Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Low Country Chapel Of Ease at St. Helena, South Carolina

During the Colonial period, chapels of ease were constructed by rice and cotton planters as houses of worship because their plantations were located so far from the churches in Beaufort. This tabby walled church was constructed between 1742 and 1747 for the planters of St. Helena Island. A forest fire destroyed most of it in 1886.

All that remain today are its tabby ruins and an adjacent cemetery. Tabby is a mixture of shell (an aggregate), lime (often made from burnt shells which serve as a cement), and water. It is put up in forms and allowed to harden. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, lowcountry planters used tabby to build not only their own dwellings, but also slave houses, dairies, barns, fences, and even some grave monuments. Tabby was used not because it was easy or particularly convenient, but because brick was in such short supply. Tabby tended to hold up very well, as long as its outer stucco "skin" was kept in good shape and as long as the building was "tied" together by internal timbers.

Chapel Of Ease at St. Helena, South Carolina

A quiet sea island in Beaufort County, St. Helena Island is perhaps best known for its historic connection to Gullah culture and language, still evident on the island today. The island is nestled between downtown Beaufort and the resort communities of Harbor Island and Fripp Island, so it enjoys the benefits of both rural and suburban life. The population of St. Helena (pronounced HEL-uh-nuh) hovers around 10,000. St. Helena is home to the Penn Center, a National Historic Landmark located on the site of one of the nation's first schools for freed slaves, which opened in 1862.

Chapel Of Ease's adjacent cemetery

Beaufort (pronounced "BU-fort") is the seat of Beaufort County, where Jean Ribault and his fellow Huguenots established Charlesfort in 1562. In French, "beau" means beautiful, handsome, lovely, or fine ... and after even the shortest of visits, you'll know both the city and county are aptly named. (Ironically, both are actually named for an Englishman, Henry Somerset, the Second Duke of Beaufort, who pronounced his name "BOW-fert," as in bow and arrow and Beaufort, North Carolina.)

Chapel of Ease

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