Yesterday, the Archives committee sponsored an expedition through Copahee Sound to understand what it might have been like to visit the Huyler Family in the early-twentieth century. We met at the dock, and in the face of prevailing 20 knot winds, decided to leave the kayaks behind. Jill started us off by reading from Anne King Gregorie’s description of coming to the island, as found in Jim’s book, Dewees: The Island and it’s People.
The traveler who follows the modern pavement of the ancient “path” from Charleston to Georgetown, may notice about 9 miles from the Cooper River Bridge a wide dirt road bearing to the east and marked, “Dewees Island – Coulter Huyler.” If, in an adventurous mood he follows this road, he will find that it ends after a mile or so in a little hamlet in the tidewater called Porcher’s Bluff. Low in the haze of the horizon beyond the salt marshes he will see a blue line of sea islands, with Dewees and Capers, in the stillness of magic solitude, straight before him. Leading out to the channel a thousand feet from shore is a footbridge flanked by a flag staff.
Having come thus far, our traveler will now demand that we take him further. So we open the box at the base of the flag staff, run up a signal to the breeze, and in a few minutes we see a white motorboat coming. We meet it at the end of the pier, and stepping on a board we find shelter from the fresh sea wind, draw warm rugs over our knees, and speed through the dancing water to the enchanted islands ahead. While sea birds dip and cry about us, and schools of fish flee from their pursuers, we relax in the freedom of the open, and before we know it we are debarking upon the white sands of Dewees.
After discussing our route with each of the three afternoon captains, we embarked on this reverse journey. To be sure, the skimmers, oystercatchers, and pelicans “dipped about us,” and we “relaxed in the freedom of the open”. We meandered through the marshy creeks of Copahee sound until we could see the point from which the flag was raised nearly 90 years ago, and then we tossed an anchor into the mud, rafted up and toasted the intrepid folk who made that journey frequently. We watched the tide encroach on the oyster flats, enjoying each other’s company in a different setting, imbibing the champagne and other picnic delicacies. Eventually we pulled anchor and headed for Dewees and home, watching the colors change as the sun sank lower over the marsh.
John Leland, in his book, Lives Between the Tides, (a book everyone should have a copy of– I am on my fifth copy, having lent/given all the previous ones away), writes of the marsh from Porcher’s Bluff to Dewees:
I sit at the end of the dock, listening to water slapping against the posts. The tide is full, and Porcher’s Creek winds bluely through it’s host, the marsh grass, spring’s green already filling winter’s brown stems. Across the creek, marooned in a halo of marsh, lies a dream isle, and indian shell ring, palmettos rising evergreen and graceful along its beach, live oak dipping its egret-clad branches into the water. Beyond that, Copahee Sound, a blue sheet of water stretches out its four-mile-long arms to embrace Dewee’s and Capers, barrier islands whose serried tree are a tropic silhouette of yet more Palmettos.