Discover and Visit the New Beaufort National Historic Landmark District

Jerry Blackwelder

Robert Mills House and Gardens January 12, 2017 was a red letter day in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

On that date, shortly before he left office, President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District. 

Reconstruction began within months of the onset of the Civil War. White residents abandoned their homes and plantations in Beaufort as the union forces arrived. More than 10,000 African Americans refused to leave the area.

Beaufort County become one of the first places where former slaves could begin enjoying a free society. Beaufort County thus became the birthplace of Reconstruction. 

The communities banded together to establish homes, schools, churches, and other institutions in the city of Beaufort, St. Helena Island and the town of Port Royal.

The Penn School was founded on St. Helena Island, educating young African Americans for 40 years. Classes were held at The Oaks plantation house and later at the Brick Baptist Church. In 1864 construction on a new Penn School began across the field from Church.

The Brick Church is the oldest church on St. Helena Island. The church had been built in 1855 by slaves for the white planters on the island. The African Americans made the church their own after the white population left the island and they continue to use the church.

Camp Saxton in Port Royal, a former plantation site, is where the first African
American recruits were mustered into the union army. In May, 1862, Harriet Tubman, the conductor of the Underground Railroad, arrived and worked as a nurse at
Camp Sexton.

The town of Beaufort was the center of the County’s social, political and cultural and economic life. The Old Beaufort Firehouse stands near the center of Reconstruction
era Beaufort within walking distance of more than 50 historic places.

The proclamation designated the buildings and land to be national monuments. 

Visitors participating in the National Park Service Passport Program may have their stamps added at the Beaufort Visitors Center.



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