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Archive for June, 2012

Support Animal Lovers of Edisto

Friday, June 29th, 2012

People aren’t the only ones who love Edisto.

Driving onto the island many people notice the dogs that are on the side of the road looking up at the cars wondering if those people might be their families. These dogs gravitate towards people because they don’t have families of their own, or at least they don’t have them anymore. But this is where Animal Lovers of Edisto comes in.

ALOE is a small group of individuals who make it a point to save the lives of these dogs. Every year, the group takes on and finds homes for close to 50 dogs, sometimes more, sometimes less, it just depends on how many need help.

ALOE sees that these dogs are given proper vet care which includes getting them current with vaccinations and spaying/neutering, they’re given monthly flea/tick/heartworm medication, and most importantly, they are given shelter and love.

Many of these dogs come to the shelter not knowing what it is to be loved, but after being snuggled by ALOE volunteers and experiencing what it is like to be a part of a family, they become every bit as social and loving as family pets. Plus, rescue dogs always know they were rescued and there’s just something about the bond between a human and a rescued dog that is just indescribable.

To take care of these dogs, ALOE relies entirely on donations from the community and visitors. They work to stretch every dollar and do everything possible to make sure every dog gets the best care possible. However, donations are always greatly needed and appreciated.

So, if you want to help out Edisto’s furriest residents, consider making a donation. EdistoIsland.com will give prizes to anyone who makes a contribution that fits these donation levels:

$5 or more and you get a free EI sticker

$25 or more and you get a free EI sticker AND a free t-shirt

$50 or more and you get 3 EI stickers and 3 t-shirts in any size

The cost of the stickers and shirts are donated to ALOE at not cost and will not be deducted from donations, so rest assured that your donation will go directly to ALOE.

If you want to find out more about ALOE, visit AnimalLoversofEdisto.com or go to Facebook.com/animalloversofedisto

Donations can be sent directly to ALOE here: http://www.animalloversofedisto.com/donate.html

A Look Back: The Return to Edisto

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

After the Civil War ended, many of Edisto Island’s plantation owners were eager to return home. But there was one major problem that loomed in their way: the government had allocated the old plantation lands to the newly emancipated African Americans so that they could make a living for themselves and the original owners of the land would have to fight to get it back.

A petition was drawn up by close to 100 planters who wanted President Andrew Johnson to know that redistribution of their land was not something they would accept. Amazingly, Johnson sent a general to Edisto to work out an arrangement between the landowners and emancipated African Americans. The resulting outcome was this: Whatever crops were planted in 1865 had to be left to those who had planted it, African Americans on the land were allowed to stay on the plantation as long as they agreed to contract their labor to the legal owners (or lease crop land from them), and landowners were not to interfere with the schools set up by the African Americans.

Although this decision was not ideal for pre-war landowners, it expedited the restoration process and many families were able to get back to their rightful homes.

For instance, the attorney for John Ferras Townsend, owner of Bleak Hall, Botany Bay and Sea Cloud plantations field for restoration of these properties. While the pre-war landowners were gone, Sea Cloud’s big house was home to 35 African Americans. The home had lost much of its grandeur and was dilapidated. Since many of the African Americans living in the house did not possess certificates denoting their rights to the land, Sea Cloud was reclaimed by its rightful owner in 1866.

The same situated occurred at Bleak Hall. The main house had burned down, but several smaller structures still stood and provided shelter for 115 African Americans, but only three held certificates to the land, so Townsend was able to regain control of the land. He did, however, agree to let the people who were living there stay as long as they were willing to sign a labor and occupancy contract.

Botany Bay was also recovered and restored, although documentation specifying the recovery of that land is unclear.

All throughout the island, pre-war owners filed documents to have their lands returned to them. Some agreed to let the African Americans stay on and farm the land, others did not.

Although returning home is something most people love to do after an extended absence, the homes these people and the newly freed African Americans returned to were reminders of the perils of war. Many of the homes had been ransacked and were missing everything from doors to windows to simple furnishings. Anything of value had either been taken by the families when they evacuated at the start of the war or by Union troops when the occupied the land.

Homes weren’t the only things that had changed. Barns were burned town, fields were burned or overgrown, wagons were broken or burned, fences were down, fallen trees blocked roads, boats were sunken or washed up on shore, and all the tools needed for rebuilding all that was lost were essentially nonexistent.

In addition to the living conditions, whites who had once dictated the actions of the African Americans on the land were now required to pay them for their labor and tensions grew.

It is said that many of the plantation owners felt as though the African Americans were not working hard enough to get the cotton crops to flourish. But during this time the newly freed African Americans were also working on their own food crops to make sure they would have enough food to live off of through the winter.

Another issue at hand was that the African Americans were at an unfair advantage when it came to receiving payment for their work. Many times the plantation owners did not give them fair wages and knew that because the vast majority of these people had no arithmetic skills they could not challenge them.

The planters and the newly freed African Americans contended with these issues on a regular basis. Some managed to work out peaceful relationships the benefited both parties, while others continued to struggle with the changes. Some plantations continued to flourish and withstand the test of time, while others succumbed to the pressure of the changes at hand and eventually crumbled into disrepair.

To this very day the plantations from this era still exist. Some are still the fine homes they always were, others are in various stages of disrepair, and others have faded into obscurity.

The Old Post Office Restaurant

Monday, June 18th, 2012

The Old Post Office Restaurant on Edisto Island has long been a place of tradition for many local families and visitors.

Growing up, my parents, grandparents and all of the older relatives always arranged to have dinner at the restaurant at least once during our two-week vacation. Us younger kids weren’t allowed to go because it was “adult time.” We’d usually stay home at the beach house and have some pizza and didn’t think much about it.

But then came the day when we were finally old enough to go along with the rest of the family to the Old Post Office.

My grandparents made reservations for the family and made a big to-do about the fact that the grandkids were coming as though he was bringing along a passel of toddlers instead of young teenagers. But we didn’t care; we were just happy to finally get to go to this place that our family had raved about for so many years.

Instead of the traditional beach attire most people don while on vacation, we put away the flip flops and bathing suits, wore our hair down, and slipped on some summer dresses suitable for dining.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we waited for our reserved table to be ready and snacked on the pimento cheese dip appetizer. Once seated, I remember looking at the menu for the first time and not being sure of what to order. Not normally a seafood-eater, I surprised myself by ordering the Firecracker Flounder. To most simply describe it I would just have to say it was delicious.

It’s a fried dish topped with a spicy jalapeno tomato sauce and comes along with a house salad, bread, grits and the vegetable of the day, all of which adds up to a feast. I have to say that I love the firecracker flounder so much that I tend to get it every time I visit the Old Post Office.

If you noticed that grits come along with the meal then, depending on where you’re from and your experience with grits, you’re probably wondering what to expect from a side of grits. Well, here’s your answer: Creamy, buttery goodness.

The Old Post Office grits come straight from the Geechie Boy market right up the road on Highway 174. If you’ve never tried them before, I highly recommend getting your first taste from the Old Post Office.

After my first time at the restaurant, I always made it a point to go along each year thereafter. The tradition was made even more delightful when I went the year I turned 21 and got to have cocktails with my parents and grandparents. That time was like an official stamp into the world of adulthood (although I can’t say that’s 100 percent accurate seeing as I wasn’t the one footing the bill for the family dinner; that form of adulthood still hasn’t hit me yet).

At the end of 2006 our tradition of going to the restaurant was halted when it closed down for a few years. That’s when Adam Morris and his wife decided to take a crack at the restaurant business and let the doors of the Old Post Office open again.

Morris’ family has owned the property where the restaurant sits and the house behind it since 1984, but they’d always leased the building to others who wanted to run the restaurant. Morris said he decided to leave his career in educational video production and come back home to run the restaurant for a change of pace.

By 2008, Morris and his wife along with Executive Chef Cherry Smalls and a small staff welcomed diners back into the Old Post Office.

Although the interior has changed over the years, now the walls are a South Carolina blue and all the windows are covered in white shutters to let the sunlight stream in, Morris said everything else has stayed very much the same.

The menu has all the same items families have come to love over the years like the pimento cheese dip served with crackers, homemade soups, roasted scallops, Carolina ribeye, and much more. Smalls’ added to the menu some, but kept the old favorites as well.

The restaurant also offers a decent wine list with a fair price for bottles and glasses.

Much of the food is fresh and comes from local vegetable and seafood markets found right here on Edisto when possible. Desserts are made in-house by Smalls who said she works to incorporate seasonal fruit into her pies and cobblers.

Dinners average in price at about $24 and are worth every penny.

Reservations are required at the Old Post Office. Morris said reservations help the kitchen staff to make sure that they are preparing enough food for their customers for the evening so that they don’t have to see much go to waste.

In spite of my family’s rule about no children going to the restaurant before the teen years, children are welcome at the Old Post Office. They offer a limited menu for children, which includes shrimp and grits or chicken fingers. No high chairs or booster seats are provided.

The restaurant opens at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday –Saturday and is located at 1442 Highway 174. Call 869-2339 to make a reservation.

As for myself, I’ll be sitting down with my family in two weeks when they come down from up north for dinner at the Old Post Office; after all, it’s tradition.

End of a Hidden Treasure: Sea of Peace to Close

Monday, June 11th, 2012

It’s no secret that Edisto Island is a place to get away from it all. Whether it’s the gentle breeze that softly shakes the tall blades of grass that cover the marsh, the crashing of the waves on the beach, or existing harmoniously with the abundant wildlife that call this place home, it all adds up to make the island a place of tranquility.

But there’s one place on Edisto that not too many people know about. It’s a place open to anyone looking to step away from daily life and take a time out. That place is the Sea of Peace House of Prayer.

Located on Palmetto Pointe Lane in the section of the island known as “The Neck,” this place is “an ecumenical center of spirituality for discovery, quiet contemplation and nourishment for people on their spiritual journey.”

Sea of Peace began back in 1994 on Jungle Road and was started by Sisters of the Dominican Order with Sister Betty Condon as the driving force behind the project.

Condon grew up in the Charleston area and entered into the sisterhood as a young woman. She spent many years doing retreat work all throughout the world, but decided that Edisto was as good of a place as any for a tranquil and spiritual getaway.

What solidified her decision to start a retreat on Edisto was the fact that a property was made available for use at a low rate on Jungle Road.

Condon spent more than four years at the property on Jungle Road providing visitors with retreats, spiritual direction, and a place for meditation. When the house was sold, Sea of Peace moved to its current location on Palmetto Pointe Lane.

This new location provided guests with almost panoramic views of the salt marsh, wood trails to walk along, screened-in porches, and a stone-lined labyrinth for those interested in praying while walking along a circular path.

The wildlife native to the area frequently walks through the grounds so it is no surprise for guests to see a family of deer grazing in the yard, egrets standing in the marsh water, or raccoons making use of the bird baths.

Condon said that during her 11 years at Sea of Peace sisters in the Dominican Order visited from all over the world along with everyday people in need of a place to go to rejuvenate their spirits and they were all taken in by the beauty and relaxation offered by the island.

Although Condon retired and Sea of Peace is now run by Sister Sharon Culhane, it still serves as a place for people to visit and connect with themselves, with nature, or one another.

Just recently, Culhane said two women, a mother and a daughter, came to Sea of Peace to repair their relationship with one another. She said they spent much of the time in prayer and meditating and by the end of the trip they had restored much of their relationship.

But stories like this will soon be a thing of the past because Sea of Peace is closing. Like many things nowadays, the economy has made it so that it is difficult for the Dominican sisters to continue offering the service and the house where the retreat is located is now for sale.

Both Condon and Culhane said that they wish that Sea of Peace could go on, but this will be its last summer.

Culhane said that from here on out until the house sells things at Sea of Peace will be slower than normal. She isn’t taking as many reservations and is slowly letting go of some of the books and other media that guests have used over the years.

“I wish it could stay open,” Culhane said, “but it would take a miracle.”

Individual retreats are $60 per person per day. Spiritual direction sessions are $25 per session. However, because the house of prayer is closing, Culhane said that she taking fewer reservations nowadays. But if you’re already in the area and need some time to center yourself, pray or meditate, the labyrinth is always open.

Remember, Sea of Peace and the labyrinth are open to people from all walks of life and all faiths.

If you’d like to visit Sea of Peace before it closes call 843-869-0513 or email Culhane at sharonculhane@bellsouth.net.




Evacuating Edisto during the Civil War

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

Evacuation is a word that islanders dread. Most times, the word means that a hurricane is coming and for safety reasons residents should high-tail it off the island and away from their homes. But in 1861, when Edisto’s residents were told to evacuate it was for a much different reason.

The day was November 9, 1861 and Colonel Drummond told white residents that the Civil War had made its way to Edisto. The residents were told to gather their belongings (including their slaves) quickly, destroy any harvested cotton that they had not yet shipped off, burn the cotton crops and kill any livestock they could not take with them. All of this was done so that the encroaching enemy would not be able to take the belongings they left behind to use against the Edistonians.

Although many crops were destroyed, some planters disobeyed the orders and left their crops in tact hoping to come back and resume business after the war. Unfortunately, that never happened.

When the enemy came to Edisto, they burned cotton crops that remained and herded the abandoned cattle. Much of the cattle was also allowed to roam free, which resulted in numerous crops becoming eaten and trampled.

What was even more tragic was the fact that many of the slaves were left behind because the plantation owners and planters had no place to bring them. Many times the families were splintered due to the fact that some slave-owners selected certain slaves to bring along with them while leaving the others behind. However, these slaves were not without resources; many of them had their own gardens, homes, and access to whatever the plantation owners had left behind. In addition, with all of the whites gone from the island, it was the first time in Edisto’s history that these people were actually free. However, this freedom came with a price.

Confederate soldiers kept watch on Edisto and when slaves purportedly shot at the soldiers they risked being killed or re-enslaved. The story that has been told time and again on Edisto is that approximately 80 slaves who were left behind were removed from the island by Confederate soldiers, but there is nothing that documents what fate these people succumbed to.

Once the Union army made its way to Edisto in February of 1862 the former slaves no longer had to fear being re-enslaved. However, nearby Confederate soldiers often waged deadly attacks against the Union soldiers hoping to remove them from Edisto.

During this time, the former slaves were free to mix with the whites who now occupied Edisto. They worked for them and earned a living for the first time in their lives. By May of 1862, word had reached Edisto that all slaves in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina had been emancipated.

As the months went by with the newly emancipated people working along with whites for the first time, more and more Northerners came to the island. It was their hope that they could get the crops going again and hire the former slaves to work the fields.

The federal government at that time offered a program so that meals, housing and protection for the former slaves working the fields would be provided as long as the farming of this land was successful. In addition, this program was intended to teach these people necessary skills for joining the workforce now that they were no longer slaves. By June of that year, the cotton, corn and potato crops were flourishing. But the good times did not last.

Union troops on Edisto using Point of Pines Plantation as a staging area were gearing up to launch an attack on Charleston. Many left on foot in the stifling summer heat to battle while others went aboard a steamer headed for Hilton Head.

The former slaves were once again the only people on the island, but this time, they faced the wrath of Confederate soldiers who wanted them dead.

To protect these people, General Hunter ordered close to 2,000 former slaves including women and children to load up their pigs and chickens and belongs and get on a barge heading for St. Helena Island where they stayed until the war ended.

It wasn’t until 1865 that the people ordered to evacuate the island four years earlier were able to return to what remained of their homes on Edisto.



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