Historic marker unveiled on Daufuskie

rlurye@islandpacket.comNovember 2, 2013 

Members of the Society Colonial Dames XVII Century unveiled a historical marker on Daufuskie Island on Saturday.

STAFF PHOTO

For too long, the rich legacy of Daufuskie Island was etched only into the faces of those who called the sea island home.

That changed Saturday afternoon. More than 30 years after the island was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the South Carolina Colonial Dames XVII Century unveiled a marker recognizing the land's importance.

State president Mary Duvall made the project a priority in February when she took office, inspired by the region's expansive past: European explorers first spotted the island in 1525, and Native Americans inhabited the land far earlier than that.

Less than a year after launching the initiative, Duvall was able to install the marker.

"We really didn't know it could happen this quickly, but we didn't know we were working with a woman with a mission and a vision," said Jo Hill, president of the Daufuskie Island Historical Foundation.

Before uncovering the marker, members of the Daufuskie Island Elementary School choir sang the national anthem and "You're a Grand Old Flag." One girl standing in the crowd of about 100 sang along, silently mouthing each word.

"They will be telling their grandchildren about the day they sang when that marker was placed," Duvall said. "And hopefully, it will still be there and they'll still be enjoying it."

With the wind blowing in from the Calibogue Sound, attendees bowed their heads as the Rev. Lillian Mitchell of the First African Baptist Church prayed.

Saturday's ceremony took Mitchell back to the childhood weekends she spent with family at the same public dock. Her mother, like other Daufuskie natives, would don an apron and stand behind a picnic table, selling enough deviled crab, shrimp, homemade wine and other goods to support her family, Mitchell said.

"That's how we made a living, so here is the life of Daufuskie Island," she said as she stood next to the new marker. "I don't think they could have picked a better place."

The same isolation that helped the unique culture of the island develop continues to influence those who call it home, Hill said.

"If I run out of something in my house to make a dish, I pick up the phone and call my neighbor. People don't do that anymore," she said.

The island foundation works to introduce people to both the island's strong community and deep history.

Last year, more than 5,000 people visited the Billie Burn Museum, which features a copy of the original land grant for Daufuskie from King George II and photographs from the antebellum era.

The new marker can not only help keep that past alive, it can attract more visitors to the island, Hill said.

"People focus on Hilton Head and Beaufort, but there's a lot of tourism Daufuskie can participate in as well," she said. "Anything we do like this brings in more attention to the island."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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New program seeks to preserve Daufuskie Gullah cottage October 11, 2013

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