Braddock’s Point Cemetery…and Other Places

A few posts ago, I encouraged visitors of Hilton Head to visit Braddock’s Point Cemetery that is located behind the gates of Sea Pines Plantation. Upon doing so, I was reminded of the story that I read concerning the Sea Islands in a 1987 issue of National Geographic. Lord knows where the publication is now (somewhere in the attic of my childhood home), but I remember that there was picture of a woman looking at headstones through a gate. Luxury condominiums served as its backdrop. It’s an odd experience to watch the past and the present collide in such a manner. To me, it’s an unsettling feeling. It makes me wonder if people realize that places like Braddock’s Point Cemetery is more than just a bunch of headstones but a historical record of self-sufficient people who built, lived, and thrived on Hilton Head Island. Up until a few years ago, few people respected that fact. The descendants of the Braddock’s Point Slaves and Freedmen even had to pay to enter the Sea Pines Plantation just to visit the cemetery. The plantation powers-that-be put a stop to that after the wrong was exposed in the National Geographic article.

Another story of the present clashing with the past takes me closer to home. My husband and I went to visit one of my loved ones in the Joe Pope Cemetery, which is located near Broad Creek. First we stopped at the Piggly Wiggly to buy flowers, but we didn’t return to the car, to drive to the destination as was probably expected. It wasn’t necessary. If husband was surprised that I walked through a fence next to the supermarket and into the neighboring cemetery, he never let on. I knew that it was odd to him though that a place so sacred did not have its respected space.

Finally, one summer while I was in college, I worked for one of he resorts on nearby Daufuskie Island. The only way to access this island, even now, is by boat. As we would chug slowly to the docks, one of the first sights of the island was a cemetery near the water. With the surrounding oaks and palmettos, it was actually a beautiful site. But then the welcome center for the resort was right next to it, just marring the whole image. It wasn’t more than a couple of weeks after working at the resort did the islanders tell me that the building wasn’t right next to the cemetery. It was right on top of the cemetery and there was a big lawsuit going on for the resort to move the welcome center. I was appalled but it wasn’t surprising. A lot of the older graves on the Sea Islands are either unmarked or the headstones have sunken into the soft earth. I just wonder why development has to occur right next to or practically on top of these final resting places, as if our ancestors never existed. I’ve been to a few cemeteries over the years in places like New Orleans and Philadelphia where they are apart of the cities’ character. I feel as these places are respected as places that contributed to this country’s history rather than as places that are an inconvenience to someone’s plans for development.

If you have read either The Promise of Palmettos or Marshland, you will find that I make references to the cemeteries to help the reader understand that these aren’t just places to bury loved ones. These places are also a part of our history. It displays our traditions. This cemeteries on the islands are the only places undisturbed by time. They are a record of our past.

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10 Things You Need to Know When Visiting Hilton Head Island (Part 2)

As promised in Part 1, I was going to get a little deeper in Part 2, so here goes…

7) We Islanders HATE the name “Plantation.” – As mentioned in #8, Hilton Head’s subdivided communities are called, plantations. The term is demeaning. While some Americans have romantic notions of the Antebellum South, others do not and would prefer that community names on Hilton Head be amended in a manner that embraces the 21st Century. Just how hard is it to sub the word plantation with subdivision? I think that Hilton Head Subdivision has a nice ring to it.

6) Gated Communities give a false sense of security. – As a planner, I am talking to the Plantation Powers-That-Be, letting them know that gates (manned or otherwise) are a bad idea. While you think you’re providing security to residents and guests, all you’re saying to the would-be criminals is “rob me.” Criminals target gated areas because they know that residents and guests feel safe enough to let down their guard. In my opinion, the best security to have is a vigilant neighborhood watch program, heavy locks, and a good security system. If you want to know the truth though, I personally think the gates are aimed to keep “me” out. Please know that I’m not interested in robbing a home. I’m just an islander in search of beach access.

5) Learn the History. – To piggyback off of #8, I invite visitors to do other than tan, bike ride, golf, and tennis. Learn the history of Hilton Head. Visit some historic sites. Here are some good suggestions of places to learn about and visit:

*Gullah Heritage Tours
*Mitchellville
*Union Cemetery
*Drayton Plantation Slave Tabby Ruins (Covered in the Gullah Heritage Tour)
*Queen Chapel African Methodist Episcopalian Church (You may also be interested in this post)
*First African Baptist Church
*Greens Shell Enclosure (Indian Shell Ring)
*Honey Horn Plantation (This is a real plantation, so it’s okay to use the term here)

Now, if you want a sense of history in a fictional novel, with real historic elements, I invite you to purchase The Promise of Palmettos and Marshland, both available on Amazon. (Hey my blog, my shameless plug ;).)

This is a good place to leave off for now. Stay tuned for Part 3 of 10 Things You Need to Know When Visiting Hilton Head.

Introducing “Marshland!”

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At the start of the Civil War, a slave family escapes from a plantation outside of Beaufort, South Carolina, living off the land as taught by their ancestors. When their comfortable life is suddenly disrupted by an unfortunate encounter with a Union Army Soldier causing them to flee again, these ex-slaves fear that being caught and sent back to their owners is the least of their worries. As the family makes their way from the mainland of the South Carolina Low Country, to Pinckney Island, and finally to Hilton Head Island, they encounter many ex-slaves along the way. However, Luther, the head of the family, takes people as they come finding that some are able to help, while others, even the most trustworthy, can cause hurt. Will this family finally make it to freedom or will their trouble finally catch up to them?