350/30: Buried in History

Editor’s Note: In celebration of the 350th anniversary of the sighting of Hilton Head Island, and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Town of Hilton Head Island, a group of volunteers are organizing a 350/30 year anniversary blowout to commemorate both events with a town open house Sept. 30 and a beach party Oct. 5. Monthly proudly presents the following, the second in a series of historical articles leading up to the event. 

After crossing the bridge to Hilton Head Island, you will find yourself on Jenkins Island. It extends to mile marker 1, where Hilton Head Island actually begins. Located in what is the “tongue of the shoe” that is Hilton Head is a separate island, home to Jenkins Island Cemetery. This native islander cemetery is tucked away down a little-used road. Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church maintains this cemetery as well as Talbird Cemetery, located in Hilton Head Plantation by Skull Creek Marina, and Elliott Cemetery, also in Hilton Head Plantation, in Dolphin Head Park. 

Jenkins Island Cemetery has at least 40 graves. Although there was a Plantation House and according to the 1800 census, 100 slaves lived and worked on the property, as yet, there is no evidence of any of them being buried in this cemetery. 

The cemetery is on Skull Creek, because spiritual beliefs also led native islanders to bury their deceased close to the water. 

Named Hogg Island in 1733 and later John’s Island, on the 1783 Mosse Survey, it is Talbird Island, while the 1873 Navy Map marked it Pope’s Island. The 315 acre plantation, between Skull and Crooked Creek, was owned by Issac Rippon Jenkins and still bears his name. 

The recent history of the island began in the 1930s when Thorne and Loomis owned the island. The Hack family, who owned the Hilton Head Company, purchased the land from them and sold the land to Windmill Harbour Company which began development in 1981, said JR Richardson, President of the company. Richardson sold the Skull Creek side of the island to the Town of Hilton Head Island in 1986. 

There are over a dozen native islander cemeteries on Hilton Head Island revealing the rich history of the Lowcountry. 

Suggested Reading: “Lay Down Body — Living History In African American Cemeteries” by Roberta Hughes Wright and Wilbur B. Hughes III.