More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Remembering St. Philip’s Churchyard and West Cemetery, Part II

Last week, I introduced you to St. Philip’s Episopal Church and its churchyard in Charleston, S.C. Now we’re going to step across the aptly-named Church Street to visit St. Philip’s West Cemetery.

St. Philip’s West Cemetery has about 3,000 recorded memorials on Find a Grave.

I wrote about the most famous person buried in St. Philip’s West Cemetery back in 2013 so I’m not going to repeat it all here but he’s worth mentioning. John Caldwell Calhoun served as U.S. Vice President from 1825 to 1832. He was a controversial figure then and after his death, so much so that his remains were moved across the street to St. Philip’s Churchyard during the Civil War to keep them safe. They were returned to the West Cemetery years later.

John C. Calhoun was strongly in favor of secession and slavery, earning himself the nickname “the Cast Iron Man” for his ideological rigidity.

One of the older graves in the West Cemetery belongs to Col. William Rhett (1666-1722), a native of London, England. He’s interred in an above-ground box tomb. There is no easy way for a short person like me to properly photograph the inscription on top of it but thankfully, someone erected a sign telling you exactly what it says.

Col. William Rhett came to America from England in 1694.

Rhett arrived in America in 1694, along with his wife Sarah. In addition to becoming a a prominent rice farmer, Rhett was a member of the South Carolina Assembly. Eventually, he became colonel of the Provincial militia, receiver-general of the Lords Proprietors of Carolina, surveyor, and comptroller of customs for Carolina and the Bahama Islands.

This sign includes the words inscribed on the top of Col. Rhett’s box tomb. More information about him is on the other side.

But it was his actions on the high seas that garnered him the most attention. Rhett was an active merchant captain, sailing the vessel Providence between the Carolinas and the Bahamas. In April 1699, the Providence was attacked by Dutch pirate Hendrick van Hoven (alias Captain Hyne or Hind). He was known as “the grand pirate of the West Indies.” Rhett survived the attack and lived to sail another day.

Col. William Rhett had little patience for pirates robbing Carolina merchant ships. Portrait by Henrietta Deering Johnston. (Photo source: Gibbes Museum of Art/Carolina Art Association.)

In 1716, Rhett provided two vessels to be fitted out as pirate hunters – the Henry and the Sea NymphHe served as captain of this small flotilla and led it to victory in the 1718 Battle of Cape Fear River, capturing the infamous Stede Bonnet, the so-called “gentleman pirate.” Bonnet was close friends with Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, who gave him many pointers on how to (ARGH!) be a pirate.

Stede Bonnet had a prosperous life as a plantation owner in Barbados but turned to piracy in 1717.

Bonnet escaped from jail with the help of local merchant and fellow pirate Richard Tookerman. He made it as far as Sullivan’s Island before Rhett again captured him. On Nov. 10, 1718, Bonnet was charged with two acts of piracy. Judge Nicholas Trott sentenced Bonnet to death. Bonnet was hanged in Charleston on Dec. 10, 1718. A marker on the Battery in the area formerly known as White Point Garden notes the event.

White Point Garden (not Gardens as the marker says) became a public park in 1837. It was first known as Oyster Point, then White Point due to the amount of sun-bleached oyster shells that piled up at the water’s edge. (Photo source: Wally Gobetz, Flickr)

In 1721, Rhett was appointed governor of the Bahamas, but died in Charleston on January 12, 1722, just as he was preparing to leave for his new responsibilities. He was 55 years old.

The Bones of Thomas Pool

I talked about Thomas Pool’s marker back in 2013 but his marker is just too cool not to share again. I mean, how often do you see a skeleton reclining against an hourglass?

Thomas Pool’s ghoulish marker is unlike any I’ve seen before or since.

Born in Bosport, England on April 20, 1717, Thomas Pool was a sailor. He met his untimely end in a shipwreck on March 20, 1754. The final lines of the inscription (spelling errors and all) on his marker are as follows:

He was a sober industrious and skilfull pilot
Obliging in his Conversation, a kind
Husband, a tender Parent, and a usefull
Member of Society & was much regretted
by everyone that knew him.

Here’s a close-up look.

The words written above the grinning skeleton are “Yesterday for me, is to Day for thee.” Note that the final “e” in “thee” is vanishing into the skeleton’s teeth. Not only do we get a grinning skeleton, he’s leaning against a winged hourglass, emphasizing how “time flies”. These motifs fit in well with the notion that the living are destined to die and nobody can escape it.

The Classical Influence

A less ghoulish marker was carved for Thomas Moore, whom we know little about. He was born in 1750 and died on April 4, 1794 at the age of 44. His stone is topped by am elegant draped urn, which I’ve talked about before. It appears on many grave markers. But as I researched this particular stone, I learned a bit more about why the urn was so popular during the mid to late 1700s.

Thomas Moore’s sandstone marker was carved by Scotsman Thomas Walker.

With America becoming a new republic, comparisons were being made to the old Classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. Urns became popular since that was part of the celebrated architecture and art of that era. It was also quite common to see thes themes incorporated into English homes at the time.

Moore’s sandstone marker was carved by transplanted Scotch carver Thomas Walker, who began a carving dynasty that carried down to his sons, sons-in-law and grandsons. He was echoing what he had seen in the U.K., especially the work of architect Robert Adam.

The part of Moore’s inscription that I can make out reads:

Lo where this silent marble weeps
A Friend, a Husband, a Father sleeps
A Heart, within whose sacred cell
The peaceful Virtues loved to dwell
Affection Warm and faith sincere.

The Widow & the Urn

This next stone was carved over 50 years after Thomas Moore’s and also features an urn but includes the “weeping widow” motif we’ve come to know well in Charleston churchyards.

Fortunately, I found a death notice for Oliver. L. Dobson, who was born in Ireland sometime around 1788 to 1790. I say that because his obituary states he was 58 when he died but his marker states he was 60. At some point, Oliver came to America, married a woman named Naomi, and had at least one child, a son. He also had step-children. He “filled the offices of Assessor of Taxes and Eacheator of the Parishes of St. Philip and St. Michael, and several other posts of trust and confidence.”

Despite being 170 years old, Oliver Dobson’s marker looks quite good.

I don’t know who carved this stone but it’s cleanly done and has stood the test of time. Note that the widow’s gown is contemporary to the era in which is was carved, the 1850s. Women’s attire featured defined waistlines and fuller skirts than the early 1800s. She appears to be holding a handkerchief as well.

Oliver died on March 26, 1850 of dropsy of the heart, which often involved fluid build up leading to congestive heart failure. He did leave a well, which left most of his estate to his wife, Naomi, with some bequests to his step-daughter, Elizabeth, and other family and friends.

Sweet Little Lamb

Off to the side of cemetery, it’s less orderly and more untamed. The ivy runs a bit wild there and you have to watch where you’re walking.

I’m going to finish my time at St. Philip’s West Cemetery with a simple stone that could be seen at just about any burial ground, even today. But for some reason, it hit me hard to see it. Because the last name of this child is unknown and all that we know about her is on the stone itself. She died on April 24, 1861, having lived only a year, six months, and 24 days.

Her marker done by William T. White, one of the best carvers in Charleston.

Julia was only about 19 months old when she died.

The inscription reads:

This lovely bud so young and fair
Called hence by early doom
Just came to show how sweet a flower
In Paradise would bloom.

Next time, we’ll be right next door at the Circular Congregational Church Burial Ground to wrap up my Charleston, S.C. adventures.

More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Exploring St. Philip’s Churchyard and West Cemetery, Part I

Still in Charleston!

I wrote about St. Philip’s Episcopal Church back in 2013. However, it wasn’t a lengthy post because of an encounter I had there with a lovely woman named Dotty who (as it turned out) was personally connected to one of the graves I was looking for. I felt that story needed its own post because it was so special.

Churchyard and Cemetery

I wanted to write about St. Philip’s again because it has such a delightful combination of funerary styles. It also has the distinction of having both a churchyard (graves surrounding the church building itself) and a cemetery across the street. As I wrote back in 2013, the West Cemetery of St. Philip’s (which is across the street from the church) is said to have opened for “strangers and transient white people.”

Members, however, were later buried in the cemetery as well when space in the churchyard filled up. It is an active cemetery and St. Philip’s has a growing membership. So if you go on Find a Grave, just look for St. Philip’s Cemetery because it lists both burials at the churchyard and the West Cemetery.

I’m going to focus on the church and the churchyard in today’s post. If you look up at the permanent banner of this blog on top of the page, that photo comes from St. Philip’s churchyard. My husband, Chris, took that picture in 2013.

Side view of St. Philip’s showing the gate to the churchyard. A local law that states no building in Charleston can be taller than the church’s steeple. (Photo source: Chris Rylands)

Established in 1681, St. Philip’s is the oldest church congregation in the state of South Carolina. After they moved to their Church Street site in 1710, they built a church that lasted until it was wiped out by a fire. The current building was constructed in 1835 and boasts a beautiful, tall steeple.

Highest Point in Charleston

A gentleman we spoke with at St. Philip’s in 2013 said there’s a local law on the books that no building in Charleston can be built taller than the steeple. At one point during the Civil War, it was used for sighting during the Union’s bombardment of the city and suffered damage. St. Philip’s chapel bells were actually melted down for the Confederate war effort. You might recall that the same was done to the bells over at First Scots Presbyterian Church.

The interior of St.  Philip’s is stunning so if you’re exploring the churchyard or cemetery, go inside the church and look around. It’s usually open, with helpful guides to tell you all about it.

The chancel and apse were altered after a fire in 1920 by Albert Simons. (Photo source: Chris Rylands)

We could have spent hours staring up at the detailed carvings amid the rich wood accents.

A winged cherub peeks down from the ceiling.

There are some memorials lining the walls of St. Philip’s and Chris photographed this one for William Mason Smith, which I recently re-discovered. Here’s the story behind it.

Born in Charleston in 1788, William Mason Smith was the son of the Rev. Robert Smith, who was made Bishop of South Carolina in 1795, and Anna Maria Tilghman Smith of Maryland. After graduating from Brown University in Rhode Island, William did a stint in the Navy before marrying Susanna Pringle. His brother had married Susanna’s sister, Elizabeth in 1812.

In addition to owning a large plantation called Smithfield that was 30 miles from Charleston and a handsome townhouse on Meeting Street, William was active in St. Philip’s Church and eventually became a vestryman there. He was also on the committee that helped in the rebuilding efforts in 1835.

The mourning widow motif leaning over an urn is the theme of this memorial. Note the wine cup and bowl of what look to be bread cubes at the foot of the pedestal, along with a Bible.

After William died at the age of 50 on Aug. 7, 1838, Susanna commissioned this handsome memorial for him from famed sculptor Sir Francis Chantrey. Known for his statue of King George IV in London’s Trafalgar Square, Chantrey was a leading portrait sculptor in Regency-era Britain. You can see his name on the base of the memorial below the figure’s foot. Chantrey died in 1842, just a year after it was installed at St. Philip’s.

William and Susanna (who died in 1846) are both buried in St. Philip’s churchyard but both of their stones are now part of the walkway, although the inscriptions are still readable.

Wandering the Churchyard

I didn’t know that our visit in 2013 was going to be the one time I would get to freely wander around St. Philip’s churchyard. On the occasions that I’ve stopped by since that time, most of it has been closed off to visitors because they were doing restoration work. Here’s my picture of the right side of the churchyard, which is similar to Chris’ photo at the top.

Chris’ version of this view is sharper/cleaner. I took this one with my trusty phone.

One person I don’t want to leave out is one of the churchyard’s more famous burials. Charles Pinckney (1757-1924) was a United States Constitution signer, a U.S. senator, a U.S. congressman, and a four-term governor of South Carolina.

Historic plaque indicating that St. Philip’s churchyard is the final resting place of two South Carolina governors.

The Pinckney name is well known throughout the state and there are 43 Pinckneys buried in St. Philip’s churchyard and cemetery. Charlest Coatsworth Pinckney, whom I wrote about earlier and is buried at St. Michael’s Churchyard, was Charles Coatsworth Pinkney’s cousin. The two men were both among the men selected to be South Carolina’s delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, Pa.

After being admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1779, Charles Pinckney was elected to the State’s Third General Assembly representing Christ Church Parish. (Photo source: National Park Service web site)

In between his third and fourth terms as governor of South Carolina, Pinckney served as the Minister to Spain from 1801 to 1805. He rounded out his career by serving a term in the U.S. House of Representatives before dying in 1824 at the age of 67.

Pierce Butler, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (his first cousin), and John Rutledge were selected as South Carolina’s delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia, Pa.

St. Philip’s also boasts another South Carolina governor and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Edward Rutledge. But I didn’t get a photo of his grave, sad to say.

One of my favorite monuments at St. Philip’s churchyard is this one for Captain Edward Rutledge Shubrick. Perhaps he and Edward Rutledge are related in some way.

Capt. Edward Shubrick died of illness on a sea voyage at the age of 50.

Born in 1793 in Charleston, Edward Shubrick was the third of four brothers that had distinguished careers as mariners. A captain in the U.S. Navy, he married Hester Mary Berlin in 1820. They had one son, Edward, in 1832.

Thanks to an article in the Mississippi Free Trader, I learned the fate of Capt. Shubrick that caused his death on March 12, 1844. He was in charge of the U.S. Frigate Columbia on a voyage from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Cadiz, Spain when he became ill, likely caused by a chronic liver ailment he suffered from. He died after 30 days.

“Beloved and Lamented Commander”

The letter that communicated his death from the ship written by one of the men under his command said, “He was universally loved and and esteemed by all who knew him.” On his monument, it says it was erected by the officers and mariners of the U.S. Frigate Columbia. I especially like the detailed depiction of the ship, which you can see below, including small figures standing on the rolled up sails.

The detail of the carving of the ship is amazing.

I’m going to finish today on the other side of the churchyard. In the picture below, you can see the can see in the back St. Philip’s Parish House, built in the 1920s for church administration and events.

St. Philip’s Parish House was built in the 1920s.

The last marker I want to share for you is for William Pritchard, whose marker has a bugle and a Masonic symbol on it. I was eager to unlock the puzzle behind this young man.

Born on Feb. 11, 1832 in Charleston, William was the son of William George Pritchard and Margaret Pritchard. W.G. died in 1838 of influenza at the age of 30 when his son was only six years old. It was the same age William, his son, would be when he died.

William Pritchard was loved by his comrades in arms and by his fellow fire fighters. The bugle indicates his high rank in the fire company.

I could only find William identified as working as a clerk and there’s no proof he was married. But he was definitely a member of the Washington Light Infantry, Company A. Established in 1807, it’s one of the nation’s oldest militia units, founded when America was anticipating a second war with Britain, which became the War of 1812. The company fought in the Seminole Wars (1836) and the Mexican-American War (1842).

When South Carolina seceded from the Union in early 1861, the Washington Light Infantry reformed into three distinct companies and served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. A total of 414 men served in the unit during the war, 114 of which were killed.

An obelisk was erected in 1891 in Charleston’s Washington Square to honor the men of the Washington Light Infantry. William Pritchard’s grave is only a few blocks away. (Photo source: Susie Hyman)

In 1891, an obelisk meant to resemble the Washington Monument was erected in Washington Square in Charleston to honor the men of the Washington Light Infantry. William Pritchard is one of the names inscribed on it. He is listed as a private.

“Tribute of Respect”

Records note that William died on Aug. 15, 1862 of typhoid fever, a disease common in that era.

William’s fellow soldiers were so shaken by his death that one of them penned this moving obituary that appeared in the Charleston Mercury on Sept. 17, 1862.

This lengthy obituary written to memorialize William Pritchard describes a man who was much-liked and admired by his comrades. (Photo source: Charleston Mercury, Sept. 17, 1862)

William’s marker says nothing about his affiliation with the Washington Light Infantry. In fact, it says:

By the Officers and Members
of the Vigilant Fire Engine Co.
In Memory of
Their Late Vice President
William Pritchard
Who Died Aug. 15, 1862
Aged 30 years, Six Months
And 4 Days

According to records, the Vigilant Fire Engine Co. may have been the first volunteer fire engine company in Charleston, submitting an application for incorporation in 1793. Many more would follow. It’s possible that William and his fellow volunteer firemen helped fight the infamous 1861 fire that destroyed much of Charleston.

The bugle on William’s marker, I learned, marked his high level of leadership as vice-president of the company. This indicates, as his fellow soldiers had, that the men with whom he fought fires also regarded him with respect and appreciation,

Next time, we’ll be across the street at the West Cemetery. I promise you won’t want to miss it.

More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Remembering Bethel United Methodist Church Burial Ground, Part II

Last week, I shared some of the complicated history of Charleston’s Bethel United Methodist Church and its burial ground. The markers I highlighted in that post were either lying on the ground or leaning against the church. There’s another one I want to start with today that’s in that category because I think it’s really lovely to look at. It also has a pretty cool epitaph at the bottom.

Mary Syfan’s marker also include three children who may have been connected to a sister-in-law.

I couldn’t find much about Mary Syfan. She was born on Dec. 30, 1775 and married John Syfan. She died on July 6, 1825 at the age of 47. But her marker also includes information about the deaths of four children with the last name of Gladden: John, Ann, James, and Susannah.

The marker does tell us that these were all children of George and Susannah Gladden. The children died between 1815 and 1823. Susannah was a Syfan before she married George Gladden so my guess is that she was the sister of John Syfan, thus a sister-in-law to Mary Syfan. I did find a notice in a Charleston newspaper posted by John Syfan in April 1833 concerning the debts of George Gladden after his death. I could not find John Syfan on Find a Grave but another newspaper notice indicated that he died in 1841.

The top of this marker features what appears to be a woman in mourning facing a funeral urn beneath a weeping willow.

At the top of Mary’s marker is a familiar motif. It’s a woman garbed in mourning clothes next to a funeral urn beneath what appears to be a weeping willow tree. Again, this was a popular motif for this era although you see it more often later in the 1800s than in the 1820s.

“Spend a Tear”

Because this marker is not in the best condition, I was happy to learn that someone had transcribed the inscription in 1938. The epitaph at the very bottom is worth reading because it harkens back to those older markers with hourglasses on them. I did an  Internet search and actually found a few grave markers in British 17th-century churchyards with inscriptions similar to this one.

Stay reader stand and spend a tear
And think of me who now lies here
And while you read the state of who
Think on the glass that runs for thee.

One of my favorite markers from Bethel UMC is the for Rebecca Jane Bateman, daughter of Irish immigrants Charles D. Bateman and Rebecca Jane Tuig Bateman (yes, she and her daughter shared the same name). She is buried between her parents.

The difficulty with the Bateman plot (at least the day we were there) is that a large bush was planted directly in front of it. My husband tried to hold back the branches so I could photograph the markers. I believe all three were likely done by one or more of the Walker family of carvers.

The three Bateman grave markers were not easy to photograph due to the bush in front of them. It’s probably not an issue in autumn when the leaves are gone.

Charles and Rebecca Jane left Cork, Ireland in 1852 for Charleston. Rebecca Jane, their first daughter, was born in 1856. She was followed by another daughter, Ella, in 1858. Charles worked as a bookkeeper for a time before attaining a post as agent for the South Carolina Railroad.

Rebecca Jane was only 19 when she died on Nov. 21, 1875 of consumption, better known today as tuberculosis.

Rebecca Jane Bateman’s marker features an angel strumming a harp.

You can only see the first sentence of her inscription in my photo, but it is worth reading the entire thing. It comes from a popular hymn from the 1800s called “A Voice From Heaven”, whose author is unknown.

I have learned the song they sing
whom Jesus hath set free
and the Jasper walls of Heaven ring
with my new born melody.

I am especially moved by the angel on the top.

An angel on a grave marker may indicate a messenger of God.

In Oct. 24, 1882, Rebecca Jane (her mother) also died of consumption at the age of 54. Her marker is to the right of her daughter’s grave. I apologize for the obstruction of the inscription.

Rebecca Jane Tuig Bateman died about seven years after her daughter in 1882.

Rebecca’s marker features a profusion of calla lilies, which usually symbolize marriage. Her inscription (which says “fell asleep” instead of “died”) reads:

A tender mother, a devoted wife,
a true friend,
triumphant in death
and now resigning in the light
of an endless life.

Soon after her mother’s death, Ella married James Robb. They had at least four children together.

Charles Bateman died on Sept. 22, 1889 from complications due to hepatitis. He is buried to the left of his daughter, Rebecca Jane. Daughter Ella died in 1934 at the age of 74 and is buried at Elmwood Memorial Gardens in Columbia, S.C.

Charles Bateman died at the age of 61. Unlike his wife and daughter, his marker has no poetic-sounding inscription.

Adjacent to the Bateman plot is a detailed marker purchased for one of the pastors of Bethel UMC, the Rev. William Honor Fleming.

“Our Beloved Pastor”

Born in 1821, William is thought to be a native of Charleston. He received his doctorate of divinity (D.D.) degree from Trinity College (which later became Duke University) in Durham, N.C.

Rev. W.H. Fleming’s monument was erected by his congregants.

I’m not exactly sure when the Rev. Fleming became pastor at Bethel UMC, but I believe most of his career was spent there. He was also an active member of the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist church for 36 years, according to his obituary and monument. At one time he was Presiding Elder.

The Rev. Fleming was married twice, first to Agnes Magill (whose birth/death dates I cannot find) and they had at least one daughter, Mary, in 1848. After Agnes died, Rev. Fleming married Rosa Caroline Austin and they had at least one son. The Rev. Fleming died on April 6, 1877 of “gangrene of the lungs”.

William’s marker is indeed a work of art. It features two lovely carved wreaths and also includes a tasseled drape over a pulpit with an open book, most likely meant to represent the Bible. I suspect this monument was also done by one of the Walkers.

Killed in an Explosion

This final slate marker is older than any I’ve featured at Bethel UMC so far and features a young man cut down in the prime of his life.

Born in July 1773, George Stattler left little information behind about himself. We know from an advertisement he placed in the Dec. 4, 1797 Charleston City Gazette that he had spent time in England learning his trade, and had a business making looking glasses and frames. We also know that he was married.

George’s grave marker, which features a soul effigy, explains how he died. He was killed on Feb. 4, 1799 in a cannon explosion at Fort Mechanic in Charleston.

George Stattler was only 23 when he was killed in a cannon explosion at Fort Mechanic in 1799.

So where was Fort Mechanic? It was built in Charleston in 1794 at a point where high ground extended nearly to the edge of the Cooper River. This site was fortified in the 1750s, and again during the Revolutionary War, before international hostilities in the 1790s forced a new round of defensive construction in Charleston.

“The South View of Fort Mechanic, from untitled sketchbook 1796-1805” by Charles Fraser (American, 1782-1860)
Ink and watercolor on paper. (Photo source:
The Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, S.C.)

Construction of the waterfront battery went beyond the Congressional funds set aside for it because much of the work was done for free by the carpenters of the city. In November 1794, master carpenter Anthony Toomer, the president of the Mechanics Society, presented the fort to Governor William Moultrie. The governor named the work Fort Mechanic to honor its builders.

The wooden Fort Mechanic was replaced in 1809 by a fort of masonry. It was garrisoned by American forces until after the War of 1812 and was razed about 1818. The Edmonston-Alston House (which still stands) was built over a large portion of its land.

“Torn from the Fond Companions of Life”

How George Stattler ended up at Fort Mechanic is not known since he was fully employed at his own business. He may have been a member of a local militia called up for duty. His epitaph reads:

The youth obedient to his Country’s calls
A faithful victim to his duty falls
Torn from the fond companions of his life
His Mother, Brother, Sister and his Wife.

Next time, we’ll be heading to St. Philip’s Church in Charleston, which not only has its own churchyard but a cemetery across the street.

More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Remembering Bethel United Methodist Church Burial Ground, Part I

Happy 2020!

This post starts my eighth year of writing Adventures in Cemetery Hopping. When I wrote my first post in January 2013, my son was in kindergarten and I was just starting to get some time to pursue my family tree research. Now he’s in middle school and I’m still plugging along on this blog with little end in sight. And many of you have been along for the ride ever since.

There are simply too many awesome cemeteries to put the brakes on now. So I hope you’ll stay with me for the rest of the journey.

It seems fitting that this week I’m kicking off a new series on Bethel United Methodist Church’s (UMC) burial ground in Charleston, S.C. I’m referring to it as a burial ground rather than a churchyard because as you will find, it contains the remains of more than Bethel UMC’s congregants. My first visit and only visit to Bethel UMC was in September 2013, the first year of my blog and on a 10th anniversary trip I took with my husband to Charleston.

A photo my husband took of Bethel UMC’s burial ground in September 2013.

History of Bethel United Methodist Church

This visit is not part of my cemetery tour day in May 2018 with Frank Karpiel that I’ve discussed in the last several blog posts. I realized I had a quite a few photos from that 2013 visit and I’d not yet written about it. So why not now?

Bethel UMC’s origins are from 1797, when it met in a small wooden structure on the corner of Calhoun and Pitt Streets. Members were both black and white, with a specific order of whom sat where. Whites sat downstairs in the front rows, free persons of color occupied the seats in the back and slaves were allowed to sit in the upstairs gallery.

This wooden structure was the original Bethel United Methodist Church building, thought to be the oldest standing Methodist church in Charleston and the third oldest structure in Charleston. (Photo source: Old Bethel United Methodist Church’s web site)

According to Bethel UMC’s web site, the original wooden building was moved westward on the lot facing Calhoun Street in 1852 to allow for construction of a new and larger structure. The early building, now known as Old Bethel UMC, was donated to the black congregation in 1876. In 1882, with the agreement of both white and black congregations, it was moved across the street to its present location, 222 Calhoun Street. It continues to serve as Charleston’s oldest standing Methodist church building.

This is the current Bethel United Methodist Church building, completed around 1853. (Photo source: Wikimedia Commons)

Who’s Buried Where?

A wonderful thing happened while I was putting together this post. I had posted a photo on this blog’s Facebook page of a grave from Bethel UMC’s burial ground of a child who died at the age of three months in 1859. A gentleman by the name of Grant Mishoe, who is connected with the Gullah Society, contacted me via Facebook with information about her. I began to learn about the complicated past that is the history of Bethel UMC’s burial ground.

Bethel UMC does not deny this past and acknowledged it by placing a marker in 2012 to confirm that many burials took place here that were not marked or whose markers no longer exist, were moved or even paved over in some cases.

This marker indicates that there are indeed a number of unknown burials in this burial ground, under the church and the parking lots around it.

I could painstakingly go over the history of what parts of the old cemetery were paved over, what congregation they belonged to, and so on. Grant did a great job sharing his maps with me and it goes beyond Bethel to other black congregations (namely Trinity Colored Church Burial Ground and Eprath Burial Ground) that existed at the time. In addition, part of the Bethel’s churchyard was built over during the construction of the 1852 building. I’m sharing this map from Grant to give you an idea of just how complex these burials are.

This map, courtesy of Grant Mishoe of the Gullah Society, gives you an idea of how many different congregations had burial grounds next to Bethel UMC’s.

After construction of the 1852 building, Old Bethel UMC purchased land for a cemetery on Cunnington Avenue several miles north of Charleston in the area I wrote about in 2016 known as the Magnolia Umbra Cemetery District and contains 23 different cemeteries (some very small). What became known as “Colored Bethel” cemetery is wedged between Lewis Christian Union Cemetery and Friendly Union Society Cemetery.

Who Was Engenia Robia?

While there are some grand monuments in the Bethel UMC burial ground that I’ll show you in this series, there’s also a curious mishmash of pieces of grave markers that resemble puzzle pieces on the ground surrounding the current church. Others, intact, are leaning against the building. Some are clearly old from the early 1800s and some are from later on. This is not a situation unique to Bethel UMC. I’ve seen it at just about every churchyard in the historic district of Charleston.

It’s not unusual to see pieces of old grave markers scattered about at Charleston churchyards and cemeteries. One fragment in this picture was from a marker carved by noted Charleston stone mason W.T. White.

One of these was an almost totally intact marker I referred to earlier for a child named Engenia Robia. She was born on March 21, 1859 and died on June 23, 1859, barely three months old.

Engenia Robia was only three months old when she died in 1859. Grant Mishoe has a copy of a death record for her that indicates she was likely the child of a white father and a mixed race or black mother.

Engenia Robia’s past has been obscured by time and circumstances but thanks to Grant, I was able to uncover some possibilities. The Robias were likely descended from slaves who worked for the white Robiay (spelling is uncertain) family, who were originally French Huguenots. Engenia was probably the child of a white father and a mixed raced or black mother, free of slave. There are no known Robias that were white. The Robiays moved to New Orleans, La. after the Civil War.

Were Engenia’s parents members of Bethel UMC or was Engenia’s mother a member of Trinity, who also buried members in Bethel’s burial ground at that time? We don’t know for sure.

Engenia Robia’s life was very short but she clearly had an impact on those who loved her. Here she appears to be sleeping.

This grave marker carved so exquisitely must have been expensive. The epitaph comes from the first half of a song “Forgive Bless’d Shade” by John Wall Callcott. Published around 1775, it was a popular English song put on gravestones.

Forgive, blest shade, the tributary tear,
That mourns thy exit from a world like this;
Forgive the wish that would have kept thee here,
And stayed thy progress to the realms of bliss.

Died in the Pulpit

I could find little information about Elizabeth Martha Simons Vinmo Moore beyond the fact she was born around 1796 and died on Oct. 26, 1861, possibly 60 years old. Her marker’s epitaph is quite worn but the carving at the top (although the rainwater didn’t help) stands out. I found more information concerning the death of her husband.

Elizabeth Vinmo Moore was the wife of the Rev. George Washington Moore.

Elizabeth was married to the Rev. George Washington Moore, who began serving as a pastor (according to his death notice) in 1820. They had an estimated 11 children together, a few dying in childhood.

An angel bearing a wreath beside an urn tops the grave marker of Elizabeth Moore.

On Aug. 13, 1863, the Rev. Moore died while attending a camp meeting near the Anderson Country Court House. A Charleston Courier article from Aug. 24, 1863 describes his death as follows:

The opening hymn has been sung, and with more than usually fervid power, he had invoked the divine blessing upon the assembled congregation, especially for the widows and orphans of the country. The last word was uttered, the “amen” impressively died upon his lips, and then as if God himself had thus pronounced His approval of a well spent life, the holy man fell forward, and in ten minutes more, was numbered among the sainted dead. He appeared to suffer but little, and did not speak again.

This article also noted that his remains were brought back to Charleston for burial. While his wife’s beautiful marker has survived, the one for the Rev. Moore did not.

“Happy Soul They Days Are Ended”

The last stone I’d like to feature today is for a young woman who was six days away from her 17th birthday and already a wife. That’s difficult for me to wrap my mind around that.

Ann Eliza Prince Calder was only six days from her 17th birthday when she died on May 19, 1859.

Ann Eliza Prince was born on May 25, 1842 to bricklayer Edwin Prince and his wife, Sarah. We don’t know when she married Edwin Eason Calder. But they had one child, Annie, shortly before Anna’s death on May 25, 1859. Edwin and little Annie went to live with his in-laws, the Princes.

A flower with a broken stem indicates a life cut short.

At some point, Edwin married Ann’s sister, Sarah. They had three children together, Caroline, James, and John. Edwin enlisted as a private in the Confederate Army on Feb. 20, 1862 and was transferred to Co. A of the 25th South Carolina Infantry on July 22, 1862. He was captured at Fort Fisher, N.C. on Jan. 15, 1865 and sent to Elmira, N.Y. Edwin was released on May 17, 1865. He died at age 33 on Dec. 13, 1868 from some sort of heart ailment and was buried at Bethel UMC Burial Ground but has no surviving marker.

Edwin Calder died from heart problems on Dec. 13, 1868. This funeral notice is from the Dec. 14, 1868 edition of the Charleston Daily News.

Sarah lived with her parents, and little Annie, along with her other children. The last record of her is that she was boarding at a residence at 231 Meeting Street. Son James was working as a carpet layer and his sister, Caroline, was living with him.

What Happened to Annie?

Annie was lived with her step-mother until she married mechanic John Reynolds McCarrell on April 7, 1879. They had two children, John Jr. and Alice. John died in in 1887 and Annie remarried to John P. Bee, with whom she had a son, John P. Bee Jr. John P. Bee, Sr. may have died in 1918. Annie vanishes after appearing on the 1920 U.S. Census living with daughter, Alice, and her family.

There’s much more to discover at Bethel UMC Burial Ground in Part II.

More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Stopping By First Scots Presbyterian Churchyard, Part III

This week I’m wrapping up my series on Charleston, S.C.’s First Scots Presbyterian Churchyard. There was simply too many great stones to not have a Part III!

So to finish up, I’m featuring a few more stories. This first stone is unlike any I’ve featured so far because there are no urns, weeping widows, or soul effigies. Not even a cross or broken tree. How’s that for a surprise?

This marker for Captain John Morrison and his wife, Elizabeth, was most likely carved in 1821 (when John died) or 1852 when the wife died. Because it is topped with a Scotch Thistle, the national flower of Scotland (Capt. Morrison’s home), my guess is that it was carved in 1821 and his wife’s name was added after her death three decades later. It is located beside the Walker marker I featured last week in Part I.

The inscription on for the Morrison marker is now so faint that I had to look on Find a Grave to read what it says.

So why is the Scotch Thistle the national flower of Scotland? According to legend, an invading Norse army was attempting to sneak up upon a Scottish army’s encampment one night. During this operation, a barefoot Norseman stepped on a thistle, causing him to cry out, alerting Scots to the presence of the Norse invaders. Some sources suggest the specific occasion was the Battle of Largs in 1263, but that’s not certain.

A closeup of the thistle on the Morrison marker.

At some point, John met and married a British woman named Elizabeth Watson. They had at least one child, a daughter named Mary Flora born in 1811.

Here’s a picture of the real thing. (Photo source: Ian Georgeson, the

Capt. John Morrison’s house still stands at 125 Tradd Street. You might recall from last week’s Part II that Dr. Fayssoux owned the house at 126 Tradd Street. Morrison bought the property at 125 in 1800 and the construction date is thought to be sometime around 1805.

A historic plaque on the house states that it is noted “for its handsome four bay facade facing Tradd Street, and for its expansive three-tiered piazzas which were added in the 1840s. The house is also noted for its Adam style interiors and for the large scale of its primary rooms and entrance hall.”

Here’s a picture of Capt. Morrison’s house, which sold for $3.96 million to a tech entrepreneur in November 2017.

The home of Captain John Morrison and his family on 125 Tradd Street was purchased in 2017 for almost $4 million dollars. (Photo source: Wikipedia Commons)

Mary Flora was only nine when her father died on Feb. 26, 1821. His marker says that he was 56 when he died while his death record indicates he was 65. The cause of death was influenza. If you look at his death notice below from the Charleston Daily Courier, his funeral was held at his house on Tradd Street, although at that time it was numbered 97 instead of 125.

Like Capt. John Ross featured in Part I, Capt. John Morrison was a member of the Marine Society. (Photo source: Charleston Daily Courier, Feb. 27, 1821)

Elizabeth lived another three decades. At the time of her death in 1852, she was living with daughter Mary Flora, who had married a cooper named Robert Bee, and her grandchildren. She died of cancer on June 26, 1852. Her death notice indicates her funeral was held at First Scots Presbyterian Church.

Elizabeth Morrison’s funeral was held at First Scots Presbyterian Church on June 21, 1852. (Photo source: Charleston Daily Courier, June 21, 1852)

A Political Climb

The final marker I’m going to share with you is for Charleston Governor Brigadier General John Geddes and some of his family. While it features the names of five people, John Geddes is the best known. His political climb made him a successful figure in Charleston, but it came with a price as a result of some of his choices.

Born in 1777, John Geddes graduated from the College of Charleston, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1797. He was active in the South Carolina Militia, serving as a Cavalry Major.

A member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, (1808-1816) Geddes served in the South Carolina Senate from 1816 to 1818. That same year, he was appointed as a Democratic-Republican the 47th Governor of South Carolina, serving until 1820. After leaving office in 1821, he was appointed Brigadier General of the South Carolina Militia. From 1824 to 1825, he served as mayor of Charleston.

Were They Sisters?

John Geddes was married twice and the names of both wives are on this marker. On May 30, 1798, he married Harriet Chalmers, a daughter of Charleston artisan Gilbert Chalmers. After Harriet’s death in 1803, he married Ann Chalmers on March 28, 1805, who died the following year. The marriages produced at least three children, John Jr., Harriet, and Gilbert. Since both women had the last name of Chalmers, Harriet and Ann may have been related but I could not trace exactly how.

While this marker features five different people, South Carolina Governor John Geddes is the best known. It includes his wives, his eldest son, and a grandchild.

After Geddes left the office of Governor in 1820, he still retained a great deal of power and influence in Charleston. In October 1822, his son John Jr. acquired the Charleston City Gazette, which became the organ of the Geddes faction.

Geddes and Dueling

John Geddes was involved in at least two duels during his career. The first took place with political opponent and Federalist Keating Lewis Simons. In 1823, Simons and Geddes met on Sullivan’s Island. Simons was wounded and limped the rest of his life.

In 1824, Geddes found himself the target of some scurrilous comments from 28-year-old Edward Simons, a cousin of Keating Lewis Simons. Feeling his honor had been insulted, Geddes challenged Simons to a duel. This time, Geddes gave his younger son Gilbert the task of acting as his “second”. Gilbert was incensed at Simons’ remarks against his father and may have asked to take his place.

On Johnson’s Island in Charleston’s harbor (another report called it Fort Johnson and the duel happening at high noon), Gilbert faced Edward Simons. Four different rounds passed between the two men at a decreasing distance with neither being wounded. On the fifth round, Gilbert was shot in both thighs and Edward Simons was hit in the chest, a wound from which he died. One article I read noted that Gilbert’s wounds rendered him a cripple for the rest of his life, but I don’t know if that’s true.

Death of Father and Son

On March 4, 1828, John Geddes had a stroke and died. It’s listed as “apoplexy” in the death records. Sadly, his oldest son, John Jr., would die only a few hours later on the same day of “debility”, which is thought to be physical weakness. He was 28 a the time of his death.

When I looked for newspaper accounts of the Geddes deaths, I found this interesting diagram in the March 6 edition of the Charleston Courier that laid out what order in which the elaborate funeral procession was to be placed that went from the Geddes home on Meeting Street to First Scots Presbyterian Church.

The March 6 edition of the Charleston Courier featured this diagram of the elaborate funeral procession planned for former South Carolina Gov. John Geddes and his son, John Jr. Note that “citizens and strangers” were to bring up the rear. (Photo source: The Charleston Courier.)

The Geddes marker notes that John Jr.’s “remains lie beneath the tomb of Gilbert Chalmers at the Northwest corner of the square.” Gilbert, who had been wounded in 1824 in the duel with Edward Simons, died of brain fever in 1848 at the age of 40. While there is a memorial for him on Find a Grave as being buried at First Scots Presbyterian, there is no photo of it.

Also listed on the marker is John Geddes’s daughter, Harriet, who died on Oct. 9, 1827 at the age of 26. Below John Jr.’s inscription is one for John Sr.’s granddaughter (Gilbert’s daughter) Elizabeth Sarah Anne Geddes. She died on Oct. 22, 1811 at the age of three.

I’m not sure which churchyard or cemetery I’ll be featuring next week but I’ll still be in Charleston. I’ve still got a few more to share.


More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Stopping By First Scots Presbyterian Churchyard, Part II

Last week, I shared a brief history of Charleston’s First Scots Presbyterian Church and its churchyard. I also told some of the stories behind the stones there, with a few carved by Scotsman Thomas Walker. He was a member of First Scots, as were many Scottish newcomers to Charleston. In Part II, we’ll take a look at some more markers along with a little history.

Although these next two markers are not exactly the same, both feature a “grieving widow” motif. Little is known about William Hunter beyond what’s on his stone. I found no death notice in the newspapers.

The mourning woman at the top of William Hunter’s stone is a theme repeated on other grave markers through the 1800s.

A native of the county of Antrim in Ireland,
who died on the 18th of September, 1805
aged 58 years
the last seventeen of which were passed in this city.
He was respected and beloved for his solicitude as a relative and friend
his probity as a man and (above all)
his philanthropy and benevolence to the stranger and the distressed.

Urn as a Greek Symbol

Take a close look at the top image on William’s stone. A mourning woman (perhaps a widow) leans over an urn positioned on top of what may be a vault. I featured the urn last week in some of Thomas Walker’s markers but on those it was the main icon, not playing a supporting role as it is here.

The urn was a Greek symbol of mourning.

The urn is a Greek symbol of mourning, originating as a repository for the ashes of the dead in ancient times. It was a popular symbol of mourning, which is why you see it on so many markers or in draped form atop large monuments.

This is a departure from what we saw in the 1700s, when skeletons, winged skulls, and soul effigies were the norm. A shift in focus was taking place from trying to convince those visiting the grave to live a good life or suffer the flames of hell to a softer message of consolation to the mourner. The emotion of sadness and memory of a life well lived is stronger than fear of the afterlife.

Now let’s take a look at a similar but different marker for Alexander Kennedy, which was signed as being carved by Thomas Walker’s studio (although it wasn’t necessarily done by Thomas himself).

Andrew Kennedy’s marker differs from William Hunter’s in that there’s draping around the top scene.

So who was Andrew Kennedy? According to his marker, he was a native of Scotland who died at his plantation in St. John’s Berkley Parish on Sept. 18, 1802. He was around 40 years old. As one of the 10 original parishes created by the Church Act of 1706, the parish of St. John’s Berkeley stretched northwestward from the upper reaches of the Cooper River to the Santee River through modern Berkeley and Orangeburg Counties.

If you look on a map today, this area is located near modern day Moncks Corner, S.C. about 35 miles north of Charleston. It came to be associated closely with rice plantations, one of which was probably owned by Andrew Kennedy. The 1800 Census indicates he did live there and he was married, supported by the words on his marker that say “erected in his memory by his disconsolate widow.”

“His Disconsolate Widow”

Those last words are echoed in the motif at the top of Andrew’s marker, which features a mourning figure next to what appears to be an urn sitting on an obelisk. This figure is not bending over it as in William Hunter’s, but she does appear to be “disconsolate”, her hand pressed against her cheek with her other hand on top of the urn.

The mourning figure on the Kennedy marker is also standing next to an urn, but this time placed on the base of an obelisk.

To the figure’s left is a pitcher sitting amid some of the draping of her garment. You can also faintly make out the initial “K” on the base of the obelisk the urn rests on. To the right of the obelisk appears to be a flower that’s been snapped in two, indicating a life cut short. Add to that some elaborate drapery that surrounds this scene, showing off more of the carver’s talents.

When I look at these two mourning scenes side by side, I conclude that Andrew Kennedy most likely had a higher placement on the social ladder than William Hunter. The extra touches like the drapery and initialed obelisk lead me to believe this.

The Douglas Sisters

This next marker is for two sisters, Sarah and Catharine Douglas. The inscription is as follows:

This stone is erected by the
afflicted parents of
and her sister
the former who died
July 24th, 1806 & the latter
June 21st, 1807,
Aged 3 years 9 months
17 days.

Sisters Sarah and Catherine Douglas died within about a year of each other.

It appears that Sarah, the first child, died on the day she was born on July 24, 1806. Older sister Catharine was three years old (and nine months) when she died on June 21, 1807. We don’t know who their parents were but it was surely a blow to lose two children within about a year of each other.

Two Lives Cut Short

Let’s take a closer look at the top. Instead of a grieving widow, we’ve got an angel with full hands. In one he’s holding a trumpet to his lips. The other is holding a scythe and has cut down a flower, signifying a life cut short. We saw that motif earlier on the Kennedy marker, leading me to believe it might be another Walker studio creation. Regardless, it’s a striking image.

Similar to the Kennedy marker, the Douglas marker features a flower cut down.

This last marker has no decoration on it. Fairly straightforward, it shares the information about Charleston native Dr. Peter Fayssoux (1745-1795) and his second wife, Ann (1758-1810). But Dr. Fayssoux had quite a career in and it’s worth mentioning.

Born in Charleston around 1745, Dr. Peter Fayssoux was the son of Huguenot emigre Daniel Fayssoux and his wife, Frances.

The son of Huguenot émigré Daniel Fayssoux and his wife, Frances, Peter Fayssoux attended medical school in Scotland. Upon returning to South Carolina in 1769, he was dismayed by the number of “quacks” practicing medicine. “It is Sufficient for a man to call himself a Doctor, & he immediately becomes one, & finds fools to employ him,” he complained to medical school chum Benjamin Rush, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Treating the Sick and Wounded

On Jan. 29, 1772, Fayssoux married Sarah “Sally” Wilson, who died in 1776. The following year, on March 29, 1777, Dr. Fayssoux married Ann Smith Johnston. The marriages produced 13 children, six of whom died in infancy or early childhood.

Early in the Revolutionary War, Dr. Fayssoux attended the sick on James Island. By 1778, he was serving as senior physician of the South Carolina branch of the Continental army.

The Dr. Peter Fayssoux House is a pre-Revolutionary War house built about 1732 for Alexander Smith. After the war, the Georgian house was home to Dr. Fayssoux and his family. (Photo source: Spencer Means, Flickr)

In 1780, Dr. Fayssoux was named physician and surgeon general of the Southern Department. Captured at the fall of Charleston, he was released to attend to the sick and wounded. At the end of the war, Dr. Fayssoux was treating patients in Camden, S.C. where he stayed until March 1782. After the war, Fayssoux became a member of the Faculty of Physic in Charleston, the first sign of organized medicine in the state.

In 1786, Dr. Fayssoux was elected to the General Assembly, where he represented St. John’s Berkeley Parish until 1790. He was a founding member and the first president of the Medical Society of South Carolina, which held its first meeting at Fayssoux’s home on Dec. 24, 1789. Dr. Fayssoux was also involved with the Charleston Library Society, the Charleston Museum (as a curator), the Society of the Cincinnati, and the St. Cecilia Society.

He died on Feb, 1, 1795, of an apoplectic stroke at the age of 50. Wife Ann died in 1810 at age 52.

I’m not quite done at First Scots Presbyterian Churchyard. Please come back for Part III for more stories from the stones.

More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Stopping By First Scots Presbyterian Churchyard, Part I

Were you hoping I was done hopping in Charleston, S.C.?

When you’ve got sights like the one pictured below, it’s just too hard to leave without talking about as many burial grounds you can. And this churchyard has a playground in it. More about that later.

Part of the Churchyard at First Scots Presbyterian Church.

After leaving St. Michael’s Churchyard, we headed down Meeting Street a short block to First Scots Presbyterian Churchyard. Find a Grave has about 800 burials recorded. The congregation was established in 1731 when a dozen Scottish residents left the Independent Church of Charleston, now the Circular Congregational Church (yes, I’m writing about that one soon). In its early days, it was known as Scots’ Kirk.

Built in 1814, the current building is considered the fifth oldest church building in Charleston.

A plaque on the gate shares the historic dates involved with First Scots Presbyterian Church.

Scottish brothers John and James Gordon built First Scots’ current building. The design is thought to be inspired by Baltimore Basilica in Baltimore, Md. and contains a number of Scottish symbols in the stained glass windows and a symbol of Scotland, the thistle, on the wrought iron grilles. This building replaced an earlier wooden church.

A front view of the First Scots Presbyterian Church. (Photo Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The Story of the Bells

Although First Scots has two bell towers, the original bells were donated to the military during the Civil War. It’s said that the bells were never replaced to honor the Confederate dead.

In 1999, a bell built in 1814 was reinstalled in the northern tower. St. Johns Church in Preston, Lancashire, England, had eight bells in its own historic church, but no longer needed them when a replacement set was acquired. First Scots made plans to bring the seven working bells to Charleston and hang them in their towers.

However, the southern tower was found to be too weakened from the 1886 Charleston earthquake to support the six smaller bells. As a result, the largest of the bells from St. Johns was hung in the northern tower. That 1,470-lb. bell was funded in large part by congregant Bonnie Workman, so the bell is named “Bonnie” in her honor.

Playing on Graves?

So I mentioned a playground earlier. There are four different sections to the First Scots Churchyard. The main churchyard encompasses the sanctuary. Near the rear of the sanctuary where a parking lot is located, there’s an area of stones along a side wall. There’s a back burial yard surrounded by a similar wall of stones. Then there’s a small yard surrounded by a high brick wall covered in stones. In the middle of it? A playground.

Grave markers line the high brick walls of this playground at First Scots Presbyterian Churchyard.

So how did that happen? My guess it that with the blessing of the congregation, the markers were pulled up and put on the surrounding walls. I could find nothing online to indicate when this happened. I’m not sure how I feel about it because the thought of children romping on graves is a bit disconcerting. However, this was a decision made by the congregation and they must have felt it was the right thing to do to provide a place to play for their younger congregants.

Back to the rest of the churchyard. One of the most interesting markers Frank pointed out to me was done by one of Charleston’s best known carvers for his very own family, Thomas Walker. It definitely stands out.

Five members of stone carver Thomas Walker’s family are listed on this stone he himself carved. Three are named Jane.

The scene on this marker is unlike any I’ve seen before. No winged skulls, no cherubs, no flowers. It’s basically a stone carver’s workshop. In the middle is an oval coat of arms that contains a compass and three brick towers, which bears a strong likeness to the Mason’s Company of Edinburgh. Walker was likely a member, having left Scotland for Charleston around 1790.

Grave Marker as Advertising

In their book, Historic Gravestone Art of Charleston, South Carolina, 1695-1802, David Mould and Missy Loewe interviewed art historian Diana Combs about this marker. She commented that the stone serves as a combination history of his family members with an advertisement for his business. The variety of implements that stone carvers of that era would have used are apparent.

Walker, who was a member of First Scots, has a number of his markers in the Churchyard that are worth pointing out. He liked urns and you can see examples of them here and there.

“The Son Most Dear”

This one features a smaller urn for Thomas Turnbull, who died on Oct. 13, 1795 at the age of 25.

Thomas Turnbull’s marker is thought to have been carved by Thomas Walker.

Thomas also favored grander urns like this one for John Cunningham, who died in 1799 around the age of 23. I apologize for the small size but it came from a larger photo I took that day.

John Cunningham’s marker features a wide elaborate urn with draping on each side.

I’m reaching a little further back in time with this next marker to the 1760s. Mould and Loewe point out that John Rattray’s marker might be a British import because it doesn’t look like what we usually see in terms of New England’s style and the upper crust Charleston markers. Decorated above it with a scallop flanked by flowers is a chubby-faced cherub surrounded by feathers under his chin. Wings, trumpets and palm fronds are also featured.

What do these items signify? The scallop and flowers often symbolize rebirth while palm branches are associated with spiritual victory. The trumpets symbolize Judgement Day. All in all, there’s a lot going on here but it works wonderfully well.

John Rattray’s marker stands out for several reasons.

So who was John Rattray? He was born around 1716 and eventually became an attorney, practicing in Charleston. In addition to his law practice, he had two plantations and owned 60 slaves. He represented the St. Helena Parish in the 21st (1754-1757) and the 22nd (1757-1760) Royal Assemblies and the Prince William Parish in the 24th Royal Assembly (1761).

On November 14, 1760 Rattray was appointed Judge of the Vice Admiralty Court, a post he held until his death on Sept. 30, 1761. Other offices he filled were Firemaster for Charleston (1755-1758, 1759-1761), commissioner to regulate trade with the Creek Indians (1755), commissioner of Fortifications for Charleston (1755-1761), and justice of the peace for Berkeley County (1756).

Much less is known about Frances Hunter, wife of James Hunter, who died at the age of 48 on Dec. 9, 1768. But because her marker is from the same decade as John Rattray’s, I thought I would include it.

Frances Hunter’s stone features the more familiar style of soul effigy that we see in Charleston cemeteries.

Next to Frances’ stone is a small one for her son, John, who died in 1775. His age is not included.

To close out today’s eclectic collection, I’m featuring the stunning grave marker of Capt. James Ross and it’s not just because I love the skill that went into it. From the mid-1800s, it has a more modern style to it that the 18th-century soul effigy markers had.

If you look on the base, you can see the name “W.T. White” on it. This was William T. White, the great-grandson of Thomas Walker. The tradition was indeed being carried on.

One reason I’m drawn to this marker is the fact that unlike a number of ship-adorned markers I’ve seen in cemeteries and graveyards, Capt. Ross not only lived a long life, he didn’t die in a shipwreck or perish in a storm. Believe me, I’ve seen my share of those. I don’t doubt that Capt. Ross faced a lot of dicey moments in his seafaring career. But he survived it all and ended his career on a high note.

Although Capt. Ross’ marker had to be repaired at some point, even his footstone has survived.

James Ross was born sometime around the late 1770s or early 1780s in Lerwick in Britain’s Shetland Islands, which is about as far north as you can get and still be the U.K. I don’t know when he arrived in Charleston but his grave marker indicates that “for upwards of 30 years he commanded vessels out of this port.”

The carver of this stone, William T. White, was the great-grandson of Scottish carver Thomas Walker.

“An Honest, Upright, and Noble-Hearted Man”

Having proven his salt (pardon the pun) as a mariner, Capt. Ross became a member of the Board of Port Wardens around 1840 and eventually became chairman. He died on Oct. 8, 1856 of “congestion of the brain” according to death records. His marker notes that he was 70 years old but his death records has him as 75.

I found in a Charleston newspaper a trio of death announcements for him that outlines not only his membership in the Charleston Marine Society but also the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF).

This triad funeral notice in the the Charleston Daily Courier, for Capt. James Ross reflects his active role in the Charleston community over his lifetime.

There’s plenty more to see at First Scots Presbyterian Churchyard, so be sure to come back for Part II.



More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Discovering St. Michael’s Churchyard, Part II

I’m still at St. Michael’s Churchyard in Charleston, S.C. with just a few more graves I wanted to share. This first one is the only one of its kind that I’ve ever seen. I’d never even heard of wooden headboard grave markers until Frank Karpiel showed me the one at St. Michael’s.

Before I get started, you should know that what exists now at St. Michael’s is a replica. The original headboard managed to survive hurricanes, an earthquake, and several fires until it was removed in 2005 to keep it preserved. You can see it up close at the Charleston Museum.

This wooden headboard is a replica of the one that William Luyten made for his bride, Mary Ann.

The story behind this headboard has been printed in various newspapers over the years with some variations. It was even featured by Ripley’s Believe it Or Not! in some editions because it survived so many years.

Young Mary Ann was 18 when she became engaged to a young Charleston cabinet maker from England named William Luyten. But only three days before the wedding, she was thrown from her horse and became paralyzed.

Love Conquers All

Mary Ann wanted to release William from of their engagement. But William “insisted that they be married, though there was no possibility that his bride would ever be able to rise from her bed.” He built her a wooden bedframe where she is said to have laid the entirety of their nine-year marriage. One version of the story even said she lost all of her beauty and her hair turned white.

Before her death at the age of 27 on Sept. 9, 1770, nine years later, Mary Ann asked that the bedframe be used to mark her grave at St. Michael’s Churchyard.

Mary Ann was not the only one with such a marker. While thought to be common at one time, there are few still in existence. I found these online at Midway Church’s Colonial Cemetery in Liberty County, Ga. Like the wooden crosses people sometimes place on graves, these also decayed over time and fell apart.

These bedframe grave markers can be found in Liberty County, Ga. (Photo source: Vanishing South Georgia by Brian Brown)

Frank also pointed out the slate marker of Robert Stedman (1723-1766), which is in wonderful condition for its age. A winged soul effigy with long hair decorates the top.

“He Was Much Respected”

Robert and his brother, John, along with their families, traveled to Charleston from England sometime around 1760. Robert and John both grew indigo on land they’d obtained near the Santee River. The brothers also opened a Charleston barbershop where they created perukes (wigs of shoulder-length hair), popular for men of that era.

The name of Robert’s wife is unknown and she probably died before he left for Charleston with their children. He supposedly remarried to a the sister of a friend, John Boomer, who administered Robert’s estate after he died on Sept. 9, 1766 in his early 40s.

Robert Stedman and his brother, John, owned a barbershop in Charleston.

The next two markers are ones I particularly liked the look of more than anything else. I knew nothing about the Petigru family. But what I would find as I dug into their past was often sad and disturbing. It’s a cautionary tale in that while a man may go down in the history books for how his actions shaped a state’s future, the resulting cost of what his family endures in the process is a steep price to pay.

The Petigru Family

The first marker is for Daniel Elliot Huger Petigru (1822-1863). His beautifully carved marker does not reveal the strife that rippled through his family’s life.

Lawyer James Petigru was a vocal critic of South Carolina’s secession but he remained a respected figure in Charleston society. (Photo source: U.S. National Archives, South Caroliniana Library)

Daniel’s father, James Petigru, is much better known than his son. James was a lawyer, politician, and jurist best known for his service as the Attorney General of South Carolina. His juridical work played a key role in the recodification of the state’s law code. He was also known for opposing nullification and, in 1860, state secession.  Petigru made it clear that he was against South Carolina’s leaving the union and thought it would bring ruin to the state.

Daniel Petigu’s father James, labeled a “Unionist”, was well known in Charleston for his opposition to secession.

Born in 1822, Daniel was one of James and Jane Amelia Postell Petigru’s three surviving children. According to “Life, Letters and Speeches of James Louis Petigru: The Union Man of South Carolina” by James Petigru Carson, Daniel is described as being his mother’s favorite despite his unruly behavior.

An Unhappy Home

Life in the Petrigu home often difficult. James was gone much of the time and their oldest child, Albert, died from a fall off a third-floor banister at the age of eight. Jane was mentally fragile and developed an addiction to morphine. She was often ill, sometimes truly so while other episodes were feigned to gain attention. These circumstances affected James and the children.

Daniel was sent away to boarding school in Maryland, and suspended while at Princeton. He was admitted to the bar in Charleston but did little with that training. He joined the Third Regiment Dragoons of the U.S. Army and accompanied them to Mexico in October 1847. He made captain and was put in charge of a company but was later placed under arrest. Further brushes with trouble might have gotten him kicked out had the Regiment not disbanded the following year.

Discord in the Family

After losing a job in Savannah that his father had procured for him, Daniel worked in James’ law office off and on, living at home. Father and son did not get along well.

I found a sad letter written by James to his daughter, Caroline, about the death of Daniel. She was likely living in New York. While Daniel was often at home, he rented a room over a bookstore. It was there that he was found dead on the morning of Jan. 5, 1863 at the age of 42. He was buried at few days later at St. Michael’s Churchyard.

A hand descends from Heaven’s clouds to pluck an Easter lily, which is a symbol of resurrection and hope.

Despite their rocky relationship, James was deeply affected by his son’s death. He tried to look beyond the bad parts of Daniel’s character for anything that could be deemed admirable.

Now he is gone my mind loves to dwell on the circumstances that are favorable to his memory: and there are none more honorable than this, that he contracted no debts. At least I know of none, and his name is unsullied by any dishonesty or baseness.

James Petigru, already in poor health himself and struggling financially, died a few months later on March 9, 1863. I did not get a photo of his marker, but he is buried near James, his daughter, Sue, and wife, Jane.

Life of an Authoress

When I first saw the marker next to Daniel’s, I was intrigued because it features an open book with a quill lying across it. This was the grave of Daniel’s youngest sister, Susan “Sue” Petrigru King Bowen.

Sue was born on Oct. 23, 1824 and struggled with her mother’s mood swings and “illnesses.” When she went away to school, she soaked in all that was available to her from her academic classes to the glittering societal circles the glimpsed. Sue was not a wallflower and spoke her mind so her father despaired that she might attain a good matrimonial match.

In 1843, Sue married Henry King and her parents warily approved. James Petigru partnered in law practice with Henry and his own successful father, fellow attorney Judge Mitchell King.

A photo of Susan Petigru King Bowen in later years. (Photo source: South Carolina Historical Society – scanned from “A Family of Women: The Carolina Petigrus in Peace and War” by Jane and William Pease, University of North Carolina Press, 1999.)

But the King marriage was rocky. Henry and Sue had one child, Adele, in 1844. Sue was not happy with their lack of financial success as Henry was not ambitious. She often visited sister Caroline in New York. But Caroline’s husband was an alcoholic and she, too, was unhappy in her marriage. She would eventually separate from him in 1850 and enjoy life on the society circuit, pursuing painting.

Sue had dabbled in writing from girlhood. Her novels, which included Busy Moments of an Idle Woman (1853), Lily: A Novel (1855), Sylvia’s World: Crimes Which the Law Does Not Reach (1859), and Gerald Gray’s Wife (1864), focused on subversive portrayals of South Carolina aristocracy, in which men toyed with women’s affections, women plotted against one another’s best interests, and mothers forced daughters to choose wealth over romance. Her own life was rich fodder for such books.

Death At Seccessionville

Henry King died at the outbreak of the Civil War when fighting in the Confederate army, shot in the stomach during the Battle of Secessionville in 1862. Sue barely paused to mourn his death. Yet Sue kept on, affecting flamboyant behavior and setting tongues wagging in society circles.

While Christopher Columbus “C.C.” Bowen had a notable political career in post-Civil War South Carolina, his questionable behavior often had the Charleston elite talking.

In 1871, Sue shocked Charleston society and her family when she married Christopher Columbus “C.C.” Bowen. During the Civil War, Bowen enlisted in the Confederate Army and served in the Coast Guard. Upon the readmission of South Carolina to representation, Bowen was elected as a Republican to the 40th and 41st Congresses and served from July 1868 to March 1871. He was then a member of the S.C. House of Representatives during 1871 to 1872.

But Bowen’s past included a court martial for forgery from the Confederate Army and rumors swirled about other questionable behavior. He received a two-year prison sentence and a $250 fine for bigamy, but Sue appealed to President Ulysses S. Grant, who eventually offered Bowen a full pardon. C.C. was elected sheriff of Charleston County, a position he held through Sue’s death.

Susan Petigru King Bowen’s marker reflects her literary life.

In her last years, Sue lived in social isolation, having burned her bridges with her family due to her marriage and behavior. When Sue died of pneumonia in December 1875, her legal will mysteriously disappeared along with her jewelry.

C.C. married within a year of Sue’s death to a young woman 30 years his junior. He died in 1880 at the age of 48 and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in North Charleston.

Sue and Daniel’s mother, Jane, died in 1868. She is buried at St. Michael’s Churchyard with husband, Daniel, and Sue. Caroline lived her last years in Rome, Italy pursuing her painting and enjoying the society life there. She died in August 1892 and is buried at the Protestant Cemetery (Acattalico) in Rome.

Next time, I’ll be at another Charleston, S.C. churchyard at the First Scots Presbyterian Church.

The Sass family plot at St. Michael’s Churchyard. Jacob Sass (1813-1865) served as president of the Bank of Charleston during his career.


More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Discovering St. Michael’s Churchyard, Part I

After finishing up at St. John’s Lutheran Churchyard, Frank and I walked the short distance to St. Michael’s Church. It’s located in Charleston amid what’s known as the “Four Corners of Law.”  The term covers the presence of institutions representing federal, state, local, and ecclesiastical law on each corner of the intersection. I remember hearing about this as a child when my family toured Charleston in a horse-drawn carriage like the one pictured below.

The Four Corners of Law

St. Michael’s Church stands on the southeast corner of the intersection. On the northeast corner is Charleston City Hall, constructed between 1800 and 1804. On the northwest corner stands the Charleston County Courthouse. Originally built in 1753 as South Carolina’s provincial capital, the building was rebuilt in 1792 for use as a courthouse. On the southwest corner is the U.S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse, built in 1896.

Standing in front of St. Michael’s to take a photo can get you mowed down by a car so I borrowed this one from St. Michael’s website.

St. Michael’s is also the oldest surviving religious structure in Charleston. It was built between 1751 and 1761 on the site of the original wooden church built in 1681 by St. Philip’s Church, which was damaged in a hurricane in 1710. A new St. Philip’s Church was built several blocks away on Church Street. In 1727, what was left of the old wooden church was demolished.

While nobody knows exactly who designed St. Michael’s, some credit the influence of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London, designed in the 1720s by James Gibbs. Samuel Cardy was the builder. The church’s walls are made of stuccoed-over brick painted white. The two-story portico facing Broad Street was the first of its size in colonial America and features Tuscan columns.

I didn’t have a chance to go inside St. Michael’s but this photo from Wikipedia shows it’s as lovely as the outside.

Interior photo of St. Michael’s Church. (Photo source: Wikipedia)

St. Michael’s was originally affiliated with the Church of England. Following the American Revolution, the church came under the jurisdiction of what is now the Episcopal Church of the United States. Currently, it’s a parish church of the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina. In June 2017 the diocese, and by extension St. Michael’s, were received into the Anglican Church of North America. The parish continues to worship according to Anglican rites and traditions.

Frank does a good job in his book of explaining how St. Michael’s was in the thick of it during both the American Revolution and the Civil War. Used as an observation tower during the American Revolution, St. Michael’s 186-foot high steeple was painted black to decrease its visibility. The British stole the church’s bells in 1782. Union shells hit St. Michael’s during the Civil War, ruining the chancel. You can still see evidence of the bombardment at the bottom of the pulpit.

St. Michael’s has also hosted a number of important guests. President George Washington worshiped there during his 1791 visit. General Robert E. Lee also worshiped there some 70 years later.

An 1885 hurricane tore the top of St. Michael’s steeple off and swept away much of the slate roof. This is a view of the back of the church and part of the churchyard.

On Find a Grave, the churchyard at St. Michael’s has a list of almost 900 graves. If you visit, you’ll notice it is quite crowded. Some of the graves were built upon by the church over the years.

This photo gives you an idea of how crowded St. Michael’s Churchyard is.

St. Michael’s has the distinction of being the final resting place of two signers of the U.S. Constitution, John Rutledge and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Lamentably, I only photographed one of their graves. There’s a nice plaque summing up both their roles on the wall. As it turns out, the two men were connected by more than their role as signers.

A plaque details the lives of Charles Pinckney and John Rutledge.

A native of Charleston, John Rutledge practiced law in the early 1760s. Ten years later, he served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses. Also present was his younger brother, Edward Rutledge, who served as a delegate. Edward shared his law practice with Charles Pinckney, whom I’ll talk about later. In fact, Edward was 26 when he signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, making him the youngest delegate to sign.

“Jurist, Patriot, Statesman”

John Rutledge was in the forefront of efforts to defend his state against the British by pushing for the construction of Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. He also assisted in drafting the U.S. Constitution, serving on several committees. From 1779 to 1782, he served as Governor of South Carolina.

John Rutledge was the first Supreme Court nomination to be rejected by the Senate, and he remains the only “recess appointed” justice not to be subsequently confirmed by the Senate. (Photo source: Wikipedia)

In 1789, President George Washington appointed Rutledge as one of the inaugural Associate Justices of the Supreme Court. Rutledge left in 1791 to be Chief Justice of the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas and Sessions. Following John Jay’s resignation in 1795, Rutledge returned to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice. Because the vacancy came during a Senate recess, Washington named Rutledge as the new chief justice by a recess appointment.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

When the Senate reconvened in December 1795, it rejected Rutledge’s nomination. Rutledge resigned soon after and withdrew from public life. He holds the record for the shortest tenure of any Chief Justice.

When Edward Rutledge, now Governor of South Carolina, heard about the death of his friend President George Washington, he became so upset that he had a stroke. Edward died  on January 23, 1800 at the age of 50 and is buried at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church Cemetery just a few blocks away from St. Michael’s. John Rutledge died about seven months later in July 1800 at the age of 61.

The grave of John Rutledge is worn by time and the elements. (Photo source: Philip Greendyk, Find a Grave)

Fortunately, I did get a photograph of the other Constitution signer Charles Pinckney. Of the two men, he’s probably the more colorful and caused more tongues to wag. Pinckney’s grave has a plaque above it with a long list of his accomplishments that cuts to the chase of what his great career encompassed.

As you can see, Charles Pinckney’s resume is very impressive.

Born into a powerful family of aristocratic planters in 1746, Pinckney practiced law with Edward Rutledge for several years before he was elected to the colonial legislature. Pinckney served in the American Revolutionary War. In Charleston, he was captured as a prisoner of war (as was his law partner, Edward Rutledge). Two years later, both were set free and Pinckney was brevetted to brigadier general.

After the war, Pinckney won election to the South Carolina legislature. An advocate of a stronger federal government, Pinckney served as a delegate to the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, which wrote a new federal constitution.

Pinckney and the XYZ Affair

After turning down George Washington’s first offer to serve in his administration, in 1796 Pinckney accepted the position of Minister to France. In what became known as the XYZ Affair, the French demanded a bribe before they would agree to meet with the U.S. delegation and Pinckney firmly declined. He returned to America, accepting an appointment as a general during the Quasi-War with France.

The Federalists chose Pinckney as their vice presidential nominee in the 1800 election, hoping to win support  in the South. While Alexander Hamilton worked to elect Pinckney president under the electoral rules then in place, both Pinckney and incumbent Federalist President John Adams were defeated by the Democratic-Republican candidates.

Miniature painted by John Trumbull in 1791 of Charles Pinckney. (Photo source: Yale University Art Gallery)

The Federalists chose Pinckney as their presidential nominee for the 1804 election but Thomas Jefferson won in a landslide. The Federalists nominated Pinckney again in 1808, but Democratic-Republican nominee James Madison prevailed.

After the 1808 election, Pinckney focused on managing his plantations and developing his legal practice. He died at the age of 79 on August 16, 1825. Interestingly, the final resting places of his two wives is unknown.

Next to Charles Pinckney (on the ground) is the grave of Frederick Rutledge, the son of fellow U.S. Constitution signer John Rutledge.

“So Sincerely Lamented”

You might notice that the marker on the ground next to Charles Pinckney’s grave is that of John Rutledge’s son, Frederick Rutledge (1771-1824). Frederick was married to Charles Pinckney’s niece, Harriot Pinckney Horry Rutledge. The couple lived at Hampton Plantation in McClelanville, S.C.

Hampton was once a bustling rice plantation that now belongs to the State of South Carolina as a museum. (Photo source: Brian Stansberry, Wikipedia)

Designed in the Georgian style, the construction of the home at Hampton Plantation was evolved over time starting in 1735 and ending around roughly 1791. The original core was built in 1735 by Noe Serre, a French Huguenot refugee, and was a central-hall two-story structure. The property was acquired in 1757 by Daniel Horry, Harriot Pinckney Horry Rutledge’s father, and he made additions to it.

While visiting Hampton Plantation in 1791, President George Washington was asked whether a certain oak tree should be cut down to create a better view from the portico. He replied that he liked the tree, and it was saved. From then on the tree was known as the Washington Oak.

Frederick Rutledge and Harriot made Hampton Plantation their home in 1797. They had eight children together. On April 12, 1824, in an odd repeat of his father’s death, Frederick had a stroke while crossing the Cooper River from Charleston to Haddrell’s Point. He fell backward into the river and drowned.

Frederick Rutledge died at the age of 52 on April 12, 1824 of a stroke, just as his father did in 1800. (Photo source: The National Gazette, Philadelphia, Pa.)

There are more stories to come from St. Michael’s Churchyard. Stay tuned.


More Charleston, S.C. Cemetery Hopping: Exploring St. John’s Lutheran Churchyard, Part II

I’m still at St. John’s Lutheran Churchyard in Charleston, S.C. It’s not a large burial ground but there are several graves packed into it. Find a Grave lists about 750 memorials, but I’m sure there are several more that are unmarked.

I’ve twice visited a plot on the back left side next to the wall. I have a photograph from a previous trip that shows the wrought iron fencing falling down. Making such repairs is costly so I’m not being judgmental when I mention this. It’s a common sight in many old churchyards around Charleston.

I took this photo some years ago on a previous visit.

This plot contains graves of the Siegling and Schnierle families. The Siegling family intersected with the Schnierles when Johann “John” Zacharias Siegling, Sr. married Mary Regina Schnierle in Charleston in 1823. The two families would play a major role in the future of their adopted city.

Born in 1791 in Erfurt, Germany, John Siegling was the second of 17 children of mathematics professor Johann B. Siegling. At age 12, John learned the cabinet maker’s trade, and in 1806 he left Erfurt. He worked his way from Germany to Paris, where he arrived in May 1809. That’s when his life took a decided turn.

A rare photo of John Siegling, Sr. from an advertisement for his piano shop in Charleston, S.C.

Playing a New Tune

In April 1810, John met piano manufacturer Sebastian Erard and became an instrument maker. In 1813, he finished his first piano. He remained with Erard for nine years, the last four in Erard’s London establishment. In September 1819,  John headed for America and arrived in Charleston in November 1819. His uncle, Johann Heinrich Siegling (1770-1827), had emigrated there in 1798. He is buried in another area of St. Johln’s Churchyard.

After quickly establishing himself at the Corner of Broad and King streets, John began advertising the repair and tuning of musical instruments. Drawing upon his cosmopolitan background, he pledged to satisfy the most discriminating of customers. Thus, the Siegling Music House was born.

As I mentioned earlier, John Siegling married Mary Regina Schnierle in 1823. She was the beautiful, intelligent, and musically accomplished daughter of fellow carpenter Johann Michael Schnierle and Maria Barbara Munsch Schnierle from Germany. I’ll share more about the Schnierles later.

John and Mary had seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood. Two of his sons, Henry and Rudolph, grew up to help him make the Siegling Music House a great success in Charleston.

Note the Siegling Music House sign on the right. The picture was taken around 1910. Located on King Street, the three-story masonry building was remodeled in the mid-19th century and again around 1900.

Tragedy struck when the Fire of 1838 destroyed much of the city center. The Siegling Music House, then located on Meeting Street, was destroyed but John didn’t let that keep him down. He rebuilt his business at the corner of King and Beaufain Streets. Another tragedy came as a result of this fire in the Schierle family, but I’ll get to that later.

Born in 1825, John Jr. was the second of the Siegling children. Most of them got their early education overseas in Germany. John Sr. and Mary also traveled back to their home country often during those years to visit their children, see family, and conduct business.

“Rare Union of Talent and Integrity”

John Jr. studied law in Charleston and completed his degree at Harvard University in 1846. He returned to practice law in Charleston and served in the South Carolina legislature. In the prime of his life,  John Jr. became ill and after three weeks, passed away on Oct. 18, 1857 at the age of 32. The cause of death listed in records was paralysis.

John Z. Siegling Jr. died at the age of 32 in 1857, about 10 years before his father. The two share a monument at St. Johh’s Lutheran Churchyard.

John Sr. and Marie’s eldest child, Marie Regina, was as accomplished a musician as her mother and studied music in Paris. She was an internationally acclaimed singer, marrying German music professor Eduard Schumann Le Clercq in Charleston in 1850. They spent much of their time in Europe but returned to Charleston often with their children.

An ad for the Siegling Music House in an 1872 edition of the Charleston News. By this time, John Siegling Sr. had passed away and son Henry had taken over the business.

Sons Henry and Rudolph worked alongside their father in the family business, which John Sr. kept operating even during the Civil War. The brothers served in the Confederacy. Rudolph was seriously wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run by an exploding grenade. His death was actually reported to the family and a funeral service was conducted in Charleston. According to Marie’s memoirs, when John Sr. went to retrieve his son’s body, he found to his shock that Rudolph was very much alive!

Henry, who spent the most time in Germany in his younger years, served in Parker’s Company, South Carolina Light Artillery and participated in blockade running. He took over running the business for his father after John Siegling, Sr. died on Oct. 31, 1867. John Sr. was buried with son John Jr. at St. John’s Lutheran Churchyard.

Rudolph died (for real) at age 55 in 1894 of “cerebral apoplexy”. He is buried at Magnolia Cemetery, north of downtown Charleston. His mother, Mary Siegling, died at age 90 in 1896 and is also buried at Magnolia Cemetery. Henry died at age 77 in 1907 and is buried with his mother and brother at Magnolia. Eldest child Marie Siegling Le Clercq died in France at the age of 95 in 1920 and was cremated there.

Henry’s son Rudolph took over the family business in 1905. The Siegling Music House remained in operation in Charleston until 1970.

Who was Charles A. Siegling?

There’s a bit of mystery surrounding the marker against the back wall for Charles Augustin Siegling (1837-1878). He is related to the Sieglings, but I’ve been unable to determine exactly how. He came over from Germany right after the Civil War, settling in Charleston. Local directories show he was an accountant working at the same address as the Siegling Music House.

Charles Siegling died of typhoid fever at the age of 42 in 1878.

I suspect that during one of his many trips to Europe, John Sr. promised Charles, possibly a nephew or cousin, that he could have a job if he ever came to America. I can’t find any records about Charles beyond mentions in local directories and his death record. He died in 1878 of typhoid fever.

Schnierle Family History

Mary Schnierle Siegling was the daughter of carpenter Johann Michael Schnierle. Like her husband, Mary’s father came to Charleston from Germany seeking a more prosperous future. The son of a Lutheran clergyman, Johann probably arrived in America around 1805. He and wife Maria Barbara Schnierle had five children together in Charleston, with Mary being the eldest.

Second child, John, became a popular member of the thriving German community. He belonged to the Charleston City Council from 1838 to 1841, then became the city’s second German mayor in 1842 and served until 1845. He was elected mayor in 1850, serving a year.  At the beginning of the Civil War, he was Major General of the Sixteenth Regiment, South Carolina Militia but died in the early days of the conflict from poor health. He is buried at Magnolia Cemetery.

The grave marker of Johann “John” Schnierle, his wife, Marie Barbara Schnierle, and their youngest son, William Schnierle.

The marker for John, Marie, and their youngest son, William (1815-1875) is located along the back wall and goes in order of whom died first. Marie died on April 17, 1836 at age 59. John died at age 65 in 1844. Son William died in 1875 at age 60.

The last story I’m going to share concerns the obelisk at the center of the Siegling/Schnierle plot. Unfortunately, I did not get a good photo because I was more taken with John Sr. and John Jr. Siegling’s monument. But I did get it in the background.

Frederick Schnierle’s life was tragically cut short in the Charleston Fire of 1838. I apologize for the fact that part of another monument (his father and brother John’s) is jutting into the photo.

Frederick Schnierle was the third child of John and Marie Schnierle. Born in 1810, he was as popular in the German community as his brother John. Frederick was also an assistant chief of the local Fire Masters. That role would prove fatal.

Charleston was no stranger to fires. Jacob Schirmer, a merchant living in the city in the 1830s, recorded at least 69 Charleston fires. But the Charleston Fire of 1838 was surely the worst. Over 1,000 buildings were damaged, and more than a fourth of all the businesses within the city suffered damage, with losses of over $3 million.

The Charleston Fire of 1838

At around 9 p.m. on April 27, 1838, fire bells rang after a spark ignited a shed at the corner of King and Beresford Streets. Within minutes, four more houses were engulfed.

In an attempt to stop the fire’s wrath, the decision was made to demolish some buildings with explosives. Bringing them down to ground level reduced the hazard of windblown sparks, and from cleared lots, fire hoses could put scarce water on adjacent structures. At the same time, it was a strategy many were reluctant to take.

This map of the City of Charleston shows the extensive damage from the Fire of 1838. The black-shaded area represents the portion of the city that was destroyed by the blaze – about a quarter of Charleston. (Photo Source: Charleston Historical Society)

After bagged powder and prepared charges ran out, the fire department was forced to set fuses to kegs of gunpowder. An account of what happened to Frederick Schnierle was written in the Charleston News and Courier:

The assistant fire chief was fatally injured when a keg in a house at Liberty and King Streets exploded too quickly. Buried in its ruins, Frederick Schnierle spoke calmly to his rescuers as they dragged him out burned, disfigured, but still conscious. He died at home half an hour later.

He was only 28 years old.

Another view of the base of Frederick’s monument through the wrought iron fence. His parents and brother William’s marker is to the right against the back wall.

“Tears of Admiration”

The Charleston City Council voted on July 30, 1839 to pay $300 to the firm of James E. Walker & Brothers to inscribe a marble monument in Frederick’s honor. I’ve mentioned the Walkers in former blog posts as some of the best known stone carvers in Charleston. The inscription reads:

This monument is erected by the CITY COUNCIL of Charleston, on behalf of his grateful fellow citizens to the memory of Frederick Schnierle.
A native of this city and an officer of the engineering department
who fell a victim at the age of 28 years. To his own uncontrollable Public Spirit
During the awful fire that desolated a third part of the City
on the night of April 27, 1838. The noble qualities of his character
giving promise of a useful and honorable life served to aggravate the public grief for his loss and to multiply the tears of admiration
which laden this memorial of his worth.

Next time, I’ll be sharing stories from Charleston’s St. Michael’s Churchyard.

Note the upside down torches on the monument of Col. J. Charles Blum. They symbolize death, and the burning flame, which would normally be extinguished when the torch was turned upside down due to a lack of oxygen, symbolizes the flame of eternal life and the Christian belief in resurrection.