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Residents: Forgotten Gullah Cemetery Desecrated During ‘Clean-up’

Bloody Point: “Out on Daufuskie Island the bulldozers bury the past …”

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Dead men tell no tales … or so the saying goes. But, some do. 

The gravesites of Gullah people at “Bloody Point” on Daufuskie Island tell the story of “forgotten souls” – people who were taken from their homes and enslaved on the plantations of the Deep South.

Yet, this historic burial ground was recently mowed with heavy equipment in an attempt to “clean up” the property.

For residents, the devastation is a replay of Jimmy Buffet’s song ‘Prince of Tides.’

Out on Daufuskie Island the bulldozers bury the past …”

According to our sources, Bloody Point cemetery grounds have been run over with a backhoe and gravestones have been disturbed, toppled, and removed. New gates are blocking public access to the graveyard – and the beach. All of these developments reportedly took place last month (April 2024) without public notice. 

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A sign marking the location of Bloody Point Cemetery on Daufuskie Island, S.C. (Provided)

Our media outlet filed a FOIA request with Beaufort County for records related to the cemetery maintenance and any planned changes or “improvements” to the site. We were informed that the “requested information was not found,” and the file was closed.

This appears to be because cemetery alterations happened without county oversight or input. According to our sources, the property owner did not ask for guidance or permission before completing the privately-funded project.

“I don’t agree with how they did it,” a source familiar with the situation told our outlet. “They mowed over small headstones, moved larger ones, and did not put them back.”

The clean-up may have been done with good intentions, but these sources insiste it was not done respectfully. And, Daufuskie Island residents fear the desecration will contribute to the disappearance of the Gullah culture.

At one time, thousands of Gullah residents lived on Daufuskie Island. Today, there are less than a dozen remaining.

“This is their island and it’s being taken away,” one person told FITSNews. “They are being erased.” 

Gullah cemeteries are located by the water – in anticipation of the bones of the dead washing away or “walking away” and returning home. Gullah people celebrate the end of life with memorial services referred to as “homecomings.” On the island, a grave digger puts a shovel into the ground carefully so as not to interfere with any number of unmarked plots holding the long buried caskets of the unknown.

“They are called forgotten souls,” said one resident. “Now they are being run over.”

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Bloody Point Cemetery on Daufuskie Island (Provided)

The Bloody Point cemetery is bordered by the beach on one side – but from all other directions it is surrounded by the Bloody Point Resort, which was purchased in 2021 by Club Ranger Red 6 LLC. According to business information on file with the S.C. Secretary of State’s office, the registered agent for the corporation is attorney Walter J. Nester of Hilton Head Island, S.C. 

FITSNews reached out to Nester for information about the reported developments at the cemetery – or the name of someone with Club Ranger Red 6 who can provide the information. As of this writing, there has been no response. 

According to South Carolina state law, cemeteries can be altered and the supposed “final” resting places of the dead moved to a different location. But, the process requires a 30-day notification process for the public – and for descendants of those whose remains are being moved. The process outlined in the code is intended for abandoned cemeteries under new ownership – and it is unclear whether it also pertains to protected historic sites of cultural significance. 

“Bloody Point is aptly named, an Indian battle-ground since time immemorial,” noted late author and historian Roger Pinckney in his 2017 book, Blood and Thunder on Bloody Point. “Tribes fought tribes here long before the coming of the white man. And when the white man came there were battles fought here, too … The birthplace of America was right here off Bloody Point, where patriots stole a shipload of British gunpowder and used it to turn an invasion of Charleston on June 28, 1770.”

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“Word was relayed by horseback to Philadelphia where the Second Continental Congress was in session,” Pinckney continued. “Emboldened, Congress signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Two Civil War veterans built the Bloody Point lighthouse, men who fought on opposite sides. Doyle was the Yankee and Lacoste a Confederate hero, and their work survived the two worst natural disasters in South Carolina history – an earthquake and a hurricane – safely guiding ships into the port of Savannah for the next half century.”

Until very recently there was one major impediment to any plans to change or alter the landscape of the sacred burial grounds: Pinckney. In addition to serving as resident historian, Pinckney was also a member of the Daufuskie Island town council.

Sources told FITSNews it was well known that after he passed away “there would be problems.” 

As predicted, all of these reported developments surrounding the cemetery have taken place since Pinckney’s death on April 3, 2024. Pinckney was a staunch advocate of preserving the Gullah cemetery as an important site of historic and cultural significance. 

FITSNews continues to look into a number of issues raising concerns for the residents of Daufuskie Island – issues like the problems with a new ferry service and the potential impact of planned developments. Anyone with information is encouraged to email research@fitsnews.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (provided)

Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher and author. Her 2007 book ‘Stain-Resistant, Nonstick, Waterproof and Lethal’ was the first to cover forever chemicals and their impact on communities – a story later told in the movie ‘Dark Waters’. Her investigative work has been featured in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world. Lyons also appears in ‘Citizen Sleuth’ – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.

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3 comments

Observer (the real one) May 23, 2024 at 9:04 am

Shameful. Persons responsible for this should all be criminally charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent. In South Carolina, it is too easy to get permission to disturb and relocate cemeteries and human remains for convenience of businesses, highways, etc. This needs to be changed.

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The Colonel Top fan May 23, 2024 at 11:31 am

Please stay on this one!

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Observer (the real one) May 23, 2024 at 11:35 am

Yes! Please do!

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