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The island receives it’s namesake from Captain Florence O’Sullivan who was charged by the government of Carolina to protect the city by placing a gun in the best place possible for such a task.
Because of its location in relation to the Charleston harbor, Sullivan’s Island was the ideal place for setting up such protection. However, other barrier islands along the coast had similar lookouts and gun stations. There were watches on Folly Island (now Folly Beach), Kiawah Island, on the northern end of Isle of Palms and Bull’s Island. The local Indian tribes such as the Sewee and Bohicket aided the English by manning these watches. As head of the watch on Sullivan’s Island, Captain O’Sullivan was given the honor of having the island named after him.
Having arrived on the first boat into the colony from England in 1670, Captain O’Sullivan was the first to own land in what is known as the Old Village in Mount Pleasant. The Irishman was also a member of the Grand Council, the Commons House of Assembly and was the deputy to one of the eight Lords Proprietors, Sir Peter Colleton. Thus he became the surveyor-general of the new colony of Carolina. O’Sullivan died in 1683 only 13 years after his arrival in the colony.

For more about Sullivan’s Island, check out THE HISTORY OF SULLIVAN’S ISLAND on this site!