Hilton Head Heritage Library wants to restore mausoleum

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mueseumhhiBefore there was a single golf course on Hilton Head Island, there was the Baynard Mausoleum. In fact, it was already well-established before the first brick was laid at the rustic cabins of Honey Horn or the historic churches of the north end were built by the Gullah.

Its contemporaries have all crumbled to tabby walled-ruins tucked away at locations like Cotton Hope or The Stoney Baynard Ruins, yet the mausoleum has endured.

Located on the corner of William Hilton Parkway and Mathews Road, the mausoleum is part of the Zion Chapel of Ease Cemetery. The mausoleum serves as a silent reminder to all who pass by that the island’s history extends far beyond the founding of sprawling resorts and homes. It hints at an enticing, engaging history that begs further exploration.

In fact, it doesn’t just hint at history. It is history.

The Heritage Library wants to give the island’s fascinating antebellum heritage its due, and is launching a capital campaign in October to raise money to restore the mausoleum and create an outdoor learning center where programs for visitors of all ages can be held.

The Heritage Library hopes to raise $440,000. Half will go to create an outdoor learning center with pathways and benches, new fences and educational markers outlining the importance of both the site and the area’s Revolutionary War-era history.

The other half of the money will be used to restore the Baynard Mausoleum, ensuring that this enduring piece of island history remains for future generations.

“The Zion Chapel of Ease is just such a visible piece of the island’s history,” says Linda Piekut, executive director for the Heritage Library. “It seems like the perfect place to tell this story, and to create a space wherethe island’s past can be brought to life.”

The Zion Chapel of Ease was built in 1788 under the direction of Capt.

John Stoney and Isaac Fripp.  The Colonial Assembly of South Carolina had created St. Luke’s Parish in 1767, but the Revolutionary War delayed construction on the church. This was the first formal church on Hilton Head, a wooden structure on a brick foundation. It served as the planters’ church and was located at the center of island activities near a muster house and a Masonic lodge.

The church is no longer standing, but its cemetery contains the graves and memorials of four Revolutionary War patriots: Captain John Stoney, Charles Davant, James Davant and Isaac Baldwin.  

In 1846, William Eddings Baynard built his mausoleum, which today is the oldest

structure on Hilton Head Island. The Greek revival-style building is made of Carolinared stone walls with a limestone slab roof. It originally had white marble doors and could hold 21 coffins — four across and five high, with a spot in the peak of the roof reserved for Baynard, who died in 1849. His funeral was a monumental affair — all the plantations on the island shut down for the day. Slaves were given the day off to pay their respects to the departed, and they lined the roads as the black-draped cortege, followed by the formal carriages of Baynard’s wife and other plantation owners, passed on the way from present-day Sea Pines to the church.

A fund has been created at the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry for the restoration. Donations may be mailed to the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, P.O. Box 23019, Hilton Head Island, SC 29925. Online donations can be made at www.cf-lowcountry.org