These tabby walls are all that remain of an old chapel-of-ease on St. Helena Island. The chapel was built in the mid-1700s and served the families who owned plantations on St. Helena Island.
The primary parish church, though known as St. Helena’s Church, was actually located in Beaufort, making it too far away for the planters to regularly attend services. Therefore, the Anglican Church established this “chapel of ease” nearer their homes.
The federal government gained control of South Carolina’s sea islands early in the Civil War. Plantation owners were forced to abandon their land, leaving their slaves behind. The slaves found themselves in legal limbo – no longer enslaved, but not yet officially free.
Northern missionaries and teachers came south and with support from the federal government, established what came to be known as the Port Royal Experiment – the country’s earliest effort to educate and train former slaves to work outside of the institution of slavery.
After the Civil War, the church continued to be used as an outpost by a variety of freedmen’s groups. A forest fire destroyed the building in 1886 and it was never repaired. The stereoscopic view (seen below) depicts the chapel before it was destroyed by fire.
The St. Helena Chapel of Ease is listed in the National Register:
This ruin is significant as a relatively intact example of mid-eighteenth century tabby construction and for its association with the St. Helena Parish, both as a secondary and primary place of worship for inhabitants of the parish. It was built ca. 1740 as a chapel of ease, to serve planters in St. Helena Parish who lived at great distances from the parish church in Beaufort and could not regularly attend services there. By 1812, the population of St. Helena Island had increased to the extent that the chapel of ease was designated a parish church. The church was virtually abandoned when the planters evacuated the island in the fall of 1861. During the Federal occupation of St. Helena, the church was used frequently by several of the Northerners who had come to the island to educate and train the freedmen. It was also used as a sanctuary by Methodist freedmen as early as 1868, but was burned by a forest fire in February 1886 and was never repaired. Much of its historic fabric, including the church walls and much of its plaster, remains. A small cemetery adjacent to the church ruin contributes to the historic character of the property.
St. Helena Chapel of Ease – Wedding Venue
The Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort manages the Chapel of Ease and the ruins at the Old Sheldon Church. Couples wishing to be married at the site must be members of the parish.
More Pictures of the St. Helena Chapel of Ease
Larry Rix says
My wife and I love to take tangential drives in odd directions. We stumbled into this while it was shrouded in fog. As such, it is one of the most stunning finds we’ve ever discovered as we drive the roads and back roads of our home while we explore! This place and its history is awesome. We invite you to explore and come and see!
Diane Rivera says
My grandmother lived here, and I wonder if her name or her mother’s name are listed somewhere as parishioners … last name Pennington.
Edward M. Erdelac says
List of the names on the headstones: internment.net/data/us/sc/beaufort/chapel_ease/index.htm
Dianne Gassman says
We just visited the site and noticed from the stones there are a lot of little children buried there. A beautiful peaceful place built in the 1700s and still standing today in 2019. Love the tabby, you can see the shells. I would like to know if this was just a children’s cemetery and who was buried in the vault.
SC Picture Project says
We agree, it is a beautiful place. It is not just a children’s cemetery and the vault contains Edgar and Elizabeth Fripp, they once owned nearby Seaside Plantation. A listing of their memorial can be found here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/21385857/edgar-fripp
Christopher Corbett says
Diane, you can check with the Diocese of Charleston.
Jeannie Ilderton Frederick says
These photos are all incredibly beautiful, and I’d love to have them and others from the beauty of the South altogether w/ other photos of such great quality, in a coffee table book to share w/ family and my friends. They’d all want to go there and see more.
Vicki Cook says
Can you give me any history on the fencing around the graves.
Patricia Jordan says
I am an out of towner and I’d love to have my wedding at the St. Helena chapel of Ease. How can I do that?
Hi, Patricia. According to the parish church, people must now be members of St. Helena’s in Beaufort in order to be married at the site. Here is the church’s website for further information: http://www.sthelenas1712.org/
Michele, I’m going there this weekend, will be sure to look and let you know.
I’m looking for a headstone: Lynes, 1802-1870. Can someone tell me if it’s there? Thank you.
Love this place – it is enchanting!
Rodney, contact St. Helena’s Church in Beaufort, S.C. I so want to visit this site in the near future! It’s just beautiful, and I love the history of S.C.
Elaine of SC says
Beautiful. I’d like to visit someday when I visit my hometown. Intriguing.
Getting married here soon 🙂
I love this place. It is so beautiful. I have visited it many times. Anyone who wants to visit, just make sure you wear long pants and closed toed shoes. The “nettles” are killers.
Can someone please tell me how to get in touch with the owner of this property?
margaret berry says
I’m looking for the slave owners of my fathers family, their last name is Hill.
I love this. Beautiful.