Slobot About Town CXLI:

Slobot goes to Edisto Island, pt. 02!

As the sun began to set on Edisto Island Slobot saw a most beautiful silhouette.

The sight of that silhouette inspired Slobot to return to the boneyard at daybreak.

What Slobot saw that morning did not disappoint.

The skeletal trees that impressed Slobot so were part of what is known colloquially as the Boneyard. The Boneyard is part of what is officially dubbed the Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area, or Botany Bay for short.

Botany Bay consists of 4,630 acres. On those acres rest the remains of two former plantations, Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud. 

The owners of the plantations lived, loved, farmed, harvested lumber and hunted game.  Their biggest money maker was Sea Island cotton (Gossypium barbadense). 

Sea Island cotton is also known as Egyptian cotton or Creole cotton.  It is a tropical variety with yellow flowers and long, silky fibers.  Edisto Island is a perfect home for this variety as Sea Island cotton requires full sun, high humidity and rainfall. 

In the era 1820-1860 Sea Island cotton was all the rage. Plantation owners understandably cleared as much land as possible for the cultivation of cotton.

In order to clear the land trees workers would often resort to girdling. Girdling is when a person creates a barkless strip around the entire circumference of a tree trunk. A girdled tree is a soon-to-be-dead tree but hard, dense trees like the live oak can leave skeletons that stand for years.

Heading south from the former cotton fields one can still find skeletal trees.

These are the trees of “the boneyard.”  These trees were not killed by girdling but by beach erosion and salt water intrusion. These dead trees, along with other obstacles like the remains of old docks, protrude from the sand. It is a beautiful place, but a treacherous one for swimmers and recreaters.

The trees of the boneyard were not always as close to the surf as they are today.

The Atlantic Ocean has been slowly devouring the beach of the boneyard. Through this process of erosion trees have moved closer and closer to the surf.

The intruding salt water slowly kills the trees of the boneyard. 

At high tide the water climbs half way up some of the trees’ trunks.  It is, indeed, strange to see hardwood trees on the beach and protruding from the ocean. 

The boneyard stretches about 2 miles and those 2 miles are of pristine, undeveloped beach.  It has remained pristine because it is under the care of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

The boneyard came into the state’s possession after former owner John E. Meyer illegally built a pond on the property. Meyer, too, deserves credit for protecting and preserving this beautiful place. John E. “Jason” Meyer was born on August 27, 1918 in Birmingham, Alabama.  During World War II Meyer would join the US Army.  While in the Army Meyer would answer a call for pilots.  After completing training Meyer would fly a P-51 and score 4 kills against the Empire of Japan.  His flying career ended after taking anti-aircraft fire which damaged his vision. 

After the war, in 1947, Meyer would inherit the Meyer Hotel Group from his father, Robert Randolph Meyer. After his first marriage ended in divorce, Meyer would marry Margaret “Peggy” Edwards Morgan Whitman (born Margaret Edwards Morgan).  Margaret, along with her husband and the state of South Carolina, also deserves credit for protecting and preserving the boneyard.

After marrying Margaret, Meyer would purchase the White Hall Plantation near Green Pond, SC. Apparently one plantation was not enough to sate Meyer, and so he purchased the remains of two former plantations (Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud) that make up the Botany Bay property on Edisto Island.  Meyer bought Botany Bay in 1968 from Newton Brothers Lumber of Adams Run, SC and it is his ownership of Botany Bay for which he is most famous.

Meyer was an avid dove and duck hunter with an interest in farming and hunting dogs.  His love of duck hunting would be his ultimate undoing.  The State of South Carolina claims ownership of all marshland and when Meyer dammed up a creek to create a duck pond he found himself on the wrong side of the law.

Punishment was sure to follow but Meyer was able to negotiate his own. 

What he worked out with the state of South Carolina was a plan by which the property would become public upon he and his wife’s death.  Meyer would be felled by a heart attack on New Year’s Day 1977 at the age of 58.

Margaret Meyer would take ownership of the boneyard after her husband's passing and would take great care to ensure that the property remain in pristine condition.  Born Margaret Morgan on February 18, 1922, Margaret Morgan Meyer probably deserves even more credit than her husband for the preservation of Botany Bay. She would, after all, have sole possession of the property for the next 3 decades.

Though she would remarry- becoming Margaret Meyer Pepper in the process - she continued to live on the property and serve as its chief steward until her own passing.

Margaret Meyer Pepper would die on Edisto Island on December 28, 2007 at the age of 85.  Both Margaret Morgan Pepper and John Edward Meyer are buried on the property they loved so much.

In 2008, the state of South Carolina officially opened the Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area to the public. The public have grown to love this little bit of heaven, so much have they loved it that they have sought to take pieces of it home with them. As a result the state, in 2010, banned the collection of shells from the boneyard. As a result, the boneyard is littered with large, untouched shells the likes of which most SC beachcombers have never seen. They are lovely and it is tempting to take one, but the threat of a $470 fine is enough to deter most.

Slobot loved the boneyard, the Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area and the rest of Edisto Island!

Slobot would like to thank the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the Meyers family and YOU!