AN UNTOLD TREASURE FOR MORE THAN 300 YEARS
AN ISLAND OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCESpring Island is indeed unique and its story is the same. The historical record tells a passionate story of Lowcountry natives, industrious plantation owners, agriculturalists, quail hunting enthusiasts and most recently, land developers endeavoring the risky and courageous preservation of this long treasured property.
Spring Island’s History Trail
The trail was established in 2011 to tell the story of this 3,000+ acre island. Its creation seems an appropriate way to honor those who lived here before us. The path connects the historic house ruins with the wooded space of the Old House Cemetery. Interpretive signs along the trail explore human and natural history and geography, celebrating South Carolina’s deep roots a variety of cultures.
Port Royal Sound is the deepest natural harbor in the Southeast. The Lowcountry, of which Spring Island is a part, consists of a jigsaw pattern of islands and tidal rivers fostering mild, long growing seasons.
In early history, European settlers and native peoples struggled to control the region. Agriculture then brought fields of indigo, rice and Sea Island cotton. In 1862 the Sound’s strategic importance to theConfederacy resulted in a successful Union blockade. Such events have left their marks on the region’s modern-day landscape and culture
The Tabby Ruins Gazebo
The gazebo faces across the Colleton River to the western shore of Port Royal Sound and the view of theAtlantic Ocean. At the trailhead two interpretive signs help us gain a deeper understanding of our geographical position and historical juncture.
The timeline offers significant dates from the geological and archeological records, and history. A panoramic “locator” sketch identifies places of interest withinBeaufort County and noteworthy commercial and population centers beyond the horizon that have played important roles in SpringIsland’s chronology.
Every phase of Spring Island’s history connects to water. The Broad River estuary is an especially fertile ecosystem, conducive to oyster growth. The super-abundance of edible fish, the ease of intercoastal transportation and deepwater access appealed to Native Americans and to European explorers and settlers.In the 16th and 17th centuries Spring Island lay along critical shipping lanes linking Caribbean, NewEngland, European and African trade hubs. In 1861 the “Battle of Port Royal Sound,” an engagement impacting the course of the Civil War, was fought within earshot of Spring Island.
A 1706 Crown Grant from the Lord’s Proprietors awarded Spring Island to John Cochran. In the early1800s Cochran’s descendant George Edwards built the historic structure that now forms a keynote to the history trail. Little is known about his family. They made a sizable fortune growing Sea Island cotton on Spring Island and their primary residence was at 14 Legare Street in Charleston.The Edwards’ prosperity declined during the Civil War. The “Old House” survived, but Spring Island passed out of the family’s hands by the end of the 1880s
Spring Island’s first inhabitants lived here over 8,000 years ago. Archeological surveys from theWoodland Period (500 B.C.) have unearthed artifacts (including bones of wild game, grinding stones and many pottery shards).Local tribes included the Witcheaugh, Escamacu and Wimbee, who were absorbed by Yemassee refugees fleeing Spanish colonization of Florida. In 1715, the Yemassee Rebellion was sparked by a massacre at Pocataligo that took the lives of John Cochran and his wife. This conflict roiled the Lowcountry for a period of two years.
Spring Island’s “praise house” memorial was built by residents in 2010 of recycled, historical timbers in an archetypal minimal style with low benches.Gullah praise houses were community centers for education and spiritual fellowship, and ad hoc courthouses where differences were aired and settled. This tradition was carried forward into the 20th century and is still knows as the “praise house spirit.”
Two of three marked headstones in the burial ground are graves of men who fought for the Union army in the Civil War. Collins Mitchell’s tombstone gives his alias, “John Fripp.”Mitchell and his family were born into slavery but were separated at some point.He served in the 21st Regiment, USCT, participating in the siege of Charleston. In an extraordinary story, the family somehow reconnected, returning to Spring Island following emancipation. Collins Mitchell died free on SpringIsland in 1910.
THEN AND NOW
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Spring Island Realty
38 Mobley Oaks Lane | Okatie, SC 29909