Briefly, in the dreams of the early South Carolina colony, a perfect little island south of Charleston, was picked by the Lords Proprietors, and a plantation was planned, to be managed by Lord Ashley’s relative, Andrew Percivall. The plantation never materialized, as the founders later picked land for Charles Towne that was more easily accessible, where Charleston lies today, just north; and John Locke, the great philosopher from England, never set foot on Edisto Island, which bore his name on early maps of Carolina.
Locke and Dr. Henry Woodward, explorer, interpreter, first English settler, wrote letters to one another. Locke, insatiably curious, longed to learn the religion and customs of the native American Indians. Quite the letter writer, John Locke left an astounding 3,637 surviving letters, written to him and by him. (The most famous letter-writers of the ancient world, Cicero and Augustine, left only a few hundred each) Correspondence in the form of letter writing, in mid 17th century, was a practice central to English culture. Letters were read out loud, and it ‘served also to rescue people from intellectual and personal isolation’. It is what social utilities like Facebook, do, too, in today’s culture, attractive because we Americans have become self isolating, the result of our convenience filled, independent lifestyles. My own life on this remote island is enriched by my online connection and correspondence, and I wonder it is not an effort of our culture to renew our lost connections to one another, like letter writing did in the 17th century, something one writer called a “phenomenon”.
Just who was the man who dreamed of living on the eden isle, the paradise called Edisto Island?STOP TRAVELER. The epitaph of John Locke, the philosopher, at his burial place at High Laver, a village in the Epping Forest district of the County of Essex, England, begins: “Near this place lies JOHN LOCKE. If you are wondering what kind of man he was, he answers that he was contented with his modest lot. Bred a scholar, he made his learning subservient only to the cause of truth. You will learn this from his writings, which will show you everything about him more truthfully that the subject praises of an epitaph. His virtues, if indeed he had any, were too slight to be lauded by him or to be an example to you. Let his vices be buried with him. Of virtue, you have an example in the gospels, should you desire it; of vice would there were none for you; of mortality surely you have one here and everywhere, and may you learn from it.
That he was born on the 29th of August in the year of our Lord 1632
and that he died on the 28th of October in the year of our Lord 1704.
This tablet, which itself will soon perish, is a record.”
How intriguing is the man who also dreamed of this island, a place that still boasts so much of the natural beauty it had when Locke imagined it, thanks to many committed people, the preservation efforts of The Edisto Island Open Land Trust and The Lowcountry Open Land Trust who work to preserve and keep sacred these great open spaces of South Carolina.