Vacationing at the beach for a week is of course relaxing, but sometimes it can get a little, er… repetitive. While on a recent trip to Hilton Head, SC, I had the itch to get away from the whole beach scene and go explore some of the local cemeteries on the island. One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new place is to pop “cemeteries near me” in to the ole Google machine and see what turns up. I ended up checking out a total of three cemeteries on Hilton Head Island, but the Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum was by far my favorite. I spent over an hour here, simultaneously swatting away mosquitos and reading/photographing the various grave markers at this historic burial ground.
Situated on just under 3 acres of land and nestled beneath a cluster of live oak trees at the edge of a marsh, you might just miss it if you’re traveling along the north end of William Hilton Parkway. Home to the oldest standing structure on the island, Zion Cemetery is a true historical gem right here in Hilton Head.
Walking around the small plot of hallowed land, you’ll start to notice how very weathered the various gravestones and markers are. Many of the graves date back to the Revolutionary War era, causing some to be nearly illegible due to centuries of exposure. The focal point of the cemetery is Baynard Mausoleum, a single giant stone tomb constructed in 1846 by William E. Baynard, a local plantation owner. The mausoleum resides at the far edge of the cemetery, quietly watching over residents and guests alike.
A plaque at the entrance to the cemetery reads, “Zion Chapel of Ease Cemetery: A Chapel of St. Luke’s Parish, established May 23, 1767, built of wood shortly after 1786 under the direction of Captain John Stoney and Isaac Fripp, was consecrated in 1833. Members of the Barksdale, Baynard, Chaplin, Davant, Fripp, Kirk, Mathews, Pope, Stoney, and Webb families worshipped here. By 1868 the chapel was destroyed.” While the chapel is long gone, the mausoleum and cemetery remain a historic landmark and serve as an important reminder of a time that came before.
This site is now owned and managed by The Heritage Library, a nonprofit library offering a wealth of historical knowledge about the Lowcountry. For additional information about the site, a tour calendar, and more visit heritagelib.org
Zion Cemetery and Baynard Mausoleum is open daily and free to the public.