Prior to the Revolutionary War, ten parishes were established in this coastal area of South Carolina that linked the important towns such as Savannah and Charleston. One of these was St. Bartholomew’s Parish (now Colleton County). Chapels of Ease were constructed so families who lived far from main parish churches could gather and attended services. The Pon Pon Chapel of Ease was located on Parker’s Ferry Road a stagecoach route between Charleston and Savannah. This patch of land has seen warfare and bloodshed for hundreds of years so it’s not strange that it’s has a reputation for being haunted.
Much of the parish was destroyed during the Yemassee War of 1715 (1715-1717). This war was fought between the British settlers and the Yemassee tribe and others from the surrounding area. Hundreds of colonists and traders were killed and settlements were razed. Those who survived fled to Charles Town where many faced starvation when food supplies ran low. The tide turned when the Cherokee tribe sided with the settlers.
On December 9, 1725, the Assembly of the Province of South Carolina permitted a church to be built here and it acted as both a parish church and a chapel of ease, a unique arrangement in South Carolina.
In 1754, the wooden structure was replaced with a brick one, and it burned down in 1801, and it subsequently became known as the Burnt Church. The structure was rebuilt between 1819 to 1822, and living up to its name, it burned down in 1832, however residents in the area continued to use its graveyard.
In 1781, General Frances Marion ambushed 540 Hessians, British redcoats and Tories along Parker's Ferry road. They were defeated and withdrew back to Charles Town.
A 1959 Hurricane Gracie toppled much of the remaining ruins of the church, further eroding the structure. However, the two standing walls allow viewers to imagine how the chapel of ease appeared in its glory. On October 8, 2017 Hurricane Matthew caused further damage.
The chapel is close to the Edisto River. The plantations along the river produced sea island cotton which was exported worldwide.
Edisto Island is about an hour south of Charleston, and like many of those who lived in the Low Country they suffered the scourge of diphtheria, most of the victims were children. Prior to the Civil War little was known about the disease, except that the first symptoms were a sore throat and fever. A membrane forms in the throat, tonsils and nose leading to a swelling known as bull neck. Suffocation comes about when breathing becomes impossible.
During the summer months, burying the dead was essential when decomposition of the body started almost immediately. It was this practice which also spurred the fear of being buried alive, since sometimes pronouncements of death were premature and the person was only in a coma. Stories abound of evidence of corpses found scratching the doors of mausoleums or the interior lids of a coffin years after they were interred.
The church and cemetery can be found at a place called Burnt Church Crossroads – off SC 64 just outside of Jacksonboro.
The following are South Carolina ghost stories:
The Ghost of Wright Square (Savannah, Georgia)
The ghost of an indentured servant is said to haunt the area where she was hanged shortly after giving birth to her son.
On March 1, 1734, a man named William Wise was found dead in his house on Hutchinson Island, across the river from Savannah. His body was lying on a bed. His head, however, was in a large pail of water. He still had a neckerchief tied around his neck and it looked as if he had been strangled and drowned. His death was the first murder in the fledgling colony of Savannah. Wise had arrived in December 1733, taking it upon himself to sail to Savannah after the Georgia Trustees in England balked at putting him on the charity list. He had a reputation for being somewhat shady, taking with him a young woman he passed off as his daughter but who was in fact a prostitute. Instead of sending him back to England, James Oglethorpe put him across the river at the cattle farm. Missing from Wise’s home when his body was discovered were two of his Irish indentured servants, Alice Riley and Richard White.
She came from a well-to-do South Carolina family. She was driven to despair over an arranged marriage, she attempted suicide twice. She was successful the second time.
Fannie Heldmann’s father, George, a prominent businessman in Greenville, arranged for her to marry his business partner. Fannie is said to have “gone insane” while planning her wedding (which she was clearly not excited about). One night in 1889, she slipped out of her bedroom, walked down to what we know as Falls Park, and drowned herself in the Reedy River. Her grave is marked with an enormous concrete angel. Fannie’s unsettled spirit haunts the cemetery.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer