Georgetown’s history of industry goes back to the early 1730’s when ship builders took up their trade along the banks of the Sampit River. We launched as many as thirty-three vessels by 1775. The production of supplies to build these ships occupied many laborers. They harvested lumber and extracted turpentine and pitch from pine trees both to use locally and to export. Here at the Museum we have some authentic primitive “catch pots” on display which show how the sap was collected.
Agricultural pursuits in indigo and rice brought wealth for the next 200 years ending in 1861 with the start of the Civil War. Georgetown limped along through the harsh Reconstruction Period with very little commerce until the 1880’s when we rose to the top again. The lumber business came back, but in a different way. Gone were the shipbuilders, but now our wealth of trees –short-leaf pine, cypress and hardwoods– supplied much of the nation with finished materials for the building trade. Millions of board feet of lumber were shipped by rail and water. The Atlantic Coast Lumber Company became the largest lumber mill on the East Coast by 1914. Photos of the several mills and processes are displayed in our “Industry” section along with other interesting items. Sadly, economic conditions of the 1930’s caused the decline and closure of the mills.
Soon after this period International Paper Company chose Georgetown to be the home of its kraft paper mill. “Kraft” means “strong” and by 1937 the first pulp was made. In 1942, the Container Plant was established which manufactured weatherproof boxes which proved invaluable in shipping supplies overseas during World War II. The Georgetown Mill continues today as our county’s largest employer.
In 1969, German-American steel corporation, Korf Industries, opened its steel mill along the banks of the Sampit River. Today, Mittal Steel now operates this industry.