Less Traveled

Page Ivey

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Hallowed ground: Old Sheldon Church

Posted 5/21/2013 11:22:00 AM

The Old Sheldon Church is one of the most interesting places I have ever been to in South Carolina.

It sits off the side of the road in Beaufort County shrouded by centuries-old hardwoods just waiting to be rediscovered.

The church was built in the 1740s and was an early example of Greek revival construction in the Colonies. British troops who thought it was being used as a storage house for gunpowder burned it during the Revolutionary War.

It was rebuilt in the 1820s, then burned again about 40 years later during the Civil War by U.S. troops marching from Savannah, Ga., to Columbia.

It was not rebuilt. But its brick skeleton complete with columns stands as a testament to its builders’ craftsmanship.

As you walk around the grounds and among the graves dating back to the 1700s, you feel very much like you are in a church. There is an overwhelming urge to whisper if you have to talk at all. The canopy of trees creates interesting shadows and light changes on the outside of the church, but no trees overhang the “inside” portion of the church, and it is always a little lighter there.

The altar still stands and there is a marker for the grave of Col. William Bull, who was the royal governor of South Carolina 1737-38 and on whose plantation the church was built.

The grounds are frequently used for a backdrop for photographs, and many people get married here. The land is owned by the Parish Church of St. Helena in downtown Beaufort, which manages the property and holds a prayer service and picnic at the site once a year.

There is a parking area across Old Sheldon Church Road from the site. Be careful when crossing the street, the cars seem to go a little fast here. Also, if you are coming to visit during mosquito season (I know, that is almost every month), bring some spray as the bloodsuckers seem to be particularly bad in this low-lying area.

Getting here: This used to be a little more difficult to find, but now the site is marked on most GPS and electronic maps.

From the north on Interstate 95, take Exit 38 (S.C. 68) toward Yemassee. This turns into Castle Hall Road. Make a slight left onto Old Sheldon Church Road from there. The site will be about five and a half miles down that road.

From Hilton Head, you can take the scenic route up S.C. 170 and U.S. 21. You will follow U.S. 21 through a traffic circle then make a quick right onto Old Sheldon Church Road. The site is about a mile and a half up the road.