Beaufort (pronounced b'you-fert) is South Carolina's second oldest city. It's located on Port Royal Island, about a half hour from our house by road. A few weeks ago we enjoyed a horse drawn carriage tour of historic homes of the town.
The carriages are brightly colored and the horses friendly and smart. The horses are purchased from the Amish after their farming lives are over and housed on a farm outside of town.
According to our guide, they know the route as well as she does and make stops and turns without being "told". Ours even watched the traffic light turn green, the signal to proceed!
She told us that the horses work a day and rest a day and they don't like to be left back at the barn. They all come running to the fence when the trailer arrives whether it's their turn to work or not.
They also have a rest between trips and it was obvious that they were restless and as ready to go as we were before their rest time was up.
Our guide was a young Beaufort native who knew a LOT about the town's history and clearly loved her job.
She was also an interesting story teller, and especially charming with her southern accent.
Beaufort is known for maintaining its historic character and preserving its antebellum architecture. It was occupied by Union troops just after the Civil War began and spared the burning and destruction of other towns of the South because the Union used it as a military headquarters throughout the war.
I can't remember all the stories and I can't remember which house was which. So I'll show you some houses and tell you some of the stories randomly. Sorry about that!
I had a hard time taking any photos at all because I was in the middle, sandwiched between some large people who were leaning out to take photos most of the trip.
The mansions of Beaufort were built as summer homes for planters of South Carolina, a refuge for them and their families to escape the heat, insects, and disease of the swamps further inland.
When Union troops took the town in 1862 there was almost no resistance from the planters who owned the property and home. They grabbed what they could and ran from the city in carts and carriages, hastily burying treasures that they couldn't take with them in the gardens and under outbuildings.
None of the planters returned after the war and most of the grand homes were sold to former slaves or northerners for a few dollars of back taxes.
Most of the homes were occupied during the war by Union generals and other military commanders and their staffs.
Several functioned as a hospitals for Union soldiers with outbuildings used as morgues. Others were used as federal government buildings.
After the war one house was inherited by two brothers who couldn't get along so they ripped out the staircase at the center and divided the house in two. Presumably they and their two families lived happily--and seperately--ever after!
Another grew so tired of his two daughters squabbling over who would inherit the family home that he built them two identical mansions side by side on the same street.
Long before these times, the pirate Blackbeard hung around what was then called Fish Town. In the 1990s the ruins of Blackbeard's ship, Queen Anne's Revenge, were found and identified in the water two miles from the Beaufort harbor. There are lots of stories of Blackbeard and his women visiting and staying in some of the mansions where it seemed like he always killed someone, the bloodstains are still visible, and the place haunted.
In spite of hurricanes and fires that destroyed parts of Beaufort after the Civil War, some gorgeous old trees, up to 300 years old, remain. Several of them grow in the middle of or right over the old streets like this one. Some are marked with signs with the height clearance, some are not.
The carriage barely fit underneath the one.
A live oak so old that its branches have grown along the ground and back up is called an "angel oak".
The "motor" for our carriage got plenty of treats on the trip from the treat bucket on board.
He is also wore a fly-protecting head cover for his comfort.