This message is for Larry…. the gentleman who had a wierd feeling being alone, standing inside the church.: It is English tradition to bury the dead in the floor of the church. You were most likely standing upon the grave of one of my ancestors.
I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon looking up online encyclopedia entries and write-ups on South Carolina’s old Sheldon Church Ruins, but none of them really grabbed me until I was on a photo gallery site and came across an odd comment from one Caroline K. Bull IV. Bull claims to be a descendant of William Bull, the South Carolina lieutenant governor and plantation owner who was instrumental in the building of what was then known as Prince William Parish Church:
The Bull family donated the LAND and the MONEY for this ancient structure to be created. The design was so much a reflection of the life of Lt. Governor William Bull: who is buried as well. …. WAYYYY ahead of it’s (his) time.
It’s Bull’s grave that poor Larry was probably stepping on—it’s located inside the walls of the church, right in front of the altar. Bull didn’t live to see the church completed, but at least he wasn’t around to see it destroyed. Because Prince William Parish Church was to be a casualty of not one war, but two. First it was the Revolutionary War, when British troops burned down the church as well as the plantations around it. In 1826 the church was rebuilt (and renamed Sheldon Church in a nod to Bull’s ancestral home), only to be caught up in the Civil War forty years later. Markers on the church today will tell you that Sherman’s men burned down the church, but some historians think that the building was looted by locals, who tore out the interiors and stole materials so that they could rebuild the homes and communities destroyed by Sherman’s armies.
Caroline K. Bull IV doesn’t mention Sherman in her comment, but she does bring up other vandals—the kinds who carve their names into the walls and mess with the tombs and graves of her ancestors. But nothing seems to make her as angry as weddings.
High heels from dreaded wedding parties trample this sacred, holy ground anually- I’ve personally picked up the cigarrette butts too many times. For the lady who was asking if there are weddings there-Quite UNFORTUNATELY…YES.
St. Helena’s Church in Beaufort is in charge of scheduling them, she says, even though her family never gave them permission. Her family has no say; all they can do is sit back and watch as wedding parties march onto their ancestral grounds. And it seems like the troops march in more than annually; just Google “Sheldon Church Ruins” and you’ll find more Southern wedding photos than you ever need to see. Engagement sessions, brides perched up in burnt-out windows (here’s a weird one), ceremonies taking place inside the walls of what had once been Prince William Parish (if the minister stands at the altar you just know that the bride and groom are standing over the remains of William Bull): no wonder Caroline is annoyed. But she’s also concerned. Who needs to dwell on Sherman’s March when they’ve got the Wedding March to worry about?
St. Helenas Church greatly benefits from having weddings there..although UNCONCERNED, apparently..at the structural damage that is underway, daily. . . . . . . . . Burned twice, ..It still stands…………. for now.