I’m a history nerd. I always have been and always will be.
Tabitha was telling me a story about her ancestors who were living in the Hilton Head/Beaufort area in the 1700’s. I find it fascinating when I know someone with ancestral roots in the area because I have none which is odd since I’m so fascinated by the history here. A couple days after telling me this story I did a Google search on her last name in the area and discovered some really interesting stuff. I found a photo of a massive oak tree in Hilton Head called the “Talbird Oak” which was located on what is now Hilton Head Plantation which is a private, gated community. I asked Tabitha if she knew about it and she said no. At that point I was determined to go see it because of my love of history and also the fact that I absolutely love the massive, majestic oaks that are found in South Carolina.
This past Wednesday Tabitha had the day off and I decided to work half a day so we could spend some time together. Neither of us had any solid idea of what we were going to do. That morning I thought about the tree and wondered how we could access the grounds of the private community. I did another Google search and found the website for the plantation and decided to email the general manager, Mr. Peter Kristian. I told him of my love for history and that Tabitha had been researching her ancestors and we found the connection to Hilton Head Plantation and that we’d love to see the oak tree named after her family. He replied soon after and stated that they normally do not let people on the property but since she is a Talbird descendent they would make an exception. Yay!
When Tabitha arrived at my house I told her that we were going on an adventure. She asked where we were going and I told her that it was a surprise but I would tell her when we were well out of town in case she didn’t want to go - that way it would be too far to turn back! Well, we didn’t even make it out of Charleston and I told her that we were heading to Hilton Head for the day. I told her about getting permission to go to the plantation and that we were going to see the tree and also Talbird Cemetery, which is on the grounds as well. She didn’t really say anything and I was a little worried. I asked her what was wrong and she said that no one has ever done anything like that for her before. That made me sad since she’s such an amazing person but I guess I was happy at the same time because I got to be the one that could make her feel special.
The drive took about two hours and we arrived at 2:30pm. I drove up to the gate and told the guard my name and she handed us a pass. We headed to the property office and were brought into a conference room. A couple of minutes later Mr. Kristian came in and after introductions he spread out a massive map and started pointing out the highlights of the plantation that were Talbird related. We chatted for a while about Tabitha’s ancestors and some of the stories about the plantation and the family in general. He said that Tabitha was the first Talbird that has ever visited to his knowledge which I thought was pretty cool.
After our crash course of directions we headed out to find the tree which we apparently drove right past on the way in. When we finally saw it I was surprised we missed it. Of course I was driving so I’ll blame that one on Tabitha! This tree was massive. It reminded me of a mushroom with a very large swooping dome. When you walk under the oak you are swallowed by the canopy and are in this incredible shaded area. It was beautiful. We spent some time walking around the tree and read the historical marker that was there.
The Talbird Oak
The Revolutionary War continued for weeks
on Hilton Head and Daufuskie Islands after
Conwallis’ surrender at Yorktown on
October 19, 1781. On the day of the surrender,
Mary Ann Talbird looked out toward Skull Creek
to see a landing party of British soldiers led
by Isaac Martinangele of Daufuskie. Isaac’s wife
was Mary Ann Talbird’s sister and for this
reason Martinagele ordered the soldiers to
remove all of the house furnishings and hide them
beneath the overhanging canopy of this tree
before burning the Talbird residence to the
ground and departing for more undefended
sites. More than a century later, in 1888,
Henry Talbird wrote “This tree used to be my
playground in my boyhood”.
We were sitting on the bench under the tree and even though traffic was steady on the main road I found it to be so incredibly serene there. After a while I got up and sat on Tabitha’s lap, put my arms around her neck and laid my head on her shoulder. We sat there holding each other and all I could think is that I didn’t want that moment to end. I have not felt that much happiness and peace in such a long time. I have no words to describe it because it’s such a foreign feeling to me. I never want to forget that moment.
After spending some time at the tree we ventured off to find the cemetery. It’s an African American cemetery, which we knew, but I was still surprised that there were no Talbird’s there – that we saw, anyway. There was several hand carved stones which are my favorite to find in cemeteries. My friend Brandon told me recently that he likes them because the carvings make it so personal. He’s absolutely right. I think about that every time I see a hand carved stone now.
I took some pictures and we decided to head out to explore the rest of the plantation. After making several 3-point turns I learned today to never let Tabitha navigate! Ha! I’m like “give me the map!” We found a Civil War fort called Fort Mitchel and also a beautiful spot called Dolphin Head Recreation Area which sits on a bluff above Port Royal Sound. I really wish we had more time to spend there exploring but I had to work in the morning and it was a two-hour drive home.
Before heading back home I remembered a place that I have wanted to visit for a long time – The Stoney-Baynard Ruins on Hilton Head. I’ve seen many photos of it but never had the chance to check it out. It was starting to get dark so we rushed over to Sea Pines Plantation and paid the $6 admission fee and started searching for the ruins. When we finally found them it was just before the sun went down so there was just enough light to take some decent photos. I love places like this and was really happy that I could see it with Tabitha. I live for seeing places of historical significance so I hope that she doesn’t get too bored with my strange road trip destinations. That’s pretty much all we had time for at Sea Pines but I definitely want to go back to see what else the plantation has to offer.
I think I was starving poor Tabitha since I never really get hungry anymore. I keep a protein bar in my purse for emergencies but have never had to use it. We hadn’t eaten all day and even I was needing a bite to eat. We searched on Urbanspoon for a local restaurant and settled on one called A Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant. Um, hello? It was amazing!! It’s so hard to find things that I can eat on any menu so I just go with what I want and try to eat a small amount of it and then save it for leftovers. I always seem to take one too many bites and then get really sick and have to walk around for a minute to help the food settle in my stomach. I wonder if I will ever get used to eating this way? I ended up having the Potato Chip Meatloaf with collards and macaroni and cheese. I would have taken a photo of it but it was way too dark where we were sitting which was a courtyard at the bar. The courtyard was small with some tables and chairs and a stage for live music where some guy was playing guitar. I do remember that he played a slower version of the Scooby Do theme that was interesting. Tabitha had the Bischick which is a breaded chicken breast on top of a homemade biscuit topped with lowcountry gravY. OMG. I had a bite and it was delicious. I’m so glad we stopped there instead of some chain restaurant! I highly recommend this place to anyone in the area!!
We made one last stop on before heading home and that was Starbucks. We pulled up and saw a guy outside who was on his laptop. Tabitha said “I know him” and started laughing. I didn’t believe her until she got out of the car and started chatting with him. I mean, you are two hours from home. What are the chances of seeing someone you know? Well, turns out that she worked with him and he transferred to the Hilton Head store where she worked briefly when the store opened. We hung out for a bit talking and then got our drinks and hit the road. It was late and I was dreading having to wake up in the morning.
It was nice to be able to spend the day with her since we normally work opposite schedules. Having two hours each way in the car to talk to one another with no distractions was really nice. It was a perfect day where we just spent quality, happy time with each other. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.