The Graves House in Bluffton, built in 1908 by my great-grandfather, George Guilford, was a wedding gift for his daughter, Cora Jane, my grandmother. She had recently married John Samuel Graves Sr., a local merchant. The Graves family owned the house until June 2011.
George Guilford was a Union soldier from Maine and during the Civil War had been stationed on Hilton Head Island. After the war, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and made many voyages across the Atlantic. He met and married Jane Hore in Liverpool, England. While stationed on Hilton Head, he came to love the South Carolina Lowcountry. After retiring from the Navy, he returned, bringing his bride and family with him. He was instrumental in getting Bluffton re-incorporated in 1903 and became the first mayor of the newly incorporated town. He was mayor 12 times before his death.
The Graves House was marketed and sold as a contributing structure in Bluffton's Historic Preservation District. Town officials assured us that the property was protected and "could not be torn down and must be restored."
The final sale price made ample allowance for the costs of reconstruction. The buyers promised us a restoration. What the Graves family received was destruction and deep personal loss. The buyers, the Historic Preservation Commission and the Bluffton United Methodist Church, have betrayed a sacred trust. Bluffton has lost more of its unique history.
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John Samuel Graves III
Little Rock, Ark.