I spent most of this week in Savannah, Georgia with my mother, doing a little exploratory house-hunting work for places that might be good for vacations, retirement, or getaway destinations for various members of our tribe. Of course, while we were there, we had to make the pilgrimage across the Savannah River into the Low Country of South Carolina from whence our people spring. As good Southerners, this means we spent most of our time in cemeteries, because that’s how we roll. Here are some highlights.
We visited my Dad first, at Beaufort National Cemetery, and left him some sunflowers, Spanish moss, and Oyster shells to help him ward off the ground moles that were his bane in any Low Country yard for which he was responsible.
Dad always appreciated the importance of “location, location, location” when it came to real estate, so he got a nice corner lot in Beaufort National Cemetery to make sure that no undesirable neighbors moved in around him.
Dad’s immediate neighbor is “Harris,” who served and died in the Civil War as a member of the United States Colored Troops — freed slaves who fought for the Union in South Carolina. We do not know Harris’ first name (or if he had one), as noted in an article I wrote some years ago about my research to identify him. But he’s good company, and I always clean his gravestone and pay my respects when we visit.
We stopped in Lobeco for some boiled peanuts on our way out to our family cemetery at Stoney Creek. They’re always better when you buy them from roadside stands like this one.
Stoney Creek Cemetery is a bit off the beaten path, tucked back in the woods behind a former rice paddy.
You have to walk slow and be careful in the cemetery, lest you step on fire ants or snakes. Or fire ants and snakes. They’re pretty much ubiquitous.
My grandparents got a nice corner lot, too, though one of their shade trees has seen better days.
William Ferguson Colcock was a member of the United States Congress, among many other notable accomplishments. He was my great great great grandfather, and married to Emmeline Huguenin, for whom my niece is named.
The oldest clearly legible tombstone at Stoney Creek belongs to Thomas Heyward Sr. His nephew, Thomas Heyward Jr., was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
From Stoney Creek, we headed up to Yemassee, home of the region’s sole Amtrak train station — and (more importantly) Hughes’ Grocery, which hangs on and hangs on and hangs on, though I doubt that anybody has actually purchased anything there in a decade or so.
This is the road between Pocotaligo and McPhersonville. When my sister and I were young, we found it inexplicably terrifying, and spent most trips on it cowering in the back seat with eyes closed. It’s still a bit spooky, all these years on.
Stoney Creek Presbyterian Church in McPhersonville. Our family’s land and home were just beyond the woods behind it.
Next stop, Ridgeland, where my Mom spent her middle and high school years, and where I spent my early years when my Dad was abroad in the Marine Corps. My grandmother, aunt and mother worked at the Plantation Restaurant in Ridgeland at various times over the years. It has seen better days, alas.
The KB seemed like a space-aged grocery store when it was built in the 1960s, the fantastic future of produce shopping. Not so much in 2015.
This link shows a photo of my grandfather and great uncle building the house in Ridgeland where my Mom’s side of the family lived from 1955 until around 1980. Sixty years after its construction, shall we also say that it has seen better days? I provide three photos below to give you the full panoramic experience of what it was like for us to drive by it this week, jaws agape. I have to say that these shots are really worth clicking and enlarging to properly explore the majesty of the compound these folks have established in our former home. In addition to the obvious hot tub, Bunny truck, flatbed trailer and scooter in the sandy front yard, I can find two grills, a treadmill, two dogs, three tires, seven bikes, and all sorts of other wonders. Plus, I love the way that the window air conditioning unit has been installed through the living room wall by knocking out a few cinder blocks. And the dolls, teddy bears and gifts hanging from eaves and trees? Priceless! This is Low Country living at its finest, for sure!
On a slightly less weird note, we also drove by the little bungalow nearby where my Mom and I lived for a bit. We called it “The Green House,” and it seemed to have aged a bit more gracefully. Even if it’s not green anymore.
The next day, we drove inland a bit for a nice visit to Aiken, South Carolina, then stopped by the historic hamlet of Gillisonville on our way back to Savannah. We went to visit my step-grandfather Joe where he rests at Gillisonville Baptist Church, but he was not home.
The Gillisonville cemetery has a lot of historic graves, like Stoney Creek, but as we walked around it, we also noted that its newer residents seemed to have a more whimsical approach to marking their remains than their staid counterparts down the coast. Here’s but one example of the types of unusual things we saw engraved on stones in Gillisonville Baptist; I think it is supposed to be a dog, though it could also be the Demon Azmahobeth. Hard to tell.
After a couple of nice days in the Low Country, Mom and I flew back to our homes in Chicago and Charlotte. It’s always good to check in on the spaces that define us, and where we feel our strongest senses of place. Even if they look like outtakes from a documentary on hoarding, or include spectral chihuahuas.