A Tribute to Charles Cauthen

Some of our Front Porch readers are old enough to remember Charles Cauthen and are aware of his visionary and historical relationship with Daufuskie Island. Those less familiar have missed knowing an extraordinary person and might appreciate this brief historical tribute to him noting his long and important relationship to Daufuskie Island.

During the 1970s Cauthen used to make frequent sailboat trips to Daufuskie from Hilton Head to escape the hustle and bustle. Over time he developed a sincere love and appreciation of the Island. He started looking for a small piece of land to buy for himself, but as he looked, he learned that the Bostwick family was trying to sell their holdings, equal to 47% of Daufuskie and began to think on a larger scale.

Being in the real estate business he saw opportunities for development but was also keenly aware of the natural beauty of the island, its environment as well as the needs and welfare of its people. He strongly felt that the island could be developed in a thoughtful manner consistent with his vision for Daufuskie yet protect and preserve the heritage of the inhabitants. This led him to the concept that at the heart of Daufuskie should be a town center that would serve as a vibrant commercial center for the entire island. A portal of entry via the Webb tract would be developed in a manner that showcased the island’s heritage.

As part of his research and planning for Daufuskie Cauthen visited numerous island communities throughout the country, including Mackinac, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, to assess their strengths and weaknesses. Needing an investor for the project, Cauthen was introduced to the Halliburton Company based in Dallas, Texas. Though he had never met the CEO of Halliburton, it only took one meeting (scheduled for ½ an hour, but lasting 3 hours) to secure the financial commitment to acquire and permit the property. Now armed with his vision, a financial backer, and research, Cauthen led the team that planned and permitted the Haig Point PUD which, at that time included the Webb and Oak Ridge properties.

In 1984, at the request of Halliburton, Cauthen introduced International Paper to Daufuskie Island, at which point IP agreed to purchase and develop the Haig Point property in accordance with Cauthen’s plan. It wasn’t until 1999 that Cauthen was finally able to become part of a group that purchased the remaining Webb and Oakridge properties from Halliburton. Over the years, various efforts have been made to develop the town center but for one reason or another, they did not come to fruition.

His dream of the town center and vision for the entire island was not implemented during his lifetime, but Cauthen’s vision for Daufuskie can be felt across most of the Island. Whether it is Haig Point that he planned and permitted, Melrose and Bloody Point that were influenced by his initial work, or the recently completed Daufuskie Island Plan that embraced his town center plan completely. His legacy lies in pursuing his vision and doing his best to guide Daufuskie into the era of modern development while preserving all that makes it so special to all of us.

Lastly, some personal anecdotal comments about Charles Cauthen:

Ever wonder why cars aren’t allowed in the PUDs? It was because Cauthen  declared as part of the original permitting for the overall Haig Point PUD (The one that at the time included Webb and Oak Ridge) that his vision was for golf carts, bicycles and horses! He felt that Daufuskie was an ideal place for equestrian activity, and loved to take people on tours in a horse-drawn carriage.

The original Haig Point ferry that Charles used for sales and his investors was named “The High Spirits”, a wooden Trumpy motor yacht that is the sister ship of the Presidential yacht Sequoia.

Charles believed that he was the one Jimmy Buffet sang about when he sang “Now I realize who killed the Prince of Tides”, Buffet’s song about development coming to Daufuskie Island. Charles Cauthen passed away over Labor Day weekend of 2013.

 

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