Many families are drawn to Mount Pleasant because of its great schools, variety of sports activities, the wonderful neighborhoods, its lovely parks — the list goes on and on. But some families have known the charm of Mount Pleasant for generations, long before it grew into a bustling suburb approaching 100,000 residents.
Anne DuPre Royall’s family is one. Her branch of the family lived in Bayview Acres; the first subdivision built in the town. “I’ve only lived in two houses – the one I grew up in and the one I live in now which was my maternal grandmother’s house,” she said. “My parents’ house was built in 1951 and was one of the first in the neighborhood, so there were lots of woods where we’d play. We called one street Bunny Road because we’d see so many marsh rabbits! We had a rowboat and I still have my father’s huge cast net, which was handmade 75 years ago by John Wright, a local African-American fisherman.“
Anne recollected that her family did all their shopping in the Old Village. “Every Saturday, we’d get groceries at Coleman’s Red and White. Kenney’s Department Store was there too as well as the hardware store, the Pitt Street Pharmacy and the post office. I remember when Moultrie Shopping Center was built. The day it opened, they gave out little prizes to the kids. We were so excited!”
Anne attended Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church in the Old Village. “The church was small, so we knew everyone,” she said. “Our Sunday School teacher’s family had the doughnut shop and, to get us to come to Sunday School, he would give us a voucher to get doughnuts and a milkshake if we came so many times. I had no choice about going, so I got the vouchers! Daddy and I would go together to the shop. He would also take us to Patriots Point to look for shark’s teeth and all kinds of treasures that had been brought up from the harbor floor,” Anne related, explaining that at the time, the area was being created from the silt dredged up from the harbor.
Anne’s father, Jervey Royall, worked at the Charleston Naval Shipyard, the major employer in the area at the time. Her mother, Mary-Julia, was a prominent organist in many local churches and also served as Mount Pleasant’s town historian. She authored two popular books filled with photos depicting the Mount Pleasant of yesteryear.
Another lifelong resident, Pearl Vanderhorst Ascue, grew up in 2 Mile. “The whole area was our farm,” recalled Ascue. Her family’s farmhouse was the pink house across from what is now Dominion Energy on Chuck Dawley Boulevard. Aside from farming, her parents, Robert and Virginia Thompson Vanderhorst, also operated a small grocery store and gas station there. “We had about 35 acres, now the neighborhoods of Hickory Shadows, Rosemead, Mallard Lakes and Bentley Ward Court, and additional farmland on what is now Chuck Dawley Boulevard,” Ascue said. “We went out early before school to pick okra and cucumbers and pecans, and we’d sort it all out later. We sold produce to Piggly Wiggly and other supermarkets. Daddy also had a stall at the City Market downtown in the 1960s selling kale, mustard greens, collards and other vegetables. We lived off the land.” Her great-grandparents first owned the property, but her father developed it into a big truck farm. They also farmed another 60 acres of land in the 4 Mile area. “Our family cultivated and planted over 100 acres of farmland,” said Ascue. “Daddy wanted every inch of land to be farmed. It was hard labor.”
Ascue’s family belonged to New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. “Daddy would give us 5 cents for Sunday School and 3 cents to buy candy or johnny cakes afterward at Mr. Bull’s store, which is now a restaurant. Then we’d take off our shoes and walk home,” she remembered. “Sometimes, I ride by there now just to be reminded of it. It makes me feel good.”
Ascue and her seven siblings loved listening to family stories that their grandmother told them. “I enjoyed being around my family and growing up around cousins. My relatives all lived right there. It was a close-knit community,” she said.
In reminiscing, Pearl continued, “What I miss most is I wish we had more farmland – being beholding to the soil instead of Walmart. There is some Greenbelt property we can use for farming. It first began with little individual fenced plots but now it must be done in containers because the soil is no longer conducive to growing.” She further mused over an interesting twist of fate. “My mother was from 10 Mile and my daddy was from 2 Mile. My husband is from 10 Mile and I’m from 2 Mile. It’s funny how we each married someone from that other area!”
Freddie Jenkins grew up in the African-American settlement community of Snowden, but his father’s family was from the Cainhoy area. “My grandfather worked at the old Cainhoy Plantation when Guggenheim purchased it in the 1930s,” he explained. “We were living In Cainhoy when I was born, but the house burned down when I was a baby, so we moved to Snowden where my mother, Vera Ellis, was from. Her mother was a Seabrook, and she was from 7 Mile,” elaborated Jenkins, adding that his uncle worked as a dairyman at Boone Hall in the 1930s.
Jenkins remembered swimming in Butler Creek on Longpoint Road when he was young. “We’d also go fishing or catch crabs and shrimp there,” he noted. “We did it for enjoyment but also as a staple to eat. We rode bicycles around the neighborhood or played basketball, baseball and football but only after our chores were done – and only afterward! They had to be done by noon.”
As a teenager, Jenkins worked on farms to earn spending money and buy school supplies. He attended Laing High School in 6 Mile. “Laing was for the black kids and the white kids went to Moultrie. Laing was a vocational school where boys learned woodworking, carpentry, brick making and other trades,” said Jenkins. “We knew we had to get into the world.”
Jenkins served in the Army after high school but still lives in Snowden. His aunt gave him property there where he built a house. One thing he enjoys about the area today is its proximity to amenities like the gym, restaurants, stores and gas stations. Jenkins can even walk to some. But he recollects a time when you might only see a few cars drive by on Longpoint Road in the morning, and no other cars throughout the day.
He is concerned that heirs’ properties in communities like Snowden are now being lost to development. Jenkins serves on the board of the African American Settlement Communities Historic Commission that endeavors to preserve and protect them. “They began so that people would always have a place to live where their families were,” he said. “Each community has its own identity, but we are there to provide support in whatever way we can.”
The Lofton name is another that rings familiar in Mount Pleasant. Multiple generations are buried in the old graveyard at Christ Church. But Marianne Lofton Allen’s father, Alexander Lofton, had grown up in McClellanville, settling in Mount Pleasant following his military service during World War II. Five years ago, he co-authored a book entitled “Rice to Ruin” chronicling another branch of his family tree on his mother’s side – the Lucas family. Jonathan Lucas was a prominent rice planter east of the Cooper in the late 1700s. “At one time, he owned half of Mount Pleasant,” quipped Marianne.
Marianne grew up on Middle Street in the Old Village. “When Daddy bought the house, people thought he was crazy,” she said. “It was in disrepair and the neighborhood was somewhat isolated. But he had a vision. The house was on a section of Charleston Harbor, so we spent time playing at low tide in the mud and had a grand time! We did everything outside. We crabbed off the dock, played ball in the street, climbed trees on vacant lots. To our right was Pierates Cruze. It was no longer a public garden but the caretaker, an elderly black man, would sometimes let us come in and explore. It still had lots of beautiful flowers. Daddy later got two or three camellia bushes from there when they were clearing the property for houses to be built. I have some that were propagated from daddy’s camellias, so mine might be one of them. When I moved it to my house in Oakhaven, I had Lofton’s Nursery move them for me — they are my distant cousins.”
Marianne wishes children today had the freedom to explore, likening the small town back then to a pearl in an oyster. But she does contend that scenic parks such as those at Shem Creek and the Pitt Street Bridge have allowed more families to enjoy what the Lowcountry has to offer. “We used to watch pelicans fly right over our house every evening,” recounted Marianne. “A couple of porpoises regularly came up in the harbor. And we’d see the shrimp boats opening their nets out to dry. Simple things.”
As they say, life’s simple pleasures are the best.
By Mary Coy