Lowcountry Land Trust protects 240 acres by Old Sheldon Church Ruins
By Connor Simonson
Old Sheldon Church was constructed between 1745 and 1755 and was originally known as Prince William’s Parish Church.
Lowcountry Land Trust (LLT) has announced the permanent protection of 240 acres surrounding one of the most iconic sites in the Lowcountry, the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, a nationally significant historic site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The protected property also fronts on the Old Sheldon Church Road, a State Scenic Byway in Beaufort County, South Carolina, and lies in the ACE Basin, one of the largest intact ecosystems on the East Coast.
The protection of Sheldon Plantation reinforces the integrity of Beaufort County’s historical, natural, and rural resources, and guarantees that development will never threaten one of the most treasured sites in the Lowcountry. The conservation easement also advances a stated goal of the 2010 Beaufort County Comprehensive Plan to “preserve the outstanding historic, natural, and scenic resources of Old Sheldon Church Road.”
In its 35-year history, the ACE Basin partnership has protected over 300,000 acres of public and private land.
“The opportunity to protect land in the Lowcountry is an honor in all cases. When the land is adjacent to sites such as Old Sheldon Church, it speaks to the distinct public benefit of conservation easements. I cannot personally imagine anything but native forest and vegetation surrounding this historic landmark, and now it will remain that way in perpetuity because of the landowner’s commitment to protect the property,” commented Ashley Demosthenes, President and CEO, Lowcountry Land Trust. “As coastal South Carolina continues to be one of the fastest growing regions in the country, it is imperative that land is set aside to provide undeveloped, open space that preserves wildlife habitat, mitigates flooding, enhances water quality, buffers historic resources, and so on.”
Conserving Sheldon Plantation adds to the remarkable mosaic of protected lands in the ACE Basin, a 1.5-million-acre watershed recognized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a priority focus area for wildlife, and national success story of landscape-scale conservation and public-private partnerships. In its 35-year history, the ACE Basin partnership has protected over 300,000 acres of public and private land. The protection of Sheldon Plantation comes during a time of organizational growth for LLT, who officially merged with East Cooper Land Trust (ECLT) on January 1st, 2022. The two organizations joined forces, and continue to operate as LLT, with a revitalized portfolio of protected properties and environmental outreach programs to serve as the premier conservation organization in the Lowcountry.
The property on which the ruins sit is privately owned and managed by the Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort.
“Old Sheldon Church is a local and national treasure,” says Sheldon Plantation owner and easement donor Christine Jacobs. “I am honored and proud to protect this newly acquired portion of Sheldon Plantation, and to be a small part in the larger plan to preserve and protect the Ace Basin. LLT, as a group, were not only helpful but a great resource as we sought to protect this land for generations to come. Together with the Parish of St. Helena we share the common goal of protecting this sacred land in perpetuity.”
Old Sheldon Church was constructed between 1745 and 1755 and was originally known as Prince William’s Parish Church. Centuries later, the building’s outer walls and Greek-inspired pillars remain as a testament to the rich history of the site. The building was burnt by the British during the Revolutionary War, rebuilt in 1826, only to be desecrated again during the Civil War. What remains is a reminder of the history that built the United States and an opportunity for people to experience that history. With the conservation of Sheldon Plantation, the Church will remain in its historical state and the rural character of the area will persist. The property on which the ruins sit is privately owned and managed by the Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort.
The protected property also fronts on the Old Sheldon Church Road, a State Scenic Byway in Beaufort County, South Carolina, and lies in the ACE Basin, one of the largest intact ecosystems on the East Coast.
The Reverend Shay Gaillard, rector of the Parish Church of St. Helena remarked, “It is a relief to know that the church’s property is stabilized by the protection of the surrounding 240 acres. It is a sacred spot where parishioners and visitors come to worship, or to simply gaze at the historic ruins, and experience the beauty of this space. Generations to come will benefit from the adjacent landowner’s charitable gift of a conservation easement on the surrounding land. Stewardship and conservation of God's Creation are hallmarks of the Christian life.”
About Lowcountry Land Trust
Founded in 1986, the Lowcountry Land Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission to honor the relationship between people and land by protecting irreplaceable Lowcountry lands and treasured places. Lowcountry Land Trust has protected over 150,000 acres across 17 counties in South Carolina. More information about Lowcountry Land Trust is available at lowcountrylandtrust.org.
Editor's note: Cover photo courtesy of Explore Beaufort, SC, "Old Sheldon Church named one of the South's most beautiful chapels," June 2, 2020.