Georgetown is the third oldest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina and the county seat of Georgetown County, in the Lowcountry. Located on Winyah Bay at the confluence of the Great Pee Dee, Waccamaw, and Sampit rivers, Georgetown is the second largest seaport in South Carolina, handling over 960,000 tons of materials a year. Winyah Bay was formed from a submergent or drowned coastline, i.e. the original rivers had a lower baseline, but either the ocean rose or the land sank, changing the landform and making a good location for a harbour. The rising of the ocean may have been due to melting of glacial ice at the end of the ice age.
Georgetown occupies a unique place in American history. Some historians claim that American history began here in 1526 with the earliest settlement in North America by Europeans with African slaves. It is believed that in that year the Spanish, under Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón, founded a colony on Waccamaw Neck called San Miguel de Gualdape. The colony failed for multiple reasons, including a fever epidemic and a revolt of the African slaves, who fled to join the Cofitachiqui Indians in the area. Having failed as farmers, the surviving Spanish built a ship from local cypress and oak trees and sailed to the Spice Islands in Maritime Southeast Asia. After settling Charles Town in 1670, the English established trade with the Indians. Trading posts in the outlying areas quickly became settlements. By 1721 the colonial government granted the English residents' petition to found a new parish, Prince George, Winyah, on the Black River. In 1734, Prince George, Winyah was divided; and the newly created Prince Frederick Parish congregation occupied the church at Black River. Prince George Parish, Winyah then encompassed the new town of Georgetown on the Sampit River.