These tabby walls are all that remain of an old chapel-of-ease on St. Helena Island. The chapel was built in the mid-1700s and served the families who owned plantations on St. Helena Island.
The primary parish church, though known as St. Helena’s Church, was actually located in Beaufort, making it too far away for the planters to regularly attend services. Therefore, the Anglican Church established this “chapel of ease” nearer their homes.
The federal government gained control of South Carolina’s sea islands early in the Civil War. Plantation owners were forced to abandon their land, leaving their slaves behind. The slaves found themselves in legal limbo – no longer enslaved, but not yet officially free.
Northern missionaries and teachers came south and with support from the federal government, established what came to be known as the Port Royal Experiment – the country’s earliest effort to educate and train former slaves to work outside of the institution of slavery.
The planters left St. Helena with the arrival of Union forces in 1861, the church never regained its stature. Some stories relate that union soldiers used it for services during the war, as well as northerners (carpetbaggers) who came to the area after the war to educate and train the former slave population.
After the Civil War, the church continued to be used as an outpost by a variety of freedmen’s groups until a forest fire destroyed the building in 1886 and it was never repaired.