Beech Island was primarily an agricultural community before the 1950s. Cotton, wheat, corn, and soybean were the major crops. This changed with the construction of Urquhart Station Power Station and the nearby Savannah River Nuclear Project. New highways were built to accommodate the workers commuting to the Nuclear Project. Commerce grew and the community began to change. In the 1960s Kimberly Clark built a large manufacturing facility on what was once farmland creating more jobs. The boom, however, was short lived.
Beech Island's most famous resident was James Brown who lived there for the last few decades of his life on a 60-acre (240,000 m2) estate. Brown is buried in the Thomas Family Home Crypt on Beech Island.