May 20, 2019

THE HEART OF THE LOWCOUNTRY: BEAUFORT, South Carolina

As seniors, we have won the right to stroll. To stroll for hours. To stroll slowly. Strolling through the heart of the low country means walking Beaufort, South Carolina and there couldn’t be a nicer place for it.  I took my time walking the historic district “out” to The Point and had strolled my way around old Beaufort in one afternoon!

 

 

Using Beaufort as my headquarters, I explored a few of the 200 islands in Beaufort County, SC. By doing so, the diversity of the county struck me as unique in all of America.

 

 

HISTORY

 

 

Beaufort County was the site of the second landing on the North American continent by Europeans in 1514! The first landing was only a year earlier in St. Augustine, Florida.*

 

Cottage on Port Republic Street

 

 

COLONIAL PERIOD (1711-1783)

 

 

Beaufort was founded by the British in 1711.The town was attacked and burned by the Yemassee tribe in 1715. After the Yemassee were driven into Florida, they continued to attack the coastal islands until 1728.

 

 

Just prior to the American Revolution, the town grew to more than 4,000 people, By 1776, Beaufort was a hub for shipbuilding. Beaufort, SC is the second oldest city in the state of South Carolina. In the late 1700s, Beaufort and the bordering islands were a center of the indigo, cotton and rice industries. 

 

 

African slaves were brought to the colony in large numbers to provide labor for the plantations, and by 1720 were the majority of the population in Beaufort County.

 

 

Beaufort Arsenal, built in 1798 and rebuilt in 1852. It now serves as Beaufort’s Visitor Center

 

 

The British captured Savannah and Charleston during the Revolution. The American Revolution split neighbors in Beaufort apart. Several families supported the Tories while others favored independence. The War ruined the District of Beaufort. Sea Island Cotton (the finest and most expensive cotton grown in America) came to the rescue and altered industry and the economy in the area. Between 1790 and 1860, Beaufort was described by one historian as, “the wealthiest, most aristocratic and cultivated town of its size in America.”**

 

 

The Beaufort Female Benevolent Society was founded in 1814. They educated and gave relief to destitute children by renting out this house.

 

 

 

South Carolina lost more soldiers and gave more money to the American Revolution than any other colony.***

 

 

Prince William’s Parish Church (called Sheldon Church) built circa 1751-57 in nearby Yemassee, SC (17 miles from Beaufort). This church was partially burned during the American Revolution. Rebuilt 1825-26. Burned again by Sherman’s Union forces during the Civil War. Primarily funded by Lt. Gov. William Bull I (1683-1755). He is buried here. Called Sheldon after Bull’s plantation.

 

 

 

ANTEBELLUM PERIOD (1783-1861)

 

 

During this period, Beaufort was one of the wealthiest cities in the country. The wealthy low country planters in town and on the surrounding islands began arguing in favor of secession. The Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession Design of South Carolina from the Federal Union was a proclamation issued on December 24, 1860. Edmund Rhett drafted the Articles of Secession in the Beaufort House (now a Bed & Breakfast). He had supported secession as early as 1844.

 

 

South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union.

 

The Beaufort Inn, site of the drafting of the Articles of Secession. Ironically, the house was later used for voter registration of freed slaves. 

 

 

Beaufort was one of the first cities that Union forces captured during the Civil War in 1861. The Union occupation of the city saved Beaufort from a lot of damage during the War. The Union established their headquarters in the John Mark Verdier House. Verdier was a plantation owner and wealthy merchant. 

Original carriage steps in front of a Beaufort house for boarding a carriage.

John Mark Verdier House, built in 1804, also known as the Lafayette Building. The home is a 2-bedroom, 13,070 square foot home. This is the only historic home open to the public.

Tabernacle Baptist Church was built in 1840 and was originally used as a meeting house. In 1863, a new 500 member African-American congregation was formed.

Bust of Robert Smalls (1839-1915), who freed himself, his crew and their families during the Civil War by capturing a Confederate transport ship in Charleston. He sailed the ship to Union-held Beaufort. His actions helped convince President Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the Union Army. He is buried in the churchyard of the Tabernacle Baptist Church.

 

 

HARRIET TUBMAN’S HISTORY IN THE AREA

 

 

Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave (she ran away in 1849) and one of the conductors of the Underground Railroad, led an 1863 Union army raid, freeing more than 700 slaves from plantations in Colleton and Beaufort Counties. Historians consider this raid as the first in U.S. history to be led by a woman.***** Archeologists have found artifacts that seem to locate the spot where the Combahee River ferry crossed during the Civil War.

 

 

Tubman had been sent to Beaufort by Massachusetts Governor John Andrew in 1862 to work as a spy and scout for the Unions’s Department of the South. Tubman would relay information she learned to Col. James Montgomery, the white commander of the black Union forces. Doing that work, she met local African Americans who got word to slaves on nearby plantations that a raid was planned. 

 

 

On June 2, 1863, Union gunboats went up the Combahee River. The Union gunboats blasted their horns and waved flags as the pre-arranged signal for slaves to abandon the plantations and get to the boats. Confederate soldiers were stationed along the river so alerts could go out to plantation owners, if Union troops invaded. The soldiers did not reach plantations before the slaves left.

 

 

Tubman helped slaves board the boats and is said to have sung to them as they escaped.******

 

 

The Tabernacle Baptist Church has led an effort to honor Harriet Tubman with a monument in recognition of the Ferry Raid. The memorial and a statue will be on church land next to the church and Robert Small’s grave.

 

 

Future site of the Harriet Tubman Monument in Beaufort

RECONSTRUCTION

 

 

Beaufort began the Port Royal Experiment which was a test case for the education of freedmen. Beaufort’s Civil War Hero, Robert Smalls, was South Carolina’s first elected African American to the U.S. Congress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEAUFORT TODAY

 

 

The Historic portion of downtown Beaufort is filled with galleries, boutiques, bed & breakfasts, museums, historic churches, independent bookstores, a waterfront park and picture-perfect homes.

 

 

Be certain to visit the quiet lanes of the neighborhood called, “The Point.” This area dates from the Revolutionary War and is one of the wealthiest and most beautiful neighborhoods in all of the Low Country. The architecture of the elegant antebellum mansions and peeks into magazine-worthy gardens should not be missed!

 

The salt marsh bordering The Point

 

 

You can walk, take a carriage or van tour to see The Point. While walking the neighborhood, a kind resident walking his dog, stopped and talked to me about the history of the neighborhood dating back to 1711!  You’ll see the author, Pat Conroy’s house, and the homes used in the movies, The Big Chill and The Great Santini. Look for the Means House on King Street that faces the Green, the Hamilton and Fripp Houses on Short Street and the SAMs House on Lauren’s Street.

 

 

There are Movie Tours available in Beaufort and for good reason! Take a look at just a portion of the movies that used Beaufort locations:

 

Forrest Gump The Big Chill
The Great Santini The Prince of Tides
G.I. Jane Rules of Engagement
Legend of Bagger Vance Something To Talk About

 

Count how many locally-designed and painted mermaids you can find in Beaufort!

 

 

Beaufort has a thriving arts community and residents can be found at the symphony, street music festivals, area galleries, and the theater. 

Beaufort Waterfront

Beaufort’s Bay Street

Walk to “The Point!” The houses become more and more beautiful!

Private Garden in The Point neighborhood

Reconstruction Era National Monument in Beaufort

Downtown signage

Beaufort Waterfront Park

Picture perfect homes are everywhere

 

 

In addition to movies being made here, movie stars have stayed at a number of the bed & breakfast inns. As only one example, The Rhett House has been a temporary home to Barbra Streisand, Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Bacon & Kyra Sedgewick, Robin Givens, Ben Affleck, Gabriel Byrne and Robert Redford!

 

The Rhett House on Craven Street

The Rhett House, built in 1820.

Sidewalk in front of The Rhett House

Streetscape in old Beaufort

 

 

Go to Beaufort, SC for an experience you will not forget. Enjoy the slow pace, southern hospitality, history and luxurious beauty of this low country treasure.

 

*Wikipedia

**ibid

***www.carolana.com

**** www.beaufortonline.com

*****www.stardem.com

******ibid

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