Hilton Head Island’s oldest structure — a mausoleum — has grasped new life from a second-hand store.
Mayor David Bennett said it will help “highlight the Hilton Head stories that underpin our nation’s past.”
The donation is part of a larger capital campaign by the nonprofit Heritage Library, the land owner, to eventually transform the site into a learning center and “patriots park” with a replica of the original wood frame chapel that was the island’s first church in 1788.
Leave it to an historic cemetery, where four Revolutionary War soldiers are buried, to show the Lord working in mysterious ways.
The Church Mouse was founded 12 years ago to raise money for missions at the St. Luke’s Church on Pope Avenue.
The Zion Chapel of Ease was established in 1788 as a mission of the original St. Luke’s Parish, created by the Colonial Assembly of South Carolina in 1767 with a church in Okatie.
The cemetery and mausoleum, with its iron caskets and its door ajar, has been a spooky attraction to island visitors for decades. Its marshside surroundings have morphed from deep woods to the roaring intersection of William Hilton Parkway and Mathews Drive, across from a miniature golf layout next to an Italian restaurant.
The tie that binds the modern church and the old cemetery has been seen before.
Many years ago, they were bound by two communion chalices. The stemmed goblets walked off during the Civil War, when the chapel used by planters closed forever and later was dismantled. The chalices were found in a Philadelphia antiques store in 1920, with “Zion Chapel, Hilton Head, 1834” etched into the tarnished silver.
They were returned to the Lowcountry and when St. Luke’s Episcopal Church held the first service in its first building on Pope Avenue on Christmas Eve 1964, they began a new life that continues today during holy communion at St. Luke’s.
Last year, the Church Mouse Boutique Thrift Shop, located at 78 Arrow Road, was “blessed” to give away $400,000 to missions and 44 local charities, board chair Carol Gyllenhoff said, noting she was wearing a $1 skirt from the shop.
She urged the small gathering seated on new benches by the mausoleum to read the novel “The Power of One” to get a feel for how a small thrift shop can do great things. Scott and Charlee Pullon, the couple in the church who spurred the thrift shop’s creation along with Bill and Kathy Phillips, were asked to stand.
St. Luke’s pastor Greg Kronz said the Zion Chapel of Ease represents the best of Hilton Head: faith and freedom.
“This is not a bad history to repeat,” he said.