Tuesday, June 30, 2015

St Helena's Chapel of Ease


Over the weekend we spent some time on St Helena's Island, one of the larger sea islands, or barrier islands, on the coast of South Carolina.

St Helena's has an interesting and unique history as it was later owned by slaves who worked on the plantations for generations before the Civil War.

But, more about that in a later post.

In the days of rice plantations there were thousands of slaves who called the island home and only a few white people who lived and worked there full time. The big plantation houses were summer homes for the families of the owners to escape the heat in Beaufort and enjoy the cooling sea breezes.


This small church, built in 1740 as a "chapel of ease," served planters from Beaufort when they could not regularly attend services in Beaufort.

It was once known as the White Church, as the tabby construction, a mixture of oyster shells and lime, caused it to appear to glow with a white light when it was new.





Tabby is made by burning oyster shells to create lime, then mixing it with water, sand, ash and broken oyster shells. The oyster shells came from huge piles of shells built up from Indian camps over many generations.





On November 4,1861, the Sunday service at the chapel was interrupted by a messenger with news that Beaufort was about to be invaded by Union troops.










A beautiful vault was built for the Fripp family who were instrumental in getting the church built. All the planters fled from the island with the arrival of Union troops in 1861. The vault was opened by vandals and Union soldiers bricked up the opening to repair it. The next morning most of the bricks had been removed and stacked neatly to the side.

People were convinced that supernatural forces were at work and the vault has been left as it was, only partially closed.

Union soldiers used the building for services during the Civil War, as did northerners who came to the area after the war to educate and train the freed slaves.

It was destroyed by a forest fire in 1886 and never repaired.

By 1812, the population of St. Helena Island had increased to the extent that the chapel of ease was designated a parish church. The church was virtually abandoned when the planters evacuated the island in the fall of 1861.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sam Doyle, Gullah Artist

While we were on St Helena's Island, SC, we visited the Penn Center, once a school for freed black slaves, now a museum, art gallery, and conference center. The gallery featured an exhibit by artist Sam Doyle.

St Helena's slaves were freed by Union troops early in the Civil War (1861) but they had nowhere to go, and no way to earn a living when the Confederate plantation owners were driven from the island. Penn School was started by northern abolitionists to teach the freed Negroes to read and write and to give them marketable skills and experience to live life as free human beings.

The freed slaves of the Lowcountry region of the U.S. states of South Carolina and Georgia, which includes the coastal plain and the Sea Islands, and their descendants became known as the Gullah.



Gullah artist Sam Doyle, son of slaves, painted portraits of the first African Americans on the island to become professionals.

"St. Helena's First Black Midwife" is a portrait of the artist's grandmother.




"John Chisholm, St. Helena's First Embalmer"













Doyle painted with house paint on pieces of tin roofing and used tar on roots and branches, feathers, nails and other material for his sculptures. He also painted on plywood, burned logs, old boards, bottlecaps, refrigerator doors, porcelain sinks, metal cabinet doors. He painted on small pieces of fabric that he used for placemats for meals at his table.


Doyle covered the outside of his house and studio, once a cafe operated by his wife who had deserted him, with his paintings.

He saw himself as scribe, chronicler, and entertainer for the people of the island. His audience were the Gullah, their children, and grandchildren.


Doyle in his yard on St Helena's

(Photo by Roger Manley)







(Photos were not allowed at the exhibit. These photos are from art auction and sale sites on the Internet.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sheldon Church Ruins -- Greek Temple in a South Carolina Swamp

Surrounded by giant moss-draped oaks and steaming swamps are the ruins of the colonial Sheldon Church near Yemassee, South Carolina.

Three hundred years of American history the old trees have stood over.


The finest church of its kind in America at the time, it was built by rice planters led by Colonel William Bull on whose plantation it was built.

Bull's plantation comprised 3000 acres of prime rice-growing land worked by 250 slaves.

Rice planters were the wealthiest Americans of their time and the church was both expensive and classically elegant.

The first service was held there in 1757.

Bull is buried inside the church right before the altar. You can just see his tomb through the opening in the 3 1/2 foot thick walls.


Bull's wife, Mary, died at the age of 32 or 33 and is buried in the large tomb outside. People claim to see Mary in the evenings standing near the graves of her young children.





During the American Revolution, the church yard was a training ground for the American militia. Most of the interior and the roof was destroyed in 1779 when the British burned the church to destroy gunpowder stored there.

However, the clever Americans had other places to hide munitions, such as in these tombs, trusting that the British were unlikely to desecrate a grave.



The interior and the roof were repaired in 1826-7 and the church continued to serve 30-60 families on Sunday mornings. It is located in an area still so wild and lonely today it is hard to imagine how far away the families came from. Most must have traveled for hours by horse and buggy to arrive on Sunday mornings.

The Campbell Oak.

Imagine all that has passed under the reach of its great boughs, all it has witnessed.

... Just a sapling when Native Americans bravely defended an ancient way of life,

It spread generous shade over the backs of slaves who built the church

Muffled shuffling feet of young patriots drilling for the Colonial militia

Fanned the sparks and heat of British flames devouring the church,

Shook from blast and echo of muskets, bowed to stink of blackpowder,

Moaned with keening mothers and widows

When Union troops passed beneath, burning the South on Sherman's March to the Sea.

The Campbell Oak, majestic and tall through 300 years of American history,

Its youth and strength now succumbing

gnarled, bent,

scarred, tired,

So tired

of war.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Market Day

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that one of my passions is to "eat local". Moving to a different state (South Carolina, from Minnesota-- can't get much different!), we've been checking out a variety of the area's farmers' markets.


One was in Historic Bluffton, the old part of town.

There was live music in the park and the aroma of food stands and smoky meats cooking was enticing. We had just had lunch but we welcomed a glass of iced herb tea.

It was a pretty setting but didn't have the small growers we wanted and the prices were, well, exorbitant.

Rating: Not our style. Too expensive and upscale, large growers, not family farms, few organics.


Next, Beaufort, and doesn't this look promising? A gorgeous park on the waterfront, giant swings for watching the yachts come and go...


And shade! Look, a breeze from the water and it's all in the shade!

Too bad there are so few sellers, no organics, and only large growers.

I think it might be a new venture for the town. Maybe we'll check it again later in the season.

Rating: Not now. The music was nice though and the setting couldn't be prettier.


Closest to home is the Friday market in little Ridgeland. It's held in an empty dirt lot between old buildings. There is no shade, no music, no tantalizing smells coming from barbecuing food.






But wait! There are real farmers in those little stands and some of them proudly grow without chemicals! There is time for conversation with the farmer who raised the food about how the crops are doing and whether the peaches are sweet and whether or not they will be there next week depending on what's ripe in the garden and if there is enough to make the trip into town worthwhile.

The farmers ask your name and remember you from week to week. They throw in a couple extra cukes or ears of corn and their prices are great to begin with.

Rating: The Real Deal. Yup, Ridgeland is our market.



Gullah melon, raised by George's brother on St Helena's Island, oh so sweet and still warm from the sun!





Oh, and the fish market is right across the street so we can bring home some seafood for dinner.






Alligator meat
Frog legs

We'll pass on those!


Tonight's dinner will be fresh panfried whiting to go with our sweet corn, tomatoes, and blueberries for dessert.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

'Come Into My Parlor, Said the Spider to the Fly'

If you have arachnophobia*, stop reading now!

We have a new arrival on the deckside wildlife entertainment scene this week:

Ms Yellow Corn Spider.



Including her legs, she is about 3 inches of colorful spider and she has taken up residence in the flower garden off the deck.

To reassure you, corn spiders seldom bite humans and when they do, the bite is only comparable to a bee sting.











They are orb web builders and also called "zipper spiders". I think you can see why.


The webs are up to two feet in diameter.









This is her egg sac, placed in a web under the roof of the deck. There are about 1,000 eggs in there which will hatch in the fall. The tiny babies will overwinter inside the sac and emerge next spring.













This morning she had caught a fly in her web and wrapped it in a silk bundle with only the head sticking out. It looked a bit like a fly burrito, which she then ate.

What looks like her head in my photo is the fly burrito.






Every night she eats her web and in the morning builds a new one, according to what I have read. Our spider must be a lazy housekeeper because this is the second day she is using this same web.


I keep thinking, if only my little grandsons were here.

They would be so intrigued and bustling around with magnifying glasses,

and we'd be checking on Mrs CS every five minutes!


* Arachnophobia, fear of spiders, is the most common phobia in the Western world. Famous arachnaphobes include Halle Berry, Andre Agassi, J.K Rowling, Jessica Simpson, Rupert Grint, Justin Timberlake and Johnny Depp.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Young's Funeral Home -- Lady Attendant

I found some interesting facts while I was looking up the history of an abandoned building.

Until the mid 1800s, caring for their dead was a family event. The body was washed by the women of the family and placed into a casket made by the men which was given a place of honor in the best room of the house, the front parlor.

Embalming wasn't invented until the Civil War when preserving the body made it possible for a soldier to be transported from the battle field home to his family for burial.

The process caught on after President Abraham Lincoln was

assassinated and his body taken on a posthumous tour of the country.

The wake continued to be held in the family home and the embalmer came to the house to prepare the body. He came to be called "the undertaker" because he undertook the duties that used to belong to the family of the deceased.

Within decades people found it inconvenient to have a body taking up the family's front parlor and a funeral parlor, in a funeral home, was built for that purpose In the community.

Apparently having a "lady attendant" gave a bit of extra class and decorum to the occasion. Young's Funeral Home in Ridgeland, SC served the community in the 1960s and until Mr Young died in the early 1970s.

There is a gentle and peaceful feeling surrounding the old building that is slowly being consumed

by Lowcountry sand, vines, and its own living roof. Much like the bodies cared for there 50 years ago.

* * * * *



Thought for the day:


Thursday, June 11, 2015

They Just Keep Coming

Another amazing sunset.

"In the 'real world,' it's better to have loved and lost, tried and failed, dreamed and missed, than to sit out your turn in fear.

"Because the loss, the failure, and the miss, however painful, are merely temporary market adjustments, soon forgotten.

"Whereas the love, the adventure, and the dream are like investments that,

for the rest of your life and beyond,

never stop paying dividends."

- Mike Dooley





Monday, June 8, 2015

How Many Cats?

Our nearest town is a small one but you can find most things you need if you know where to look.

There are two variety stores, two "supermarkets," banks, four Mexican tiendas and/or small restaurants/bakeries, a hair salon, gas stations, even a McDonalds out by the Interstate highway. There is a liquor store, of course, in an old motel, called Dot's. Dot's husband has his own business on the other side of the parking lot, a car repair and towing business.


South Carolina liquor stores are identified by a large red dot on the outside of the building and have come to be called red dot stores. I wonder if Dot chose the business of selling liquor store because of her name.









Dot takes in the stray cats of the town, feeds them, and gives them shelter in some of the old motel rooms.. She thinks there are "40 some" feline guests right now. Between customers, Dot and her husband sit outside on the motel veranda with the four-footed guest or tend her many plants.


How many cats can you count?


Plus two

Plus one

And a few more

Yes, I think 40-something is probably about right!