I particularly like the Unitarian's churchyard and St. Michael's but today I'm writing about another of my favorites: the Circular Congregational.
This churchyard has our city's earliest tombs and oldest graves. The church has an interesting history.
The church congregation here formed around 1680 or so, with a big mix of Presbyterians, French Huguenots, and others.
This was the first church on this street, so they named it "Meeting House Street", and it's now Meeting Street.
The original church was torn down in the big hurricane of 1713. They re-built and in 1861 the church burned down. Apparently, in 1892, they re-built the church actually using the old bricks from the original structure and added Romanesque architecture.
When the church was seized by the British in 1780- a big cannonball hit the church. Later on came the Civil War and it's destruction.
So the re-built church I wander around today has stood here since 1892 and the congregation has met here faithfully since 1680---that is OLD.
First of all, if you like "spooky"--you'll get spooky here for sure. I'm not in that category--I find ancient cemeteries to be calm and peaceful places where I learn about history and get such a strong sense of those who came before us.
However--soon as you enter this church's yard--look up--there are hundreds of BATS circling at sunset!--talk about "asmosphere"! LOL
(if you are easily spooked--don't go here at sunset or at night---go during the sunshine of daytime! ha ha LOL)
From what I've researched, this cemetery has our city's oldest crypt, dating 1695, as well as our nations' oldest portrait cemetery stone.
The stone belongs to Nathan Bassett, minister of the church. He died from smallpox in 1738.The stone was carved by William Codner--one of the most well known stone carvers back then.
Carving gravestones was a prosperous trade back in the 18th century, and the skill and craftsmanship to carve these heavy slate stones was highly sought after. Many well-off families sought out and paid well for the most skilled and well known stone carvers to make their family stones. Many ordered their stones from New England. Charleston has the largest collection of the slate carved stones in the South.
There are things carved on the oldest stones here in Charleston that I have only seen in Charleston.
The oldest gravestones have drawings and curious pictures/portraits carved on them. Ancient symbols of death such as skull and crossbones were commonly on the stones. (giving them a very grotesque look to us today), as well as crying children,wreaths, flowers, crosses, and hourglasses, which symbolized the passage of time.
There were also things called "soul effigies"--which were a carved face with huge wings on each side, symbolizing the departing spirit leaving earth. Once you know what the carvings mean, they don't seem so creepy anymore.
There are about 800 graves here in this cemetery, and they think thousands more buried where tombstones have crumbled due to age or been destroyed in the hurricanes, earthquakes, vandalism, fires and wars.
Particularly sad to see are baby and child graves, so common back then. There are whole rows of children's graves after things like smallpox, measles, food poisoning, and yellow fever epidemics. Our medical knowledge, immunizations, and medicines were yet in the future.
The churchyard has many big oak trees, crepe myrtles and other flowers, and of course, plenty of Spanish moss shawls hanging from the trees. They blow and drift lazily in the soft southern breeze, here in this quiet resting place, just as they did three hundred years ago....
Happy October 31st, Y'all!