In my last post, we spent some time wandering through the Burn Church Cemetery of James Island Presbyterian Church (JIPC). Let’s walk between the azaleas bushes to see the other cemetery of the church. To be blunt, this was originally known as the “white” section because that was who it was for. It is now open to all.
According to Find a Grave, there are about 420 recorded burials here. I’m sure there are more unmarked that haven’t been noted. Some stones are impossible to read. But a number reveal the history of those who were among the first white residents of James Island and Charleston.
Three of the oldest markers at JIPC’s cemetery belong to the Witter family. The son of Quaker parents, James Witter was born in 1736. He married Jane Manigault and we know had at least one child, Samuel, because he is buried beside them. He was born in September 1764 and died in October 1766.
James Witter’s marker is in good condition considering its age. It features the winged face or “soul effigy” that was so popular at the time. You can see dozens of these in cemeteries throughout Charleston.
I had a difficult time reading the epitaph on James Witter’s marker but I think I managed to figure it out. I have typed it as it is spelled, including the errors:
Come to this grave each friend and drop a tear,
Bedew his memry, with a grief sincere:
Forget him not tho he lies under ground.
But let his worth on every tongue resound.
To thee, O stone, we recommend this dust,
Commanding the in faith to keep thy trust.
Take, take this body and secure entomb
Until the day of resurrection come.
James died in 1794 and while records indicate he did not leave a will, his estate appears to have passed directly to Jane. She has her own stone with an epitaph I attempted to write out. Hers was even harder to make out. The style indicates it was probably written by the same person who did her husband’s epitaph. The question marks are the words I could not figure out.
Reader approach and ? the cold remains
Of her who was beloved this tomb contains
With every worth the dignified her life
The tender Mother and the virtuous wife
Long since her spirit fought, her kindred ?
And here in ? her ? relics lie
While on this shore her children speak her worth
And with there tears bedew the hallowed earth.
Two surnames that you’ll see a lot in this cemetery are Bee and Rivers. And the two “cross pollinated” quite often. The son of William Bee and Keziah Rivers Bee, Robert Rivers Bee Sr. was born in 1799. He married Mary Flora Morrison on Feb. 4, 1830.
A tragic marker stands beside the obelisk shared by Robert and Mary that records the deaths of four of their children. Robert William Rivers lived only nine months, having died in June 1832. It is my guess that he was their firstborn. The marker notes that three other children, Julia Adeline (5), Kezia (2), and John (11 months), all died within 10 days of each other with a date of August 6, 1838. I don’t know exactly what killed them but 1838 marked a yellow fever epidemic in Charleston, so that may have been the culprit.
Robert and Mary’s four other children did live past childhood. Born in 1846, Sandiford was their youngest child. At the age of 16, he enlisted on December 29, 1862 as a private in the 27th Regiment of the South Carolina Infantry, Company D (also known as the Sumter Guards).
The 27th is often called Gaillard’s Regiment, named after Col. Peter Charles Gaillard. It was a consolidation of the Charleston Infantry Battalion and the First South Carolina Battalion Sharpshooters. The unit was assigned to General Hagood’s Brigade.
The 27th served at Fort Sumter, then moved to Virginia. Here it participated in the conflicts at Drewry’s Bluff and Cold Harbor, and took its place in the Petersburg trenches. The Second Battle of Weldon Railroad took place in August 1864, with the 27th losing two men in battle, 22 wounded and 71 missing.
Sandiford died on Oct. 6, 1864 in Sumter, S.C. I suspect he may have been one of the many wounded or ill soldiers from Weldon Railroad. Mary, his mother, died only six days later on Oct. 10, 1864. Having lost four children in childhood to illness, it must have been quite a blow to lose her youngest from wounds received in combat. Robert St. died in April 1865.
In a nearby plot, you can find another one of Robert Sr. and Mary’s sons, Robert Rivers Bee Jr. and his family. He was born in 1839 and married his first wife, Martha Stiles Hinson. The only occupation I have ever found for him was in 1902 as a “rice shipper”.
Robert’s grave has a CSA (Confederate States of America) marker on it but I’m not exactly sure which unit he served in. He may have been in the 7th Regiment of the South Carolina Cavalry or Trenholm’s Company, Rutledge Mounted Riflemen and Horse Artillery, South Carolina.
There are three small markers with a single flower in the Robert Bee Jr. plot that only say “Our Baby 1861” then years “1868′ and “1870”. I don’t know their names. The only child of Robert and Martha that I know of that lived beyond childhood is Sandiford Bee, who was born in 1866 and died at the age of 63.
Martha died on July 5, 1870. I don’t know if this was before or after the death of the infant whose grave is marked 1870. It’s possible Martha died giving birth to this child.
Robert Jr. remarried to Mary Julia Lockwood and they also had several children. Two daughters, Mary and Martha, both lived long lives. A son, Robert St. Clair Bee, was born in 1878 but only lived to the age of 3.
One marker presents a mystery that someone may have the answer to. It is for two children, J.B. and Rob. There are no birth or death dates, only how long they lived. Neither child appears on any census records I found. I am fairly sure they are the children of Robert Jr. and Mary Julia (not Martha) but beyond that, I know nothing more about them. It may have been another epidemic that caused their demise.
The carving of the sheep at the top is particularly skillful, I think.
Mary Julia died in 1916 while Robert Jr. died in 1918 of chronic nephritis (kidney disease).
Next time, we’ll finish up by exploring the Stiles-Hinson plot.