Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Magnolia Cemetery: Charleston's Best Kept Secret

You can't talk about the history of Charleston S.C. and not mention the beautiful, historic Magnolia Cemetery. The cemetery was founded in 1849 and is one of Charleston's best kept secrets.

Magnolia Cemetery gate
Sign located at entrance
The cemetery was part of the Victorian Era and is the biggest cemetery in Charleston, covering 150 acres, with over 30,000 people buried there.

The scenery is beautiful with winding roads and the immaculate landscape, making it easy for visitors to walk around and enjoy the sites.

Gibbes Mausoleum (1888)
There was a time, back when the cemetery was first established, when people would come, by the trolley car, and have picnics or gatherings with family while visiting lost loved ones. Though you do not see that as much these days, the cemetery is still a place that many come to explore.

The cemetery has a grand oak tree located right in front of the office. The people working there call the tree "Grandfather Oak," and it just won the non-profit award by the Charleston Horticultural Society last month. It is a great place to grab some shade on a sunny afternoon.

Pinckney Cross (circa 1915)
Magnolia Cemetery is a resting place for many of the most prominent families that have ever lived in Charleston. (See video of elaborate monuments). Some of which include the Gibbes, Vanderhorst, Pinckney and the Courtenay families, to just name a few.

Vanderhorst Mausoleum (circa 1856)
Patrick Harwood, a professor at the College of Charleston, has written and published two books about the Magnolia Cemetery. His second book is a detailed description of all the major monuments of the families listed above and more, and he does a great job at researching all the history that the cemetery has to offer.
Courtenay Family Monument,
Markers and Tablets (1891)

The cemetery was ran by a company until they went bankrupt in 1954, but now it is a non-profit trust that is ran by the Beverly Donald, the superintendent. I recently sat down with her and asked her some questions about the cemetery.

Patrick Harwood and Beverly
Donald at the cemetery
"Mr. McDowell sends out a news letter every year that encourages people to donate money to the cemetery. Also, if you buy a lot, a percentage of it goes into our endowment and the rest of it goes into our operating fund," Donald said. Both of these things help with the costs of maintaining the cemetery since it is a non-profit trust.

432 Crypt Chapel Mausoleum 
Magnolia Cemetery is an, "Active cemetery that offers cremation, in ground casket internment, and the scattering of the cremation remains," Donald said.
The Crypt Chapel Mausoleum is located at the entrance of the cemetery and is beautifully built.
E. J. McCarthy and Sons sign

Richard Crites is the owner of E.J. McCarthy and Sons, and has done work on about 1000 monuments in the cemetery. Crites brother married into the McCarthy family and when he decided to retire, Crites bought him out.

"I've been out there for about 19 years. It's not exactly what I thought I'd be doing, but I've come to love it very much," Crites said.

Richard Crites
"It's the last thing that people are going to do for someone and I like being apart of that and making them happy with the end result," Crites added.

There are many people that contribute to the conservation of this historic landscape, so it is rewarding for them when people are able to go out and enjoy the place they call a second home. If you haven't been out to see this beautiful cemetery, make an effort to do so. You won't be disappointed.

Magnolia Cemetery is located at 70 Cunnington Ave. in Charleston, S.C. The gates are open daily from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. 

For more information about the cemetery check out the website, And for more on Beverly Donald, Patrick Harwood, or Richard Crites, you can click on their names for additional information. 

Story on the "Grandfather Oak"
Interview with Beverly Donald
Magnolia Cemetery Timeline of Biggest Monuments
Magnolia Cemetery Video Montage

Additional side stories
*Patrick Harwood: Man Behind the Camera
*Patrick Harwoods Book Signing at Magnolia Cemetery

Magnolia Cemetery: Biggest Most Elaborate Monuments

Monday, April 28, 2014

Magnolia Cemetery's Award Winning Grand Oak Tree: "Grandfather Oak"

Earlier this month, the grand oak tree located in Magnolia Cemetery won the non-profit award by the Charleston Horticultural Society. The "Grandfather Oak,"a name the members at the cemetery gave the tree, was nominated for this award by Alys Anne Wiedeke.

 According to the Magnolia Cemetery website the "Grandfather Oak" is over 60 feet tall. It has a circumference of 25 feet and a bough spread of 117 feet. However, the oak has lost some of its branches over the years.

I recently talked to Beverly Donald, the superintendent at Magnolia Cemetery, and she shared some information and history about the award winning oak.

"I feel comfortable saying the tree is 916 years old, because it was 800 years old on a post card I found that was dated and published in 1898," Donald said.

"It lost over a third of its branches during Hurricane Hugo, but an unknowing person wouldn't know the difference because it is filled in so well," Donald said.

Beverly Donald holding the award
in front of the grand oak tree
Donald also noted that P. O. Mead, at Mead's Tree Service came in immediately after the storm and did some preventive work so that the tree would not suffer any significant damage. Mead tends to all the trees at Magnolia Cemetery, from preserving the old trees to the constant up keep around the cemetery to keep it looking beautiful year round.

With this winter being so cold and with the ice storm that hit Charleston a few months back, I asked Donald if damage to the tree was a worry for them.

"It weathered fine. It entered my mind but we came in afterwards and it was fine. They are a lot more durable than you think they are," Donald said.

A picture of the tree from earlier this
week (notice the branches)
On the Magnolia website they show a picture of the tree from the year 1898 where the tree branches are not touching the ground. I took a picture recently to compare how the tree has changed. Surprisingly, there is not a drastic difference in the two pictures, the branches have just lowered some.
The picture off the website showing
the branches off the ground

The "Grandfather Oak" and the entire Magnolia Cemetery are hidden gems of Charleston, so if you haven't been by to check it out, I strongly encourage you to.  It is a beautiful walk through history.

The cemetery is located at 70 Cunnington Ave. in Charleston, S.C. for more information about the location or the grand oak, visit the website.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Beverly Donald: The Woman Behind Charleston's Best Kept Secret

Magnolia Cemetery is the oldest public cemetery in Charleston S.C. dating back to 1849 when it was founded. 
Winding roads to make it easy to
drive to your location

This cemetery is full of elaborate monuments dedicated to the elite historian figures of Charleston, but it is also still a full service cemetery where you and your loved ones could also be buried.

Magnolia Cemetery welcomes people to walk along the winding roads and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Back when the cemetery was first established, people would come by the trolley car and have picnics or gatherings while visiting with lost loved ones, something that is not seen as much today.

I recently sat down with Beverly Donald, the superintendent for the cemetery, to ask her some questions about this beautiful historic place.

Q: How long have you been superintendent here at Magnolia Cemetery?

A: March16 of this year marks 32 years here.

Q: How did you get started in this business?

A: The chairman of the Board of Directors talked me into coming to work at Magnolia, in March 1982.

Q: Is it safe to say after 32 years of working at the cemetery, that you love it?

A: I really do, I can't imagine having to have worked somewhere else for 32 years that I didn't enjoy like I do here.  It's demanding at times but there's times where I feel free, I get to go out at lunch everyday and walk around the lake and take pictures.

Patrick Harwood and
Beverly Donald at Harwood's book signing
Q: How do you think people find out about Magnolia Cemetery? Would you say it's a hidden treasure?

A: It's the best kept secret in Charleston, but believe it or not Patrick Harwood has brought a lot of interest to the cemetery with both his books and he's a member of a camera group and they come and the word just gets out. Also, with the Hunley's being buried here in recent past that's brought people out here as well.

Q: How long do you see yourself doing this?

A: (laughter) As long as they'll keep me. I'll stay as long as I can. 

Q: With this cemetery being around since 1849, what major changes has the cemetery gone through?

A: Well, number one your monuments, the change in style of monuments. Also the ways it's operated, the cemetery was with a company until 1954 and after they went bankrupt, we became the non profit trust and that changed the way that we raise funds. There is a lot of change as far as the way we maintain it starting with the number of workers. They had hundreds of workers where we only have 5 or 6. We use lawnmowers and weed-wakers.  They didn't have lawnmowers back then they used sling blades. So a lot of change in the way it's maintained.
Beautiful scenery at Magnolia

Q: How can you afford the maintenance with this place being non-profit? How is it funded?

A: If you buy a lot a percentage of it goes into our endowment and the rest of it goes into our operating fund and any of the money that we might be able to make cleaning up a lot or putting out flowers for people who don't live here, or just anything we can do to make money to back into our general operations helps. Also, once a year Mr. McDowell writes a newsletter and people donate money, so we take in anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 a year just from that newsletter. And that money we can do what we like with it because it doesn't go into our endowment.

Q: Are people still being buried here?

A: Oh yes, we are still an active cemetery, offering just about any kind of service that you would want. We are a full service cemetery, cremation, in ground casket internment, and then we have the scattering
432 Crypt Chapel Mausoleum
of the cremation remains, so really anything you could want.

Q: On average, how many people are buried a year?

A: We bury about 100 people a year.

Beverly Donald, Patrick
Harwood, and myself

Q: What are you most proud of while being superintendent at the Magnolia Cemetery?

A: One of the things is our endurance and the way we came through Hugo because that was quiet an undertaking. Another thing is I'm really am happy that we have finally gotten computerized and that is all something that has happened in my tenure.

For more on Beverly Donald, the cemetery, or burial information you can visit the website Also, be sure to check out Patrick Harwood's interview with Donald from last year that was in Charleston's Post and Courier.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Patrick Harwood's Second Time Around

Most people would be excited to say they are a published author of one book, so imagine Patrick Harwood's excitement getting to experience it twice.
Patrick Harwood with his book

"You feel like you're never going to get to this point where it's actually printed and out like this, so I'm kind of pinching myself to be honest," Harwood said.

Harwood had both his book signings at Magnolia Cemetery, along with other locations as well..  His second book, "In the Arms of Angels: Magnolia Cemetery- Charleston's Treasure of History, Mystery and Artistry," was definitely a success.
Book signing flyer

The first book signing was on Saturday, April 12, from 10 a.m. -1 p.m. and people were eager to buy the book and meet the author.

A young man inspired by Harwood
"It's been steady, even before 10 a.m. people were showing up around 9:45 a.m.," Harwood said.

People of all ages showed up excited to meet Harwood and purchase his book loaded with information about the historic monuments Magnolia Cemetery has to offer.

Harwood sharing some
knowledge with a couple
Harwood signing his book
Harwood was greeting folks and signing books, he was also sharing his wealth of knowledge of the cemetery.

Some of the people that showed up were even sharing stories with Harwood about past family members or people they knew that were buried in the historic cemetery.

With the weather being a perfect 73 degrees and sunny with barely a cloud in the sky, I don't know how he will be able to top this book signing.

But for people who were not able to make it out for the first one, Harwood held a second book signing at the College of Charleston, which is only fitting since he is also a professor there. The college's School of Humanities and Social Sciences provided funding support for Harwood's research project.

Location of the book signing
For more information about his book or knowledge of Magnolia Cemetery, you can check out his blog

Sunday, April 6, 2014

This Summer CofC Will Be Breathing Easier

(Click here to watch video)
With the new Smoking Policy taking effect on July 1 of this summer, the College of Charleston campus will be breathing easier. The campus will be going tobacco free altogether.

The final version of the policy approved by the College of Charleston Board of Trustees on Oct. 18, 2013. 
The new policy prohibits use of any tobacco products, including cigarettes, pipes, chewing tobacco, snuff, electronic cigarettes, water pipes (hookahs) etc., and "all other technologies and devices allowing for the ingestion, combustion, inhalation, or other use of tobacco." 
Tobacco use of any kind is prohibited in all College owned or leased buildings, property, land, seating areas, and vehicles, according to the policy. For a more detailed list, click on the the official policy link.

Students, facility, and anyone traveling around the campus will be effected by this new policy. I caught up with a few CofC students to get their opinion on this new policy.

Chris Malm,  CofC senior
(occasional smoker)
"I'm fine with it. I'll be able to go around the streets and be able to enjoy the fresh air without all of the cigarette smoke in my face anymore. However, I don't think it will be that easy to enforce the policy. I think the campus police have enough going on anyway, probably, so I don't see how they will be able to. I know MUSC has the same rules and people are still smoking around there," Malm says.

Tori Sturkie, CofC junior

"I feel like it's really dumb. I don't think they are going to be able to enforce  non smoking on campus. I think you earn the right when you turn 18 to be able to smoke a cigarette. I can understand not smoking inside, or maybe having designated areas but the entire campus is absolutely ridiculous," Sturkie says.

Harrison Browder, CofC junior

"I think its a good policy for the students it will be nice walking to class without walking through smoke all the time. I think it will be pretty impossible to enforce though," Browder says.

Danielle Massey, CofC freshman

"I think I like it for the most part. I like having a smoke free environment, because I'm not a smoker myself I don't like being around smoke, it's unhealthy.  As far as e-cigarettes though, I think it's kind of strict. Because they help people quit and they don't smell, it's just water vapor.  But overall I like the policy and I support it," Massey says.
Zac Hollowell, CofC senior

"I agree with it I don't think people should have to be around smoke if they don't want to be around it.  I am a smoker and I don't mind, I will just go to a street that isn't owned by the campus and smoke my cigarette," Hollowell says.

According to Student Government Association's President, Jordan Hensley, people will not have to go far from campus to enjoy that cigarette though. 

"We have a lot of roads, and a lot of areas that are thought to be campus owned, that actually aren't. George Street, Coming Street, St. Phillip Street, and the area right in front of CVS are not college owned streets or areas. Those are city owned areas, so you can go smoke or have a cigarette after class," Hensley said in a recent YouTube video.

For any information on the new policy, please visit And for help to quit smoking, the college does offer help through free programs that are offered until April 16.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Trip to the South Carolina Aquarium

The South Carolina Aquarium built in 2000 is located right off the Charleston Harbor, and is home to over 10,000 plants and animals. This is a great place to go when visiting the Lowcountry.

Sign for sea turtle hospital tour
The aquarium offers tours, such as the sea turtle hospital tour, this is available everyday at noon and 2 p.m. There are also personnel at every stop teaching you about a different animal and allowing you to touch certain species.

Entrance into the 4-D theater

4-D movie theater is located right outside the aquarium and it shows 10-15 minute movies starting at 10 a.m. everyday.  SpongeBob SquarePants and National Geographic's Sea Monsters are the two featured movies.

Make sure to stop in to the aquarium shop and pick up anything from toys, clothing, books, etc.

The aquarium offers something for everyone.  Whether you are into birds, plants, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, or even fish, they have everything you could want.

The personnel of the aquarium care for these animals and many are rescues that cannot live on their own in the wild. The aquarium has several conservation programs to educate the community about Freshwater Mussels, Robust Redhorse, and Terrapin. They also take part in one of the largest international collaborative efforts to support ocean conservation. All the details are on the website.

Membership and adoption

Anyone can visit for a fee of $24.95 for adults and $14.95 for children 4 -12 for the aquarium only, and a $5 dollar up charge to get into the 4-D theater.

There are perks to being a member and all the information is available in a pamphlet at the front desk. You can also adopt-an-animal, such as dolphins and sea turtles etc. The list of animals available to adopt and added information is available in a pamphlet as well.
Hours and prices

The South Carolina Aquarium is an awesome place to take a field trip or just get away for a few hours and explore a different world that Charleston has to offer.

The aquarium is open daily from 9 a.m. -5 p.m. during the months of Mar. - Aug. and from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. during the months of Sept. - Feb. For more information about anything discussed above please visit www.