Native Americans were the original settlers of this warm and beautiful coastal resort community. It became known as Hilton Head after founder William Hilton landed on it in 1673.

Africans were originally brought to the island and enslaved to work rice and cotton fields. They brought the unique Gullah culture, which has manifested itself in language, food gathering and preparation, crafts and other skills. Hilton Head is home to Mitchelville, which was organized in 1862 and is one of the first settlements of free blacks in the United States.



Organized in 1862, Mitchelville was the first freedman’s village in the United States. It continued as a town until the 1870s when Union troops began withdrawing. Today the city includes privately – owned property surrounding the intersections of Beach City and Bay Gall Roads.

Cherry Hill School Building

Located at the corner of Bay Gall and Beach City Roads, the school was among the first one – and two-room classrooms built on the island for blacks. The school opened in 1937. St. James Baptist Church purchased the building in 1961.

St. James Baptist Church

209 Beach City Road

Among the early churches for blacks, St. James was organized in 1886.

Drayton Plantation Slave Tabby Ruins

Bay Gall Road

Portions of about five chimneys are all that remain of slave quarters in what was once known as Drayton Plantation. The chimney remains are made of tabby, a mixture of burned shells used to produce lime, and water. Tabby work was primarily done by slaves.

Fort Howell

Beach City Road

Located in a fenced-in area, the fort was named in 1864 for General Joshua Howell. The fort was constructed by the 32nd U.S. Colored Troop.

Queen Chapel A.M.E. Church

114 Beach City Road

This was one of the first A.M.E. churches established in the south by missionaries who arrived under the protection of the Union forces in 1863.

First African Baptist Church

70 Beach City Road

Organized in 1863, the church is the oldest black Baptist church on Hilton Head.


The Gullah Heritage Tour


Enjoy this two-hour tour through ten Hilton Head Island Gullah neighborhoods. Narrations and group lectures are available upon request.