Looking for a fun place to hike with a pretty view? The Savannah NWR is the perfect spot!
Jasper County’s Savannah National Wildlife Refuge consists of 31,551 acres of freshwater marshes, tidal rivers and creeks, and bottomland hardwoods. Well-maintained hiking trails wind throughout the refuge, giving hikers and bikers access to these former rice fields. Explore the nearly 40 miles of trails that are built on dikes that contained rice fields dating back to the early 1700’s.
The freshwater impoundments of the wildlife refuge are managed for migratory waterfowl and provide excellent wildlife observation points. All dikes are open to foot and bicycle travel during daylight hours, unless otherwise posted. Waterfowl are most abundant from November through February, while alligators and other reptiles are frequently seen from March through October.
Bird watching opportunities are good all year but are best from October through April when temperatures are mild, and many species of waterfowl and other wintering birds are present. The trails are primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and bird watching. The trails offer several activity options and are accessible year-round.
Motorists are welcome on the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive, off S.C. 170, which meanders along four miles of earthen dikes through managed freshwater pools and hardwood hammocks. Many hiking and biking trails are accessible from this drive.
The Kingfisher Loop and Tupelo Trail is a 7.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features beautiful wildflowers and is good for all skill levels.
The Little Back River Trail is a 6.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail features a lake and is good for all skill levels.
Recess Plantation Trail is a 3.2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail featuring beautiful wildflowers and is good for all skill levels.
The Cistern Trail/Photo Blind is located along the Lauren Hill Wildlife Drive. It is a great spot to capture wildlife photos.
Plantation Island Trail is a 2.8 mile moderately trafficked loop trail featuring beautiful wildflowers and is good for all skill levels. This small island of trees was formerly a slave community. It was once surrounded by rice fields. The cistern is still visible. It was used to collect drinking water and store perishable foods.
Raccoon Trail is a 2.6 mile moderately trafficked loop trail that features a river and is good for all skill levels.
The Savannah NWR Visitor Center is located on U.S. 17, seven miles north of downtown Savannah, Georgia or seven miles south of I-95 at Hardeeville, South Carolina.
Beech Hill Trail is a 0.3 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near the Visitor’s Center that features beautiful wildflowers and is good for all skill levels.
The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located at 694 Beech Hill Lane, just outside Hardeeville. The Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is located on GA-25/SC-170. (843) 784-2468
Hunting Island State Park is the most popular park in the state. Over one million visitors visit each year. The Lowcountry barrier island contains five miles of beautiful beaches, a saltwater lagoon along with 5,000 acres of maritime forest and marsh.
Hunting Island is also home to the state’s only publicly accessible lighthouse. Visitors are encouraged to climb the 167 steps to the top and observe the breath-taking views of the maritime forest and beach from 130 feet above.
Hunting Island State park also has a 100-site campground that sits directly on the beach. Amenities include water and electrical hookups, shower and restroom facilities, beach walkways and a playground. There is also one cabin near the lighthouse.
Visiting the park’s nature center should be on your list of things to do. There you can see interesting creatures and regularly scheduled programs for you to enjoy.
Every time you visit Hunting Island, visitors notice change. This barrier island is a temporary stop for many migrating birds as well as those who stick around all year. The ocean forces have been known to wreak havoc on the coastline, which is ever-changing.
The saltwater lagoon was created by sand dredging in 1968. This beautiful waterway is a great area for kayaking, crabbing and fishing. Seahorses and barracuda have also been spotted in the lagoon. This area is also a great backdrop for a picnic on a sunny day.
Higher inland areas of the park contain some of the state’s best examples of semi-tropical maritime forest and ancient sand dunes. The dunes are now covered in slash pines, cabbage palmetto and live oaks. Nature trails are interwoven throughout this area for closer inspection. Look for deer and raccoons when traveling through the forest. Alligators can be spotted in the freshwater ponds.
The island is also a great spot for bird watching. Painted buntings, tanagers and orioles can be spotted in the trees. Pelicans, oystercatchers, skimmers, terns, herons, egrets and wood storks can be seen along the shores and in the sky.
The beaches on Hunting Island are important habitat for shorebirds and sea birds. They use the beach to feed, and nest. Migrating birds use the beach as well. Some areas of the beach designated for birds only. Guests are always encouraged to keep out of posted areas and keep dogs on a leash to protect these important birding grounds. The beaches of Hunting Island are also important nesting areas for loggerhead sea turtles during the summer months.
The park has several hiking trails that make their way across the island. These trails are easy and can be combined to lengthen the experience. The trails wind along the lagoon and through the maritime forest through various wildlife habitats. They can also take you deep into the interior of the maritime forest where the habitat supports a population of deer, raccoon, owls, hawks and squirrels.
The Marsh Boardwalk Trail is a designated National Recreational Trail. It is a wooden boardwalk that leads to a dock that provides a great area for viewing life in the salt marsh. The dock is also the perfect spot for observing beautiful sunsets.
There is even a hiking trail from the campground to the lighthouse so campers can walk to the iconic landmark without getting into traffic or dealing with the effects of high tide. More experienced hikers will enjoy the Diamondback Rattlesnake Trail. This moderately strenuous trail is for experienced hikers and mountain bikers only.
Climbing to the top of the historic Hunting Island Lighthouse should be on the bucket list of anyone visiting the island. Anyone over the height of 44” can climb the 167 steps to the top where the views are worth the trip. From the top you can see a panoramic view of the maritime forest and Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse is open daily, except for Christmas day and in the event of inclement weather.
The original lighthouse was built in 1859. It was destroyed during the Civil War, then rebuilt in 1875. It was built of interchangeable cast-iron sections so it could be dismantled if it ever needs to be moved. This proved beneficial because that is exactly what happened in 1889. The lighthouse was moved 1.3 miles inland due to beach erosion. In 2003 cracks were discovered in several of the cast iron steps leading up. A crew spent more than 18 months making repairs and installing steel braces beneath the stairs for reinforcement. The braces were left unpainted, which creates a contrast with the original structure which protects the lighthouse’s historic integrity.
If you haven’t already, make plans to visit Hunting Island
State Park. Climb to the top of the lighthouse. Enjoy the sunrise as you walk
along the beach. Search for shells and shark’s teeth along the surf. Stop at
the nature center and view the alligators. Experience the sunset from the Marsh
Boardwalk and explore the eight miles of walking and biking trails. Come to the
place where time stands still, and memories last a lifetime.
Hampton County is teaming with history. Luckily, much of it has been preserved in the architecture that can be seen throughout the county.
The Hampton County Courthouse was built in 1878 when Hampton became a county. It was named after Governor Wade Hampton.
The cornerstone of the building was laid by none other than Governor Hampton himself!
The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located at 1 Elm St W, in Hampton.
The Hampton County Museum building has a very interesting history. The structure was built to house the Hampton County Jail. Museum artifacts include Civil War memorabilia, maps and uniforms. Visitors can also find exhibits from World Wars I and II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
The County Jail was built in 1878 and served the people until 1976. Second floor cells have been preserved and are a distinctive museum attraction for the County Historical Society.
This building is also on the National Register of Historic Places. The Hampton County Museum at the Old Jail is open Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 3 – 5 p.m. (803)943-5484
The Hampton Museum and Visitors Center started life as the Bank of Hampton. This architecturally significant building started life as the Bank of Hampton in 1892. The two-story Italianate influenced brick building was designed by French architect Vincent Fontaine. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bank closed its doors in 1930, but the upstairs space was rented as a law office until the 1960s. The structure was given to the town in 1987 and it became a museum shortly after. The bank’s original vault and safe with hand painted doors are still intact today.
This museum and visitors center exhibits collections relevant to Hampton County. Visitors will find exhibits of Indian lore, military artifacts, antique medical equipment and Watermelon Festival memorabilia. A children’s room is included for younger visitors. Local artists and craftsmen also display their creations here. Genealogy information for this area is also available. Information on a self-guided walking tour of downtown Hampton can be found inside as well.
The Hampton Museum & Visitor’s Center is located at 15 Elm Street, across from the County Courthouse. Visitors are welcome to browse the displays on any given Thursday or Saturday, from 2 – 5 p.m. and the first Sunday of the month, from 3 – 5 p.m. A trip to the museum and visitors center is free, but donations are accepted. (803)943-5318
Built in 1929, the Hampton Colored School was the educational facility for Hampton’s African American children. This structure replaced a dilapidated one-room schoolhouse. The land was purchased by local citizens. Once the acreage was secured, Ervin Johnson, an African American carpenter, constructed the frame building with help of volunteers from his community.
The school served students through the eighth grade. When Hampton Colored High School was built in 1947, this school became its cafeteria. The Hampton County Colored School fell into disrepair after integration. It has since been restored and entered onto the National Register of Historic Places.
The facility has been restored and named to both the South Carolina and the National Register of Historic Places. It is also listed in the Green Book of South Carolina. The museum serves as a repository of Black History in Hampton. The Hampton Colored School can be found at 608 1st St West. The museum is open Wednesdays, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (803)943-2951
The Estill Nature Walking and Nature Trail is a quarter of a mile long and has learning stations along the path so visitors can learn about nature. The trail is located at 500 Second Street East, behind the Estill Fire Station. (803)625-3243
The Estill Museum is open by appointment by calling (803)368-5158. The building that houses the museum was originally Estill’s first town hall and jail.
The small museum features exhibits on the history of Estill. The museum is located at 44 Third Street, Estill.
The ornate Lawtonville Baptist Church stands proudly on the corner at 196 Fourth Street in Estill. This church stands out from the other buildings of Hampton County. This 1911 structure was designed by renowned Savannah architect Julian DeBruyn Kops.
The elaborate late Gothic Revival church is still in use today. The building has a complex Star of Redemption roof and Star of David symbols on each side. Parts of the building resemble a castle keep.
The stained-glass windows have been beautifully preserved, and best seen from inside. The ceiling is also stunning.
The town of Varnville was the setting for the fictitious town of Greenbow, Alabama for the filming of Forrest Gump. The block-buster movie was filmed all around the Lowcountry in 1994.
Varnville was originally known as “Dixie” in the 1800s. The streets are lined with lovely homes, a restored former depot and a beautiful town gazebo.
Brunson Museum and Visitors Center is housed in the original town hall. This unique museum contains a wonderful collection of artifacts, paintings and other memorabilia documenting the history of the Brunson area. The building was listed in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, as the only octagonal town hall ever built on stilts.
Built 1906, this structure was used as a municipal office and meeting place for the mayor and councilmen of Brunson. It was built over the town’s artesian well to provide protection and shade. Benches were placed around the well to provide a recreational spot for the town’s citizens. While the open arena under the town hall was planned for pleasure, it was also used as the town’s voting place. It was even the scene of one election slaying. Townspeople will tell you that many of cotton crops were planned there. In 1952 the artesian well was covered, and a modern water supply was installed.
The tiny town hall was crowded out by the modern highway and rail systems, so in 1959, it was moved to its current location and the stilts were removed. The town hall continued to serve as the center of town government until 1996. A replica of the original town hall on stilts is positioned beside the museum as a reminder of the building’s original life. Visit the museum at 800 Railroad Avenue in Brunson. Hours of operation are Thursday 2-5 p.m. or by appointment. (803)632-3633
Fans of the movie Forest Gump will recognize Stoney Creek Chapel. Forrest went to church here to pray that he and Lieutenant Dan would find shrimp. It is the only pre-Civil War structure in this area surrounding McPhersonville and Yemassee.
Before the Civil War, many rice-planters from Prince William
Parrish build summer homes in McPhersonville due to its higher elevation as an
escape from malaria-carrying mosquitoes. In 1832 some of these planters joined
to build a summer chapel. Completed in 1833, this chapel was used for seasonal
worship. During the war the chapel was used as a hospital and campsite by Union
The chapel is a simple Greek Revival structure with a gabled
roof. Central arched doors are flanked by transomed windows. The octagonal
steeple was added in 1890. It was entered into the National Register of
Historic Places in 2002.
Sheldon Chapel Episcopal, formerly of Prince William Parish stands proudly at 25481 Pocotaligo Road. Dated to 1745, the church was dismantled and used to build bridges by Gen. Sherman during the Civil War. It was rebuilt in 1898.
It was first built in 1832, as a summer place of worship by the congregation of Sheldon Church of Prince William’s Parish (now famous as “Old Sheldon” ruins). The Confederate Army used the church as a smallpox clinic.
When Union forces occupied the area, they used the structures strongest timbers to build bridges across the Combahee. Then Sherman’s army destroyed the rest of the structure it in 1865. It was rebuilt in its present modest form in 1898.
The Lowcountry town of Jacksonboro (between Point South and Charleston) is the perfect spot to get out and stretch your legs on the Edisto Nature Trail. The trail is located on Highway 17, adjacent to the Edisto River. Jacksonboro is in the area known as the ACE Basin. This low-lying part of the state is full of former rice plantations with beautiful marsh and river views, and teaming with wildlife.
The boardwalk trail meanders through the woods that change from pineland and maritime forests to cypress and tupelo swamp. The trail follows the old Westvaco timber road.
Before and after the Revolutionary War, this area was rich in rice production. After the Civil War, phosphate was mined here. A wooden sign can be spotted near the parking lot that points out an overgrown section of the old “Kings Highway” roadbed that eventually was replaced by Highway 17.
Evidence of phosphate mining can still be seen at the Edisto Nature Trail. Phosphate mining became commonplace in the area after the Civil War. This rich limestone deposit contained substances that were particularly good for fertilizer production. The long, shallow pits that were dug to remove the phosphate are still visible.
A 15-minute walk along the boardwalk will take you to a dock overlooking the Edisto River. You can also press on and take the 1.5-mile loop trail that can be completed in about an hour. It will transport you from the wetlands to higher upland forest area. Make sure to wear appropriate shoes. The trail may be muddy, and the roots can make the trek challenging. Also, the boardwalk narrows when traveling through the old phosphate pits. Be sure to bring bug spray if you come in the spring or summer.
Bring a picnic and blanket if you want to enjoy lunch on the dock overlooking the Edisto River. Bring along the camera so you can capture the beauty of the area’s flora and fauna. Relax and watch the river flowing gracefully. Look carefully and you just might see an alligator or two.
The Penn School was founded in 1862 as a part of the Port Royal Experiment. It was one of the first schools in the south to educate former slaves. 80 students were enrolled in the first year, and classes were held in the brick church. Just two years later, the school started acquiring more land, and by 1865, a three-room schoolhouse was built. This school building made history as the first schoolhouse built for the instruction of former slaves.
Between 1865 and 1877 Penn School was supported
by a private charity started by Quaker abolitionists in Philadelphia. The
school started experiencing financial difficulties and the Hampton Institute of
Virginia provided sponsorship from 1901-1917.
The academic school reorganized in 1901 as the Penn Normal, Agricultural
and Industrial School. For eighty-six
years the school educated African Americans of St Helena Island.
The Great Depression sunk the school into further
financial hardship and by 1931 enrollment dropped from 600 to 262. By 1948 Penn
School closed when the school was removed to the Beaufort County School
District. The facility became Penn Community Services, focusing on social
justice and the Civil Rights Movement. The center trained midwives, opened the
first daycare for African Americans, started a Teen Canteen and developed a
community health care clinic.
Penn Center was a very important retreat during the Civil rights Movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and other human rights advocates spent valuable time here. The center was used for religious and organizational retreats, Peace Corps training and the study of black history and culture during the 1970s.
The Penn School for Preservation was started in the 1980s with the establishment of the Land Use and Environmental Education Program. This promoted sustainability and economic development. Sierra Leone’s President Joseph Momoh even made a trip to Penn Center in 1988. The following year a group of Gullah community members traveled to his country for a reunion with ancestral families.
By 1990 the center was placed on the National Trust for
Historic Preservation “Most Endangered Historic Places” list. The mission of
this list was to focus on promoting and preserving Gullah cultural assets. Then
in 2006 Congress created The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor along
the coastal areas from Florida to North Carolina.
Many important buildings make up the Penn Center campus. Visit
the Courtney P. Siceloff Welcome Center and Gift Shop to purchase your
admission to the museum and self-guided walking tour map. The gift shop has
Penn Center memorabilia and books such as the Letters and Diary of Laura M.
Towne, Penn Center: A History Preserved by Orville Vernon
Burton and De Nyew Testament (Gullah Bible)
The York W. Bailey Museum began life
as the Cope Industrial Shop. Built in 1912, this facility was used to teach
harness-making, wheel-righting, blacksmith, basketry, carpentry and cobbling
classes. The building was named after Philadelphia Quaker Francis Cope, who
served as a trustee to the school for many years. African American Civil War
hero General Robert Smalls spoke at the 1912 dedication. The building was
rededicated in 1999 and repurposed as the York W. Bailey Museum. The museum was
named for a prominent Penn School graduate who attended Howard University
medical school, then returned to St. Helena to bring medical services to his
View the Education for Freedom exhibition in the museum,
which interprets the 86-year history of Penn School beginning in 1862, Penn
School during the Reconstruction Era, Penn Normal Industrial and Agricultural
School, and the Civil Rights Movement at Penn Community Services. The museum
also showcases many other temporary and traveling exhibitions. The museum is
open Monday – Saturday 9 am – 4 pm.
Discover and learn how all 25 historic buildings and
structures were utilized during the history of Penn School and Penn Center.
Enjoy a self-guided walking tour of the 50-acre Penn School National Historic
Landmark District. Maps are available in the welcome center. Groups can also
enjoy a more engaging experience with a Penn School Guided Walking Tour.
Take a trip across the Lowcountry to visit these historically significant spots.
Today’s Green Book of South Carolina pays homage to the original Green Book by highlighting African American heritage sites across the state. The original Green Book was published in 1936. It played a critical role in protecting African American travelers by providing information on safe travel and welcoming establishments across the United States. This guide was instrumental in helping black motorists navigate the dangers of racial segregation. It included gas stations, restaurants and lodging that were safe for African American travelers.
Calvin Ramsey has revived the Green Book as a guide to historically significant sites. The South Carolina Lowcountry counties of Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper are very fortunate to have 36 sites memorialized in the Green Book of South Carolina. The following sites were shared from https://greenbookofsc.com/.
BEAUFORT “Freedom Along the Combahee”: Combahee Ferry Raid Hwy 17 at Combahee River, Beaufort County A Union force consisting of nearly 300 members of the 3rd Rhode Island Artillery and the 2nd S.C. Volunteer Infantry, an African American unit, raided several plantations along the Confederate-held Combahee River on June 1-2, 1863. Col. James Montgomery led the expedition. The famed Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman also participated. More than 700 enslaved men, women, and children were freed. Some of the freedmen enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Berean Presbyterian Church / J.I. Washington Branch Library 602 Carteret St. Beaufort Samuel J. Bampfield, an influential African American political figure during Reconstruction, was the founder of Berean Presbyterian Church. He served as postmaster, clerk of the Beaufort County court, and a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. The congregation purchased this lot in 1892 and built a Gothic Revival style church. Solomon P. Hood, a future U.S. Minister to Liberia, was appointed as its first pastor. The Beaufort Township Library purchased the building in 1931 and used it as a segregated library for African Americans. After the desegregation of the Township Library, the segregated branch closed. Later, the Neighborhood Youth Corps used the building as its headquarters. USC-Beaufort purchased the site in 1993 for use as an art studio.
Camp Saxton Ribaut Rd. on the US Naval Hospital Grounds, Port Royal The Camp Saxton Site is nationally significant as an intact portion of the camp occupied from early November 1862 to late January 1863 by the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, the first black regiment mustered into regular service in the United States Army during the Civil War, and as the site of the elaborate ceremonies held here on New Year’s Day 1863 which formally announced and celebrated the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in areas then “in rebellion” against the United States. This area is preserved as part of Reconstruction Era National Historical Park. However, it is located on the campus of the Beaufort Naval Hospital, an active duty military installation. As a result, this area is not currently open to public access.
Detreville House 701 Green St. Beaufort Rev. James Graham built this house c. 1785. It became known as “the Mission” during Reconstruction, when Mrs. Rachel C. Mather of Boston occupied the house. She and other Baptist missionaries built Mather School in Beaufort to educate African Americans. The house is included in the Beaufort Historic District.
First African Baptist Church, Beaufort 601 New St. Beaufort This church, founded in 1865, grew out of an antebellum praise house for black members of the Baptist Church of Beaufort. During the Civil War, after the Federal occupation of the town, it hosted a school for Freedmen. Rev. Arthur Waddell (1821-1895), organized the church with two fellow black ministers in 1867. Robert Smalls (1839-1915), Civil War hero, state legislator, and U.S. Congressman, was its most prominent member.
Grand Army of the Republic Hall 706 Newcastle St. Beaufort Although Beaufort’s black military companies remained active after the Civil War, statewide the “Negro militia” rapidly declined during the 19th century. By 1903, the only units left were two companies in Beaufort. Many black Union veterans lived in the community, and after the war they formed the David Hunter Post #9 of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for veterans of the Union Army. Built in 1896, this meeting hall for the post is believed to be the only surviving building in South Carolina associated with the Grand Army of the Republic. It is included in the Beaufort Historic District.
Mather Museum and Interpretive Center 921 Ribaut Road, building #1, Beaufort This interpretive center chronicles the history of Mather School in Beaufort, a boarding school for freed African American females. The institution was founded in 1868 by Boston schoolteacher Rachel Crane Mather, and is one of many post-Civil War developments that sought to educate recently emancipated African Americans. It first served elementary school-age girls. In 1910, high school grades were added, and in the 1950s, it became a junior college. Today, the museum is housed in the historic school’s former library, and the campus is the site of the Technical College of the Lowcountry. Moor Hall (pictured below,) one of the campus’ original historic buildings, housed classrooms, served as an administration building, a science laboratory, a library and a bookstore. The school of cosmetology training was housed in the basement.
Tabernacle Baptist Church 907 Craven St. Beaufort The Tabernacle, a meeting house and lecture room, was built by Beaufort Baptist Church in the 1840s. In 1863, Tabernacle Baptist Church was organized by Solomon Peck of Boston with most of the 500 African American members of the congregation coming from Beaufort Baptist Church. The new congregation acquired this building for their worship services. The church was rebuilt after it was damaged by the hurricane of 1893. A bust of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls is on the church grounds. Tabernacle Baptist Church is included in the Beaufort Historic District.
Wesley Methodist Church, Beaufort 701 West St. Beaufort This church, established in 1833, was the first Methodist church in Beaufort and was founded as a mission to slaves and free blacks here and on the neighboring sea islands. The congregation had both black and white members but many more black members in the antebellum era. This church, first built in the “meeting house” form common to the Methodist church, was dedicated in 1849. In 1861, after the Federal occupation of Beaufort and the sea islands, this church hosted a school for Freedmen. Its first black minister was appointed in 1873 during Reconstruction.
BEAUFORT SEA ISLANDS Coffin Point Plantation Seaside Rd. St. Helena Island Coffin Point Plantation, a prosperous sea island cotton plantation, became a hub of activity when St. Helena Island was captured by Union troops in 1861. With the Union occupation of the island, the Coffin family fled, and 260 slaves were left behind. The United States government developed a plan to train and educate the newly released slaves to prove their effectiveness as free laborers. This effort became known as the Port Royal Experiment.
Dr. York Bailey House US Hwy. 21 St. Helena Island This house was built c. 1915 for Dr. York Bailey, St. Helena Island’s first African American doctor and its only physician for more than 50 years. Bailey ordered the parts for the house from a mail-order catalog and they were shipped to Beaufort, then brought across to the island by boat. The house is a good example of the vernacular American Foursquare house form. Bailey, born on St. Helena in 1881, graduated from Penn School and Hampton Institute and studied medicine at Howard University. He returned to the island in 1906 to practice medicine.
Eddings Point Praise House On Eddings Point Drive, .1 miles north of junction with Secondary Road 74 St. Helena Island The small wood frame building, c. 1900, is a rare example of a praise house. Praise houses were first established on plantations as places to meet and worship. Since there were few formal church buildings on St. Helena Island, most islanders could only walk or ride to the main church on Sunday mornings. For other meetings or services, they used praise houses, holding services on Sunday night and some weeknights. There were as many as 25 praise houses on St. Helena Island as recently as 1932, but only four remain today.
Emanuel Alston House Sec. Rd. 161, .25 mi. N of jct. with US 21 Frogmore/St Helena Island This house is an intact and significant example of a one-story hipped roof house, an early 20th century vernacular architectural form common to St. Helena Island. It was built c. 1915 by Tecumseh Alston, a carpenter, for his brother Emanuel. Emanuel “Mannie” Alston, born 1900, lived here until his death in 1985. He served for many years as an elder at Ebenezer Baptist Church and took a prominent part in the services there.
Knights of Wise Men Lodge Hall 14 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. St. Helena Island The Knights of Wise Men was organized in 1870 to provide financial and farming assistance to the families of its members. The Knights purchased this property at the rear of “The Green” in 1889 for $8.00 and built a two-story wood frame building, which burned in 1940. The current concrete building was constructed shortly thereafter by local masons. It is similar in fashion to the earlier building. At its height in the 1920s, the Knights of Wise Men had some 350 members. The lodge is still used during times of celebration.
Mary Jenkins Community Praise House 355 Eddings Point Rd. St. Helena Island Mary Jenkins Community Praise House is one of only four praise houses remaining on St. Helena Island. The small wood frame building, which was built c. 1900, represents a vernacular architectural form that has survived since the plantation era. Paris Capers, born in 1863, was one of the early elders. As a place of religious worship as well as community meetings, this praise house is an important reminder of St. Helena Island’s African American heritage.
Penn Center Historic District / Reconstruction Era National Monument 16 Penn Center Cir. E. St. Helena Island Penn School was founded in 1862 by northern missionaries and abolitionists who came to South Carolina after the capture of the Sea Islands by Union troops. The site and its collection of historic buildings were venues for education, the preservation and interpretation of sea island culture, and a strategy meeting for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. before his March on Washington in 1963. In January 2017, Penn Center and other historic sites in Beaufort County were declared the nation’s first Reconstruction Era National Monument by President Barack Obama. In 2019, the monument was officially recognized as a National Park.
Robert Simmons House On unpaved road .5 mile south of US HWY. 21 St. Helena Island This house was built c. 1910 by Robert Simmons, an African American farmer. The house is a rare surviving example of a double pen house, a vernacular architectural form once common on St. Helena Island. Double pen houses had two rooms side-by-side, each usually measuring approximately 16×16 feet. The house has been enlarged, but the original core is still distinguishable.
BLUFFTON Campbell AME Church 23 Boundary Street Bluffton White Methodists built Campbell Chapel AME Church in 1853. Nine African American freedmen, who were likely once enslaved by members of the white congregation, purchased the 19th-century Greek Revival structure in 1874. Members of the new African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church congregation immediately altered the building and expanded the site as the church thrived. They likely installed the cast-iron bell that is currently visible in the cupola. The church retains historic fabric that is both original and reflective of the change in ownership. Campbell Chapel AME continues to provide a space where congregants can educate youth, worship freely, and participate in outreach ministries. This historic church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on April 26, 2019.
HILTON HEAD Cherry Hill School 210 Dillon Rd. Hilton Head Island This one-room frame school, built ca. 1937, was the first separate school building constructed for African American students on Hilton Head Island. It replaced an earlier Cherry Hill School, which had held its classes in the parsonage of St. James Baptist Church. After the black community on the island raised funds to buy this tract, Beaufort County agreed to build this school. This was an elementary school with one teacher, with an average of about 30 students. It served grades 1-5 when it opened in 1937, adding grade 6 the next school year.
First African Baptist Church, Hilton Head Island 70 Beach City Rd. Hilton Head Island This church, founded in 1862, was originally the church in the town of Mitchelville, a Freedmen’s village established on Hilton Head by the United States Army. Rev. Abraham Murchinson, its first minister, was a former slave and the church had about 120 members when it was organized in August 1862. The church moved to the Chaplin community after the Civil War and was renamed Goodwill Baptist Church. It moved to this site by 1898 and was renamed Cross Roads Baptist Church before retaking its original name. The present church was built in 1966.
Former Home of William Simmons: Gullah Museum of Hilton Head 187 Gumtree Rd. Hilton Head Island This house, built in 1930, is typical in materials and methods of construction of those built on the sea islands from the end of the Civil War to the mid-20th century. It was built on land bought by William Simmons (c. 1835-1922), who was born a slave and served in the 21st U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War. His granddaughter Georgianna Jones Bryan built this house in 1930 for her brother. It illustrates everyday life and the persistence of Gullah culture in an African American farm community. It was renovated in 2010-11 as the Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island.
Fort Howell 160 Beach City Rd. Hilton Head Island This Civil War fort, named for Gen. Joshua Blackwood Howell (1806-1864,) was built by the U.S. Army’s 32nd Colored Infantry and the 144th N.Y. Infantry to defend Hilton Head and the nearby freedmen’s village of Mitchelville from potential Confederate raids or expeditions. That village, just east of the fort, had been established by Gen. Ormsby M. Mitchel in the fall of 1862 and was named for him after his death. The fort was an enclosed pentagonal earthwork with a 23-foot high parapet and emplacements for up to 27 guns. Though Fort Howell never saw action, it is significant for its design and its structural integrity.
Mitchelville Site Beach City Rd. Hilton Head Island After Hilton Head’s fall to Union forces in 1861, this town was planned for the area’s former slaves and named for General Ormsby M. Mitchel. It was developed into neatly arranged streets and Ľ-acre lots. The town had elected officials, a church, laws, taxes and a school for children, and was home to about 1,500 residents in 1865. The village continued relatively intact until the 1870s and was abandoned by 1890.
Queen Chapel AME Church 114 Beach City Rd. Hilton Head The AME denomination experienced rapid growth after the Civil War and Queen Chapel was among the early churches founded. In 1865, Charleston born AME Bishop D.A. Payne returned to S.C. and brought a group of missionaries to Hilton Head Island. They met with Rev. James Lynch, who had come to S.C. in 1863 to perform missionary work among the freedmen of Mitchelville.
St. James Baptist Church 209 Dillon Rd. Hilton Head Island This church, founded in 1886 by former members of First African Baptist Church, is one of the oldest surviving institutions remaining from the town of Mitchelville, a Freedmen’s village established here by the United States Army in 1862. The present brick sanctuary, covered in stucco, is the third to serve this congregation. It was built in 1972 and renovated in 2005.
Daufuskie Island Historic District 18 Simmons Rd. Daufuskie Island – Accessible only by ferry. The cotton trade spurred the growth of the slave population on Daufuskie Island from 1805-1842, and ruins of slave houses and archaeological sites remain from this period. The island was largely abandoned during the Civil War, but many former slaves returned during Reconstruction, reoccupying slave houses and building churches, schools, and meeting places. In the early 20th century, the population swelled to almost 1000, with oysters, logging, and trucking providing jobs. By the 1940s and 1950s, outside competition had caused many to leave the island and search for jobs elsewhere, leaving the population in 1980 at fewer than 75 people.
EDISTO ISLAND Edisto Island Baptist Church 1813 SC Highway 174 Edisto Island The original core of Edisto Island Baptist Church was built in 1818 to serve the island’s white planters. Enslaved African Americans attended the church with their owners, and the original slave gallery still lines both sides of the sanctuary. After Edisto Island was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War, most of the white plantation families left the island. In 1865 the trustees of the church turned it over to the black members. Edisto Island Baptist Church has operated as an African American church since that time.
Hutchinson House 7666 Point of Pines Rd. Edisto Island Built by Henry Hutchinson around the time of his marriage to Rosa Swinton in 1885, the Hutchinson House is the oldest intact house identified with the African American community on Edisto Island after the Civil War. Hutchinson was born enslaved in 1860, and according to local tradition, he built and operated the first cotton gin owned by an African American on the island from about 1900-1920. Hutchinson lived here until his death in 1940.
29 Seaside School 1097 SC Hwy. 174 Edisto Island This Seaside School, which was built c. 1931 as its second building, is reported to be the oldest African American school remaining on Edisto Island. From 1931 until the construction of a consolidated school in 1954, black residents of Edisto Island received their primary education in this building, a one-story, two-room rectangular frame. In 1930, the Edisto Island school district had planned to merge Seaside with Central African American school, but the community, affected by the Great Depression, could not raise enough money for the lot and school supplies. This smaller structure was built instead.
WALTERBORO Episcopal Church of the Atonement 207 Chaplin St. Walterboro This African American congregation was formed in 1892 as a mission of St. Jude’s Episcopal Church, a white congregation. The rector of St. Jude’s supplied services for the Church of the Atonement. This distinctive Gothic Revival church was built in 1896. The wood frame building features a steep gable roof. A tower on the front, which contains the Gothic-arched entrance, is decorated with fish-scale shingles and topped with an open belfry. The Church of the Atonement is included in the Walterboro Historic District.
St. James the Greater Catholic Mission 3087 Ritter Rd. Walterboro vicinity St. James the Greater Catholic Mission is an extremely rare example of a rural, southern, black Roman Catholic parish in continuous existence from its antebellum origins to today. The site includes a sanctuary, a school, and a cemetery. The sanctuary, built around 1935 in the late Gothic Revival style and entirely clad in wooden shingles, is on the same site as two previous churches built in 1833 and 1894. The schoolhouse, constructed in 1901, is rare example of a turn-of-the-twentieth-century I-house built specifically as a school for African Americans. It provided private education for local students, regardless of religious affiliation, until 1960.
St. Peter’s AME Church 302 Fishburne St. Walterboro St. Peter’s African Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in 1867 under the leadership of Rev. James Nesbitt. This building, a Gothic Revival wood frame structure, was constructed around 1870. It features Gothic windows and a tower with an open belfry. It is part of the Walterboro Historic District.
Training the Tuskegee Airmen Tuskegee Airmen Dr. Walterboro Airport During World War II, the first African Americans in the U.S. Army Air Corps graduated from the Tuskegee Army Flying School in Alabama. From May 1944 to October 1945, some of them took further combat training here, at Walterboro Army Airfield. Several of the earliest “Tuskegee Airmen,” who had already won fame in missions in Europe and North Africa, were assigned as combat flight instructors. Trainees here flew the P-39, P-47, and P-40 fighter planes and the B-25 bomber. Officers’ quarters and enlisted men’s barracks stood just east and just west of this spot, respectively.
HAMPTON Hampton Colored School Holly St., between Lightsey St. & Hoover St. Hampton This two-room school was built under the leadership of Ervin Johnson, a local African American carpenter in 1929. It served students in grades one through eight. At first funds were so scarce it was only open from October to March. Eventually however, donations from the black community allowed it to operate for a full school year. Later, high school courses were offered. This remained the only black school in town until the Hampton Colored High School was built in 1947. Then it was converted into the lunchroom for the high school. Marker erected by Hampton County Historical Society, 1989.
Huspah Baptist Church and School 729 Magnolia St. W. Hampton Organized c. 1873, the congregation first met in the homes of church members before erecting a permanent sanctuary. It also began operating a school for African American students around 1890. The first school burned in 1895 (arson was suspected, but never proven). It re-opened the following year. Elizabeth Evelyn Wright and Jessie Dorsey were the first teachers at the new school. Wright would go on to found Voorhees College in 1897. The school at Huspah remained in service until the County built a new school for African American students in 1927. Marker sponsored by Huspah Baptist Church, 2015.
TILLMAN St. Matthew Baptist Church 1454 Tillman Rd. Tillman This church was founded in 1870 with Rev. Plenty Pinckney as its first minister and worshipped in a “bush tent” nearby until a log church was built a few years later. A new frame church was built on this site in the 1890s during the pastorate of Rev. C.L. Lawton. The present sanctuary was built in 1960 during the tenure of Rev. R.M. Youmans, who served here for more than 35 years. Marker erected by the Congregation, 2002.
The Garvin House is located in the
heart of Old Town Bluffton. The 1870 cottage is a great example of late 19th
century Carolina Lowcountry architecture. The house was constructed during the
Reconstruction Era of hand-hewn timbers and other materials found in the area.
According to their
website, “The Garvin House is believed to be one of the earliest known freedmen
owned houses still extant on the May River. The residence remained in the
Garvin family for three generations until 1961. The structure remained in
private hands until 2001, when the Beaufort County Land Trust acquired the
house and property. In 2004, Beaufort County and the Town of Bluffton entered
into a partnership to share the responsibility of maintaining the Oyster
Factory Park, which includes the Garvin House. The house has the potential to
become a centerpiece of interpretation for the park due to its extreme rarity
as a home constructed and owned by African-Americans in Bluffton during the
The house was built by
Cyrus Garvin on the bluff of the May River. Garvin purchased the 54-acre
property in 1878 for $239.70. The land formerly belonged to Joseph Baynard. Garvin was a freedman
who was likely once a slave on this property.
This home is the only example of the freedmen’s cottages that sprang up around
the May River as slaves staked their claims to land they’d been born into while
in bondage. Joseph Baynard sold Garvey the land and employed Garvey to run
the Baynard farm. Garvey also passed on his good fortune to the community. He helped purchase land
to build St. Matthew’s Church.
Recent documentation indicates the Garvin family
hosted social events at their house during the early 20th century. This information shows the importance of the
Garvin family in Bluffton society.
Cyrus Garvin died in
1891. The property passed to his son Isaac. He lived here with his wife Jenny
and their son Paul. After Isaac’s death, Jenny continued to live in the house
until her death in the 1950’s.
The house then passed through several hands including the Bluffton Oyster Company. In 2001 Beaufort County Land Trust acquired the badly dilapidated house and the surrounding land to create Oyster Factory Park. Beaufort County and the Town of Bluffton then began stabilizing the Garvin House. The restoration was completed in 2017.
The Garvin House stands today as a fine example of an architectural style that is often overlooked. It gives a clear insight into building methods that were used during this important time in American history. It is a testament to the freedmen and what they could accomplish.
The Garvin House is now open to the public for tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am – 4 pm. It is located at the intersection of Bridge and Wharf Streets in Old Town Bluffton. For more information call (843) 757-6293 or visit https://www.townofbluffton.sc.gov/324/Garvin-Garvey-House.
The Beaufort Arsenal stands sentinel in downtown Beaufort. This
massive brick and tabby structure was constructed over four years, from 1795-1799.
Stationed in the facility, the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery was organized in April
1775 and is the fifth oldest military unit in the United States.
The Beaufort Arsenal was the home of the Beaufort Volunteer
Artillery, which traced its formation to an earlier company organized in 1776
and served in the Revolutionary War. The BVA was stationed at Fort Beauregard
during the Battle of Port Royal on November 7, 1861. They were instrumental in
driving the British away from Port Royal.
The building had deteriorated substantially by 1852, when
the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery Company rebuilt the complex, “on the
foundation of the old Arsenal a building capable of accommodating a garrison of
250 men and a battery of six guns.”
The 225-year-old Beaufort Arsenal has been involved in every
war fought by this nation, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. It then
became the home of the National Guard.
The Beaufort History Museum now calls the arsenal home. A Visitors
Center also shares the space. It is also used for parties, events and living
history. The museum showcases over 450 years of Lowcountry history and culture.
Exhibits of Native Americans, European settlers, Antebellum era and Civil War
can be seen.
Make a visit to the Beaufort Arsenal your first stop in Beaufort. Pop into the Visitors Center and pick up information on local attractions. Visit with the friendly staff and experience the local charm. You will be glad you did.
The Colleton State Park is a paddlers paradise. The 35-acre park is conveniently located off I-95 at Exit 68. The park provides easy access to the Edisto River, one of the longest free-flowing, blackwater rivers in the country, and serves as the headquarters for the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail. Although it is the smallest of South Carolina’s state parks, it connects to Givhans Ferry State Park 23 miles away via the Edisto River.
If you are interested in camping, fishing, picnicking, boating, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, bird-watching, geocaching or biking, this park is perfect for you.
Other amenities at Colleton include an easy nature trail, a
campground, picnic shelters and ballfields. There is also an air-conditioned cabin
that is available that overlooks the Edisto River. This rustic cabin sleeps six
and includes two sets of bunk beds, heating and air conditioning, a fireplace,
indoor lights, electrical outlets small refrigerator and microwave. The 25 campsites
come complete with water and electricity.
The Cypress Swamp Nature Trail runs along the bank of the Edisto River. This easy trail has a self-guided nature brochure and the trail has numbered signs to help identify a variety of trees and plants including cypress, poplar, hickory, sweetgum, maple, dogwood, birch, and magnolia. You can follow the canoe dock boardwalk spur trail to the dark water of Edisto River. Watch for a variety of birds, deer, turtles, snakes and other wildlife.
Pets are allowed in most outdoor areas provided they are
kept under physical restraint or on a leash not longer than six feet. Owners
will be asked to remove noisy or dangerous pets or pets that threaten or harass
wildlife. Pets are not allowed in or around lodging facilities.
Whether it’s boating, fresh-water fishing or just sharing
stories around the campfire, you’ll find everything you need to at Colleton
For reservations call (866)345-7275. Colleton State Park is located at 147 Wayside Lane, Walterboro, Sc 29488. Admission is free.
Driving Directions: From I-95: Take exit 68. go east. toward Charleston/Canadys on Hwy 61. Go 3 miles to Hwy 15. Take Hwy 15 North (left) for .5 miles. The park is on the left.
Edisto Island is widely known for its unspoiled beaches and
yesteryear way of life. Did you know it’s also a great place to hike? The flat
ground and moderate winters make it a great location for a short stroll or a
Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve/Wildlife Management
Area is managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Botany
Bay has over 4,600 acres of maritime forest, beach, freshwater ponds, and
historical buildings to
explore. This land was once two cotton plantations: Sea Cloud and Bleak Hall
plantations. Once combined they formed one of the largest long staple cotton
plantations on the east coast.
Now you can drive, hike, bike, kayak or ride horses on this property. Be sure to pick up a day pass and MAP at the kiosk. The staff is very helpful and knowledgeable. They will point you in the right direction for your chosen excursion. The map is useful for the driving tour. All historical locations are pointed out and explained in detail. The trails are also marked for exploration. There are many places to park while you explore each site.
The Boneyard Beach walk is particularly interesting because
the shore is loaded with weather-worn trees and seashells. While you can pick
them up to examine them, be sure to leave anything you find behind. Seashell
and shark tooth removal is strictly forbidden.
Using the map as a guide, locate any of the secondary lanes and fire breaks. Park well off the road and start exploring. The trails behind the icehouse are exceptionally nice, as well as the Westcoat Road trails. Botany Bay is open from one half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. It is closed Tuesdays and for scheduled hunts. For closing dates check their WEBSITE.
The plantation is located off Highway 174 on Botany Bay Road.
Follow signage along Botany Bay Road to the park.
Just down the road on Highway 174 you’ll find Edisto Beach State Park. This beach-front park has several trails for hiking and biking. While the trails are shorter in distance, they can be combined for a longer 4.2-mile hike. These trails are well maintained and easy to follow. Use this MAP to plan your route. Benches are placed along the trails for rest and relaxation. They are also bike friendly.
The trails are marked with information along the paths. Explore
historic monuments and a Native American shell mound while you travel through
the maritime forest and beach areas of the park. Bring the camera to capture
shore birds and the beautiful scenery.
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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.