Lighthouse Point Neighborhood Association unveils historical marker

by Sandra Stringer

On April 2, 2017, the Lighthouse Point Neighborhood had their annual picnic with an extra special event tied in: the dedication of a historical marker in their neighborhood. It was one of those picture perfect spring days, and along with the joy of the picnic and the many fun activities that the neighborhood put together for their children (see photos here), was the dedication.

Brook Lyon speaks to the crowd.
Brook Lyon speaks to the crowd.
Brook Lyon opened the proceedings

“Hello and welcome. For those of you who don’t know me my name is Brook Lyon.  I am President of the Lighthouse Point Neighborhood Association. Our Neighborhood Association, The Lighthouse Point Civic Club, was formed in 1959 and is one of the oldest neighborhood associations in the State of South Carolina.  The Developer of Lighthouse Point gave the Indian Mound Park property to the neighborhood association on February 1st, 1960.

Over the years there has been controversy over some residents who wanted to develop the Indian Mound Park with houses and also giving it to Charleston County Parks.  We are so grateful to past members who have protected and maintained our Indian Mound Park and kept it for our neighborhood. We are proud to live in a neighborhood that has had a continuously active neighborhood association for almost 60 years and such a wonderful green space to call our own.

Bill Lyon explains the history of the mound.
Bill Lyon explains the history of the mound.

The reason we are here today for this dedication is because of the historical significance of the Indian Mound Park.  A few years ago some of our members were talking about how we should get an Historical Marker to honor it in perpetuity.

There is a lot of red tape involved in applying for one so we decided to do it ourselves. We raised money from donations and selling t-shirts to pay for it. Countless hours, mostly by Bill with a little help from me were spent on researching the marker.

Many trips were made to the SC Historical Society Collection at the College of Charleston library and also to the Charleston County (we were actually Berkeley County back in the 1700’s) Register of Deeds.

A special thank you goes out from me and Bill to Nancy Wagner at the RMC Office who helped us on several occasions.  I will now introduce Bill Lyon who will explain the research methods as well as some of the history.”

Bill Lyon presented his historical research on the site

“Near the center of the Lighthouse Point Neighborhood is a two acre field, known as our Indian Mound Park which is owned by our Neighborhood Association, the Lighthouse Point Civic Club. Because of the historical significance of the Indian Mound, our Neighborhood Association voted two years ago to raise money for an historical marker to be placed at the site.  Over the course of two years we sold t-shirts and took donations to accomplish this goal.

Mayor Bill Woolsey prepares the crowd for the unveiling.
Mayor Bill Woolsey prepares the crowd for the unveiling.

In 1975 the Archeological Society of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina published a paper documenting the archeological excavations completed by Michael Trinkley.  The study found that the site dates back well over 3000 years.  Before King Solomon built Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem the Mound was likely occupied by several families.

In a paper written by then Governor John Drayton in 1802, he indicates that at that time the Mound was over 600 feet wide with a midden or shell ring eight to ten feet high, measuring twenty to thirty feet at the top with the middle of the ring cleared.  According to the study the inhabitants lived on top of the ring and likely worked and socialized in the center.

Over the years the shells from the mound have been used for roadwork and were also used in the construction of St. Michaels Church in downtown Charleston in the late 18th Century.  Documenting the Colonial and Revolutionary War Period of the Mound proved to be somewhat difficult.

The unveiling of the historical marker.
The unveiling of the historical marker.

In our research we attempted to document our facts with at least two sources.  In Governor Drayton’s paper in 1802 he indicates that a Mr. Rivers had placed his dwelling house inside the Shell Ring after the devastating hurricane of 1752.

We tried to do a title search but because the property had changed hands after death through death which involved probate court records and the fact that the property had been lumped together with other properties when sold it became difficult to follow a direct line back to the 18th century.

We did search 18th Century Registries of Deeds and found that William Parrot had made a gift of land to his daughter Ann Parrot Rivers shortly after her marriage to Colonel Robert Rivers Jr. in 1733.  The description of the property sounds very much like Lighthouse Point.  Sometime after Governor Drayton’s visit to the Indian Mound in 1802 and before the Civil War, Lighthouse Point became the property of Dr. Thomas Legare.  Major Edward Manigault’s journal “Siege Train” he documents the defense of Charleston during the Civil War.

All through his journal he refers to Battery Haskell (located in Lighthouse Point) as being at Legare Point.  The book “Statehouses of South Carolina” lists Colonel Robert Rivers Jr. as living at Legare Point. The book “Colonial Chesapeake Families of the British” shows Colonel Rivers living at Legare Point.  This book also confirms other facts.

The historical marker.Besides the previously mentioned books we used the following references: Statues at Large Act of 1752, Goose Creek, SC  A definitive History, South Carolina Historical Society – Rivers File, Various Probate Records, and Registry of Deed – Charleston [used to be Berkeley] County.

We were able to document that Robert Rivers was a Colonel in the Militia and a justice for Berkeley County (which is today Charleston County) and that Colonel Rivers represented St. Andrews Parish in the 23rd and 24th House of Commons Assembly in 1760 and 1761.  He represented St. Johns Colleton Parish in the 28th House of Commons Assembly in 1768 and that in 1752 he moved his home and offices to the center of our Indian Mound Park.

During the Colonial Period the Militia acted as police and military. At the commencement of the Revolutionary War the Militia were absorbed into Provincial units. It is likely that Colonel Rivers was active in the Revolutionary War but we could not document that.  We also found information indicating that Colonel Rivers had a close relationship with Colonel Isaac Hayne.

Colonel Hayne was a Revolutionary War hero and martyr.  In 1780 he was held in the Provost Dungeon in downtown Charleston and was marched to the edge of the city limits and hanged by the British for treason.  We were unable to document this close relationship although they were both involved in the St. Johns Colleton Parish.”

The historical marker.Mayor Bill Woolsey spoke and the marker was unveiled

Town of James Island Mayor Bill Woolsey was introduced next. He spoke briefly to thank everyone for their hard work and talk about the remarkable effort that went into bringing this historic project to completion.

The marker was then unveiled to applause and lots of smiles. The Lighthouse Point residents in attendance gathered for a group photo to capture the moment. Many took pictures of the new marker and read brief encapsulations of the history that Brook and Bill Lyon told them about, captured on the historical marker that they worked so hard to bring to that spot.

On one side the marker reads:

This late archaic period shell ring that was built on this location was started three to four thousand years ago. This early American community was likely occupied by ten to twelve households consisting of about fifty to sixty people. Each household cluster may have included a primitive structure and several cooking pits. In 1802 before the site was disturbed then South Carolina Governor John Drayton wrote “It is a circular form measuring two hundred and forty paces. It’s* width at the top is ten paces and at it’s base sixteen to twenty paces and it’s height is eight to ten feet.” Shells from the mound were used on St. Michael’s Church in the eighteenth century and later for road construction.

On the other side the marker reads:

Colonel Robert Rivers was a prosperous planter and made his home on his plantation on what is today known as Lighthouse Point. He was a colonel in the militia and a justice for Berkley County (which is today Charleston County). Colonel Rivers represented St. Andrews Parish in the 23rd and 24th House of Commons Assembly in 1760 and 1761. He represented St. Johns Colleton Parish in the 24th House of Commons Assembly in 1768. After the devastating hurricane of 1752 Colonel Rivers moved his home and offices to the center of the mound at this location where they remained until long after his death.

Congratulations to Brook and Bill Lyon and all the residents of Lighthouse Point for memorializing a spot of historic importance to James Island!

*John Drayton was apparently not schooled in the proper use of “its”!