Monday, July 9, 2018

Grave Discovery in the ACE Basin!

Boynton Trail 

Yesterday, I had quite an adventure on the nature trail at the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area in South Carolina's ACE Basin. 

Within the Colleton County refuge's 8,000 acres is the Boynton Trail. A day can be spent at this place alone, with its miles of trails through and around former rice fields and wooded areas.

I have visited the Boynton Trail (this link is one of my posts) a number of times over the years. Several of my Donnelley and Boynton blogs posts can be found by using the "Search This Blog" feature to the right. I went there just two weeks ago and had a really neat encounter with a pair of Painted Buntings.  I will post some of those photographs in the days ahead.

After that recent visit, I was determined to get back soon. Here is why (see next picture):

A small cemetery in the woods

At Donnelley's main entrance off Highway 17 visitors can pick up different printed guides. These include a detailed one about the Boynton Trail.

In this guide there is a brief reference to "several raised crypts" behind a large magnolia tree in the woods at the back part of the grounds.

On a few occasions I have tried to find this gravesite, with no success. So after coming here recently, I made up my mind that I would try my best to find the place.  Last Friday I called the Donnelley office and spoke to a very helpful worker, Cathy Bazzel.

She gave me some general location information but said she would get back to me after doing some more research, talking to someone, etc.

Access through Stock's Creek Road
When Cathy got back to me, she had some very specific directions and also suggested it would be closer to the gravesite if I parked by a back gate to the refuge, which is located off a dirt road called Stock's Creek Road.

She said from this gate, I should walk 650 yards on the path and then look to the right for a large magnolia tree.

Log jam? No problem on foot!

This would prove easier said than done.  The problem wasn't this pine tree that had fallen across the trail (I am going to call Cathy to tell her about this tree and my other findings).

It took me a couple back and forth walks to zero on the distance and landmarks. So I'm getting my exercise, no problem!

Boynton's paths are great for walking as long as the grass isn't too high

I knew I had walked too far when I left the wooded trail and got into the open space that you see here. So I turned around and walked back to my car, hoping I might find that big magnolia tree.

I didn't, so back at the gate by my car I took a deep breath, a big gulp of water, and applied more bug spray.

Finally I found a magnolia tree!
On my Apple Watch I went to the exercise app for outdoor walk, which I used on the first pass, but this time I more carefully gauged the distance Cathy had given me: 650 yards, which equates to .369 miles. I restarted the walk app and off I went.

When I got to .369 I went back into the woods. Along the trail I had not seen a single magnolia tree, so that made the search more difficult.

In the woods, I figured the graves had to be in this area!  I was thinking how disappointed it would be to go home without making this find.

Where is that big magnolia tree?!  Cathy warned me that it may have been knocked down during one of the recent hurricanes in the Charleston area. So I was looking at the fallen trees too.

I'm no tree expert but I do know magnolias

Wandering around the woods for several minutes, thinking about ticks, chiggers and snakes (and wishing I had worn long pants!), I started to think I would never find the gravesite back here.

But then on the ground in front of me, I saw I was walking on magnolia leaves.

Found it finally! 

My spirits lifted as I had found a magnolia tree. Then I would see another one not far from the first one.

This is when I saw something man made for the first time in these woods: a crypt!  I took this photo from the spot where I first laid eyes on what I had been looking for so intensely.

There had been a low brick wall around at least part of this site

Here, about 75 steps from the trail, is this lost-to- time cemetery.

There are four crypts, or what would call also be called box tombs.  It is pretty clear that these are not tended to or the surrounding grounds maintained in any way.

But despite the plant growth on and around them, the crypts are tall enough to stand out.

Ledger's look before I cleared the debris

There is also this flat ledger grave. This would turn out to be the one with the most legible inscription.

With my shoes mostly, I cleared off the flowers and plants covering the large slab.

As I shoe-scrubbed my way down the long stone, letters and words began to appear.

Ledger learning- the inscription is legible

Once completely cleared and cleaned as best I could, a story began to unfold.

I like the religious epitaph

I soon was able to read the name of the person buried here:
Leger Hutchinson. Not just Leger Hutchinson but Leger Hutchinson, esq., meaning esquire, meaning he likely was a lawyer.

Please click on the photos to see them bigger and better.

May 1815- a long, long time ago!

I was also surprised to see the year he died: 1815.  Wow, this gravesite is 203 years old!

He was just 24 years old when he passed on May 26, 1815. Like many graves back then this one included his age in months. I could not make out that number.

A few of all five graves
Here you see the Hutchinson ledger grave in relation to the four elevated box tombs.

I can't say if his is the first, oldest or last grave here. The Boynton guide says the crypts here include some from the 18th century.

The entire inscription is shared next.  I am still surprised that I was able to read so much, after my efforts to clear the surface of debris.

High quality gravestone for young Leger

Sacred to the Memory of 
Leger Hutchinson, esq.
Who departed this transition life
in Charleston on the 26th day of 
May 1815 aged 24 years old  
(?) months
In the humble hope of being 
again united to Him in the 
regions of 
everlasting felicity
This memorial is erected by his 
disconsolate Widow 

Green growth covers the red brick 

The crypts were not as forthcoming with their inscriptions.  

Despite the plant growth on and around them, they have held up well all these years.  The bricks have turned green but have held the boxes' shape pretty well.  

These bricks were on the grave when I arrived

But one of them did "give up the ghost" somewhat. The inscription on this one does show through a little. Click on the image to see better what I mean. 

I will try to go back and study this some more.  Maybe I will try that paper and pencil etching technique to bring out the words.  

Hot but happy! 

My smile was well earned this hot and humid summer day! 

I have pulled two ticks off my body. I may have a bit of poison ivy on my foot.

All worth it to satisfy the curiosity I have had for years about these graves. 

A guide for future visits 
For my next visit, or anyone who reads this and wants to go, I have left three bricks by this tree with mushrooms on it (I think that's what those are). 

Last night I posted several of these photographs on a few Facebook sites with members interested in such content. One is "Charleston History before 1945" and another is "South Carolina Picture Project."  

I have been enjoying the many likes and comments. Leger Hutchingson's wife's name appears to have been Anna and her father was Nathaniel Farr. She died in April 1861 as the Civil War was beginning. Her funeral service was in Charleston at St. Michael's Church. She had lived at 251 East Bay St. in a house that is today a Caribbean restaurant (Cane Rhum Bar). She and Leger had a son named Thomas, born in 1812, who would become an "intendant" (mayor) of Charleston.  

Back entrance to the Boynton Trail's Mail Route path
Leger's cause of death is still a mystery. It will also take more digging to find out his family's connection with this remote area. 

I appreciate the folks who showed interest in my grave story and photographs. Kindred spirits that's for sure. 

I am sure I will be adding more information to this post as it becomes known and after return visits (long pants this time, no matter how hot it is!). 

Thank you for reading!

Update: I returned to this site in early 2020. See the story here: 

No comments: