More Than Church Bells Ringing in St Helena Episcopal Churchyard…

When one looks at this polished postcard… this old Anglican Church , built in the early 1700’s, looks almost brand new …but a historical horse-drawn history tour (carriage ride) tells us a different story!

Dear Reader:

What is a tour of an island city… without a tour of its oldest churches and even more so… their church yard/ cemetery ghost tales?

St Helena Episcopal Churchyard

Today this original Anglican Church,whose congregation dates back to 1712, has had many famous South Carolinians buried here… including Thomas Heyward, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence … who also served on the vestry. Later Civil War heroes would also be interred in this famous cemetery… but it is the resting place of a Dr Perry- whose story draws the most interest to tourists today.

Dr Perry’s ” gravehouse” -structure built above the ground … a roof with corner posts over a grave.

In the 18th and especially 19th centuries yellow fever was the most dreaded disease. -in a southern Lowcountry – It was given this name since the victim’s face body, and eyes turned yellow. Large percentages of the population died from this disease (that they thought back then was caused by ” miasmas” or bad air… the hot humidity coming off the sea islands.) ( not a certain breed of mosquito which wouldn’t be discovered until later. )

Dr. Perry, having treated many patients, feared what the population feared the most… being buried alive… since a patient’s breathing could become so shallow… they appeared to have passed away. Were they in a coma or dead?

The public’s fear of premature burials was enhanced by 19th century writers like Edgar Allan Poe. So knowing this… Dr. Perry built an above ground tomb and instructed his relatives…

” If I pass away, bury me with a jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and a pickax. Should I wake up and find myself inside, I shall drink the wine, eat the bread, and dig myself out.”

Dr. Perry, unfortunately, did die during an outbreak of yellow fever – so he was placed in this tomb entrance , sealed in wood, in case he woke up.

After time passed and the family gave up hope he would ” resurrect” – they bricked up the exit-it is the reason why newer bricks can be distinguished on one side of the tomb. ( Supposedly… our tour guide said that decades after adding the new bricks, some crumbled one night, and church members wondered if he finally got out…” better late than never.”

During this period of time some families had loved ones buried with a string attached to a bell above the grave …placed around the deceased one’s grave marker ( to their wrists) so they could pull the string and ring the bell for help. Expressions liked ” Saved by the bell” and a ” dead ringer” evolved from these unusual circumstances.

*** Someone even got a patent on it…

So until tomorrow… Whenever we grow too fond of ” the good old days”… there is a lot to be said for modern medicine!!!

Today is my favorite day-Winnie the Pooh

Rutledge was asked to model some ” Free Fly” shirts
Eva Cate got a new haircut! Beautiful!

On our last night in Beaufort we had so much fun at Saltus with all the crowd-so funny and friendly… and splitting a crème brûlée … no better way to go out!

It Must Have Been the dessert of the ancient gods and goddesses! Goodbye Beaufort! Best time EVER!!!

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to More Than Church Bells Ringing in St Helena Episcopal Churchyard…

  1. Honey Burrell says:

    What a fun time you girls had! We love Beaufort! Through you, Becky Boo, I learned more about Beaufort than I knew. Thank you!!!
    Rutledge is so handsome and Eva Cate is beautiful! Have a wonderful day dear lady! Love you lots🥰

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