Braddock’s Point Cemetery, Hilton Head, South Carolina

Harbour Town is located in the Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head. It was built in the 1960s and 1970s as an environmentally-friendly (as much as resorts can be!) designed tourist spot. But the land there has a much longer history. A great deal of where Sea Pines is located was known as Braddock’s Point, and the Stoney family and later the Baynard family had a large plantation there (see my post about the Stoney-Baynard Plantation Ruins).

There was a large slave population on Hilton Head, and several very large planations which each occupied a vast space on the island. After the Civil War, the newly-freed slaves (some of who had served for the Union troops who invaded the island early on in the war) settled the first freedman town, called Mitchelville. Largely isolated from the mainland, Gullah culture thrived here and on other coastal islands along South Carolina and Georgia, where language, customs, and culture were creolised from the variety of African heritages of the slaves, along with European influences. Gullah culture thrives to this very day on the island.

In Harbour Town – just beyond the complex where we stayed, I had seen a cemetery marked as “Braddock’s Point Cemetery” on our driving map. We took a walk, and awkwardly nestled between several large hotels and condos was a small cemetery. Further reading lead us to the discovery that the graveyard was a preserved slave cemetery, where descendents are still buried.

Here is the cemetery, surrounded by buildings:

From Braddock’s Po…

There were no graves dated before the Civil War, leading to the assumption that if slaves were buried here, they either were not allowed or could not afford permanent markers. Yet certainly the local community was aware of who was buried here, and there are probable burials in the cemetery of those who were born into slavery, and died after the Civil War.

Here are a row of graves from the Chisolm family, with both older simpler stones and modern laser-carved granite stones:

From Braddock’s Po…

Many of the older stones (post-Civil war into the early 1900s) are simple stone with crude hand-carving. This perhaps indicates either a lack of gravestone resources on the island or the inability to import stones from elsewhere due to finances. An interesting feature on some of these stones, however, was that a ceramic plate was pressed into the center of the stones. This seems to be a unique quality of Gullah tradition. Often ceramic dishware are left or broken at a grave, as burial goods for the dead, or to ward off spirits.

Here is the gravestone of Wesley Young, born Apr 20, 1904, died Sept 26, 1940. The grave has a plate pressed into the stone:

From Braddock’s Po…

Looking around for further information, I can only seem to find descriptions of burial and funeral practices of Gullah and African American cemeteries. Does anyone have further information about the significance of pressing dishware into the stones themselves?

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2 thoughts on “Braddock’s Point Cemetery, Hilton Head, South Carolina

  1. We just returned from our yearly vacation to Hilton Head. This year my husband and I golfed at Harbour Town. We had a caddie named Rick. After we finished the 18th hole he told us he wanted to show us something. He took us to the Braddock's Point Cemetary. He told us slaves were buried here. They believed that they should be buried close to water and that they should bring items to eat with up to the heavens. That is why you will find plates on some of the headstones. They also layed forks, knives, and spoons on top of the headstones, but those are no longer around.

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