The Heritage Library recently launched a capital campaign to raise $440,000 to help restore the Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum on Hilton Head Island. On Saturday, students from the University of South Carolina-Beaufort's archaeology program discovered pieces of human bones while cleaning out the chambers of the mausoleum.
The cemetery holds the remains of Revolutionary War soldiers, along with plantation owners. The cemetery and mausoleum are located on the corner of U.S. 278 and Mathews Drive. The mausoleum, owned by the Heritage Library, is the oldest existing structure on Hilton Head Island.
The Baynard Mausoleum was built before the Civil War by the Stoney-Baynard Plantation owner, William Baynard in 1846, and he subsequently passed away in 1849. His wife was also interred in the mausoleum in 1854 and as many as five additional burials, some of them children.
In starting the restoration process, The Heritage Library has partnered with USC - Beaufort's archaeology department under the direction of Professor Kim Cavanagh. Students discovered the remains on Saturday while cleaning out the chambers of the mausoleum.
While it isn't unusual to find bones inside of a mausoleum, it is of particular interest in this instance because the Baynard Mausoleum had been looted and damaged and sat empty and open for over 80 years. From before 1901 to 1986, the Mausoleum doors were open or missing.
It's rumored that some time after the Civil War the caskets were removed and dumped into the scenic marsh that borders the property. An article from The State Newspaper from 1901 reported when a group of hunters from Columbia visited the Baynard Mausoleum and found several caskets in the chambers, and one on the floor that contained a young woman with blonde hair.
On Tuesday, September 29th, the County Coroner, J Edward Allen, Deputy Coroner RET. Dr. Roger Sorg, USCB Archaeology Professor Kim Cavanagh, a descendant of the Baynard Family and associates from The Heritage Library met to look over the bones and come up with a plan of action. Moving forward, there will be more archaeology digs on the site, along with DNA testing against the Baynard Descendant.
The finding of human remains from over a century ago is remarkable for any organization, especially since the site was nearly abandoned almost 40 years ago. Much has been discussed regarding the history of our Island during the Civil War, but less is known about the time period before then, the time of the Revolutionary War and the Plantations. It is the hope that these recent events serve as a catalyst for preserving and resorting this historic property through community donations and support. Contributions can be made through the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry.
For more information, contact the Heritage Library at 843-686-6560 or go online to heritagelib.org. Watch video from Saturday's find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ix5nTdepdyI&feature=youtu.be