Brookgreen's story begins more than 250 years ago when Europeans saw the potential for growing rice here and the backbreaking labor of enslaved Africans carved rice fields out of the swamps. Brookgreen Gardens is made up of four former rice plantations: Laurel Hill, Springfield, Brookgreen, and The Oaks, all situated on the Waccamaw between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown. The river is freshwater, but it rises and falls with the tides, making it ideal for growing rice. Rice was first introduced into the Carolinas in the 1680s, down around Charleston. It wasn't until the 1740s that the rice planters, here in this Georgetown region, recognized the use of the freshwater tidal rivers. In Horry county there are four rivers flowing into Winyah Bay and along the rivers, are very low land, swampy area.
The Africans that were brought to the Carolinas to work the rice fields were people from areas along what's known as the Rice Coast or the Grain Coast of West Africa, countries like Sierra Leone and Gambia. Those people brought with them a great deal of knowledge of how to grow rice in a climate very similar to this. They'd been growing rice in Africa for thousands of years.