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CCHAPS develops long term plan for Pon Pon Chapel of Ease

Pon Pon Chapel of Ease, Colleton County Historical, and Preservation Society

The Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society (CCHAPS) unveiled their 1-3-5-10 Year Plan for the future of Pon Pon Chapel of Ease this past week at a public meeting held at the Bedon-Lucas House on Church Street. The plan looks at stabilization, preservation, and interpretation to make the site an accessible destination in the future. CCHAPS serves as the custodian of three historical properties, Pon Pon Chapel of Ease in Jacksonboro is one of them. The ruins of the “burnt church” hold a very special place in the hearts of many Colletonians and South Carolinians because of the rich history that surrounds the property. CCHAPS wants to try to ensure the ruins will be around for many generations to continue to enjoy.
Pon Pon was built in 1725 and has served as a vital part of Colleton County’s history. In the early years, Pon Pon served as a place of worship for folks that lived in remote areas could conveniently attend services without having to travel to a central parish church. It was the home of many important historical records such as birth, death, and marriages. It served as an election site and a place where folks could come together for meetings. In 1737, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, preached two sermons in the Chapel. The original wooden structure was damaged by a hurricane in 1754. It was replaced by a brick structure that was damaged during the American Revolution and eventually destroyed by a forest fire in 1801, leading to the nickname it has been given as the “burnt church.” The church was rebuilt between 1819 and 1822. Once the county seat moved from Jacksonboro to Walterboro in 1820, activity at Pon Pon Chapel of Ease became less and less as folks were starting to worship in Walterboro.
Local historian and professor of history at the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie, Dr. Sarah Miller, presented the plan at the public meeting. Miller received a summer research RISE grant from the University’s Office of the Vice President of Research to put together the long term plan for the chapel over this past summer. Miller reported to those in attendance in 2018, CCHAPS had a new report conducted by Bennett Preservation Engineering firm out of Charleston. The report proved the ruins are in danger of increased disintegration due to the passing of time, along with the weather and the most recent Hurricane Matthew and Irma. The report concluded no one is allowed to get within a distance from any wall equal to one and half times the height of the wall. Due to this, CCHAPS has roped off the ruins as well as placed signs on the site, asking visitors to respect the boundaries. Miller also reported Bennett has strongly suggested that machines creating ground vibrations should not be within two city blocks of the chapel. They are now working towards a stabilization plan, which will hopefully take place over the next three years, costing the society around $500,000.
Once the ruins have been stabilized, CCHAPS hopes to move forward with the next step of interpreting what is on the grounds. They plan to do this by using ground-penetrating radar. They hope to find and mark graves on the property as well as looking for the footprint of the parsonage. They will excavate the inside and outside of the ruin walls, looking for any artifacts that would hopefully be able to be put on display on the grounds. Eventually, the non-profit group would like to create a “Colleton County Historical walking trail” that would connect Pon Pon with the tomb of Isaac Hayne. The plan in its entirety should take ten years to complete.
CCHAPS will be seeking funding from various sources starting this fall, as this project is expected to cost around $ 750,000. For more information on how you can help with CCHAPS and their projects contact them through their website at www.cchaps.com.

Christie Slocum (561 Posts)