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Upcoming Documentary to feature local historical gem

When George Wingard first laid eyes on Colleton Counties oldest public accessible historical site no one could have imagined the doors that would be opened. While visiting USC Salkehatchie to speak to Dr. Sarah Millers class, Wingard found a few empty hours on hand. Miller took the opportunity to drive Wingard thirteen miles out of town to visit the ruins of Pon Pon Chapel of Ease. Wingard is employed by South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina and currently is the program coordinator for the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program (SRARP). His team unearthed a clay pot, broken into pieces, made by David Drake an enslaved potter that could read and write during the early to mid 1800’s. As one could imagine, a visit to Pon Pon Chapel of Ease to an archeologist is like taking a kid to a candy shop.

Wingard soon signed on to helping Miller try and find out more information on the property. In July of 2014, he brought a team and spent the day using ground penetrating radar on the property as well as digging some samples from inside the chapel to look for the original floor. Those digs provided proof of the fire that gave Pon Pon the nick name of “the burnt church” as charcoal found in the sample dated to when the first structure was believed to be burnt.

In October 2017, Wingard came to the fall meeting of the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society where he announced he would be working on a documentary on their beloved property. The society has been working to improve the site since before Hurricane Matthew as they knew the structure was in dire need of stabilization based off of a report conducted in 2008 by Bennett Preservation Engineering firm. Just in the last two years, they have removed 14 dangerous trees, some which fell during Hurricane Matthew, and had the stumps removed. They rehired Bennett Preservation Engineering firm to come back and re-evaluate the ruins and provide recommendations on how best to move forward with repairs.

Pon Pon has a rich history dating back to the early 1700s. The chapel’s historical significance is due in part to Rev. John Wesley preaching two sermons here on April 24, 1737 and for its burial ground that contains the remains of Congressmen Aedanus Burke and O’Brien Smith, in addition to numerous local leaders. Pon Pon, although a chapel of ease, was utilized as the parish church because none was ever built. This means that all records of births, deaths, and marriages were kept at the chapel until it went out of use in the 1830s. The chapel was also listed in the National Register January 5, 1972. Jacksonboro itself played a part in South Carolina history as the capital had to be moved there from Charleston after the British invaded Charleston during the American Revolution, making Jacksonboro only one of five places in the state where the South Carolina Legislative body has met.

Wingard has already produced three documentaries prior to beginning work on the one to feature Pon Pon Chapel of Ease. His first, “Discovering Dave, Spirit Captured In Clay” won most inspirational film out of 128 films entered. His second, “Reconstructing Hawthorne” earned the producer an audience favorite award. Before his third film “Mart to Art: A Repurposed Life”, Wingard partnered with University of South Carolina broadcast student Sabrina Shutters. Shutters brought her editing skills to the table and helped on the film which was released in March of 2018 and will premier on South Carolina Educational Television September 6, 2018 at 8:00 pm. Shutters has also had a huge role in the film on Pon Pon. The two agree they have spent two to three days a week, since, April producing and editing the film that will hopefully not only raise awareness locally but also put Pon Pon Chapel of Ease in the faces of folks nationally. Wingard and Shutters have traveled to Colleton County several days over the course of the past few months to complete interviews of locals who all hope to see Pon Pon continue to draw tourist to our area to enjoy our history. During their visits to the chapel they met many different travelers who saw the newly erected directional signs located on Highway 17 and decided to check the sight out for themselves. They were also able to form a partnership with Karl “Chip” Brenkert IV of Brenkert drone services. Brenkert has been able to capture aerial video footage of Pon Pon and her surrounding area that will also be featured in the film.

The film could not come at a better time for the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society as they just unveiled their ten year plan to their membership for their oldest historical site. The plan includes first stabilizing the ruins, a process that has already begun. The group also hopes to search for and mark more graves they believe are located on the property. The wheels have started moving to hopefully add a parking lot to accommodate more cars or buses as well as a historical walking path to connect Pon Pon to the burial site of Issac Hayne, one of the most prominent Americans to be executed by the British during the American War of Independence. The society is excited to have the documentary in hopes it will raise awareness nationwide as they seek resources to help with their preservation efforts.

Wingard and Shutters are hoping to hold the premier of the documentary in Walterboro during the month of October. We will plan to bring our readers more detailed information on the premier in the fall. If you would like to follow the progress of the film you can follow their Facebook page by liking Pon Pon Chapel of Ease: a documentary film. If you would like more information on how you can join the Colleton County Historical and Preservation Society or how you can help their preservation efforts you can visit their website at www.cchaps.com or like them on Facebook.

 

Christie Slocum (494 Posts)