Celebrating what Capt. Hilton spotted — and what we saw in his island


G. Thomas Upshaw | President & CEO

In September 1663, on a voyage of exploration, Captain William Hilton entered Port Royal Sound and spotted a headland—a high point that would be called Hilton’s Headland, or Hilton’s Head. Three hundred and 20 years later, Hilton Head Island became the Town of Hilton Head Island.

Late this month, the town will begin its 350/30 anniversary blowout to commemorate both events.


Palmetto Electric Cooperative is proud to be among the sponsors of the event, which officially kicks off Monday, September 30, and runs through October 5. The website CelebrationHHI.org offers a full schedule as well as a fascinating historical timeline of the island.

Palmetto Electric’s role began in 1950, which the timeline notes was the year the Hilton Head Company was organized. Leslie Richardson, a member of the celebration’s volunteer organizing committee whose family’s roots on the island reach back to that era, recognizes the difference co-op power made. As Leslie wrote to us, “Since Palmetto Electric Cooperative brought the first electricity to Hilton Head Island in 1950, it has played an integral role in the growth of the island. As the island developed and the population grew, Palmetto Electric continued to serve its citizens with new and expanded community-oriented programs.”

Our cooperative will celebrate an anniversary of its own in 2015, marking our 75th year. Our history dates back to 1940, when Palmetto Electric was chartered to bring electricity to the underserved rural areas of Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper counties.

World War II necessarily slowed all electric cooperatives’ progress but, after the war, the co-op got back to work. Our early leaders—members of the co-op themselves, just like today’s trustees—recognized the potential that electric service could unlock in places such as Hilton Head Island. Where others found the task to serve the island too daunting, those co-op pioneers found a way to get the job done. Today, the Town of Hilton Head, its residents and its many visitors all reap the benefits of cooperation.

As Leslie put it, “All I can say is how wonderful it is to step into an airconditioned room in August on Hilton Head Island.” We’re glad to help bring modern comfort and convenience to the island and to all the communities we have served for almost three-quarters of a century.

Congratulations to the Town of Hilton Head Island. And to Captain Hilton, who must have known a jewel when he saw one, we say, “Good eye!”

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