Signs of the times

Marking history on Daniel Island
Daniel Island’s meandering 25-mile trail system offers more than a great opportunity for exercise and soaking in beautiful Lowcountry vistas. It’s like a trip down memory lane. 
Dotting many of the trails and tucked into pocket parks are historical markers created by the Daniel Island Historical Society (DIHS). The nonprofit organization has placed 14 markers at various spots across the island. Topics range from the island’s namesake, Robert Daniell, to Gunboat No. 9, a wartime vessel crafted on Prichard Shipyard in the early 1800s, to each of the island’s three African American cemeteries. 
“There are no historic buildings on Daniel Island, but there is so much history,” said DIHS Community Outreach Chair Lee Ann Bain, who is also a licensed tour guide for the Grimke Sisters Tour and Walk Charleston Tours, and serves as president of the Charleston Tours Association. “You just can't see anything — except for the cemeteries. So the marker program is our way of showing how much history really is on Daniel Island.”
Bain and her team first started working on the signs in 2015. They began with four markers — spotlighting Mitchell Pier, which once supported an early 1900s-era produce operation on the island’s southside; the former Codner Plantation, located adjacent to present day Bishop England High School; Raven’s Creek, once used to support a tidal rice mill; and Fairbank Plantation, a 18th century homestead that produced naval stores and indigo. 
Those signs were followed by a series of three markers focusing on the island’s grand live oak trees, many of which likely date back hundreds of years. The campaign was dubbed, “If these trees could talk, what stories would they tell?” One marker was placed near an allee of oaks across from the Daniel Island Real Estate Sales Center documenting Robert Daniell’s early 18th century settlement along the Wando River. Another was placed in Smythe Park to spotlight Native American ties to live oaks. And a third focused on the award-winning “Ittiwan Oak” near the Ralston Creek Boat Landing, where a considerable amount of Native American artifacts have been found. Another seven markers on notable island people and places were added in subsequent years. 
“All the signs start with who lived on Daniel Island or how it ties to Daniel Island,” noted Bain. 
To ensure accuracy, Bain conducts detailed research for each marker utilizing a variety of sources, including the book “Daniel Island” by Michael K. Dahlman and Michael K. Dahlman, Jr., as well as archaeology reports on the area. She said she enjoys working on
all the signs, but found those documenting the island’s Native American history to be especially interesting.
“It was really cool learning about the live oaks and what the Native Americans used them for and how attached they were to the culture,” Bain added.
It often takes several months to see a sign through to completion. Once a topic is determined, Bain scouts out a possible location and gets approval from the Daniel Island Property Owners’ Association (POA). She then writes the text, which is reviewed by the
DIHS board and the POA. A unique QR code is also printed on each marker, so those stopping to read the sign can use their smartphones to link directly to the DIHS website for more detailed information. 
The markers are manufactured by Brooks Signs and the Daniel Island Community Fund provides the majority of the funding to support the program.
“The history of Daniel Island plays such a large part in what makes it such a special and unique community,” said Jane Baker, president of the Daniel Island POA. “By partnering with the Daniel Island Historical Society on the marker project, the Daniel Island Community Fund was happy to be able to play a small part in sharing the history of the island with our residents and visitors. The markers really make the past come alive and offer an enriching experience, especially for those using our trail system.”
"Our historical marker program is the logical and tangible manifestation of the DIHS mission to document, preserve, and interpret Daniel Island’s history,” added Daniel Island Historical Society President Chris Frisby. “It is our aim to ensure that Daniel Islanders, and those who visit this special place, will better appreciate the cultures, people, and places that have laid the foundations upon which we currently reside.”
Bain is working on at least one additional marker to add to Daniel Island, she said. This one will focus on Thomas Elfe, a colonial period furniture craftsman who had a plantation on land once known as St. Jogues Island (site of the former MUSC Health Stadium on Daniel Island Drive). 
The DIHS is also hoping to expand their efforts to the Cainhoy peninsula, where the group would like to create markers to document the important history there as well. Topics might include the Beresford Bounty, the Old Ruins Cemetery and Cainhoy Meeting House, and the Jack Primus community. 
“I'm really excited about the Cainhoy area,” said Bain. “It's kind of like Daniel Island...There are not many buildings there that you can really see, but so much history happened out here and that's why we wanted to expand our efforts…Plus, with all the growth in that area we wanted to document it and make sure people know more about the land they’re living on.”
The stories of the people of the Cainhoy peninsula, including Daniel Island, need to be told, explained Bain.
“There is so much that happened on that land, and along the Clements Ferry corridor,” she said. “We need to bring it to the forefront. The good stories and the tough stories. I want it to be a 360-degree look at what life was like…We need to learn, and to understand.”
For more detailed information on each marker, visit

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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