South Carolina Picture Project

Old Sheldon Church Ruins — Yemassee, South Carolina


SC Picture Project  |  Beaufort County  |  Old Sheldon Church Ruins

Please note that the Old Sheldon Church Ruins are located on private property. The property is owned and managed by St. Helena’s Church in Beaufort.

Sheldon Church, formerly known as the Prince William Parish Church, has had a tumultuous and eventful history. From its first service in 1757 to its present peaceful setting, the church has followed the travails of our nation’s history. It is one if not the first churches built in temple form in the United States.

Old Sheldon Church

Jim Hasapis of Charleston, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Originally organized and funded in the 1740s and 1750s by William Bull, whose Newberry Plantation bordered the church grounds, the church was named Sheldon in honor of the Bull family’s ancestral home in England. The church was set on fire in 1779 by British troops led by General Augustine Prevost during the Revolutionary War. It was rebuilt from the remaining walls between 1825 and 1826.

Old Sheldon Graves

Jim Dollar of Indian Land, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Tradition states that on January 14, 1865, near the end of the Civil War, General Sherman’s troops burned the church a second time as part of his “March to the Sea” campaign. While the walls still refused to fall, the church was not repaired again. However, another possible fate has come to light. In a letter dated February 3, 1866, after the end of the war, Milton Leverett wrote that “Sheldon Church not burn’t. Just torn up in the inside, but can be repaired.” The inside of Sheldon Church was apparently gutted by whites and blacks who needed the materials to rebuild their homes burned by Sherman’s army. This information comes from The Leverett Letters, published by the University of South Carolina Press, and can be found on pages 403 and 405. Please note that the National Register’s description, quoted below, supports the contested theory that the church was burned by General Sherman’s troops.

Sheldon Ruins Rain

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

A tablet located at the Old Sheldon Church reads: “Church of Prince William’s Parish, known as Sheldon built between 1745-1755. Burned by the British Army 1779. Rebuilt 1826. Burned by the Federal Army 1865. Tablet placed by Columbia Committee South Carolina Society Colonial Dames of America 1937.”

Sheldon Arches

Larry Gleason of Aiken, 2012 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The painting below is a rendering done by artist John Wenrich. Achieved by studying the existing walls and entablature, the rendering is an idea of what the church would have looked like before it fell to ruin. The image was found in the book, Prince William’s Parish and Plantations by John Reynard Todd, published by Garrett and Massie in 1935.

Sheldon Church Painting

Contributed by Sonny Bishop of St. Helena Island,
Prince William’s Parish and Plantations by John Reynard Todd, 1935

Sheldon’s ruins are listed in the National Register:

(Prince William’s Parish Church) Sheldon Church is said to be the first conscious attempt in America to imitate a Greek temple. Built between 1745-1753, the ruins of the church still retain their classic simplicity. Surrounded by moss-draped live oaks, the original three-and-one-half foot thick colonnaded walls of Flemish bond and the four all-header bond portico columns remain, attesting to the solid construction and master craftsmanship which enabled it to withstand two conflagrations and over two hundred fifty years of existence. Complete by 1753, Sheldon Church was built along a row of seven Tuscan columns (six engaged, one outstanding).

The western façade had an elegant portico, crowned by a triangular pediment with bulls-eye window and cornice with dentils. The large front doorway had a fanlight above and two round-headed windows, symmetrically spaced, on either side. On the north, five bays between the engaged columns were filled with a single tier of tall, round-headed windows; the other bay was left open for a portico. At the eastern end, above the alter, was a Palladian window, with a round-headed window to each side. Sheldon Church was burned by General Augustine Prevost’s British troops in May 1779. General Sherman’s 15th Corps under General John Logan burned Sheldon Church on January 14, 1865 and it was never rebuilt. Marble sarcophagi in the churchyard bear the names of South Carolina leaders.

Old Sheldon Church Ruins – Getting Married


The Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort manages Old Sheldon Church and the ruins at the old Chapel of Ease on St. Helena’s. Couples wishing to marry at the sites must be members of the Parish.

Sheldon Wedding

Jim Dollar of Indian Land, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Old Sheldon Church Ruins – Directions


Please note that the ruins rest on private property. The owner, St. Helena’s Church in Beaufort, asks us to share these guidelines for visiting: No climbing on the ruins or grave markers, no touching of the ruins, no littering or defacing the ruins or surrounding property, and respecting the authority of preservationists and St. Helena’s Church members who are charged with maintaining the property.

Sheldon Church at Night

Chad McMeen of Yemassee, 2009 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Old Sheldon Church is located on Old Sheldon Church Road between Gardens Corner and Yemassee. Coming from Beaufort on US 21 North, as you approach the intersection of US 17 at Gardens Corner, bear left, continue through the stop sign and go about 1/4 mile. Turn right onto Sheldon Church Road, which is directly across from Bull Point Plantation. Go about two miles and you’ll see the ruins on the right side of the road.

More Pictures of the Sheldon Church Ruins


Sheldon Church Ruins

Mike Tillison of Orangeburg, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Old Sheldon Church

Conrad Kuiper of Clinton, Canada, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Church Ruins in Snow

Keith Rice of Aiken, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Church Graveyard

Scott Hansen of Seabrook, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Church Ruins

Scott Hansen of Seabrook, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Panorama

Bill Fitzpatrick of Taylors, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Interior View

Vanessa Kauffmann of Charleston © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sheldon Gates

Bonnie Smith of Louisville, Georgia, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on the Old Sheldon Church Ruins


Contributor Susan Klavohn Bryant shares about her photo, seen below: “We visited the Old Sheldon Church ruins on a cold rainy day which made the site seem even more eerie than usual. The gothic architecture, gnarled oaks, Spanish moss, and crumbling gravestones always remind me of a spooky movie set, but it’s a beautiful setting.”

Sheldon Church Ruins

Susan Klavohn Bryant of Mount Pleasant, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Sara Dean, the photographer who contributed the picture below, says that Old Sheldon Church Ruins is one of her favorite spots. She points out an interesting detail seen on the interior wall: “To me and others, it is like a face on that wall that is always watching. I walk around down there and have pictures from all angles, and it is like those eyes follow where ever I walk. It is cool and eerie at the same time.”

What do you think?

Sheldon Ruins

Sara Dean of Moncks Corner, 2015 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Add your own reflections here.


Old Sheldon Church Ruins Info


Address: Old Sheldon Church Road, Yemassee, SC 29945
GPS Coordinates: 32.618526,-80.780523


Old Sheldon Church Ruins Map





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151 Comments about Old Sheldon Church Ruins

gale briceNo Gravatar says:
June 7th, 2018 at 7:09 pm

Have been there many times as a child and then as an adult. Last time I was there was 10 years ago and could not figure out what or where is was to find it again. So glad this site is up, thank you. It is beautiful.

holly shurtleffNo Gravatar says:
May 28th, 2018 at 9:19 am

Loved the site, want to attend the annual service Easter weekend.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
April 28th, 2018 at 9:51 pm

There are! We actually are going to add one here as soon as our website finishes changing servers. The photo is a rendering found in the book Prince William’s Parish and Plantations from the 1930s, a very rare volume.

Orville EdwardsNo Gravatar says:
April 27th, 2018 at 4:39 pm

Are there any pictures or renderings of what the church looked like before it was burned?

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
March 31st, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Fantastic you are interest in prints! Each photograph copyright is held by the photographer which is listed under each photo. When available, their websites, if they have one, are linked (if you click their name) under each photo. If you do not see a clickable name, let us know who you’re interested in and we will gladly reach out to the photographer and let them know you are interested in a print. Thank you!

carol harborNo Gravatar says:
March 31st, 2018 at 10:38 am

If I wanted to get prints of these photos on this website, who do I contact?

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
March 31st, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Hello Carol, we recommend reaching out directly to the people who take care of the ruins, their phone number is (843) 522-1712. They would have the scheduling and answer to your question. Hope this helps, thank you!

carol harborNo Gravatar says:
March 31st, 2018 at 10:33 am

I went by one night and the ruins were lit up (very beautiful!). However, the next two times I was by there at night, it was not lit up! Who, what or when determines when the ruins are lit up at night?

James Edward DaughrityNo Gravatar says:
February 23rd, 2018 at 9:46 am

Just wanted to say that it is good to know that your efforts were done with an eye towards unity and brotherhood which is slowly being edged away. Thanks for your site!

PatriciaNo Gravatar says:
January 24th, 2018 at 11:22 am

I didn’t read what the original denomination of the church was. Could someone help me with that information?

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
December 25th, 2017 at 11:21 pm

We are not officially affiliated with Old Sheldon Church Ruins so we recommend reaching out to the Parish Church of St. Helena directly to get in touch with them just to be sure the information is up to date, here is the number: (843) 522-1712. Hope this helps!

NancyNo Gravatar says:
December 24th, 2017 at 1:34 pm

I read above that you must be a member of the parish in order to be married at the Old Sheldon Church ruins. Would that be the same for renewing of vows?

dennis MaherNo Gravatar says:
December 8th, 2017 at 10:25 am

Just researched the initial movement of the Union Armies in to South Carolina. The majority of the army left Savannah in late January, 1865. However, Sherman did send the forces of the XVII Corp under BG Francis Blair into the Pocotaligo area as a preliminary movement. The XV Corp under BG John Logan has often been blamed for the burning of the church. After scouring the Official Records of the Rebellion, I could not find a Brigade under his command in the area at the time of the destruction of the church on January 15th. The burning of the church may have been done by Blair’s men in the XVII Corp. I am looking for clarification. I am hoping to visit this sacred shrine next week.

Dennis MaherNo Gravatar says:
December 7th, 2017 at 10:44 pm

A little curious about the timetable of events regarding the burning of the Sheldon Church. Sherman’s troops began their march on January 28th, yet the church was burned on January 15th.

Carol StyglesNo Gravatar says:
October 30th, 2017 at 5:32 pm

This in one of the most spiritual sites that I have ever visited. There is a quiet beauty to the ruins that is outstanding. This would rank right up there with my favorite places and I would love to visit it again.

MeredithNo Gravatar says:
October 12th, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Do you know if there are any old photos or artist renderings of what Sheldon looked like before the war? I would love to have seen her in all her glory, although she’s still stunningly beautiful today.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
October 9th, 2017 at 11:36 pm

Great question! There is a small parking area directly across from the entrance to the church, across the road. Hope this helps!

BonnieNo Gravatar says:
October 9th, 2017 at 7:10 am

I have often wanted to stop in to visit the site but signs indicate no parking on the side of the road. Is there a parking area available near by the site?

DixiNo Gravatar says:
October 2nd, 2017 at 11:58 pm

The ruins still appear to point the way to Heaven…

JudithNo Gravatar says:
September 18th, 2017 at 3:15 pm

We go past Old Sheldon every time we visit our daughter in Beaufort. We stop frequently to embrace the history and read the grave stones. Amazing experience that never gets old.

RachelNo Gravatar says:
September 18th, 2017 at 3:03 am

Thank you so much!!! 🙂

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
September 17th, 2017 at 8:07 pm

Hello Rachel, very thoughtful and respectful of you to ask and make sure you are doing the right thing! We know the property owners certainly appreciate that. Old Sheldon Church is open to the public during daylight hours so as long as it is at that time you should be fine! Thanks!

RachelNo Gravatar says:
September 16th, 2017 at 10:37 pm

Hi there 🙂 This place looks amazing!!!! I’d really love to photograph it, but I understand that it’s on private property. How does one go about asking permission to take pictures or get a property release? I’ve called the St. Helena’s Church to inquire, but couldn’t get ahold of the person they gave me to ask. I certainly don’t want to trespass or be disrespectful. Thanks in advance!

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
August 31st, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Absolutely, the grounds are open! Hope you enjoy.

Christine courtneyNo Gravatar says:
August 31st, 2017 at 1:48 pm

May I visit for sunrise photography?

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
August 23rd, 2017 at 12:50 pm

So glad you will take a side trip to visit! It is a remarkably beautiful and peaceful place. Good luck on your search!

Dr Rick SheldonNo Gravatar says:
August 22nd, 2017 at 10:46 am

I have located my mother’s side of family but have not been so fortunate with my father’s side. We know, part in Germany and Part in the UK. Accidentally I came across the Sheldon Church. We will soon visit, since we live in Destin, Fl. This will be a great weekend trip to search some of the Sheldon family tree.

Angela TaylorNo Gravatar says:
August 12th, 2017 at 3:30 am

I visited the Sheldon Church a few years ago and as soon as I stepped on the church grounds a feeling came over me and it stayed with me the whole time I was there. It was an absolute mesmerizing experience. I would encourage everybody to visit the Sheldon Church when you get the chance. I promise you that it will be worth it.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
July 18th, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Oh wow what fun! We hope y’all had a blast!

Lindsey MooreNo Gravatar says:
July 18th, 2017 at 12:00 pm

We are a Texas family on a summer road trip. We are visiting the ruins this afternoon and we are so excited!

RozNo Gravatar says:
September 22nd, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Excuse typo 843-522-1712

RozNo Gravatar says:
September 22nd, 2017 at 3:22 pm

I am parishioner of St. Helenas Beaufort. Contact the church office at 834-522-1712 for information on caregivers for Sheldon Church.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
July 10th, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! We are not directly affiliated with Old Sheldon Church so you would have to contact their number. We found this one online: (843) 525-8500. Hope this helps! Thanks.

Kathryn DenisonNo Gravatar says:
July 10th, 2017 at 7:43 pm

I would like to get married at the Old Sheldon Church ruins on March 17th. How much is it to rent for the day and is it available March 17, 2018?

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
May 12th, 2017 at 4:22 pm

It is considered publicly accessible during daylight hours so we would imagine any pet on a leash would be okay.

Maria FierroNo Gravatar says:
May 11th, 2017 at 4:58 pm

I would like to know if pets are allowed?

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
May 1st, 2017 at 9:35 am

Thanks for inquiring, Heather! Anyone is allowed to visit the ruins during daylight hours. Hope you enjoy your visit!

HeatherNo Gravatar says:
April 30th, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Can anyone visit this site? I would love to get a few pics of our little ones, but I noticed this is private property and don’t want to trespass.

SCIWAYNo Gravatar says:
April 19th, 2017 at 8:28 am

Couples wishing to marry at Old Sheldon must be members of the Parish Church of St. Helena. For more, contact the parish: http://www.sthelenas1712.org/

Lauren AblesNo Gravatar says:
April 18th, 2017 at 1:31 pm

I want to inquire about booking a wedding at Old Sheldon Church.
Please let me know if there is a certain website I can visit, or someone I can contact, to learn more information in this regard.

Thank you!

Best,
Lauren




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