Sheldon Church – Mystery and History of Backroads

Sheldon Church – Mystery and History of Backroads

Our road trips take longer than they used to. Whenever possible we travel the back roads, the blue highways, the roads less traveled. While America’s interstate highways are efficient, they are also predictable and boring. But there is a lot of mystery and history to be discovered on the roads less traveled. Recently, while exploring the swamps and marshes of coastal South Carolina, we learned of the ruins of a pre-Revolutionary War church. After more research and reading we found out there are actually five such church ruins tucked away in these backwaters and all but forgotten.

We spent the next three days searching for the Sheldon Church Ruins, the St. Helena Parish Chapel of Ease, the Pon Pon Chapel of Ease, the Biggin Church and the Strawberry Chapel. Let’s begin with the Sheldon Church and I will follow up with others in subsequent posts.

Between Yemassee and Beaufort and not too far from Gardens Corner, in the heart of South Carolina’s Low Country, lies the ruins of the Old Sheldon Church. Originally called the Prince William Parish Church, it was funded by William Bull, a wealthy rice planter and South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor, and built between 1745 and 1755.

Sheldon Church Ruins, South Carolins

The church is the oldest Greek Revival style building in America and was considered the finest rural church in the country when it was built. The setting is equally spectacular. The ruins are surrounded by ancient live oak trees and scattered graves.

Sheldon Church Ruins, South Carolins

Sheldon Church Ruins, South Carolins

The Patriots stored munitions in many churches during the Revolutionary War, including Prince William Parish Church, thinking the British would not destroy a church. But in 1779 the British did burn the church. It was not rebuilt from the remaining walls until 1826 when it was renamed the Sheldon Church of Prince William Parish.

Sheldon Church Ruins, South Carolins

In 1865, during the Civil War, the church was destroyed again. Many believe it was burned a second time by the Union army as part of Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” But a second, and probably more credible, version suggests the Sheldon Church was ravaged by Union forces, but not burned. After the war, blacks and whites alike gutted the interior for materials to rebuild their homes destroyed by Sherman’s army.Today the church ruins are as enduring as ever and the surrounding grounds shaded by the massive live oak trees make for an idyllic setting. The Old Sheldon Church Ruins has become a popular location for weddings, much to the chagrin of Bull family descendants.

High heels from dreaded wedding parties trample this sacred, holy ground annually. – I’ve personally picked up the cigarette butts too many times.

___Caroline K. Bull IV

Sheldon Church Ruins, South Carolins

Ron Mayhew

Fine Art Photographer specializing in Still Life and Commercial Photography.

This Post Has 21 Comments

    1. Thank you Carol. Our search was great fun and lovely settings for photography.

  1. I also love to wander the back roadswhen I travel. It is a wonderful way to find some great and interesting subjects to photograph. Can’t wait to see your others in this little book series.

    1. Rick, it was great fun seeking these places out. They are little known and don’t show up on maps. BTW, I took your advice on the Naval Air Museum. Fabulous!Thanks so much for your comment.

  2. Beautifully done Ron. You MUST tell me when you’re in the lowcountry – I live about an hour north of Beauford close to Charleston. Would love to meet you and Lynn if you’re nearby! And you’re really ticking me off since I didn’t know about this site and you’ve done such a great job with it!!

    1. We are through the Lowcountry several times a year; we have kids in eastern NC. Would love to meet you and Bailey as well. It amazed us that so few people knew about these sites. Probably just as well.

  3. Love all of these images, Ron. What a picturesque place for wedding photos, but I can understand the frustration of the family at the thoughtlessness of the smokers, especially. I look forward to seeing more of your discoveries. 🙂

    1. Thank you as always, Sylvia. Apparently the site is the property of a nearby church so the descendants have little control, thus their frustration.

  4. An awesome experience in studying your photos. One can feel the history, smell the land. Thanks

    1. Thank you so much Dudley for your kind comment. You made my day.

  5. Wow Ron! Great pics and equally great story. Travel has so many rewards.

    1. Thanks Randy. One never knows what is around the next curve. 🙂

  6. The monochrome look works splendid for this blog post. Great writing and images to go with.

    1. Of course I took the images in color and thought of using them that way but they just didn’t have the emotion and mood the B&W have. Thanks for your thoughtful comment Jason.

  7. Very nice photos – I love this part of the south – was lucky to see the Chapel of Ease some years back – and Beaufort – such rich places to wander and soak in the atmosphere.

  8. What an amazing church and setting. Again, I love your black and white moody photographs. Kudos once again, Ron. 🙂

    1. Thank you Cathy. It has been a great project with several more sites to go.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: