Dec 23 2014

Life in Lost Village of Edingsville Beach

Last Christmas I was hundreds of miles away from Edisto and feeling a little homesick for the island. I rifled through an old photo album while visiting my grandparents in Kansas City and an old article fell out on my lap. It was yellowed with age and had crumbled edges. I slowly opened the article and discovered it was about Edisto.

The article was published Dec. 25, 1955 in The News and Courier, a Charleston publication. It featured a story about Edingsville Beach.

The story was written by Chalmers S. Murray, a friend of my great-grandparents, according to my grandmother, and gives readers a glimpse into Edisto’s past.

For those of you unaware, Edisto Beach was not the first vacation destination on the island. Before Edisto Beach reached its heyday, Edingsville Beach was all the rage.

Edingsville Beach came about in 1825 and consisted of about 60 houses. Over the years, erosion took its toll as it does, and a couple dozen of those houses were lost to the Atlantic. In 1866, Edingsville Beach had only 41 houses, two church buildings, and a billiard saloon.

The article’s writer said he found out more about Edingsville Beach from an unpublished manuscript written by his uncle, Eberson Murray. The manuscript said that most of the houses on Edingsville Beach were two-story buildings with wide verandas facing the ocean. They were spaced far apart and lined up in two rows, one row overlooked the ocean while the other overlooked the marsh.

While many of today’s Edisto-lovers are accustomed to seeing deer and raccoon run about the streets of the town, Edingsville Beach was the go-to place to raise hogs. These hogs were allowed to run free on the island.

Much like Edisto, vacationers on Edingsville Beach spent very little time in their beach homes. Instead, they were down at the strand until nightfall and would then dance the night away.

However, the good times weren’t meant to last.

Erosion devastated the natural sand dune barriers that protected many of the homes from the ocean and several families abandoned their homes. As time went by, the abandoned homes were then taken over by African American farmers looking to make a better way of life for themselves on the post-antebellum island.

Then, in 1885, everything changed. Bear in mind this was a time well before hurricane warnings. When a storm came, coastal residents had very little time to prepare.

Eberson Murray said in his unpublished manuscript that he was there when the storm came and was horrified to see the storm surge brought on by the hurricane strip the porch from his house and his neighbors. The surge continued to grow, especially as high tide came in, and by that night both Murray’s house and the other beach front home were swept into the Atlantic.

Few homes remained standing after the hurricane. Of the ones that did, they fell into disrepair and eventually faded away.

Some of the old-timers that lived in the area years after Edingsville Beach faded into obscurity remembered it with great fondness. Some even claimed that on calm days the music that once played during the fun summer nights could still be heard.

Another story told during that time was of the Lady in White who could be seen walking on the deserted beach, pining for what was.

After reading the story, I asked my grandmother if she remembered why her mother had kept it. She said she only did so as it had been written by a friend, but it had no significant meaning; after all, who among us hasn’t liked an article, folded it up, tucked it away, and forgotten about it?

While the article may not have meant a whole lot to my great-grandmother, I thought it was quite interesting that I found it 58 years later to the day she tucked it away in an old photo album. And it was especially interesting that just as I was missing Edisto, a piece of the island fell right into my lap.

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