After our visit to Hunting Island in January, we were very anxious to go back and spend more time there. I think I planned out the itinerary of a potential weekend trip the week we got back. We also really wanted to try out camping on the beach. On a Monday a couple weeks ago, the temps rose above 70 degrees in Charleston, so we immediately reserved our camping space, assuming the whole week would be that beautiful. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. Never trust the weather to be good in an unfamiliar region, even if it’s in “the South”!) We planned out a detailed itinerary, making sure we got the most out of our drive and the 3 days we had to explore. As the day drew near, the forecasted temperatures dropped and some rain was added to the mixture. But we were committed to this adventure, so we packed lots of layers and blankets and once Friday morning came, we set off on our weekend adventure!
Our first stop was for a letterbox outside of Jacksonboro, but it turned out to be missing. We were very glad we attempted it though because it led us to a gravesite and memorial of Isaac Hayne. Hayne was one of many Americans fighting for freedom from the British in Charleston, but when Charleston fell to the British, he and other soldiers were captured, then released on parole and pledging neutrality, that they would not be aggressive toward the British army. One year later, the British demanded that all who pledged neutrality should take an oath of allegiance to the crown. Hayne would have chosen prison over this, but at that time his wife and children were very sick with smallpox, so in order to care for them and obtain medicine, he agreed. But when the British ordered him to join the Royal Army, he refused and joined the Patriots in leading a regiment to capture loyalist General Andrew Williamson. The mission was successful, but Hayne was captured and hung by the British. His memorial is set up on the land he inherited from his father (also named Isaac Haynes) along with the graves for his family. It’s a ways off the beaten path, but a very beautiful area to visit.
Our next stop was just a little ways North of there to see our first set of ruins. These were for the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease – a chapel built in the 1700’s out of wood, then later reconstructed with brick. The church burned down twice before they finally gave up on rebuilding and abandoned it. Today all that remains is the front of the chapel, parts of the back wall, and a gravesite. But we love how it’s still standing today, as a little piece of the history of the area. It’s wonderful to have a place like this, out in the middle of the woods, where one can get away from modern day society and consider what life was like 200 years ago in this area.
Next, we drove to Beaufort, SC, where we parked along the river walk and took 2 hours to wander around this cute little town. We found the history of this town to be quite interesting – this is South Carolina’s 2nd oldest town (coming in behind Charleston) and has gone through many ups and downs. It has had not one, but two depressions, nearly causing it to die completely, but it continues to rise up and rebuild.
CURTIS HISTORY TIME!!!!!
Port Royale, the port on which Beaufort is situated, is one of the deepest ports south of New York. As such it is of great strategic importance. Attempts at colonization date back to before Jamestown and Plymouth with individual attempts by the Spanish and French, both of which failed. Finally, the British managed to create a town on Port Royal Island naming it Beaufort (after the 2nd Duke of Beaufort, one of the inherited Lord Proprietors). Beaufort was then the second major settlement in South Carolina after Charlestowne (see previous post).
Slow to start because of threats from the Yemassee Indians and the Spanish, Beaufort really saw growth in the Antebellum period following American Independence where plantation society, cotton, rice, and indigo brought in so much money, Beaufort was considered to be one of the richest cities in America. But with the onset of the Civil War, that all crumbled fast.
It being one of the major ports of the south, Beaufort was quickly blockaded and captured (Nov. 1861) as part of Winfield Scott’s Anaconda plan. With the Federal government in control, almost the entire white population of Beaufort abandoned the region. And with the Emancipation Proclamation, the slaves left behind created one of the first free-black communities including one of the first black schools in the south (Penn School).
Following the Civil War, Beaufort saw a brief upward trend with the industry of phosphate mining, but by the beginning of the 20th Century Beaufort remained in decline. A hurricane, fire, and the boll weevil were only nails in the coffin.
But with the first world war, the US government invested money into making nearby Parris Island into a Marine Corps Training Station. And the population of Beaufort boomed. Resorts on the nearby sea islands (especially Hilton Head) replaced the plantations and brought Beaufort back from the dead.
While in Beaufort, we wandered around the neighborhoods with the beautiful old houses, then made our way back to the historic downtown area where we walked down the shop-lined streets. Since we had Charlotte with us, we weren’t able to go into the museums or anything, but thanks to the plaques and memorials, we felt like we learned plenty about this little town (as you can tell by Curtis’ summarization!) 🙂
After that, we drove to Fort Fremont on St. Helena’s Island. Fort Fremont is quite a ways out there, but we thought it was worth the drive. It was SO cool, but also kind of haunting, in a terrifying sort of way. As we wandered through, Curtis explained what the different features were and what it was used for. We walked the whole way around (it was HUGE!) then wandered down by the river. Charlotte wasted no time with getting in the water.
MORE HISTORY!!!! (You better get used to it, because most of our trips involve it)
As was previously mentioned, during the Civil War, Beaufort was quickly taken by Union Forces, and basically from that point on, there has been some form of Military presence in the Port Royal area (today it’s the Marine Corps Training and an Air Station). But between the Civil War era and the First World War, Parris Island was primarily used as a coaling station for the Navy. But Coaling stations need to be protected too and so Fort Fremont was built across the river from Parris Island.
Fort Fremont was part of the Endicott system of Forts built for coastal defense just before and during the Spanish-American War. (Fort Moultrie was also updated in this system). Equipped to deal with the military advancement of the time, Fremont was top of the line. Breach loading artillery, anti-submarine mines, disappearing cannon. But was obsolete by World War One. It, like almost all other Endicott Forts, never saw any action and was retired by 1921.
Finally, when we were finished here we started making our way to Hunting Island. But first, we stopped to see one more set of ruins that was right along the road to the fort – St. Helena Chapel of Ease. This was yet another old church that was burned down and eventually abandoned, except this one has all 4 walls still standing. We did a quick walk-around before finishing the drive to our camping site.
Even with the colder temps and the rain coming our way this weekend, the campground for Hunting Island was packed, so if this is something you’re interested, make your reservations in advance online at http://www.huntingisland.com/camping.htm. We think most of the more primitive tent camping sites were closed for the season, so we had to be in a site near all the RV’s. (Never a real camper’s first choice!) The campground was very nice, with modern features such as flushing toilets, showers, and wifi. Not exactly essential for us, but for some it’s probably very necessary for their outdoor experience. (Looking at you, RV with the satellite dish!) 😉
We set up our tent, then went to walk/metal detect the beach. We wandered on a trail all the way to the lighthouse, hung out there for a while, then made our way back. We watched our first sun set on the beach, then made our dinner on Curtis’ little camp stove. We had a delicious meal of sausage, potatoes, onions, and celery, with plenty of cookies for dessert, then called it a night and snuggled up in our little tent. It was rather cold, but we found that as long as we didn’t get out of our cocoons, we were fine.
Oh, and Charlotte wins the award for the Most Improved at Camping this trip! The only other experience she’s had with camping was during our 10 day trip through Colorado last September, and it was an epic fail: the only thing she wanted to do when inside of the tent was get out. She would literally jump at the walls – any walls – trying to find a door to escape. While she still doesn’t seem to know how tents work, she actually wanted to go in and sleep this time! While we were making dinner, we had her tied on a long rope to a tree, and I saw her jumping into the tent wall. I went and opened the door for her, and she walked right in, circled around an area, then laid down and went to sleep! She slept just fine with us both nights, which I loved so much more than having her sleep in the car. We snuggled all night and kept warm together. I’m so proud of her. 🙂