From the ancient remnants of the Sewee to the plantations, the history of Bulls Bay is alive and well and ready to be discovered.
Native American Pathways
Before South Carolina became colonized, Native Americans called the Bulls Bay area home going back thousands of years. Left behind for us to explore today are several rare shell rings, visible on the one-mile Sewee Shell Ring Interpretive Trail within the Francis Marion National Forest or by exploring Bulls Island, a barrier island in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
To literally follow in the footsteps of Native American heritage, travel a 12-mile portion of Old Georgetown Road, one of the longest surviving unpaved sections of the original King’s Highway. The road was a Native American trading path before King Charles II of England directed colonial governors to build a formal route in the late 1600s, ultimately connecting the original 13 colonies.
Before establishing Charleston on the peninsula, a group of settlers stopped first at what is now known as Bulls Island. The island is much like it would have been then, meticulously preserved within Cape Romain. You will also be able to see the ruins of what is believed to be an original lookout tower from the 1700s, most likely constructed to watch out for pirates.
Another group of settlers arrived in present day Awendaw from Ipswich, Massachusetts in the late 1600s. They were Congregationalists, and formed what they called the community of Wappetaw. Their original cemetery and one of their later churches (New Wappetaw) can still be seen today.
Jamestown was founded by a settlement of French Huguenots, who fled religious persecution here in the late 1600s. The area was soon known as the St. James Santee Parish. Two of their churches still exist, and defintiely don’t miss out the local Village Museum for great information and exhibits of the settlements of the area.
Shortly after colonization, the area was prime real estate for wealthy planters for first indigo and then rice. After the Civil War many of the homesteads fell to ruin, some still stand, and others converted to hunting reservations and eventually the preserved lands they are today. Hampton Plantation is a well preserved example of a colonial-era rice plantation. The National Historic Landmark offers house tours, and you can also wonder the grounds, which still have the remnants of rice fields along Wambaw Creek.
You can also check out Hopsewee, a rice plantation that is the birthplace of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Here you can take a house tour, see the grounds and original slave cabins, and eat at the tearoom on site.
After the Civil War, McClellanville evolved into the quaint fishing village it is today and leaves behind many places that give you clues to its past. Bethel A.M.E. is a Gothic-Revival structure built in 1872 that stands as an illustration of the growth of the A.M.E. Church among freedmen in Reconstruction-era South Carolina.
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