The 'Edge of America' has a long history. The word "Folly" is an Old English word meaning an area of dense foliage. Folly Beach is rumored to have gotten its name from sailors passing through the shipping channel in the 1700’s. It may be that the trees at Folly were the first they had seen after many long months on the ocean. It also might have received it’s name from the Union Troops who in 1863 spent weeks clearing the island’s brush at the center of the island, providing them perfect cover from the Rebel spotters.
1696 - Folly Island was deeded to William Rivers on September 8, 1696. It was privately owned and changed hands several time over the years. During the time before the Civil War, Folly Island was also known as Coffin Land and was somewhat secluded from the civilization and control of the Charleston Government..
1744 - Folly was passed down through a generation and sold to Henry Samsways whose deed referred to the Island as "Coffin Land" and a map from 1780 depicts Folly as such. However, a map dated 1800 shows Coffin Land as the western end of Folly Island where the State Park is now. The name Coffin Land came from the fact that it was customary for ships with plague or cholera victims to the leave the ill travelers on barrier islands before they entered the Charleston port. On their way back out to sea, they would pick up the survivors and bury the dead.
1832 - The ship Amelia wrecked on Folly Island while sailing from New York to New Orleans. Twenty of 120 passengers died of cholera while marooned on Folly Island and Charleston cut off communications and supplies to the Island, fearing it would spread into Charleston and become an epidemic. Folly Island held a reputation as a hideout for pirates, with only occasional presence of law from Charleston, the few adventurous people of this small island governed themselves.
1838 - Thomas Gillespie, a Scottish captain, died on Folly. His marker still stands at the southeastern end of the Island.
1860's - The first shots of the Civil War were fired by Citadel Cadets on Morris Island. Three months later Beauregard's men fired on Ft. Sumter. The Union army took Folly Island and Morris Island on their way to Charleston. Folly Island is a six and a half mile long, half mile wide barrier island that receives the brunt of the harsh winds, waves and weather form the Atlantic Ocean. It also became the campsite from which the U.S. Union would try to take back Charleston from the South. At the height of the Union occupation, over 13,000 troops were stationed here.
1838 - On July 10, 1863, General Gillmore led Federal Navy and ground forces in taking the lower portion of Morris Island. The shelling began on August 17, 1863, and quickly reduced Fort Sumter to rubble, but it was unable to force a confederate surrender.
1920's - Rumors of bootlegging on the Island. The original Pavilion was built. Big band leaders Glen Miller and Tommy Dorsey brought their bands to Folly to draw crowds on the old Folly Beach pier in this era.
1930's - The new Atlantic Pavilion, Boardwalk, Pier and Oceanfront Hotel were built where the Holiday Inn now stands. As of 1932, Nine families lived on the Island year-round.
1934 - George Gershwin stayed at 708 West Artic while he wrote the famous 'Porgy and Bess.' He also judged a local beauty contest while he was in town.
1937 - Over 15,000 people were at the Pier for the 4th of July celebration.
1940's - Many homes were built, improvements made to roads and utilities.
1955 - Elmer "Trigger" Burke (the man who killed Joseph "Specs" O'Keefe of the $1.2 million Brinks robbery) rented a cottage on Folly and was arrested by the FBI on the corner of Erie and Center Street.
1956 - The wooden Folly River bridge was replaced with a concrete bridge.
1957 - The Oceanfront Hotel and Pavilion and Joe's Restaurant burned.
1960's - Ocean Plaza was opened with 1700 feet of boardwalk, pier, amusement rides, shops, roller skating and concessions. This was the Golden Era of Folly Beach. The first surfboard on the Island was introduced by Pat Thomas.
1964 - Palm reading was banned on Folly.
1967 - Horseback riding was banned on the Island.
1977 - The Pier burned again, arson was suspected.
1985 - The beach front Holiday Inn was built. A couple decades later it was bought by private owners, remodeled & became 'Tides Folly Beach'
1989 - Hurricane Hugo hit Folly Beach and neighboring communities, destroying many homes and devastating the beaches.
1995 - The current Pier along with it's restaurant and shop were built.