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Jim Dickson

More things you might not know about Beaufort

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This is for the “Come Here’s “and maybe some of the “Been Here’s ‘too, but mostly for the new people who have moved to Beaufort County in the past few years, who might have an interest in Beaufort County history. Beaufort County has one of the longest and most interesting histories of any place in what is now known as the United States.

Five hundred years of history has produced some extremely interesting people who came to settle the land, make their fortune and fight the wars. There were battles with native people, pirates, the Spanish, the British, and each other, but they were tough determined people and they lived through it all and prospered.

One of the first victories that the Patriots had over the British in the Revolutionary War was earned at Gray’s Hill near what is now MCAS Beaufort.

Take a drive out to Old Sheldon Church Road west of town, the first road past the traffic circle off of U.S. 21/17 going south to Savannah. It’s one of the most beautiful drives you will find and about half way to Yemassee on the right side of the road, you will see the ruins of Old Sheldon Church.

The original church was burned by the Royalists in the Revolutionary War, rebuilt after the war and burned again by federal troops in The Civil War. That’s the ruin you see today. Stop and walk around the site – there are some interesting tomb stones as well. It’s located on a plantation that was owned by the Bull family who were some of the first to settle the area.

Great fortunes were made in the cultivation of “Sea Island Cotton” which made Beaufort one of the wealthiest cities in colonial America. Many of the fine old homes that you see in the historical section came from that era, built by families like the Elliotts, Verdiers, Fripps, Jenkins, Sams, Rhetts, Fullers and Barnwells. A few of them returned after the Civil War to pick up their lives, and some are still here today. One pretty spring, day take one the horse and buggy rides around the historical area, you will be glad you did.

The years after the Civil War brought much change to Beaufort County. Reconstruction produced new leaders like Niels Christensen, Laura Towne and Robert Smalls. Don’t miss the Smalls memorial and grave at the Tabernacle Baptist Church at 901 Craven. Reverend Kenneth Hodges is also working to build a suitable memorial on the church grounds to highlight the remarkable life of Harriet Tubman.

Much of Civil War and Reconstruction History took place in Beaufort County. Thanks to the efforts of former mayor Billy Keyserling and many others, Beaufort is now home to The Reconstruction Era National Historical Park. It’s headquartered downtown at 706 Craven Street. While you are at it, walk across the street to the Arsenel.

Take Sea Island Parkway out to St. Helena Island, and when you get to Frogmore Corners at the intersection of Martin Luther King Blvd, stop at historic McDonald Market Place and look around the old store. Turn right on MLK and stop at Penn Center, don’t miss the museum, and then on to Fort Fremont.

Fort Fremont was built in 1899 during the Spanish American War to protect the U.S. Naval Station across the river at Parris Island. There is a history center with information about the fort.

Much is owed to people like former Mayor Henry C. Chambers, who was the moving force behind the beautiful down town Waterfront Park, and current Mayor Stephen Murray, whose entrepreneurial leadership is finding ways to provide good jobs for young people to stay and live in Beaufort. Beaufort has had strong leadership in the past and still does today, which is one reason Beaufort is such a great place to live.

If you want to know more please read “The History of Beaufort South Carolina” by Beaufort native, Larry Rowland and his fellow authors. The three volumes take you through 500 years of the history and are full of fascinating people and events.

Born, raised and educated in the Southwest, Jim Dickson served in the U.S. Navy Reserve in Vietnam before a 35-year business career. Retired to St. Helena Island, Dickson and his wife are fiscally conservative, socially moderate and active in Republican politics, though they may not always agree with Republicans. Having lived around the country and traveled around the world, Dickson believes that the United States truly is the land of opportunity.

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