By: Crissie Miller Kirby
As you have no doubt come to realize, the boys and I do a good bit of traveling to the Lowcountry. A self proclaimed history buff (okay, nerd), I like to share my love of times gone by with the boys while we are also making memories. One of the activities that I love to do with the boys (and anyone else who will go along for the ride) is to share some of the hidden historical gems that South Carolina has to offer. Like gold or gems long hidden from the naked or untrained eye, these places are ripe with beauty, history, and emotion. Please indulge me, if you will, as I share two of our more recent discoveries.
Tucked away on a narrow dirt road on Saint Helena Island lies a fortification that, until recent years, was almost an unknown. One day late last summer my in-laws and I decided to take a little ride over to Beaufort and head out to Saint Helena and to Fort Fremont. Over the last few years, the Friends of Fort Fremont Historical Park has been formed and extensive work has been done revitalizing the fortifications and cleaning up the area around the fort to include fencing and beach access areas.
The first time I visited Fort Fremont was probably ten or twelve years ago and I’m not even sure that we should have been on the grounds. Abandoned and covered in graffiti, it was a little bit unnerving and probably a little more than scary. With my vivid – and sometimes exaggerated – imagination, I remember thinking that it was just the type of place where someone would take someone to harm them or to conduct some type of scary initiation/ritual. Today it is a great place to go visit and learn a little bit of South Carolina history.
The Friends of Fort Fremont has a fantastic website where you can gain tons of information on the history of the fort, visiting the fort, and making donations should you want to help preserve a part of not only our state’s rich history, but also that of the United States.
Another favorite spot that I like to visit, even when I am alone, is the ruins of the Old Sheldon Church in Yemassee. Set among massive Spanish moss-covered oaks, the ruins consist of the red brick columns and portions of the walls. The church has borne witness to the bulk of United States’ history having been first constructed in the mid-1700’s. After being burned during the Revolutionary War, it was rebuilt during the 1820’s. However, the Civil War and General William T. Sherman proved too much for the hallowed grounds, and after being burned once more, the ruins and grounds were left unrepaired; a monument to times gone by.
Today, the grounds are well maintained (by the Parish Church of St. Helena) and are open during daylight hours for visitors to tour. It is still considered sacred ground and much can be learned by walking the grounds and viewing the headstones of those who have been buried there. An Easter service is held each year and weddings can also be held on the grounds with appropriate approval from the aforementioned church.
I love to walk the grounds and just be alone with my thoughts. When the boys are with me, I love to share with them the history and see their faces as they try and drink from the old hand pump on the grounds. Even more, I love when, months later, they ask questions about these places that we have visited; sometimes they even ask to visit again. And I long for the days and times when we can yet again search out and uncover these South Carolina gems, and those yet to be uncovered.
What are your favorite South Carolina gems?