Learn about the Rob Kennedy Trail in Daufuskie Island, SC with the help of the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation.
1. MT. CARMEL BAPTIST CHURCH NO. 2 (BILLIE BURN MUSEUM)
The church building and its predecessor were built by the Cooper River residents of the north end of the island. The first church was destroyed by a hurricane in 1940. This building was built shortly after that. In time, the declining population of the island caused the church to close. In 2001, the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation bought the property, restored the building, and opened the Billie Burn Museum, named after long-time resident and island historian, Billie Burn. The museum contains artifacts illustrating periods of island history.
JANE HAMILTON SCHOOL (GULLAH LEARNING CENTER)
Cooper River children attended school in Mt. Carmel Baptist Church No.1 until it was destroyed by the hurricane of 1940. The one-room Jane Hamilton School was then built and was open for ten years. After that, transportation was provided to take the children to the Mary Fields School. In 2008, the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation leased the structure from the Beaufort County Board of Education and restored it. This historical structure is currently home to the Gullah Learning Center and the island’s community library.
2. TABBY RUIN
Tabby is a building material made from a mixture of ground oyster shells, sand, and water. This material was used for buildings on Daufuskie Island, especially on Haig’s Point Plantation. Many slave quarters were constructed of wood, and these have long since disintegrated, but remnants of structures made from the very durable tabby remain on Daufuskie Island, Hilton Head Island, and throughout the Lowcountry.
3. COOPER RIVER CEMETERY
A very important segment of Daufuskie Island Gullah life was providing a proper burial for loved ones. Cemeteries were usually set next to moving water in keeping with the Gullah belief that the soul would travel home to Africa via the water. This cemetery borders the Cooper River. There are grave markers in the cemetery dating as early as 1917, but the cemetery itself dates back to plantation days. Please be respectful.
4. HAIG POINT
Haig Point was known as Haig’s Point in plantation days. It is home to the Haig Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse can be seen from Calibogue Sound at the northern tip of the island. The lighthouse was built in 1873 and was in operation until 1924. Haig Point also has extensive tabby ruins and a Gullah cemetery on the property. Private residential community—no access.
Daufuskie Island was divided into eleven plantations at the start of the Civil War, varying in size from two hundred to eleven hundred acres. Plantations such as Melrose were self-contained, with almost everything needed produced within the plantation. Very little was purchased. Heavy labor was handled by the slaves, and plantation life was hard and mean. The slaves worked from “till to can’t.” The island was abandoned at the start of the Civil War and was subsequently occupied by Union soldiers. After the war, freed slaves (Gullah) returned to the island, where some lived in the old slave quarters and worked for landowners, while others purchased land and built small cabins of their own.
6. OYSTER UNION SOCIETY HALL
From the turn of the 20th century until pollution in the Savannah River ruined the oyster beds in the 1950s, the primary economy of the island was the harvesting and shucking of oysters. The oyster workers established the Oyster Union Society, a benevolent and burial society that held meetings and social events in this 1893 building. The latter events were often enhanced with local moonshine or homemade wine. An initiation ceremony was necessary for membership in the Society. The Society was dissolved after the oyster beds were closed. The building was restored by the DIHF in 2012.
7. HINSON WHITE HOME
This charming 1916 house is representative of Daufuskie Island Gullah architecture. Residences were enhanced by porches which provided cooling shade in the hot, muggy summer. Residents could rock on the porch and enjoy the breeze.
This house was built by Gullah craftsmen but was always occupied by white families. House trim often was painted blue to ward off the evil spirits or “haints” (the native pronunciation of “haunts”). This color is usually referred to as “Haint Blue.” Watch for blue-trimmed homes as you tour the island. The building was restored in 2015 by the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Daufuskie Island Endangered Places Program.” Private residence.
Mary Field Cemetery is the largest Gullah cemetery on the island. There are grave markers dating from 1926 to the present. Earlier wooden markers have disintegrated from all the Gullah cemeteries, and the only indications of those graves are low areas where wooden caskets have collapsed. Graves were usually dug by friends of the family. Following the funeral service, mourners would walk behind the carriage bearing the casket, singing all the way to the cemetery.
9. SARAH GRANT HOME
Sarah Grant was midwife, Sunday school president, and PTA president during her influential life. She bought this 1910 house from Fuller Fripp for $15 and had it moved to its present location at a cost of $25, thereby paying $40 for her home. Sarah Grant was married to the island undertaker. When he passed away in 1962, she took his place. As she was already the island midwife, someone remarked that “Granny bring ’em ‘n she take ’em away.” In recent times, the renovated house has served as the Daufuskie Island Art Gallery. Private residence.
10. PUBLIC DOCK
In 1883, near this location, Maggioni & Company opened an oyster cannery that provided employment for many islanders. After the cannery closed in 1903, islanders continued to harvest and shuck oysters and transport them to nearby canneries. Daufuskie Island oysters were sold all over the world. This enterprise continued until 1959, when pollution in the Savannah River ruined the oyster beds and curtailed the harvest of oysters.
The island’s population declined as people left the island to pursue job opportunities on the mainland.
PRIOR TO THE ARRIVAL OF STEAMBOATS TO THE LOWCOUNTRY,
Islanders had to row their bateau (small boats) to the mainland and back. Steamboats provided not only easier access for islanders to conduct their “across the water” business, but also brought folks to the island for lively parties and picnics. It was always a highlight of the day when the steamship pulled into the dock.
11. WHITE SCHOOL HOUSE
The White School House was built in 1913 by the Beaufort County Board of Education for white children who lived on Daufuskie Island. Whether there were twenty students or just one, a teacher was sent to the island. The school closed when the last white child graduated in 1962. Since then, the White School House has been used as fire department headquarters, island library, and thrift shop. Currently, the White School House is home to the Daufuskie Island Bruce Allen Archival Learning Center.
12. THE COUNCIL TREE
After Sunday church services, men would gather under a tree such as this stately oak and talk at length about non-church topics: their families, animals, oystering, crops, and other island issues. The men felt it improper to discuss these matters on church property.
13. FIRST UNION AFRICAN BAPTIST CHURCH
The church was built in 1884 near the site of the 1881 church that was destroyed by fire. It has stood as a center of worship and faith on the island, with only one significant break in services since that time. The building was restored in the 1990s. A replica of a traditional praise house is located behind the building. Sunday services are open to all who come to worship.
The two-room Mary Fields School was built for the island’s black children in the early 1930s. Leftover wood was used to construct desks for the students. The school was integrated after the last white child graduated from the White School House in 1962. The school was immortalized by Pat Conroy in his book: The Water Is Wide. When the Daufuskie Island Elementary School was built in 1997, the Mary Fields School was closed. The building was recently renovated and is used for church and civic activities.
15. FRANCES JONES HOME
The core of this vintage Gullah Home is believed to have been built in the late 1860s by freedmen who moved to the island. Over the years, additions were made. The house was the home of Frances Jones, beloved teacher of the African-American children on the island from 1930 to 1969. Often the sole teacher, she taught as many as 96 children in morning and afternoon sessions. A childhood accident that left her lame did not deter her from softball games with her students. The building was restored in 2014 by the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Daufuskie Island Endangered Places Program.”
16. MOSES FICKLIN COTTAGE AND OAK TREE
The enormous ancient live oak fronting this restored Gullah home is thought to have greeted Spanish explorers when they first came to Daufuskie Island. The classic Gullah house was constructed under its shady, cool branches circa 1925. Moses Ficklin was a deacon of the First Union African Baptist Church and the Gullah undertaker, assisted by his wife, Grace. He always kept a supply of $100 caskets on hand. The old carriage that was used as a hearse can be viewed outside the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church No. 2 at the Billie Burn Museum. Private residence.
17. MARY DUNN CEMETERY
This cemetery is the only historic cemetery for white people on Daufuskie Island. Established in the 1700s, it borders the Mongin Creek on land provided by Mary Dunn for a family cemetery. In later years, permission was given for white people who were not relatives to be buried there. There are gravestones in this cemetery dating as far back as 1790. The cemetery is privately owned and still used today. Please be respectful.
18. BLOODY POINT
April 15, 1715, was the date of the first of three skirmishes at this site between the Yemassee Indians and settlers. It was said that there was blood in the water from the dead and injured—and the name Bloody Point has been engraved upon this beautiful shoreline ever since. Robert Watts built ships on Bloody Point in the 1770s and was known to be an excellent shipwright. His cousin and fellow shipbuilder, Charles, was tarred, feathered, and banished from the island for not joining the rebellion against England. Bloody Point is the southernmost inhabited point of South Carolina.
19. BLOODY POINT CEMETERY
The Bloody Point Cemetery, one of the six Gullah cemeteries on the island, was established along the Mongin Creek for the burial of slaves during the plantation era and was used until late in the 20th century. A portion of the cemetery has been lost to beach erosion. Please be respectful.
20. BLOODY POINT LIGHTHOUSE & SILVER DEW WINERY
In 1882, the U.S. Government paid $425 for land for the Bloody Point Light: a front range lighthouse and a rear range light tower. The lighthouse is a two-story dwelling with a small dormer window that housed the front light. The light had a brass stand and wind-up clockwork to turn the light. The synchronized lights guided ships into the Savannah River Channel from 1883 to 1922. The lighthouse had to be relocated inland a number of times as the shoreline receded. The small building that stored kerosene for the light is now known as the Silver Dew Winery. Private residence.
Source: https://daufuskiemuseum.org/rob-kennedy-trail/. Photos: Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation