Georgetown is located at the confluence of the Pee Dee, Sampit, Waccamaw, and Black rivers, which join to form the Winyah Bay estuary. In the 1730s, colonial indigo and rice plantations began lining the waterways, and Georgetown's emerging port city became a hub of commerce and trade. As fortunes of the planters grew, Georgetown’s population of merchants, shipbuilders, dockworkers, and laborers supporting agricultural commerce grew as well.
By the 1770s, rice overtook indigo as the cash crop of the lowcountry and Charleston became the more profitable seaport for planters of the Pee Dee. Georgetown's loss of commerce was offset somewhat by timber and turpentine produced from the vast forests of the Pee Dee, and a growing cotton industry.
Eventually world markets for rice shifted against US rice exports, and by the 1880s, rice was no longer the cash crop that once established Georgetown and its wealthy planter class. Georgetown geared its seaport toward the timber industry, and eventually toward paper and steel mills in the 20th century.
In the late 20th century, Georgetown, like many coastal South Carolina cities, began to attract residents and tourists to its historic and natural landscapes. Increased access to beaches, downtown revitalization projects, and a new “Harborwalk” added to the city’s quality of living, and continue to draw newcomers to the third oldest town in South Carolina.