Welcome to McClellanville SC, an old town that sits along the intra-coastal waterway about thirty miles north of Charleston. Along with all of these southern coastal communities this town has seen more than its share of catastrophes and changes over the years.
A large portion of the town runs along Jeremy Creek, a sheltered tidal waterway that allows deep water access to much of the town. Scores of purple martins wheel and soar around gourd-style bird houses that grace the edge of the creek.
For the most part the homes are the typical southern style with white picket fences and many with the porches that wrap around most of the house.
This early photograph shows Main Street in 1905. The area was first settled by Europeans in the fur trade, and the property was subsequently acquired as a tract of farmland by its namesake Archibald McClellan in 1771. He expanded his tract of land and primarily raised cattle here. Subsequent generations of McClellans produced lime and salt. In the 1850's two of the grandsons began leasing lots to area planters. Being on the water, the town typically has a strong breeze which made it attractive for summer housing.
My guide for the day was Billy Baldwin, lifetime local resident and author of over twenty books on subjects ranging from low-country history to cookbooks to fictional works.
Early on he showed me the Seamen's Memorial, a monument that remembers those local men who lost their lives in the surrounding waters. He tells numerous stories, including one about a captain who successfully swam to save a deckhand only to drown himself. The names of close relatives of Billy's are etched here also.
Billy and a few other locals got together a few years back and put together another memorial for the seamen. Just off the shore in Jeremy Creek are two posts that are topped with bronze sculptures of fishermen's boots. It is a poignant reminder that the sea does not give up her bounty easily.
Just outside the town hall there is a museum. The building is two stories and houses hundreds of artifacts - I will just share a few that I found interesting. It isn't often you see the old gas pumps in any kind of decent condition.
On the patio are a couple of large steel relics. These are the remains of an old wind powered sawmill that was erected on a small island out by Lighthouse Island. Logs were floated out, and the constant breeze on the ocean provided the energy to turn the blades and mill the lumber.
Inside the museum is a model depicting what the mill looked like, and below is the small spit of land that it sat on.
When the Europeans arrived, this area was home to the Sewee Indians. There is the story of the local Indians watching the fur trader's boats sail out of Charleston Harbor and catch the currents running north by this stretch of land. They decided that the fur traders were ripping them off, and that they could cut out the middle man if they just loaded up some canoes and headed where the ships were going. A bunch of them set off for England in their canoes, and unfortunately, the ones who didn't end up drowning were picked up by pirates and sold into slavery in Cuba.
A few years later, the remaining tribe members made the ill fated decision to pick the wrong side in the Yemassee Indian War of 1715. Not long after the war a good portion of the remaining tribe members were gathered up and sold into slavery in the Caribbean Islands.
But to this day numerous pottery items from Indian settlements are found around town.
Remember the ruins of the houses for the light keepers out on Lighthouse Island? Here is an old cistern - that and a few foundations are all that is left out there.
Inside the museum is a scale model of what the lighthouse compound looked like when it was operational.
Another item of interest was an old letter-man's jacket from the 1949 - 1950 high school basketball team. They won the state championship two years straight, and were so good that they beat a couple of college teams head-on, including the Citadel.
Many forms of old money are in the display cases. This one was for plantation work. There is the story of one old plantation owner that would just peel off pine bark and write his "checks" for money due on it.
This old shoulder yoke for carrying heavy objects is kinda neat.
There are a lot of old photos, including a few of whales that were beached in the area.
But curiously missing are any photos from a recent disaster. In September 1989 this area was hit by the most severe part of Hurricane Hugo, a class 4 storm that caused $ 10 Billion in damages.
The town was devastated, with many homes completely gone and boats thrust well inland. Billy feels that many here just aren't ready yet to put photos up about that time period - it was so devastating for so many. Perhaps in a few more years. But looking today, you would have to look hard to see the signs of its passage.
Of note from the area is South Carolina's first Poet Laureate, Archibald Rutledge. He was the last owner of the Hampton Plantation before it was turned into a state historical site. Poems of his appear several places around town, and he was a prolific author as well.
Upstairs in the museum are numerous shelves full of books that contain the genealogy of the local residents.
And just up the street is the town's chapel of ease, an Episcopalian church built in the Gothic style in 1890. It hosts an active congregation to this day.
The stained glass windows with the cross and the anchor are reminiscent of the Seamen's Chapel in Savannah.
At one time, McClellanville was known as the Seafood Capitol of America. Over 100 shrimp boats would jam this creek during season.
Today, there are barely more than a handful of shrimp boats and a couple of oyster boats. At its peak, downtown boasted three hotels (all of which have burned) and 30 businesses. Today the doors are open to two businesses.
But times may be swinging back. Shrimping season just opened, and rumor had it that the highest price ever paid a fisherman for shrimp was paid yesterday - $10 per pound. As we saw all through Port Royal and Beaufort, the shrimping business is floundering here on the east coast. Maybe enough people will start buying local that the industry can be saved.
Today's first parting shot is a little sand shark caught by a man off the pier. It looks every bit as ferocious as its bigger cousins.
But far more detrimental to my serenity today was another carnivorous specie - these horse flies that live in abundance up in this area. They are about an inch long, and man do they put a welt on me when they bite.
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