Town of Rockville, P.O. Box 9, Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487; phone: 843-559-7072.
The Town of Rockville was formally incorporated on April 24, 1996.
In the charters of 1663 and 1665 Charles II of Great Britain gave to eight noblemen, the Lord Proprietors they were called, all the lands of south of Virginia from the 290° to 360° 30' N Latitude, and lying between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This vast territory was called Carolina in honor of the King.
In 1666 the Lord Proprietors sent Lt. Col. Robert Sandford on a voyage to explore the coast and rivers between Cape Romain and Port Royal. On June 23, 1666 he sailed into the North Edisto River and ventured up a creek on the east shore, "a very fair and deep creek or river," and having gone a mile, landed, and in the presence of his company took formal possession "by turf and twig" of that whole country from the latitude of 360° N, to 290° SW to the South Seas. The fair and deep creek he mentioned was none other than the Bohicket, and the place where he took possession for the Crown was most probably the present site of Rockville.
The name Rockville is derived, supposedly, from the deposits of ore which jutted from the bluff along the entire waterfront. Today there is only a small outcropping remaining. The island, on the southern extremity of Wadmalaw Island is bounded by the Bohicket River and Adams Creek.
Rockville was founded as a summer haven for the more affluent planters and residents of Charleston's swampy peninsula who retreated to airy seascapes to avoid the dreadful night air emanating from the swamps. It was believed, at that time, that it was the swamps that caused malaria. From records of the early 1700's one finds the following family names on Wadmalaw—Morton, Wilkinson, Jenkins, LaRoche, Seabrook, Sams, Fickling, Adams, Reynolds, Townsend, and Waight. Originally the land was part of Rockland Plantation, a tract belonging variously to the Adams, Jenkins, Seabrook, and Townsend families. The exact date is not known, but the first lots of what would become The Village, as the older section is referred, probably were sold in the 1830's. Scattered single-family houses existed long before that.
The oldest house in Rockville is that of Micah Jenkins, a Johns Island planter. This was his summer house which is believed to have been erected by, or before 1780. The house is best known today as the Whaley house, as the Whaleys, or some of their descendants, have lived there, or owned it, prior to and since 1900. After 1800 other houses were built along the water front. The houses were summer homes and were not elaborate. They were fairly large, with numerous windows and wide piazzas—features to insure comfort against the heat. During the Civil War, the Federal troops occupied Wadmalaw Island and destroyed some of the plantations and houses. The old Rectory, formerly owned by Bishop Albert Thomas and now owned by Cynthia Bettridge, was bought by St. Johns Church in 1836 as a summer home for its ministers. Grace Chapel and the Rockville Presbyterian Church both date from antebellum years. Grace Chapel was completed in 1840. The Presbyterian Church was probably built in the 1850's.
Rockville has felt the whip of nature's fury. The worst catastrophes were the earthquake of 1886 and the hurricane of 1893. The earthquake was unique. In places the earth split apart, and chimneys cracked or fell. People left their homes and camped out of doors. The hurricane of 1893 brought with it a tidal wave. The distress was so great that the Red Cross, in its infancy at that time, sent help. As a result of that storm Rockville lost some of its waterfront; for older residents remember when great oaks stood between the houses and the river, and carriages could be driven the entire length of the village.
In the old days, travel between the islands or to Charleston was entirely by boat or ferry. Roads were unpaved; only Wadmalaw and Johns Island were tied together by bridge. Due to this lack of infrastructure, the rigorous trip from Wadmalaw to Charleston was by boat. At one time, the island was serviced by two boats, the Lotta under the command of Captain Henry Bullwinkle and the Mary Draper owned by the Stevens brothers.
Rockville owes its renown to the annual sailboat regatta races held there each year—races which attract participants and spectators from all points of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. The first race was run in 1890, between two flat-bottomed "bateau boats" and has continued since. The man who started what now has become one of the most widely known regattas on the Atlantic seaboard was a preacher, the Reverend B.B. Sams. The first race was sailed between the James Island Yachtsman and the Rockville Preacher. The series continues to grow larger and more famous with the years.