Times, elements threaten island's Baynard Mausoleum

September 11, 2010 

  • Donations can be made to help preserve the Baynard Mausoleum by calling the Heritage Library Foundation at 843-686-6560 or going to www.heritagelib.org. Learn more: The Heritage Library Foundation and Coastal Discovery Museum sponsor a guided walk through the Zion Chapel of Ease site. Participants learn about Hilton Head Island's early plantation era, islanders' involvement in the Revolutionary War and more. The hour-long walks are at 2 p.m. on Fridays, September through May. Cost is $12 for adults and $7 for children. Reservations are required and are available by calling 843-689-6767, ext. 223.

More than 160 years of Hilton Head Island history is in danger of collapsing.

The Baynard Mausoleum in the Zion Chapel of Ease cemetery at the intersection of William Hilton Parkway and Mathews Drive is the oldest intact structure on the island. But it won't remain standing if something isn't done soon, say members of the Heritage Library Foundation.

They hope to raise $120,000 to save it.

The 1,200- to 1,500-pound stone slabs that make up the building's roof are cracked and in jeopardy of caving in, said foundation president Bob Smith.

Vines growing across the roof are visible from the rear of the mausoleum, their roots contributing to the damage, Smith said.

The foundation plans to spend $8,000 -- nearly every dollar it has -- to bring in heavy equipment at the end of the month to lift the slabs so they can be properly anchored, said foundation treasurer William Leitner.

But that's only a temporary fix.

"That should last us for a year or two," Leitner said.

About $50,000 will be needed to replace the center concrete beam that is broken.

Another $60,000 is needed to repair and seal the sandstone walls and reinforce the foundation, he said.

"The blue stone roof is held in place by gravity and friction. It's a free-standing structure with nothing gluing it together. It's stone on stone," he said. "Imagine back when it was constructed. How did they do it?"

The nonprofit foundation is seeking grants and assistance from other sources to help with the preservation, he said.

"There's a lot of work to be done. We're just beginning. We're looking for friends and volunteers to help," Leitner said.

Built in 1846, the mausoleum stands in a Revolutionary War-era cemetery across William Hilton Parkway. Four Revolutionary War patriots are buried in the cemetery. Members of the Baynard family were once entombed there, but their remains were later moved elsewhere, Smith said.

The 2.8-acre property was at the core of the settlements on Hilton Head Island in the days leading to the Civil War, he said.

The Zion Chapel, a wooden building 40 feet by 30 feet, was built in about 1786. The cemetery's earliest grave dates to 1795.

Markers commemorate a Revolutionary War-era ambush, where in December 1781 Charles Devant, returning from a patrol with the patriot militia, was mortally wounded by Capt. Martinangel's royal militia from Daufuskie Island. Devant managed to ride his horse to his nearby plantation, Two Oaks, where he died. Capt. John Leacraft's Bloody Legion avenged his death.

Another marker commemorates the life of Capt. John Stoney, a soldier in the Revolutionary War, planter on the island, founder of the Episcopal Church on Hilton Head and ancestor of the Stoneys of South Carolina.

"More and more, we are interested in preserving our past, and there is so little of that left that we want to preserve (the mausoleum) for future generations," said Barbara Muller, foundation vice president.

So much of the island was wiped out by the "Great Sea Island Storm" of 1893, Muller said.

"The island was practically leveled ... but the mausoleum stood," she said. "It would be a shame for it to fall because of lack of care."

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