Welcome to the
Georgetown County Historical Society!
Photo courtesy Georgetown County Digital Library
Rice trunk being moved at Kinloch Plantation in the 1930s.
The physical remnants of rice cultivation-the fields, dikes and canals-are still visible in our area today. Tidal rice cultivation, which was so important to the region from the Revolution to the Civil War, transformed the landscape of the Lowcountry and what remains is a unique cultural resource. A very recognizable part of that landscape is the rice trunk-a water control system that allows the rice fields to be flooded by tidewater rivers.
If one is well versed in the history of Georgetown County, he will know that the growing of rice during the period after the Revolutionary War to the beginning of the Civil War made Georgetown the wealthiest county in the entire United States. The cultivation of rice was a highly specialized process and the necessity of flooding the rice fields was crucial at three different points during the growing season. But how could the fresh water of the local rivers be controlled to flow into the fields and remain for several days, and then released to drain away at just the right time? The answer lay in a unique invention called a Rice Trunk. In early experiments, an actual trunk of a large tree was hollowed out and gates with swinging doors were attached at both ends. These were embedded in the embankments of the rice fields along the rivers. The genius of the device was that the flow of water was controlled by the tidal influence on the fresh water rivers. Simply put, at high tide, the hinged doors were raised to allow the water to flow in, and then closed to trap the water. At low tide, the doors were again opened to let the water flow out. There are still some of the original rice trunks visible in the old rice fields along our rivers.
The mission of the Society is to share the rich heritage and culture of Georgetown and in much the same way as the rice trucks allowed the flow of sustaining water, the Society endeavors to let our history flow out into the community and the world through its doors. Thus we have named our new Gift Shop “The Rice Trunk”. Here our visitors have the opportunity to purchase items of local interest including artwork, Sweet Grass baskets, vintage jewelry, and food items along with memorabilia of the rich heritage we are surrounded by. Books about the area and guides to enjoy our town will be available as well as thoughtful gifts connected with Georgetown.