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Visitor leave items behind at the grave in All Saints churchyard mistakenly thought to be that of the legendary Alice Flagg.
Tanya Ackerman/Coastal Observer

History: Journeys start with the final rest

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Death is not the end. For author Sharon Corey of The Reserve community, cemeteries keep people’s stories alive. She has used the tombstones of people who left their marks in life to write “Georgetown County’s Historic Cemeteries,” published by Images of America.

Corey, a native of Chesterfield County who moved to the area in 2007, has a lifelong fascination with cemeteries that she combines with genealogy. While her book has hundreds of pictures of grave markers, she has spent the bulk of her time researching the lives of those interred centuries ago.

• Joseph Alston (1779-1816) is buried at The Oaks Plantation cemetery at Brookgreen Gardens. A former governor of South Carolina, he was married to the former Theodosia Burr, daughter of U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr. She was lost at sea in early 1813. • Dr. Joshua John Ward Flagg (1860-1938) is buried at All Saints Cemetery. He was one of the few survivors of an Oct. 13, 1893, hurricane that sent 44-foot waves over the beach houses. The “Flagg Storm” killed Flagg’s wife, daughter and parents among others.

• Col. Joshua John Ward (1800-1853) is also buried at All Saints. He and his wife, the former Joanna Douglass Hasell, lived at Brookgreen. Ward was called “King of the Rice Planters” and served as the 44th lieutenant governor of South Carolina from 1850 to 1852.

• Robert Francis Withers Allston (1801-1864) is buried at Prince George Winyah cemetery. One of the original members of the Hot and Hot Fish Club of All Saints Parish, he changed the name of his plantation from Matanza to Chicora Wood in 1853. He won medals for rice culture at the Paris Exposition in 1855 and 1856. A graduate of West Point Military Academy, Allston was appointed surveyor general of the state and served two terms. He was elected to the House of Representatives and the state Senate prior to being elected governor in 1856.

• Elisha Screven (1698-1757) is buried in the Screven Graveyard, a little known plot between Prince and Front streets near the old county courthouse. He planned and founded Georgetown between 1729 and 1735.

• Harold Kaminski (1886-1972) is buried at Beth Elohim, Georgetown’s Jewish cemetery. He is one of three former city mayors buried there, the others being Louis Ehrich and Sylvan Rosen. When his wife, Julia Pyatt Kaminski, died in 1972 she willed her house to the city of Georgetown to be operated as a museum.

Among the author’s carefully written paragraphs readers can find parts of the story of plantation wealth: cousins often married to keep land in the family. Churches are linked to their graveyards. Georgetown’s original layout had lots set aside for the Presbyterians, the Anglicans and the Baptists.

William Cuttino (1747-1806) is buried at the Old Baptist Cemetery on Church Street near its intersection with Screven. He was treasurer and builder of the Antipedo Baptist Church. Other prominent Baptists buried there are John Waldo, minister and educator, the Rev. Edmond Botsford, an Englishman who became minister in 1796, and Savage Smith, president of the church in 1805.

Lee Brockington, senior interpreter at Hobcaw Barony, says Corey’s book is the kind to keep under the car seat for a day trip resource. Brockington said Corey was the first chairman of the Hobcaw Barony Guest Book Project, researching individuals who visited and either signed the guest book or were mentioned in publications. “I saw her excitement at being able to share her research with others,” Brockington said.

Corey said the cemetery book wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of Julie Warren and Patti Burns of the Georgetown County Public Library. Many of the images Warren scanned into the library’s digital library are used in the book, and Burns has added almost 26,000 memorials and 40,000 photos from cemeteries.

Corey decided to compile the book when she was suffering with what an aunt called “the old-time flu” in January 2015. She spent a week cutting out paper snowflakes before deciding she could be doing something more beneficial.

She learned about the Lowcountry and its cemeteries as she went along. Historian Pat Doyle told her that her black outfit attracted mosquitoes on one cemetery exploration. “I learned a lot of things from Pat Doyle, and that was one of them,” Corey said. Cemetery tours at Hobcaw Barony and Brookgreen Gardens are held in winter when mosquitoes and snakes are not as prevalent.

Corey said she is also fascinated by cemetery gates and brick walls. Her house is within sight of an Allston family cemetery, known as Turkey Hill Cemetery. “Cemeteries,” she said, “are quiet and peaceful places filled with art and beauty.”

Corey is the speaker at Friday’s Moveable Feast literary lunch. The event is sold out. She will be signing copies at Litchfield Books at 2 p.m. The book is also available at arcadiapublishing.com.

History can’t compete with legend at grave marked ‘Alice’

Alice Flagg was a delicate young girl who died tragically of a fever at age 15. The story of her ghost has taken on a life of its own.

Visitors to the All Saints Cemetery on Kings River Road leave coins, rings and mementos on a grave marker that says simply, “Alice.” They perform the ritual of walking around the grave backward 13 times in an attempt to summon her. Legend also says that if a young girl walks around the grave nine times the ring will disappear from her ring finger. Very few realize this is not the grave of Alice Flagg, who died at the Hermitage in Murrells Inlet of a fever in January 1849. This grave contains the remains of a child, also named Alice.

The legend draws visitors to the All Saints cemetery at all hours. The cast and crew of an opera about Alice Flagg written by Waccamaw High graduate Joseph Kaz walked around the grave last summer before performing at Winyah Auditorium.

Performance of the ritual has worn a path around the stone, according to Jody Godbey, director of communications at the church. “Visitors are welcome during the day,” she said. “There are many historic markers. Unfortunately, the ground is beaten down around stone marked ‘Alice’ even though she’s not buried there.”

Alice Flagg, who died of fever, was buried temporarily at the Hermitage and moved to Cedar Hill Cemetery, now the Belin Memorial United Methodist Church cemetery, when her parents returned from a trip to the mountains, according to Bill Chandler of Murrells Inlet.

Chandler’s grandfather Clark Willcox Sr. bought the Hermitage about 1910. Chandler’s uncle Clark Willcox Jr. and his wife, Lillian, lived there from about 1950 until his death. The house was moved off the inlet’s waterfront in 1991 and today is home to Bill’s brother, Joe, and his wife, Ann.

Bill Chandler says the legend of Alice Flagg was told many times on the porch of the Hermitage to him and his impressionable siblings by their uncle, Clark Jr. He would tell how Alice fell in love with a man her parents found unsuitable. They sent her to boarding school in Charleston, but the couple met there for a holiday dance and the man proposed and gave Alice a ring. Fearful of being found out, Alice kept the ring on a ribbon around her neck. When she got sick, her uncle brought her home and found the ring. He threw it into the creek, and Alice wanders the inlet looking for it.

Bill and Joe’s family moved into the Hermitage in 1941 to care for their grandfather. For six years, the boys slept in the bedroom where Alice died. “Was the room haunted?” Bill asks. “You’re darn right it was, especially for two boys not yet teenagers. There were unexplained noises, sightings, creepy cold zones and doors opening and closing without explanation.”

Bill says there doesn’t appear to have been a sighting of Alice’s ghost prior to the Willcox family’s ownership of the Hermitage. He’s not going to say the story is untrue. Joe and Ann Chandler painted the ceiling of the Hermitage porch blue and made other changes to ward off spirits.

“I don’t think Alice was mean or malicious,” Bill said, “but I think she was certainly a devilish and fun-loving person.” As for her ghost, Alice Flagg is more popular than ever. She was the subject of a Lifetime television channel movie last month. The film ended at the grave in the All Saints cemetery.

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