News & Outreach

Cash Crops for SC, Rice and Indigo

Cash Crops for SC, Rice and Indigo

While Virginia and North Carolina thrived on tobacco, it didn’t grow as well in South Carolina due to the more tropical climate and wetter ground, particularly in the lowlands of the state–or the southern portion. Rice, however, grew very well in South Carolina because the ground stayed wet. However, rice fields brought other problems, most notably mosquitoes.

Because rice has to be grown in water, there would be miles and miles of stagnant water which attracts mosquitoes which would transmit malaria. Netting and even candles were used as a means to stay healthy, but it was useless as in some places mosquitoes were so thick they looked like black clouds.

During the mid-1700s and even all the way until the early 1800s death by malaria was very common and claimed lives in epidemic proportions. South Carolinian's tried to grow other things, such as silk, but had no luck. It wasn’t until Eliza Lucas who lived outside of Charleston was sent some plants from her father who grew indigo in the tropics that the people in southern South Carolina had a chance. Eliza grew the plants on her own plantation first, then when she saw they thrived, she taught other plantation owners in the area about how to grow and harvest indigo.

Though indigo did grow and thrive in South Carolina, many rice farmers still continued to grow rice because they could grow two crops of rice a year. Some, did a combination of the two and grew indigo during part of the year and a crop of rice for the other part. Because rice could be grown and harvested twice in a year, rice maintained the position of the most profitable cash crop in South Carolina with indigo being firmly in second. // Article By: Rose Gordon