Friday, February 15, 2013

A Hidden Cemetery at Mepkin Abbey

On a recent trip to South Carolina, I made my usual visit to beautiful Mepkin Abbey, and this time I saw something new. Because the trees are still bare, it was possible to make out an old cemetery on a steep bluff that is normally screened by leaves. There was a wooden walkway over a stream leading to it, so I set off to see if it was open.

Lauren Cemetery

Behind the wall, I found an 18th century cemetery that had belonged to one of the earlier owners of the property, the Henry Laurens family of Charleston, which acquired it in 1762.  They held it for many years, and a number of Laurens family members are buried there, as well as some Pinckneys (a name that occurs in St Augustine, probably from the same family).

Mepkin Lauren Cemetery

The plantation had been established by the Colleton family in 1681, and has an interesting history.  Finally, after having passed through a few hands when the Laurens family sold it, Mepkin was bought by the publisher Henry Luce and his wife, Clare Booth Luce.  Both of them are buried in the garden of the property, now known as Mepkin Abbey, which they donated to the Trappists in 1949. It is now a monastery and botanical garden.

Lauren Gate

The Laurens cemetery is still kept tidied and maintained; above you see the beautiful ironwork of the gate.

And then on the way out I saw a sure sign of spring in this rather brown, bare landscape: snowdrops.


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