Pon Pon, only ruins today but so much history in this one spot. So yes, this might be a longer than usual article.
Pon Pon is the Yemassee indian tribes name for ‘big bends’, referring to the Edisto river nearby. Being called a ‘chapel’ was a way for the local parish in 1706 to not address the issue of not building a formal church in this desolate region. There was a single plantation and the Yemassee tribe.
As expected the new (late 1600’s) British and Barbados land owners claimed everything. A little earlier the Yemassee tribe moved up here from Savannah Georgia (right down the road) because the Spanish governor enslaved local tribes. In 1715 the British did the same and Yemassee had enough, hence the Yemassee War. The first Pon Pon Chapel was burned with the rest of the British property here.
The Yemassee eventually left the area and went back south, this time to Florida and joined the Seminole.
In 1725 a new chapel was built after an arrangement with the new parish. Again not a church, a chapel. There were no winners in the Yemassee War so the number of settlers was even less now since the parish and most all settlers had been killed or moved on.
A little more history here, the founder of Methodism (Methodist Church) came and preached in the second building. Also George Washington, the first US President came here visiting the southern plantations.
This now brings us to version 3.0 of the Chapel. In 1754 a brick structure finally replaced the fragile wooden building. Modern times, and right before the US revolution.
So… you guessed it. In 1801 the brick building burned down. It did take 20 years to rebuild this time. The chapel had a new name at this point too. ‘The Burnt Church’. Catchy name.
All this history brings us to the building we are looking at here. This is version 4.0 of the chapel. It was completed between 1819 – 1822. Right after the War Of 1812 when everyone came back.
And of course in 1832, it was destroyed like you see it now. Records don’t exist to say fire, it is scarred black. This is an earthquake area so that may have started a fire.
The Pon Pon Chapel Of Ease was abandoned in 1832. I think they had enough.
Even though the chapel was just ruins, and in a secluded location, that was not the end. For a number of years after the grave yard was still in use.
Buried in the churchyard is Congressman O’Brien Smith (1756-1811) at whose nearby Duharra Plantation on the Combahee River in present Colleton County President George Washington during his southern tour was a guest on the night of May 10, 1791. Smith served as a State Representative (1788-92; 1793-1800; 1808-11); State Senator (1800-05); Member of Congress (1805-07); and as second President of the Hibernian Society of Charleston. Also buried in the churchyard is Aedanus Burke ( 1743-1802), a State Representative (1779-88) and later a judge.
To learn more about this chapel, and many other similiar things I suggest you visit here; SCPictureProject.org. This is a long term project documenting the history and culture of South Carolina. South Carolina is a Mecca for photographers and it takes advantage of this resource. You might even find my work there.