For a quick history lesson, be sure to drive or bike by any one of the area’s historic churches. Most of these churches began as places of worship for abandoned or freed slaves during and after the Civil War. Remarkably, most of these century-old houses of worship still open every Sunday.
One of the oldest buildings in Hilton Head is the small, white Queen Chapel, an African Methodist-Episcopal church, located on Beach City Road and founded in 1865 by missionaries. It served as a praise house for slaves on the Pope Plantation. The original building has been updated, both in 1892 and again in 1952.
Also founded in 1865 and located on Beach City Road is the First African Baptist Church. St. James Baptist Church, founded in 1886, is located near the old Mitchelville neighborhood where abandoned slaves lived and farmed the land during the Civil War.
The Zion Chapel of Ease was small Episcopal Church built in 1788 for plantation owners. All that remains today is the cemetery, located at the corner of Mathews Drive and William Hilton Parkway (U.S. Hwy. 278). The Zion Cemetery is also home to the Baynard family mausoleum, built in 1848 and now the oldest intact structure on the Island. The site is owned and maintained by the Heritage Library Foundation.
Bluffton’s Church of the Cross is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This Episcopal Church, built in 1857, sits on a bluff overlooking the May River. Guided and self-guided tours of the church and historic Bluffton are available.
For more information, contact:
Heyward House Historic Center (843-757-6293)
Heritage Library Foundation (843-686-6560)
Live Oac Adventures (888-254-8362)
Outside Hilton Head (800-686-6996)