arranged tours.

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