Short History of Myrtle Island

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This history is excerpted from a brief paper, written by J. Moultrie Lee in 1982; the original is stored in the Caldwell Archives:

“Myrtle Island was developed by Mr. Percival Huger in about 1926.  The island had, up to that time, been known as Beef Island.  The name was changed to Myrtle Island, because the sale of real estate would be much easier as an island named Myrtle as opposed to Beef.  The name Beef was more in keeping with nearby Bull, Potato, and Corn Islands– sister islands along the May River.

Prior to 1926, this island was used for agriculture and oystering.  The center of the island was entirely farm land.  The rim of the property where all the houses currently stand was subdivided into lots and sold over subsequent years.  There was a small oyster factory on the northwest point of the island on what is now lot # 56.

Beef Island was reached by a ‘mule-wagon road’ that could be crossed only at low tide.  There was a free flowing artesian well on the beach of the Chisholm property, as well as a house and a barn.

Myrtle Island Sunset
The sun sets on the May River near Myrtle Island

Mr. Percy and Jake Johnson, along with some help, built the Myrtle Island causeway and  a wooden bridge.  This causeway was built mainly by hand, using wheel barrows, a mule, and a wagon.  It was not quite as high or wide as the current causeway, and was constructed much the same way as a rice field bank.  Mr. Percy had been raised on a rice plantation, and therefore knew all about building rice field banks.  The causeway, however, was a different story.  What with the nor’easters and their accompanying waves and spring tides, the causeway washed out regularly.  The state finally took the causeway over and built it to the current height and width, using a metal under-structure for the bridge.

The road to Myrtle Island (continuing down to All Joy Beach from Bluffton) was constructed of crushed oyster shell from Lowden’s Oyster Factory.  This road curved south to run along the bluff at a point just beyond where Burnt Church Road and the entrance to Martin’s Place is now located.  The bluff is part of Kirk’s Bluff, and at that time was known as ‘The Rocks,’ because there was a continuous mile-long stretch of sandstone rocks reaching all the way to Nanny Cove.  The cove could be crossed by a wooden bridge which no longer stands.  Currently, the first dirt road to the right after you turn off of All Joy Road onto Myrtle Island Road is the remainder of this original road.

The road on Myrtle Island proper was laid out as an avenue with a plat down the center.  This continues along what is now the present paved road, ending at the circle.  The left hand lane of this avenue has been widened and paved.  The right hand lane has, for the most part, become overgrown with trees  There is a triangular bit of land near the central part of the island, now known as Huger Park.  The center of the circle was also left as a park.  Off this circle at the very point of the island (on what is now lot #34) the road continued, narrowing at ‘Possum Point,’ a favorite place for trysts.

Mr. Percy began selling lots on Myrtle Island in 1926, and the first house was built by Mr. Daniel Hull of Savannah.  It was finished in 1928 and was named ‘Mayfair.’  Mr. Hull owned lots 2 – 6, and Mayfair was situated on lots 2 and 3.  This property was sold to Mr. Ralston Mingledorff, and later to it’s present owner, Mrs. Charles Golson, Jr.   Lots 5 and 6 were later sold as separate plots of property.  Shortly after Mayfair was built, the Lee house was built on Lot 1.  Other plots held the Smith House (lot #46), the Seiler house (now the Chisholms on lot #7, and the Hendrix house (now the Lafitte’s on lot #8).

While Bluffton did not receive electricity until 1937, Myrtle Island had electricity in 1926.  Most, if not all of the above houses were served from a building near the central part of the island, approximately where the Mingledorff ‘play house’ now stands (lot # 54).  This building contained a Delco generator that generated DC current.  This Delco was started by anyone in any of the houses by turning on a light.  It took about 30 seconds for the Delco to build up power so that the light would come on.  However, once the first light was on, all the other lights would come on immediately.  There were no electric clocks, radios, or other electric appliances on Myrtle Island at the time, but there were some electric fans that ran on DC current.  In this same building, there was a water pump that pumped water for all of the houses.  The water was stored in a large tank holding roughly three thousand gallons.  It stood about 3 stories high and was situated next to the pump house.  Jake would come in his mule wagon from Bluffton every day and pump the tank full.  The pump was a large one lung diesel engine.

Mr. Percy sold the last lots on the island in the early 1940’s.  By then, there was electric service to the island, and the old Delco generator was no longer needed.  Residents had their own wells with electric pumps, so the old central water pump  was no longer needed….”