Beaufort’s Reconstruction Era National Historical Park

Park rangers share their knowledge at the park’s visitor center. Photo by the Post & Courier.

Did you know Beaufort was home to the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park? It is only fitting that it is found in Beaufort, because that is where freedom from slavery began in the south! The Emancipation Proclamation was first read in the South on January 1, 1863, at Camp Saxton, just a stone’s throw away from Beaufort in Port Royal. During the Civil War the US military occupied Beaufort as a command center for east coast operations. Many of the historic homes and churches were used as offices, hospitals, and quarters. Many churches were converted into schools for the newly freed. Some of these homes were bought by former slaves at tax auctions.

Park rangers lead tours at the Penn Center’s Darrah Hall. Photo by Jenny Kendrick.

The Reconstruction Era lasted from 1861 to 1877. During this important time four million newly freed African Americans sought to integrate themselves into a free society. They contributed to the educational, economic, and political life of Beaufort. This process began as the Port Royal Experiment. After the Battle of Port Royal more than 10,000 slaves were left behind when the white population fled the area. Schools were established to leach reading, writing, and other life skills. Many joined the US Army and trained at Camp Saxton, the very place where they heard the Emancipation Proclamation.

The Penn Center grounds are covered in live oak trees. Photo by Brendon Keelan.

The Reconstruction Era National Historical Park is comprised of three main locations, along with three park partners that aid in telling the story of the Port Royal Experiment, which helped formerly enslaved people become self-sufficient. In addition to being a group of historic sites in and around Beaufort, it tells the story of what happened after the Civil War as newly freed African Americans and the nation struggled toward reconciliation. The park consists of historic sites that were instrumental in the Reconstruction Era of Beaufort. Penn Center’s Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church on St. Helena Island, Camp Saxton and the Pinckney-Porters Chapel in Port Royal join the Old Beaufort Firehouse to tell the story of Reconstruction.

The Reconstruction Era National Historical Park Visitor Center can be found in the Old Beaufort Firehouse, 706 Craven Street. The visitor center contains displays and artwork that depict the struggle of the formerly enslaved people and their and ascension to citizenship. The center also houses information about the other sites and their importance in the history.

Darrah Hall and the Brick Baptist Church can be found on the grounds of St. Helena Island’s Penn Center. The Penn School was established in 1862 as the first school in the south for former slaves. Quaker and Unitarian missionaries from Pennsylvania founded the school and taught classes. Early classes were held in the Brick Baptist Church, which was built in 1855 by the very slaves that would later learn to read and write within its walls. Careful examination of the bricks reveals handprints from the enslaved artists who formed the bricks from clay.

Darrah Hall image by Charleston Currents.

Darrah Hall is the oldest building on the campus of the Penn Center. It was built by Penn School specifically for community use. It has been a gathering place for the community for over 100 years. This building, along with others on the property represents the development of the center through the 19th and 20th centuries. The hall is used for interpretive purposes by the park, as well as for community events.

Camp Saxton was founded on the site of Fort Frederick, a pre-Revolutionary War fort that was abandoned and absorbed into Smith Plantation. On New Year’s Day in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was read aloud here to 10,000 former slaves. After the Proclamation was read, the 1st South Carolina Volunteers was formed. This all-black regiment trained at Camp Saxton from 1862 to 1863. The site is preserved as the Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve. The tabby fort was originally built by the British in the 1730s. During the Civil War a bridge was built across its walls to serve as a dock to welcome former slaves to the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Pinckney Porter Chapel is a Reconstruction-Era Freedman’s Chapel that was restored and moved to Port Royal’s Naval Heritage Park. The chapel houses temporary exhibits and Camp Saxton programs begin at the site. The chapel is, in part, named for Senator Clemente Pinckney who served as pastor to the church from 1996-1998. Senator Pinckney was gunned down while serving as a pastor for Charleston’s Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2015. Pinckney was a beloved native of Ridgeland and served as a South Carolina state senator for Beaufort County. The chapel is open on Saturday mornings and park rangers are available to answer questions.

Reconstruction Era National Historical Park Visitor Center – 706 Craven Street, Beaufort
Brick Baptist Church – 85 Martin Luther King Drive, St Helena Island
Darrah Hall & Penn Center – 16 Penn Center Cir E, St Helena Island
Camp Saxton – 601 Old Fort Road, Port Royal
Pinckney-Porters Chapel – Naval Heritage Park, Pinckney Street, Port Royal

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The Lowcountry & Resort Islands Region of South Carolina includes the four, southern-most counties in the state, Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, and Colleton, which are bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Savannah River and the state of Georgia.

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The shore gently recedes beneath the stunning Pawleys Island Pier. The unique island town, located about 25 miles south of Myrtle Beach and 70 miles north of Charleston, exudes laid-back, beachy vibes. Locals have definitely adopted an island state of mind and encourage visitors to as well. When you go, make sure to relax on the beach, explore the famous sand dunes, or fish in one of the many adjacent creeks.⏰ Best time of the day to visit: We guarantee that you’re going to want to spend a whole day here. We recommend getting to the beach at around 10am.🗓️ Best time of the year: Pawleys Island has the best weather during the spring and early summer months.🏖️ Things to do while there: Pawleys Island Nature Park, Pawleys Island Chapel, Hopsewee Plantation.🐠 Things to visit in the area: Brookgreen Gardens (brookgreen_gardens), take a walking ghost tour, Myrtle Beach (mymyrtlebeach), Harborwalk Marina, South Carolina Maritime Museum (southcarolinamaritimemuseum).🏨 Where to stay: The Oceanfront Litchfield Inn (oceanfrontlitchfieldinn), Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort (litchfieldbeachandgolf), Sea View Inn (seaviewinn), 620 Prince (620prince).Photo by qcphotographer
Discover at your own leisure at the coastaldiscoverymuseum 🌳  From century-old buildings with storied pasts, to wooden boardwalks that stretch into the Jarvis Creek salt marsh, there's always something to explore!
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Spanish moss drapes the live oak trees that are ubiquitous to the Edisto Island area. Did you know that Edisto gets its name from the native Edistow people? The Edistow Native Americans were a sub tribe of the Cusabo indians, a group of Native Americans who lived along the Atlantic coast in South Carolina.⏰ Best time of the day to visit: Stop by mid-morning. That way you can explore the island, grab lunch, and stay for the amazing sunset if you choose.🏖️ Things to do while there: Edisto Environmental Learning Center, Boneyard Beach, Scott Creek Inlet, Big Bay Creek, SeaCow Eatery.☀️ Things to visit in the area: Jungle Road Park, Bay Creek Park, Otter Islands, Spanish Mount Point.📆 Best time of the year to visit: For warmer weather come anywhere from March-August.🏨 Where to stay: Fripp Island Golf & Beach Resort (frippislandrsrt), Seabrook Island Club (seabrook_sc), The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort (kiawahresort), Charleston Kiawah Island/Andell Inn (andellinn).Photo by qcphotographer
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Reposted from coastaldiscoverymuseum Hilton Head Island has the second highest tidal range on the East Coast, second only to Canada’s Bay of Fundy. The average tidal range here is 7-9 feet between high and low tides.The Salt Marsh is one of our area’s most prominent features, not to mention an essential resource. Most coastal creatures depend partially or even fully on the Salt Marsh for survival as it serves as a nursery, as well as a water filter vital for the functioning of the entire coastal ecosystem.Explore the Lowcountry up close with a visit to the Coastal Discovery Museum and head out into the marsh via the Osprey Outlook floating dock on a self-guided tour or register for the weekly Salt Marsh Discovery program to learn from an expert how and why this particular environment is so important. (843) 689-6767 ext. 223 or coastaldiscovery.org.
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Located in the heart of the ACE Basin, Donnelley Wildlife Management Area is a great place to catch a glimpse of Lowcountry nature at its finest.Discover more on our blog!https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/colleton-countys-donnelley-wild#discoversouthcarolina📸: Carmen Pinckney#thatsmylowcountry #naturallyamazing #sclowcountry #donnelleywildlifemanagementarea #colletoncountysc #exploresc #exploresouthcarolina #discoversc #discoversouthcarolina
It’s my last week in the Lowcountry. I will be incredibly happy to be back home, but I will sure miss these views. ☀️🌴[Image Description: a photo of a sun setting over the Lowcountry wetlands. The cloud in the sky are reflected on the water below.]
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No filter & it was so beautiful I didn't want to make it fit Instagram! #pawleysislandsc #onlypawleys #pawleys #arrogantlyshabby #eastcoast #coastalcarolina #sclowcountry #lowcountry #borntobeach #somebeachsomewhere #peaceloveandsandyfeet #inmymindimgonetocarolina
A visitor takes a leisurely stroke under a canopy of live oaks draped with Spanish moss in the Palmetto Bluff (palmettobluff) neighborhood of Bluffton, South Carolina. Palmetto Bluff is a picturesque community that sits in the heart of Lowcountry. Nestled along the May River, it’s abundant with beautiful walking trails, historic sites, and stunning views.⏰ Best time of the day to visit: There is no wrong time to visit Palmetto Bluff. However, we highly recommend sticking around for one of their spectacular sunsets.🛶 Things to do while there: Stop by Cole’s for some regionally inspired Southern fare, paddle board, kayak, or canoe along the May River, go saltwater fishing, take a tour at Bluffton Jack's Old Town Tours.🌊 Things to visit in the area: Palmetto Bluff Conservancy, Old Town Bluffton, Bluffton Oyster Factory Park, May River Sandbar, Heyward House Museum and Welcome Center (heywardhouse).📆 Best time of the year to visit: For the best weather, we recommend visiting between March and May or from September to November.🏨 Where to stay: The Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort (montagepalmettobluff) is the only resort in Palmetto Bluff. However, there are plenty of places to stay in the surrounding areas including: Old Town Bluffton Inn (oldtownblufftoninn), The Inn & Club at Harbour Town (theinnandclubatharbourtown), Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island (sonestahhi).Photo by jpgriceoz
Need a project this weekend? Add a splash of color and touch of gardening to your porch decor. Don’t have a green thumb? Not to worry.⠀
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A new week means a fresh start full of new opportunities to explore! 💙​​​​​​​​
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