Valentine’s Day at Kiawah River: Our favorite Lowcountry love stories
Just a scenic 30-minute drive from Kiawah River, historic downtown Charleston is a relic of the old world forged in the new – a place where the past and present are intimately intertwined. A simple lovers’ stroll down the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter is enough to transport any couple to bygone eras. What would they have seen? With whom would their paths have crossed? Perhaps they would have happened upon one of Charleston’s many great love stories. You can almost picture it…
Colonial Power Couple
The colonial era love story of Eliza Lucas and Charles Pinckney is a rare tale of intellectual compatibility and romantic bliss. When 16-year-old Eliza’s father inherited three plantations in Charles Town, she was not pleased with the idea of leaving behind her home in the British West Indies, which she had grown to adore. Soon after, her father was summoned back to the West Indies, and Eliza was left to manage the Carolina plantations’ operations. The well-educated Eliza was deeply passionate about botany, yet she struggled to keep the plantations afloat. Eliza turned to her neighbor, Charles Pinckney, who was a planter and politician in colonial South Carolina, and the colony’s first native-born attorney. Pinckney also served as attorney general of the Province of South Carolina, chief justice of the province, and agent for South Carolina in England. Pinckney and his wife, Elizabeth, offered Eliza mentorship and guidance, which eventually blossomed into a beloved friendship.
To boost her plantations’ production, Eliza experimented growing indigo seeds sent by her father from the West Indies and finally grew enough to export to England. She is credited with fostering the success of the indigo industry in colonial South Carolina. By the beginning of the American Revolution, indigo was one-third of all South Carolina’s exports. In 1744, neighbor Elizabeth Pinckney fell ill, and as she faced her demise, she suggested her husband marry Eliza. Though her father had presented suitors in the past, and the fiercely independent Eliza had rejected them all. She fell deeply in love with Charles (who was 23 years her senior), and the two shared a romantic marriage, a rare event in the 1700s. She wrote, “He was the best of husbands; the greatest of friends.” Together they had four children, the eldest of whom would grow up to be a signer of the U.S. Constitution.
“It was many and many a year ago, / In a kingdom by the sea”
It is a Charleston legend of forbidden love and tragic loss — a marriage of local lore and literary history. As the story goes, there was a soldier stationed at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island who fell in love with Anna Ravenel, a young woman from a prominent Charleston family. But Anna’s father disapproved of the match and used his influence to have the soldier transferred up North. Heartbroken, Anna fell ill and died. Vengeful toward the soldier who he blamed for his daughter’s death, Anna’s father disguised her grave in the Unitarian Church Cemetery in Charleston so that her forlorn paramour could never find her. The soldier was Edgar Allen Poe, and Anna Ravenel, the inspiration for the last poem he wrote soon before his death: Annabel Lee. This love story doubles as a ghost story as it is said that Anna’s spirit wanders the church grounds in search of her lost love. Whether you believe the legend of Charleston’s Annabel Lee or not, Poe’s time stationed at Fort Moultrie and the area’s influence in his writing is fact.
Real life lovebirds in the Charleston sea islands
Rest assured, the great love stories of the Lowcountry aren’t all in the past, and love abounds today as much as ever. Moreover, it’s not just us humans contributing to the romance of the region. Why one need only look to the sky to find true love in winged form. No, it’s not Cupid we’re referring to but rather the region’s nesting pairs of bald eagles. Bald eagles are true romantics holding dear a verifiable “until death-do-us-part” kind of love. Mating for life for bald eagles involves returning year after year to their same nest, and Kiawah River and the greater Charleston sea island area are privileged to host numerous bald eagle pairs, some having inhabited their same nest for more than a decade.
Kiawah River and the Charleston sea islands’ intoxicating blend of history, art and nature evoke romance around every corner. The breathtaking flora and fauna of the Charleston sea islands — with the ebb and flow of the tides, the vibrant Spartina grasses, haunting live oaks, fanning fronds of the palmettos, and myriad of wildlife species — unite in a symphony of love and life.