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.


  1. The Oaks of the South certainly have a magnificent grandeur about them.

    The words below the last photo are very poignant - moving and rather touching.
    Is this an inscription on a plaque near the church or is it your effort?
    If the latter you have done yourself proud.
    Colin (Brisbane.Australia)
    Weather: Again gloomy - I suspect an umbrella day just to be on the safe side.

    1. My effort. Thanks for the compliment. :-)

  2. That is a magnificent ruin. It is fascinating to feel the history that has poured over the same ground where you stand, expressed so well.

  3. Cynthia, What fabulous photos showing an era and a landscape! Love the ancient oak!

  4. Cynthia it was a great place in the past but now it looks impressive . The oaks are fantastic at my place we don't have these species.

  5. What a beautiful place, such a shame its been left to go to ruin. It holds so much history, a shame for it to be lost.

  6. Oh my, what a shame as it has so much history...lovely photos of the remains....the poem is lovely...,but sad..

  7. What an amazing hîstory here! Of course here in Australia, Europeans didn't arrive until 1770 and the indigenous people didn't build as they were nomadic, so we don't don't have anything so old. I'm really enjoying your posts about your new home and environs. :-)

  8. Very nice post, I like those historic places and indeed sometimes only the trees are the only witnesses left to what has happened there.

  9. I can only imagine how grand it was! :)

  10. You visit some of the most interesting places. Glad you share it! I love those big beautiful Oak trees. That is a beautiful spot!

  11. I wonder how many other passed on mothers stand near tge graves of their children. Beautiful church and oak.

  12. We have oaks here but not those I have always admired them when traveling south. I so enjoyed your history on the ruins, and hiding munitions in the crypts is ingenious, I wouldn't have opened them either.

  13. I've always like old farm or plantation homes. But sure wouldn't want to clean one.
    Coffee is on

  14. Beautiful photos, Cynthia. They really capture my idea of the South though I've yet to travel there. There certainly has been a lot of history beneath that Oak tree. Have a great weekend. x

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  16. Interesting history and pictures. I think of those hundreds of slaves & the work & pain they endured to build wealth for others and glory in the name of God....:(