Eileen Davis ran her hands along the rough fractured marble of a gravestone at Old Sheldon Church as dusk fell Monday.
"Oh, my," she said quietly to herself. "Oh, what a shame."
Four gravestones were vandalized this weekend at the 260-year-old church ruins and cemetery in Gardens Corner. It could cost more than $20,000 to repair them, caretaker Bill Sammons said.
Davis, from Jacksonville, Fla., stopped on her way to Charleston to visit a friend. This was her second visit to the ruins, and as a genealogy hobbyist, the damage was particularly saddening.
"They're historical records, and my heart cries to see them damaged," she said.
Sammons believes the vandals struck Friday night, and is checking with participants in a Saturday wedding to find out if they noticed the damage.
"It's just evil for someone to do something like that; there's no other way to describe them," he said.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office is investigating, he said. A Sheriff's Office spokesperson could not be reached Monday night.
Two gravestones were pushed off their pedestals and will need to be returned, including cleaning the pedestals and adding a foundation of crushed stone and packing material so they will sit firm and level, said Frank Genello, conservator for the Parish Church of St. Helena, which owns the property. Iron pins in the graves snapped during the fall and will need to be replaced.
Another gravestone snapped off about a third of the way down in a fairly clean break, and the remainder shifted on its pedestal, Genello said.
The fourth gravestone shattered into five pieces and had lots of small chips. It will be difficult to repair all the damage. That gravestone was repaired only about a year ago, Sammons said, after one of the descendants visited and discovered it lying on the ground and paid to have it placed upright.
Three of the four stones are marble, which, unlike the fourth granite stone, becomes porous and fragile over time, Genello said. He estimated repairs would take four to five weeks.