11/20/13 Wednesday at Yemassee, SC (The Oaks at Point South-TT/MA)
This was one of those days when things timed themselves perfectly, without special efforts on our part. We arrived at the Beaufort City Hall, where they have the Beaufort Museum situated in corner of the building, at 10:10 am. It opened at 10:00 am. John noted that we made it just after the big opening moment rush. When we signed their guest list I noticed there seemed to be one or two couples a day. A note said $3 donation welcome. We were treated to a personal tour. This is a small museum, but well displayed. I’ll just share some highlights.
Low Country map, aerial view, high point view below. Our guide explained that the water is part of the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW), which included quieter waters along the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia that gives boats a gentler passage south, then they have to go back into the ocean. This is the east coast’s second deepest harbor, yet this Low Country area stands for very flat land. Even the ocean goes out a long way with shallow waters.
Rice trunk. This is a small model of the real thing. They would place it in the stream that brought water to the rice, opening one end to allow water in during high tide, then closing it and opening the other end to allow water out into the rice paddy area during low tide, when ready to harvest. This is the Carolina Gold rice that made many wealthy. There were riches in the Sea Island (the islands in this area) cotton; it had very long staples (cotton strands). Unfortunately, the boll weevil destroyed it. The few seeds left were planted later somewhere else, but did not thrive. There are none left now. Another crop was Indigo (dye).
Beaufort Arsenal built in 1798 and rebuilt in 1852:
Nice image of Harriet Tubman. Not only did she lead many in the Underground Railroad, but she was also a nurse and spy for the Union.
Good photo and info re Robert Smalls
Penn Center (we visit there next) is a National Historic Landmark on St. Helena Island. There, they started the first efforts to educate and prepare the abandoned slaves for freedom. This is a wood stove that they also used to warm their irons. Unique.
Shrimp boat model- these are still working today.
Sign made from a 110 year old triple trunked live oak. Three distinct tree centers denoting three separate trunks originating from a single root system. I’ve noticed that quite often here and asked if that was normal. Our guide said that when you cut down a tree to the ground, when it regrows it also has sprouts that grow along with the main trunk, all forming trees that grow together.
Onward to the Penn Center Historic District (on St. Helena Island) where the Penn School was established in 1862 as part of the “Port Royal Experiment.” Unitarian missionaries from Pennsylvania (thus the name Penn) came here shortly after the Union occupied Beaufort and the surrounding area. The school was founded in 1862 by Laura Towne and Ellen Murray. It was called the “Port Royal Experiment” and many believed it should have been the model for reconstruction throughout the south. Children were educated in the basics as well as technical subjects like agriculture, carpentry, cooking and sewing. Their culture “Gullah” (GUH luh) or “Geechee” was also shared there. This included their language (mixture of English and African), sweet grass baskets, food like gumbo and shrimp gravy as well as tales of Brer Rabbit. In time so many black people moved north that enrollment declined so it became a training center, a center of the culture, even a place where Martin Luther King Jr came for quiet to write speeches and sermons. It’s even been used to train those for the Peace Corps who were heading for parts of West Africa like Sierra Leone, where the Gullah people came from. We saw a short video first, then paid admission ($10/person), then studied items in the York Bailey Museum, pictured below. Photos were not allowed. They also had a lot of lovely Gullah art an gift shop items available.
Here also we learned of a huge “tropical cyclone” that hit the area in 1893, killing 2,000 and leaving 70,000 destitute, especially the black population (similar to the experience in Galveston, TX). Clara Barton and the American Red Cross launched the first massive relief effort after a hurricane in US history.
Next we drove on east to Hunting Island State Park ($5/person), all the way out to the Nature Center first. Seen from the long boardwalk into the ocean: Spartina grass (salt marsh) is the base of the food chain. For the animals, though, “the only good Spartina is a dead Spartina”, because it is so tough and fibrous alive, but decomposed is easily digested. It also serves as a nursery for newborns hatched offshore then carried to the salt marsh. Oyster reefs were jump started here by putting recycled oyster shells back on the shoreline so the young oysters can cement onto them and form a complex reef. Not only that, but they filter 50 gallons of water a day and form natural breakwaters.
The Atlantic Ocean on this gray, blustery day and a seagull with black feet. On the west coast they have yellow feet. Another look at the marsh (we walked out on a thin peninsula this time) and what we think are crawfish mud hills.
Leaving the ocean and going west a bit, we came to the Hunting Island Lighthouse, functioning by 1875. Easy to climb up, with large landing spaces to break the climb. These are part of the design that enabled this lighthouse to be taken apart and moved. Someone wisely figured the ocean would eat away the land, leading the necessity to move it, which they did 14 years later. It’s the second lighthouse on the island (the other was destroyed in the Civil War) now in its second location. With its 8′ concrete foundation and iron construction, its so strong that our guide said if there is a hurricane coming, he’ll head east – to this lighthouse! On our way we came upon the oil can the lighthouse keeper had to carry 50 lbs. Up 167 steps every day. The lighthouse keeper’s family had to rely on water in underground cisterns that caught rainwater since there was no way a well could reach good water.
Views from the top:
The Pharaohs in Alexandria built the first lighthouse in the world in 280 BC. It was in active use for 1,000 years (lit by a wood fire). The unlighted tower remained a day marker for another 500 years, then it was destroyed by an earthquake. You think carrying oil every day would be hard, just imagine lugging all that wood daily! The world’s oldest lighthouse was built in 400 AD, in Spain. Fire burned for 300 years. Today it uses an electrical light source. If you are a nut for lighthouses, I’d think these would be pretty special to see.
Good by Hunting Island beach. The palm trees are suffering from waves removing the sand. In the second “view from the top” photo you can see the metal barrier they’ve set up to keep the sand in the area where we walked.
Off (westward again) to the Campgrounds. We’d met a couple at York Bailey Museum (Penn School) and they told us where they were staying so we wanted to check out that State Campground and see if they were home. They were and thus we enjoyed a lovely visit until it got late enough we had to leave to get to our home before dark.
Another beautiful fun day. I’m worn out!