The South Carolina Lowcountry is a special place. The history, scenery and serenity will call you back for years to come.
Abandoned but not forgotten.
Tidal salt marshes surround you, twisted live oaks dripping with spanish moss form a canopy over your head and the eerie songs of cicadas ring in your ears. A visit to these two beautifully haunting ruins in the South Carolina Lowcountry will leave you with goosebumps and make you feel like you are on the set of a chilling ghost story.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Will you experience something supernatural? Some visitors have reported seeing, hearing and even feeling strange things while visiting.
Or are you the more skeptical type? Don’t let that stop you from visiting, you will still be wowed by the beauty and history found here.
No matter what your stance is on the supernatural this will be a trip you will never forget!
1. The St. Helena Island Chapel of Ease.
The atmosphere at the Chapel of Ease feels rife with the weight of history. Hundreds of years of slavery, the revolutionary war and later the civil war all had a deep and lasting impact.
The Chapel of Ease was built in 1740 a time of prosperity for some and a terrible time of hardship for others.
Located on St Helena Island in the South Carolina Lowcountry. The Chapel was built to provide white planters (many of whom were slave owners) with a place to worship that was closer than the main parish church on the mainland.
Notable: Take a look at the walls of the ruins and you will see shells. The chapel was built using tabby construction. Tabby construction is believed to date from the 1500’s. It is an early form of concrete made from a mixture of sand, lime and oyster shells.
Fear, flight and destruction
They ran for their lives!
In 1861 just after the start of the Civil War the Union Army invaded St. Helena Island and the surrounding areas. This Island was a hotbed of pro slavery sentiment; many early proponents of secession owned plantations on St Helena Island and had certainly attended services at the Chapel of Ease.
Historians say that the white slave owners and their supporters were in church when they heard of the impending invasion. With only hours left they grabbed as much of their fortune as they could carry and escaped from the justice they feared would await them at the hands of the invading union troops.
A fiery end
The Chapel met its final destruction in 1886 when a massive forest fire burned all but the tabby walls, leaving the ruins that you see today. Meant to provide comfort (ease) to racist slave owners perhaps it is only fitting that this symbol of an unfortunate time was destroyed.
Is it Haunted?
Guests to the Chapel of Ease have reported hearing whispered prayers. Others have heard the faint singing of hymns while inside the ruins.
There have also been reports of the ghostly figure of a woman in period dress walking the grounds.
The Chapel of Ease is a destination you won’t soon forget. Take a moment to reflect on the past and appreciate the beauty of this fascinating place. Take my advice; don’t linger here after dark! You know, because it’s not open after dusk. Also there is that pesky ghost business.
2. The Old Sheldon Church Ruins
As you stand beneath an umbrella of majestic live oaks the former grandeur of the Old Sheldon Church can easily be imagined.
A troubled past
The Prince William Parish Church now known as the Old Sheldon Church Ruins held its first service in 1757. The church was built by the wealthy Bull family near their plantation. The Bulls named the church “Sheldon” after their ancestral home in england.
Notable: It is believed by many to be one of the first churches in America to imitate the architecture of a Greek Temple.
Twice destroyed: The fiery wrath of avenging armies
In 1779 during the American Revolutionary war British red coats burned the church. The Sheldon Church would then sit empty for many decades. It wasn’t until 1826 that it was rebuilt from the remaining walls. But this would not last.
The Church’s final destruction, leaving the abandoned ruin you see today happened during the Civil War in 1865. Locals say it was burned by General Sherman during his infamous march to the sea.
However, historians now argue that the church was destroyed by freedmen, many of whom were former slaves on nearby plantations. After generations of suffering and hardship, perhaps they were destroying a symbol of the wealth of their former oppressors.
It comes as no surprise that a place with such a troubled history inspires stories of ghostly happenings.
Stories told by visitors include sightings of a woman in a plain brown dress, It is said that she is seen grieving at the grave of an infant.
Inspect the grounds and you may find the grave she haunts. Or will you see her kneeling there in torment?
Other guests have reported hearing heavy marching footsteps. Could these be British or Union troops still lingering?
There have also been eerie sightings of strange lights on the grounds and in the surrounding forest.
Whether or not you see a ghost or hear strange sounds I’m sure you will enjoy these destinations for their natural beauty and deep history.
There is much to see and do in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Come for a weekend or for a week and you will find yourself wanting to return again and again. Sign up below for more stories and posts about the Lowcountry and about other exciting destinations.
Directions and tips for visitors:
Both of these must see Lowcountry locations are easily found using GPS:
- The Chapel of Ease:
- St Helena Parish Chapel of Ease Ruins, St Helena Island, SC 29920 or,
- 9CGF+57 St Helena Island, South Carolina
- The Old Sheldon Church Ruins:
- Old Sheldon Church Rd, Yemassee, SC 29945 or,
- J699+CR Yemassee, South Carolina
- Both sites have free parking and no charge for admission.
- Bring your camera or use your cell phone camera because you will want to capture the beauty of these ruins and their grounds.
- Bug spray may also be a wise item to pack.
- Visit only during daylight hours, after all you don’t want any otherworldly hitchhikers following you home.
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