Slobot About Town CXL:

Slobot goes to Edisto Island, pt. 01!

Slobot had somehow left mainland South Carolina for the sunny shores of Edisto Island!

Visitors to the island are greeted - not only by a sing - but also by a mysterious tree.

That mysterious tree stands near the intersection of Highway 174 and Botany Bay Road.

For many visitors it is a sign that they have arrived at their summer destination, Edisto Island.

The tree is truly mysterious as no one is sure who started the tradition of decorating a small marsh tree in various doodads, tchotchkes, debris, etc.

The decorations seem to change with the season and the gaudy display that greeted Slobot clearly said, "Let it be one crazy summer!"

Not too far from the tree that greets Edisto Island visitors are the remnants of the old Bleak Hall Plantation. All of the remnants date to ~1840 and all were probably constructed by John Townsend. The first of these buildings, with its Gothic Revival architecture, is the icehouse.

John Townsend was born at Bleak Hall in 1799.

A man made wealthy by sea island cotton, Townsend was able to afford to have ice cut from New England rivers and lakes and delivered to him.

En route the ice would be insulated in saw dust and, upon arrival, it would be stored under the floor boards of this building.

Of course, the building was not used just for ice. It was a multipurpose building that probably served as a carriage house, a crop drying room and general storage.

Next to the ice house is a small building that was used by Townsend's Asian gardener, Oqui.

Oqui was brought to Edisto by Admiral Perry's expeditions in the 1850s. Oqui built gardens of olive, citrus, flowers, vegetables and spice trees.

The gardener's shed is made of tabby, a sort of concrete that is made when one burns oyster shells to create lime that is then mixed with water, sand, ash and broken oyster shells.

Colonial settlers along the coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas made great use of tabby.

As Slobot explored the old plantation he saw wildlife...

and this interesting, beehive-shaped well. The well is thought to have been built by slaves in ~ 1825. The well structure used to be much taller, upwards of 12 feet tall. A broken limb and time have reduced its stature considerably.

Also on the property are the remains of the Sea Cloud Plantation. The plantation's name came from its builder, Ephraim Mikell Seabrook, who built it in ~1825.

From the ruins of the Bleak Hall Plantation Slobot made his way to Edisto Island's first Baptist church, the New First Missionary Baptist Church. The church, originally known as the Edisto Island Baptist Church, was the brainchild of Hephzibah Jenkins Townsend (1780-1847).

Townsend had become a Baptist in 1807 and she became increasingly concerned that there was no Baptist church on the island. Townsend would then become the driving force behind the construction of Edisto Island Baptist Church. Her passion and drive were rewarded when the church was completed and opened for services in 1818.

For a number of years it was Edisto Island's only Baptist Church. There is some confusion as to when and how the church became an African-American church but it has been one since the Civil War era. The church building has been enlarged over the years, with restrooms being added in the early 20th century.

Quite nearby the former Edisto Island Baptist Church stands the Edisto Island Presbyterian Church.

The church was built by a Mr. Pillans in 1831. In 1836 the church was further modified by E.M. Curtis.

It has remained much the same since that time. The congregation of the church predates the church itself, dating back to ~1685.

Slobot was wandering far from Edisto Island Presbyterian Church, somewhere along Scott Creek in the Edisto Beach State Park when he discovered an L-shaped depression at the top of a hill.

Slobot took a closer look and saw that the depression was the result of an archeological dig.

Stepping into the hole, Slobot made a discovery that caused him to think to himself,

"My God, it's full of shells!"

As Slobot walked around the mound he found that the whole thing was a shell mound held together by trees and bushes. The mound is known as the Spanish Mount, though no one knows why. The Mount is an oyster-clam shell midden surrounded by water and marsh on 3 sides. It is thought to date to 2200 - 1800 BC and the reason for its creation is unknown. Archaeologists have explored the mound and, in doing so, discovered more than just oysters and clams. Also in the heap are pottery, mussel and turtle shells and the bones of deer, rabbit, turkey and a dozen or so different kinds of fish. English explorer Robert Sanford noted the mound in 1666, describing it as being visible far out into the ocean.

The mound has shrunk significantly since then. By 1809 the Mount was reported to be but 20 feet high and covering half an acre of land. Erosion has reduced the mound to a tenth of its 1809 size. In 2005 a wall was added to help reduce the effects of erosion on the mound. Despite the wall the mound is expected to eventually be consumed by the adjacent water. In 2016 Dr. Karen Smith and students from the University of South Carolina conducted an archeological dig at the site in anticipation of the mound's immanent demise. The L-shaped hole at the top of the mound is the result of that dig.

Slobot loved Edisto Island. Stay tuned for part 2 of Slobot's Edisto Island adventure!

Slobot would like to thank Edisto Beach State Park, the congregations of New First Missionary Baptist Church and the Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island and YOU!