Monday, May 1, 2017

A Chilling Trip to the Old Charleston City Jail!

If I had to describe the Old Charleston City Jail in one word it would be the following:


This past week, I visited the Old Charleston City Jail with my classmate, Liz Mahoney. To say the least, it was a chilling experience. I had goosebumps the entire time. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, but it sure was cool!

Learn more about the jail's spooky history here.

Since it was dark when I went, below is a picture I found online so you can clearly see the front view of the jail.

Front View of the Old Charleston City Jail

We arrived in the evening and the large, old building immediately caught my eye. It was creepy and looked like it had a spooky history. 

Our tour guide's name was Sean. He was wonderful and very knowledgeable about the jail's vast history.

The room that stood out to me the most throughout the tour was the morgue. It creeped me out the most. It was dark and eerie, and while inside it I felt closed in and claustrophobic.

The Morgue

The idea of keeping bodies in this very room I stood in gave me an uneasy feeling. Out of all of the rooms in the jail, the morgue surely should have the most ghosts in it.

Also, the morgue was completely dark. I could barely see a thing. The tour guide mentioned that this was how it was for the prisoners. The prison guards provided no light in most of the rooms, which upset me. It's not healthy for a human to sit in the pitch black dark all day. I can't imagine what this must have been like.

Another room that creeped me out was Death Row. They had confinements that looked like animal cages, which they kept the prisoners in who were punished to death. 

Death Row
Men, women, and children were kept in these cages. The tour guide mentioned that "the guards did not separate the men and women prisoners," which often led to trouble.

Overall, my trip to the jail was creepy, but interesting. I would like to end this blog by saying how wonderful the tour guide was on my tour. He made the experience that much better! 

You can purchase tickets to tour the Old Jail here! I highly encourage it! :)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

William Hasell Gibbes: A Life of War and Exile

William Hasell Gibbes lived a unique life full of war and exile.

Why did I choose Gibbes? I chose to research Gibbes as my "Old Charlestonian" because of his unique military history. I thought by researching Gibbes' history I could learn more about Charleston's own role in the War.

Who is he? Gibbes was born on March 16, 1754 and died on February 14, 1834 at the age of 79. He was born in Charleston, South Carolina and died in Charleston. He is buried at Saint Philips Episcopal Church Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina. (source).

The church is located at 142 Church St., Charleston, SC.

Saint Philips Episcopal Church

Check out more information on the church here.

Gibbes was married to Mary Philip Wilson Gibbes and together they had 5 children, 4 boys and 1 girl.
William Hasell Gibbes

How did I conduct my research? I was able to purchase and download a PDF of Gibbes' 9-page autobiography named William Hasell Gibbes' Story of His Life. It was the perfect piece of evidence for my research as it is brief yet very thorough in information. Plus, primary sources are always preferable. You are able to purchase the journal article here.

I also utilized to learn more about the burial site of Gibbes.

What did I learn from my research? First, I learned that Gibbes is a descendant of one of South Carolina's first governors, Robert Gibbes. Robert Gibbes was born in Barbados and moved to "Charles Town" in 1670 with early settlers. He was elected to the First Commons House of Assembly in 1692. He was governor from 1710 until his death in 1712.

The most interesting thing I learned was that William Hasell Gibbes fought on the Patriot side of the War. Specifically, he fought at the Siege of Charleston in 1780, which was a British victory. 

Siege of Charleston 1780 by Alonzo Chappel

The Patriots were forced to surrender and as a result of the British victory, Gibbes was captured and exiled away to St. Augustine, Florida (a British troops base). He was kept in the British fort called Castillo de San Marcos. He is known to have been one of the few last surviving prisoners of St. Augustine.

Gibbes was held prisoner for one year.

Learn more about the Siege of Charleston here.

Castillo de San Marcos

Historical Marker in St. Augustine, Florida.

Fun Fact: three of the prisoners were future signers of the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Heyward Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge.

Aside from his service in the Revolutionary War, Gibbes was a lawyer in Charleston.

Here's a picture of Gibbes' signature I found while conducting my research.

Signature of William Hasell Gibbes

A few days ago, I visited Gibbes' burial site in the Saint Philips Episcopal Church Cemetery. It was a breathtaking place! It's located in the heart of Charleston. As soon as you step off of those busy city streets and into the cemetery, it becomes quiet and undisturbed. It was a lovely place.

Gibbes' grave marker was a ledger. It was very worn and the writing was barely legible.

Below are some pictures I took of Gibbes' grave and the landscape of the cemetery.

William Hasell Gibbes' grave marker

Beautiful Oak trees

Landscape of the cemetery

Overview of the cemetery
Obituary of Gibbes.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dickinson vs. Death: The Role of Death in the Societal World

Who knew death and dying would make such captivating classroom subjects?

This past Monday, my Beyond the Graves class had the privilege to meet Dr. George Dickinson. For an hour, Dr. Dickinson lectured our class on the role of death in America.

Read up on Dr. Dickinson here!

First, a little bit of background information on Dr. Dickinson. He was born in a small town in Texas and received his PhD in sociology in 1969 from Louisiana State University. He has taught multiple sociology classes at the College of Charleston for the past 30 years and still enjoys every minute of it.

His main focus in sociology is Death and Dying, which was the topic of his discussion on Monday.
Dr. George Dickinson.

Dr. Dickinson spoke of a lot about the role and perception of death in America from the nineteenth century to the present. I learned that the first rural cemetery was established in 1831 in Mt. Auburn. 

A rural cemetery is one that is on the outskirts of a large city, where people are not within close proximity to the grave site. "Out of sight, out of mind," said Dr. Dickinson. This was a period of a slight rejection and hesitance towards death, so people did not want to have to look at a grave yard every day. Thus, they started building grave yards on the outskirts of cities and towns.

Dr. Dickinson spoke about "the resurrection of death" from 1945 to the present day. Through medical breakthroughs and terrorist threats, the prominence of death has become commonplace in today's world. "The most major medical breakthrough was the first heart transplant in Louisville," says Dickinson. The heart transplant would transform the idea of death as we know it.

Learn more about the first heart transplant here.

Overall, Dickinson's purpose is to reflect the changing perceptions of death that society has. Who knows where we will be in the next 40 years.

What Can Symbols Tell Us About the Dead?

So, what can symbols tell us about the dead?

At Bethel United Methodist Church, the graveyard is filled with unique symbols and imagery. This past Monday, my Beyond the Graves class and I took a trip to the Bethel UMC graveyard and were able to witness these historic grave markers in person.

You can learn more about Bethel UMC here.

Below you will find ten of my favorite symbols as well as my take on what these symbols reflect.

Bethel UMC front view.


The first symbol I liked was a picture of a dove flying over what seems to be flowers and various plants. The dove, symbolizing love and peace, is a comforting image to put on a gravestone as it reflects the peaceful and loving life Elizabeth Ainger must have lived (1807-1872).

Next, I picked the grave of C.D. Bateman (1828-1889). This symbol is an arrangement of flowers with, I believe, a tulip in the center of it. Tulips symbolize "perfect love," so whoever chose this image for Bateman was obviously someone of importance in the deceased's life.

Below we have the wife of C.D. Bateman, Rebecca Jane (d. 1882). I think this large, intricate arrangement of flowers symbolizes beauty and femininity. This symbol struck me because of its size. It takes up nearly half of the grave marker, which must have been expensive.

This next symbol is an image of two angel wings. This symbol struck me because it was the only one in the entire grave yard that had wings. I think the wings symbolize religion and specifically angels. This is a pure and peaceful symbol and obviously reflects how the deceased was a very spiritual person.

This next symbol is a simple, yet elegant image of two flowers. I'm not sure what kind of flower this is, so maybe it is a birth flower of the deceased. I think this symbol is very elegant and believe it's purpose is to reflect the innocence and beauty of the deceased.

This next grave marker also has a simple and elegant symbol of flowers. Flowers are a very popular choice as grave marker symbology because they reflect beauty, femininity, and love.

Here we have a beautiful wreath which symbolizes Jesus Christ. This woman, Sarah Ann Pelzer, was surely a dedicated Christian. 

This grave marker belongs to Charles S. Seyle (1823-1880). The symbol is of a cross and a vine that loops around the cross. This image is powerful. It symbolizes salvation of Jesus Christ and his sacrifices.

The next symbol is an image of an angel holding a wreath. Her hand is over her heart and she has a solemn face. This symbolizes the sadness that the death of this person brought to the world and to the heavens. It also symbolizes that the deceased is going to heaven.

The last symbol is an image of a large cloak that drapes over the grave marker and a flower arrangement. The cloak symbolizes power and importance, as a King or Lord would wear a cloak. The flowers symbolize beauty and femininity.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Bethel UMC grave yard. It was an interesting little discovery and I hope to make my way back there. I hope you enjoyed these photos of my favorite symbols!

Check out some more grave yard symbolism here.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Look Into the Life of My Great-Grandmother

I chose to write my blog post on my great-grandmother, Pauline Warner Sawyer. My siblings and I called her "Chico." Chico was born on March 5, 1907 in a small country town called Tylertown, Mississippi (pop. 1,557) to William and Seleta Warner. She had eight siblings, 5 sisters and 3 brothers. She was the youngest out of all of them.

Tylertown located in Southern Mississippi.

Pauline met her husband, Thomas Clinton Sawyer Sr., and they had 3 children: Sylvia, Janet, and Tommy. Pauline had seven grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren.

My great-grandmother is the woman in the middle wearing a green sweater.

I conducted my research by over-the-phone interviews with my grandmother, Pauline's oldest daughter, Sylvia Sawyer Owens. Sylvia currently resides in Georgetown, South Carolina and was able to give me direct insight into the life of my great-grandmother. Also, I used the website "Find-A-Grave."

I also conducted in-person interviews with my father, Billy Owens. He was able to give me insight into my great-grandmother's personality.

Throughout my research, I learned that my great-grandmother was very involved in her church (the First Baptist Church) in Georgetown, South Carolina. She enjoyed working as the superintendent for the primary Sunday school department of the church. My grandmother, Sylvia, gained her mother's strong maternal traits and taught elementary school children. I learned Pauline enjoyed the spiritual and social aspects of church, and my grandmother told me "church was a huge part in her and her family's lives and Chico made sure of that."

First Baptist Church

If you would like to learn more about First Baptist Church you can visit their website here.

I also learned that Pauline volunteered at the Georgetown County Mental Health facility for many years. This interested me because it showed me how caring my great-grandmother was.

My father described my great-grandmother as a "kind and independent woman." He spoke of her role in him and his sister's lives and how important she was to them. He said she was a "wonderful role model," because she saw the good in everyone, and was very witty as well. He recounted memories he has of his grandmother where she was always making people laugh.

Pauline Warner Sawyer died on March 24, 2004 at the age of 97 due to natural causes. She is buried at Pennyroyal Memorial Gardens in Georgetown, South Carolina. Below is a picture of the memorial garden.
Overview of Pennyroyal's landscape.

Opening gate of the memorial garden.

She is buried with her husband, Thomas Clinton Sawyer, Sr. Their grave marker is a lawn marker. Below is a picture of it.

Lawn marker of Pauline and Thomas Sawyer.

My great-grandmother.
Pauline's husband, Thomas.

I have one or two memories of my great-grandmother, since I was only five when she passed away. From the information gathered, I can tell that she was a wonderful and kind person who I wish I was able to know better.

You can read my great-grandmother's obituary here.