Kiawah Island was named for the Kiawah Indians, who inhabited the island before the 1670 arrival of the English in South Carolina.
In 1717, John Stanyarne, a wealthy planter who lived on Johns Island, bought the half of Kiawah Island that had been owned by Captain Raynor and, in 1737, bought the remaining half that had been owned by Captain Davis. Stanyarne and subsequent owners raised cattle and produced crops on Kiawah through the use of slave labor until the practice was abolished.
In 1950, the island was sold to C. C. Royal, a lumberman from Augusta, Georgia. In 1954, Royal began development of a small oceanfront community along Eugenia Avenue, named for his wife. Royal died in 1964 and in 1974, his heirs sold the island to the Kuwaiti Investment Company.
The Kuwaiti Investment Company undertook to develop Kiawah Island as a world-class resort and began efforts to plan, build, and manage the resort. In 1976, the Kiawah Island Resort opened, with the Kiawah Island Inn—including two swimming pools, two restaurants and a bar—and the Marsh Point (subsequently renamed Cougar Point) golf course designed by Gary Player. The Kiawah Island Company began to sell real estate.
Since 1994, land use on the island has been subject to development agreements. Two have been signed with the Island’s chief developer, Kiawah Resort Associates, in 1994 and 2005, and two with the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, in 2001 and 2010. These agreements specified development of selected parcels of land consistent with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations.