Old Sheldon Church was built between 1745 and 1755 and has been burned twice. File photo.

Lowcountry Land Trust protects Sheldon Plantation

From staff reports

If you are one of the many Beaufort County residents who often visit the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, it appears one of your favorite sites in the Lowcountry will be a little more protected for years to come.

Last week, the Lowcountry Land Trust (LLT) announced in a release on its website the permanent protection of 240 acres – Sheldon Plantation – surrounding the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, a nationally significant historic site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The protected property fronts Old Sheldon Church Road.

The protection of Sheldon Plantation guarantees that development will never threaten one of the most treasured sites in the Lowcountry. The conservation easement also advances a stated goal of the 2010 Beaufort County Comprehensive Plan to “preserve the outstanding historic, natural, and scenic resources of Old Sheldon Church Road.”

“The opportunity to protect land in the Lowcountry is an honor in all cases. When the land is adjacent to sites such as Old Sheldon Church, it speaks to the distinct public benefit of conservation easements. I cannot personally imagine anything but native forest and vegetation surrounding this historic landmark, and now it will remain that way in perpetuity because of the landowner’s commitment to protect the property,” Lowcountry Land Trust President and CEO Ashley Demosthenes said in a release. “As coastal South Carolina continues to be one of the fastest growing regions in the country, it is imperative that land is set aside to provide undeveloped, open space that preserves wildlife habitat, mitigates flooding, enhances water quality, buffers historic resources, and so on.”

Conserving Sheldon Plantation adds to the remarkable mosaic of protected lands in the ACE Basin, a 1.5 million acre watershed recognized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a priority focus area for wildlife, and national success story of landscape-scale conservation and public-private partnerships.

“Old Sheldon Church is a local and national treasure,” Sheldon Plantation owner and easement donor Christine Jacobs said in the release. “I am honored and proud to protect this newly acquired portion of Sheldon Plantation, and to be a small part in the larger plan to preserve and protect the Ace Basin. LLT, as a group, were not only helpful but a great resource as we sought to protect this land for generations to come. Together with the Parish of St. Helena we share the common goal of protecting this sacred land in perpetuity.”

Old Sheldon Church was built between 1745 and 1755 and was originally known as Prince William’s Parish Church. Centuries later, only the building’s outer walls and Greek-inspired pillars remain.

The building was burned by the British during the Revolutionary War, rebuilt in 1826, only to be desecrated again during the Civil War.

With the conservation of Sheldon Plantation, the Church will remain in its historical state and the rural character of the area will persist. The property on which the ruins sit is privately owned and managed by the Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort.

The Reverend Shay Gaillard, rector of the Parish Church of St. Helena said, “It is a relief to know that the church’s property is stabilized by the protection of the surrounding 240 acres. It is a sacred spot where parishioners and visitors come to worship, or to simply gaze at the historic ruins, and experience the beauty of this space. Generations to come will benefit from the adjacent landowner’s charitable gift of a conservation easement on the surrounding land. Stewardship and conservation of God’s Creation are hallmarks of the Christian life.”

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