French Huguenot Country

This Maltese cross marks the spot where Huguenots worshipped, somewhere near the Georgia state line.

This day trip is hard to estimate because addresses don’t exist. Still, I’d estimate that 115 miles or so will take you to a region rich with history. Beyond McCormick, toward the Georgia line, you’ll find old French Huguenot Country (Main directions below). Off U.S. Highway 378, your first stop is Badwell Cemetery. Stay on the Huguenot Parkway all the way through Savannah Lakes, and you will spot Badwell Cemetery Road to the right. Take this sandy lane, take the left fork and you’ll arrive at a turnaround where a white monument breaks through the greenery. Park near a beech tree where countless souls have carved sentiments and messages into its aged bark.

You’ll find the cemetery downhill. Be alert. Legend says a troll guards Badwell Cemetery. A rock wall, partially caved in, protects the cemetery, or tries to. Thieves made off with the Grim Reaper sculpture that guarded the wall’s iron door, but it was recovered and sits in the South Carolina State Museum. I’ll always remember this graveyard, but not because notable French Huguenots such as the Rev. Gene Louis Gibert and Petigru and Alston family members lie here. No, credit for this bittersweet memory goes to the inscription on a four-sided white marble marker:

Sacred to the memory of Martha Petigru, Only daughter and last remaining child of Thomas and Mary Lynn Petigru, Aged 25 years, 1 month, and 16 Days.

Her sun went down

While it was yet day.

Born Septr. 16th 1830

Died Novr. 2nd 1855

May the parents who bitterly mourn the

Irreparable loss of one

So deservedly beloved,

Be cheered by Him, Who has said.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life,

He that believeth in me, though he were dead,

Yet shall he live.”

Her sun went down while it was yet day, Jeremiah 15:9. If you’ll backtrack and take the right fork, you can follow a path to an old block springhouse where folks stored food in cool water to better preserve it.

Your next stop is a memorial to the site of a Huguenot place of worship. Now here you’ll have to be a bit adventurous and just drive on past the road that took you to Badwell. Look for memorial signs. Take a sandy lane to the left and drive on through the pines until you see a Maltese cross that marks the spot of the New Bordeaux Huguenot place of worship. New Bordeaux, 1764, was the last of seven French Huguenot colonies founded in South Carolina. The village prospered in the 1760s and early 1770s, but the Revolutionary War ruined their economy and New Bordeaux faded away.

In addition to Badwell Cemetery and the old springhouse in this part of the state you can explore Mt. Carmel, a ghost town of sorts, New Bordeaux, the old Calhoun Mill and the ruins of Fort Charlotte.

Get a good map and strike out on an adventure in history.

If You Go …

• Take SC-121 to US-378, then after passing the Baker Creek State Park sign look for Huguenot Parkway and follow the signs.

• Admission: A bit of courage but no money!

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]

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