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Sheldon Church Ruins — Yemassee, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Beaufort County  |  Sheldon Church Ruins

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Sheldon Church Ruins

Please note that the Old Sheldon Church Ruins are located on private property. The property is owned and managed by St. Helena’s Church in Beaufort.

Sheldon Church, formerly known as the Prince William Parish Church, has had a tumultuous and eventful history. From its first service in 1757 to its present peaceful setting, the church has followed the travails of our nation’s history. It is one if not the first churches built in temple form in the United States.

Old Sheldon Graves

Jim Dollar of Indian Land, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Originally organized and funded in the 1740s and 1750s by William Bull, whose Newberry Plantation bordered the church grounds, the church was named Sheldon in honor of the Bull family’s ancestral home in England. The church was set on fire in 1779 by British troops led by General Augustine Prevost during the Revolutionary War. It was rebuilt from the remaining walls between 1825 and 1826.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins in the Fog

Jack Durnin of Charleston, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Tradition states that on January 14, 1865, near the end of the Civil War, General Sherman’s troops burned the church a second time as part of his “March to the Sea” campaign. While the walls still refused to fall, the church was not repaired again. However, another possible fate has come to light. In a letter dated February 3, 1866, after the end of the war, Milton Leverett wrote that “Sheldon Church not burn’t. Just torn up in the inside, but can be repaired.”

Sheldon Church Graveyard

Scott Hansen of Seabrook, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The inside of Sheldon Church was apparently gutted by whites and blacks who needed the materials to rebuild their homes burned by Sherman’s army. This information comes from The Leverett Letters, published by the University of South Carolina Press, and can be found on pages 403 and 405. Please note that the National Register’s description, quoted below, supports the contested theory that the church was burned by General Sherman’s troops.

Sheldon Church View with Grave

Rick Nelson of Frogmore, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

A tablet located at the Old Sheldon Church reads: “Church of Prince William’s Parish, known as Sheldon built between 1745-1755. Burned by the British Army 1779. Rebuilt 1826. Burned by the Federal Army 1865. Tablet placed by Columbia Committee South Carolina Society Colonial Dames of America 1937.”

Old Sheldon Church

John Sabatier of Charleston, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The painting below is a rendering done by artist John Wenrich. Achieved by studying the existing walls and entablature, the rendering is an idea of what the church would have looked like before it fell to ruin. The image was found in the book, Prince William’s Parish and Plantations by John Reynard Todd, published by Garrett and Massie in 1935.

Sheldon Church Painting

Contributed by Sonny Bishop of St. Helena Island,
Prince William’s Parish and Plantations by John Reynard Todd, 1935

Sheldon’s ruins are listed in the National Register:

(Prince William’s Parish Church) Sheldon Church is said to be the first conscious attempt in America to imitate a Greek temple. Built between 1745-1753, the ruins of the church still retain their classic simplicity. Surrounded by moss-draped live oaks, the original three-and-one-half foot thick colonnaded walls of Flemish bond and the four all-header bond portico columns remain, attesting to the solid construction and master craftsmanship which enabled it to withstand two conflagrations and over two hundred fifty years of existence. Complete by 1753, Sheldon Church was built along a row of seven Tuscan columns (six engaged, one outstanding).

The western façade had an elegant portico, crowned by a triangular pediment with bulls-eye window and cornice with dentils. The large front doorway had a fanlight above and two round-headed windows, symmetrically spaced, on either side. On the north, five bays between the engaged columns were filled with a single tier of tall, round-headed windows; the other bay was left open for a portico. At the eastern end, above the alter, was a Palladian window, with a round-headed window to each side. Sheldon Church was burned by General Augustine Prevost’s British troops in May 1779. General Sherman’s 15th Corps under General John Logan burned Sheldon Church on January 14, 1865 and it was never rebuilt. Marble sarcophagi in the churchyard bear the names of South Carolina leaders.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins – Getting Married

The Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort manages Old Sheldon Church and the ruins at the old Chapel of Ease on St. Helena’s. Couples wishing to marry at the sites must be members of the Parish.

Sheldon Wedding

Jim Dollar of Indian Land, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Old Sheldon Church Ruins – Directions

Please note that the ruins rest on private property. The owner, St. Helena’s Church in Beaufort, asks us to share these guidelines for visiting: No climbing on the ruins or grave markers, no touching of the ruins, no littering or defacing the ruins or surrounding property, and respecting the authority of preservationists and St. Helena’s Church members who are charged with maintaining the property.

Sheldon Church at Night

Chad McMeen of Yemassee, 2009 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Old Sheldon Church is located on Old Sheldon Church Road between Gardens Corner and Yemassee. Coming from Beaufort on US 21 North, as you approach the intersection of US 17 at Gardens Corner, bear left, continue through the stop sign and go about 1/4 mile. Turn right onto Sheldon Church Road, which is directly across from Bull Point Plantation. Go about two miles and you’ll see the ruins on the right side of the road.

More Pictures of the Sheldon Church Ruins

Sheldon Ruins Rain

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Old Sheldon Church Full Aerial

Homer M. Pace, III of Charleston, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Church Ruins Aerial

Homer M. Pace, III of Charleston, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Jack Durnin of Charleston, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Old Sheldon Church

Jim Hasapis of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Old Sheldon Church Ruins Painting

Fred Jacob Gray, Jr. of Hampton, 1997 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Arches

Larry Gleason of Aiken, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Church Ruins

Mike Tillison of Orangeburg, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Church Ruins in Snow

Keith Rice of Aiken, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Panorama

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Interior View

Vanessa Kauffmann of Charleston © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on the Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Contributor Susan Klavohn Bryant shares about her photo, seen below: “We visited the Old Sheldon Church ruins on a cold rainy day which made the site seem even more eerie than usual. The gothic architecture, gnarled oaks, Spanish moss, and crumbling gravestones always remind me of a spooky movie set, but it’s a beautiful setting.”

Sheldon Church Ruins

Susan Klavohn Bryant of Mount Pleasant, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sara Dean, the photographer who contributed the picture below, says that Old Sheldon Church Ruins is one of her favorite spots. She points out an interesting detail seen on the interior wall: “To me and others, it is like a face on that wall that is always watching. I walk around down there and have pictures from all angles, and it is like those eyes follow where ever I walk. It is cool and eerie at the same time.”

What do you think?

Sheldon Ruins

Sara Dean of Moncks Corner, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Church Ruins Info

Address: Old Sheldon Church Road, Yemassee, SC 29945
GPS Coordinates: 32.618526,-80.780523

Sheldon Church Ruins Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

Did you enjoy this page? Do you have any information we should add? Send us your comments below — we can't wait to hear from you!

179 Comments about Sheldon Church Ruins

SC Picture Project says:
December 2nd, 2019 at 10:00 am

Hi Allie, we have a section on weddings above. Please review to find your answers. Thanks and congratulations on your engagement!

Allie says:
November 26th, 2019 at 7:11 pm

I think this church is gorgeous! I would love to get married here. Can I be sent more information?

Lynn Gibson says:
October 12th, 2019 at 1:24 pm

I really enjoyed going to see the church and taking pictures and reading all about the church. I want too thank you for letting people see the church. I want to bring my family too see it now.

Aquanette Wilson says:
August 18th, 2019 at 11:04 pm

Who built the church? I would love to know. Please and thank you.

SC Picture Project says:
June 30th, 2019 at 9:01 pm

The site is still open to the public though there is now a fence around the ruins for protection, nobody is allowed around the fence at this time.

Mary says:
June 30th, 2019 at 8:06 pm

Are we allowed to go there to take pictures at all? I own a photography business and I would love to do some photo shoots here. I’d be willing to sign waivers and everything and have my clients sign them as well

SC Picture Project says:
June 16th, 2019 at 9:41 pm

Yes, it is true. The building had suffered vandalism and issues with the ruins becoming more vulnerable to visitors. The fence was placed as a form as preservation.

J Johnson says:
June 16th, 2019 at 5:50 am

I heard rumors that this place now has fences around it and the visitors would not able to walk through this building. Is it true?

SC Picture Project says:
May 30th, 2019 at 10:54 pm

Hello, you would have to reach out to the church directly, their phone number is (843)-522-1712, hope this helps!

Tiffany says:
May 30th, 2019 at 8:28 pm

May I get permission to photograph the church at night and who would I contact to get permission?

Debbie says:
May 13th, 2019 at 1:22 pm

Great article!

SC Picture Project says:
April 1st, 2019 at 4:52 pm

William Bull is buried underneath where the pulpit would have been, which is where that brick marker/structure is that you see in photographs.

Elizabeth says:
April 1st, 2019 at 10:16 am

Question regarding Sheldon Church ruins. What is the brick structure inside the church at the far end from the front door?

Eleanor says:
March 28th, 2019 at 10:42 am

Old Sheldon Church is a wonderfully evocative and spiritual place. My late husband and I used to escape the Canadian winter at Harbor Island and attend services at St. Helena’s. The annual house tour was always a highlight of our stay and a visit to Old Sheldon Church was a must for any of our visitors. Fascinating that it still has a story to tell and new information has been discovered.

SC Picture Project says:
March 17th, 2019 at 6:26 pm

Yes, it is! The ruins make a beautiful backdrop. The caretakers just ask that no one climbs or sits on them.

Angie says:
March 17th, 2019 at 5:19 pm

Is photography allowed at the site? I have a high school senior who may be interested in taking pictures there.

SC Picture Project says:
March 8th, 2019 at 11:25 pm

You’re able to enter the property from sunrise to sunset, daylight hours.

Jak says:
March 8th, 2019 at 9:25 pm

Nothing on this site or any site I can find says anything about hours of operation. What time are we allowed to enter the property?

Joie Buell says:
October 14th, 2018 at 10:19 pm

Is William Bull buried on the church property?

Joie Buell says:
October 14th, 2018 at 9:52 pm

Would love to know more about the history of William Bull. My last name was Bull at one time, and I know my ancestors were from England – first settled in NJ, then migrated to Bulls Gap, TN. Some went to Kentucky, some to Pennsylvania. Any info would be a help. Thank you!

SC Picture Project says:
October 6th, 2018 at 2:37 pm

We are so glad to hear that and we hope you have the best time in Beaufort – it is a gem!

Urban Corso says:
October 5th, 2018 at 12:59 pm

Very informative page. We’re planning a day trip to Beaufort and saw this as a site to see. The information and pictures on this page were very helpful in learning about the ruins prior to visiting. Thank you.

SC Picture Project says:
September 14th, 2018 at 2:27 am

What a beautiful painting, you have such talent and this is extremely kind of you, thank you so much!

Fred Jacob Gray, Jr. says:
September 11th, 2018 at 10:55 am

I have an oil painting of the church ruins that I painted myself, and the painting is in my house. Anyone can use this e-picture. It is 24″ X 30″ oil on canvas. Here is a link

Fred Gray Hampton SC 803 943 3186

Point South KOA says:
September 1st, 2018 at 12:51 pm

Because of Diocese issues, Old Sheldon has suspended all weddings.

SCIWAY says:
August 2nd, 2018 at 1:53 am

Hello, yes unfortunately you do have to be a member of the parish to wed at either of the sites.

Trisha says:
August 1st, 2018 at 10:50 am

Hello, I’m a wedding photographer from Minnesota and I have a client interested in eloping Halloween night for a simple wedding ceremony and we are wondering if the Old Sheldon Church Ruins is available. I saw that you had to be a member of the Parish to use the Church of Ease, but wasn’t sure if that applied to the Old Sheldon as well. Thanks!

gale brice says:
June 7th, 2018 at 7:09 pm

Have been there many times as a child and then as an adult. Last time I was there was 10 years ago and could not figure out what or where is was to find it again. So glad this site is up, thank you. It is beautiful.

holly shurtleff says:
May 28th, 2018 at 9:19 am

Loved the site, want to attend the annual service Easter weekend.

SCIWAY says:
April 28th, 2018 at 9:51 pm

There are! We actually are going to add one here as soon as our website finishes changing servers. The photo is a rendering found in the book Prince William’s Parish and Plantations from the 1930s, a very rare volume.

Orville Edwards says:
April 27th, 2018 at 4:39 pm

Are there any pictures or renderings of what the church looked like before it was burned?

SCIWAY says:
March 31st, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Fantastic you are interest in prints! Each photograph copyright is held by the photographer which is listed under each photo. When available, their websites, if they have one, are linked (if you click their name) under each photo. If you do not see a clickable name, let us know who you’re interested in and we will gladly reach out to the photographer and let them know you are interested in a print. Thank you!

carol harbor says:
March 31st, 2018 at 10:38 am

If I wanted to get prints of these photos on this website, who do I contact?

SCIWAY says:
March 31st, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Hello Carol, we recommend reaching out directly to the people who take care of the ruins, their phone number is (843) 522-1712. They would have the scheduling and answer to your question. Hope this helps, thank you!

carol harbor says:
March 31st, 2018 at 10:33 am

I went by one night and the ruins were lit up (very beautiful!). However, the next two times I was by there at night, it was not lit up! Who, what or when determines when the ruins are lit up at night?

James Edward Daughrity says:
February 23rd, 2018 at 9:46 am

Just wanted to say that it is good to know that your efforts were done with an eye towards unity and brotherhood which is slowly being edged away. Thanks for your site!

Patricia says:
January 24th, 2018 at 11:22 am

I didn’t read what the original denomination of the church was. Could someone help me with that information?

SCIWAY says:
December 25th, 2017 at 11:21 pm

We are not officially affiliated with Old Sheldon Church Ruins so we recommend reaching out to the Parish Church of St. Helena directly to get in touch with them just to be sure the information is up to date, here is the number: (843) 522-1712. Hope this helps!

Nancy says:
December 24th, 2017 at 1:34 pm

I read above that you must be a member of the parish in order to be married at the Old Sheldon Church ruins. Would that be the same for renewing of vows?

Dennis Maher says:
December 8th, 2017 at 10:25 am

Just researched the initial movement of the Union Armies in to South Carolina. The majority of the army left Savannah in late January, 1865. However, Sherman did send the forces of the XVII Corp under BG Francis Blair into the Pocotaligo area as a preliminary movement. The XV Corp under BG John Logan has often been blamed for the burning of the church. After scouring the Official Records of the Rebellion, I could not find a Brigade under his command in the area at the time of the destruction of the church on January 15th. The burning of the church may have been done by Blair’s men in the XVII Corp. I am looking for clarification. I am hoping to visit this sacred shrine next week.

Arroyo says:
September 8th, 2019 at 10:59 am

I heard something different. Not sure who set the fire, but people were hurdled in and they locked the doors and then they burned the church down.

Dennis Maher says:
December 7th, 2017 at 10:44 pm

A little curious about the timetable of events regarding the burning of the Sheldon Church. Sherman’s troops began their march on January 28th, yet the church was burned on January 15th.

Carol Stygles says:
October 30th, 2017 at 5:32 pm

This in one of the most spiritual sites that I have ever visited. There is a quiet beauty to the ruins that is outstanding. This would rank right up there with my favorite places and I would love to visit it again.

Meredith says:
October 12th, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Do you know if there are any old photos or artist renderings of what Sheldon looked like before the war? I would love to have seen her in all her glory, although she’s still stunningly beautiful today.

SCIWAY says:
October 9th, 2017 at 11:36 pm

Great question! There is a small parking area directly across from the entrance to the church, across the road. Hope this helps!

Bonnie says:
October 9th, 2017 at 7:10 am

I have often wanted to stop in to visit the site but signs indicate no parking on the side of the road. Is there a parking area available near by the site?

Dixi says:
October 2nd, 2017 at 11:58 pm

The ruins still appear to point the way to Heaven…

Judith says:
September 18th, 2017 at 3:15 pm

We go past Old Sheldon every time we visit our daughter in Beaufort. We stop frequently to embrace the history and read the grave stones. Amazing experience that never gets old.

Rachel says:
September 18th, 2017 at 3:03 am

Thank you so much!!! 🙂

SCIWAY says:
September 17th, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Hello Rachel, very thoughtful and respectful of you to ask and make sure you are doing the right thing! We know the property owners certainly appreciate that. Old Sheldon Church is open to the public during daylight hours so as long as it is at that time you should be fine! Thanks!

Rachel says:
September 16th, 2017 at 10:37 pm

Hi there 🙂 This place looks amazing!!!! I’d really love to photograph it, but I understand that it’s on private property. How does one go about asking permission to take pictures or get a property release? I’ve called the St. Helena’s Church to inquire, but couldn’t get ahold of the person they gave me to ask. I certainly don’t want to trespass or be disrespectful. Thanks in advance!

SCIWAY says:
August 31st, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Absolutely, the grounds are open! Hope you enjoy.

Christine courtney says:
August 31st, 2017 at 1:48 pm

May I visit for sunrise photography?

SCIWAY says:
August 23rd, 2017 at 12:50 pm

So glad you will take a side trip to visit! It is a remarkably beautiful and peaceful place. Good luck on your search!

Dr Rick Sheldon says:
August 22nd, 2017 at 10:46 am

I have located my mother’s side of family but have not been so fortunate with my father’s side. We know, part in Germany and Part in the UK. Accidentally I came across the Sheldon Church. We will soon visit, since we live in Destin, Fl. This will be a great weekend trip to search some of the Sheldon family tree.

Angela Taylor says:
August 12th, 2017 at 3:30 am

I visited the Sheldon Church a few years ago and as soon as I stepped on the church grounds a feeling came over me and it stayed with me the whole time I was there. It was an absolute mesmerizing experience. I would encourage everybody to visit the Sheldon Church when you get the chance. I promise you that it will be worth it.

SCIWAY says:
July 18th, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Oh wow what fun! We hope y’all had a blast!

Lindsey Moore says:
July 18th, 2017 at 12:00 pm

We are a Texas family on a summer road trip. We are visiting the ruins this afternoon and we are so excited!

Roz says:
September 22nd, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Excuse typo 843-522-1712

Roz says:
September 22nd, 2017 at 3:22 pm

I am parishioner of St. Helenas Beaufort. Contact the church office at 834-522-1712 for information on caregivers for Sheldon Church.

SCIWAY says:
July 10th, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! We are not directly affiliated with Old Sheldon Church so you would have to contact their number. We found this one online: (843) 525-8500. Hope this helps! Thanks.

Kathryn Denison says:
July 10th, 2017 at 7:43 pm

I would like to get married at the Old Sheldon Church ruins on March 17th. How much is it to rent for the day and is it available March 17, 2018?

SCIWAY says:
May 12th, 2017 at 4:22 pm

It is considered publicly accessible during daylight hours so we would imagine any pet on a leash would be okay.

Maria Fierro says:
May 11th, 2017 at 4:58 pm

I would like to know if pets are allowed?

SCIWAY says:
May 1st, 2017 at 9:35 am

Thanks for inquiring, Heather! Anyone is allowed to visit the ruins during daylight hours. Hope you enjoy your visit!

Heather says:
April 30th, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Can anyone visit this site? I would love to get a few pics of our little ones, but I noticed this is private property and don’t want to trespass.

SCIWAY says:
April 19th, 2017 at 8:28 am

Couples wishing to marry at Old Sheldon must be members of the Parish Church of St. Helena. For more, contact the parish: http://www.sthelenas1712.org/

Lauren Ables says:
April 18th, 2017 at 1:31 pm

I want to inquire about booking a wedding at Old Sheldon Church.
Please let me know if there is a certain website I can visit, or someone I can contact, to learn more information in this regard.

Thank you!



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