Imagine my delight, after climbing over a wall and through briars, to actually find the now rather secret cemetery in Charleston, where some of the cousins are buried. It was the graveyard of St Peters Episcopal, south of Broad Street behind some apartment buildings now. It was built in 1835 but burned in 1861.
How fun – to stumble upon this breathtakingly beautiful headstone dedicated to a child named Charlotte, my own name.
Who were the stonecarvers, the artmakers who created some of the most beautiful grave markers in Charleston, and truly, in America? Most of the gravestones are unsigned, but there are enough beautiful markers in this city to make me want to learn more about the makers, as well as the remembered.I do know that in 1776 Charleston was the wealthiest city, per capita, in the colonies. Many of the wealthiest citizens ordered their tombstones from the great New England carvers, so Charleston has the largest collection of New England stones outside of New England. Carolina offered unfettered religious freedom, which means there are nine different 18th century graveyards representing nine faiths.
This is but one tiny graveyard, for a church that burned down many years ago. But there are surprises at every turn, in shape, in imagery, in symbolism. And here, wonderfully, is my name, called once more. Little Charlotte Keith Heyward, I can now tell a little of your brief story, that you died at just 6, in 1859. What a delight to be inspired to research your story, so deeply connected, it turns out to my own family, the Hutsons, Barnwells, Gibbes and Woodwards. Such serendipity!