Historic Yemassee Recruit Depot Station
Artwork near Yemassee’s Amtrack Station Honors Marine Recruit Depot History
A second installation of artwork has popped up near the Yemassee Amtrack Station. The mural, entitled “The Folded Flag” was positioned along the fence line that formerly bordered the Marine Recruit Depot barracks.
The artwork compliments work that was installed in 2019. Artist Sophie Docalavich of Estill, SC was commissioned to paint both murals to honor the many marine recruits that made a brief stop in Yemassee before heading to Parris Island for basic training.
More than 500,000 marine recruits rode the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to Yemassee’s Marine Recruit Depot between 1915 and 1965. These recruits began their military career in the Yemassee barracks before heading to Parris Island for basic training. During this time, Yemassee had a bank, general store, and hotel complete with ballroom.
Depending on the time of day, new marine recruits would either be processed and sent directly to Parris Island or spend their first night in the Yemassee barracks. When ready, recruits boarded the Charleston & Western Railroad and made the next leg of their journey to Port Royal. Prior to 1928, recruits would be loaded onto ferry boats, barges, long boats, or small motorboats to cross the river onto Parris Island.
With all the activity in Yemassee, the town saw the construction of a soda fountain and several brick buildings in 1926. The town continued to grow and by 1932, Yemassee had over 30 buildings including a Greyhound Bus Station.
During World War II Yemassee continued to grow with the addition of barracks to house incoming recruits. 250,000 recruits (including women) began WWII marine training in Yemassee. The town became so popular that Life Magazine visited in 1942. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt created a photographic essay of the town entitled, “Life Spends a Day at Yemassee Junction”. Seven pages of photographs were published. He described Yemassee as “a railroad junction not too big to be confusing, not too small to be trivial.” The marine depot was still active during the Korean War, when as many as 350 new recruits would arrive daily.
In 1965 the Marine Corps terminated their lease with the Atlantic Coast Railroad Company. The receiving facility and barracks were returned to the railroad company as well. Recruits were then flown into Charleston and bused to Parris Island. This change ended the 50-year association with the railroad and the town of Yemassee.
After falling into disrepair, the historic Yemassee train station has been beautifully restored by the Yemassee Revitalization Corporation. The town purchased the train station in 2010 from CSX for $1 and launched a restoration campaign. While restoring the building, the team also raised funds to expand a brick memorial and garden on the site of the former marine barracks. Flags fly high over the site paying homage to the marine corps and the country.
For more information on the SC Lowcountry visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/.