Keeping history alive
With newcomers regularly moving to Daniel Island from all over the country, it can be easy for the island’s history to get lost in the shuffle. For many people, even some longtime Charleston residents, Daniel Island’s background starts in 1998, when the systematic development of the island’s modern residential community began.
“It’s important to try to understand a little bit about what happened here from the perspective of not much of the history, in terms of physical stuff, was preserved here, because there were very few buildings,” said Daniel Island Historical Society President Bill Thielfoldt. “What we have are stories and a little bit of history that we try to piece together to help people understand how Robert Daniell played a part in the development of the Charleston area.”
England native Robert Daniell, the island’s namesake, was the first deputy governor of the Carolina Colony and a key player in the Holy City’s development. He acquired a large tract of land on Daniel Island in 1696.
Sharing important facts about the island’s relevance to Charleston’s history was one of the Daniel Island Historical Society’s primary goals when the group was founded in 2011 by Mike Dahlman and Beth Bush. But, in the years since its birth, DIHS has grown from a document of the island’s sometimes neglected history into an institution of education for island residents. In addition to the monthly meetings the group hosts on the third Tuesday of each month at the Holy Cross Church, the group has increased their presence at local schools.
“We try to, over time, present to them things that will be helpful for the students to understand about Daniel Island and its history,” said Thielfoldt. “In fact, we provide curriculum to the Daniel Island School and the Cainhoy School that teaches about Philip Simmons (who was born on Daniel Island in 1912).”
“You need to know your history,” said DIHS Board of Directors Member Lee Ann Bain, who serves as the organization’s community outreach chair. “That’s why we do a lot with the school kids, so that they understand the community that they live in and the history that was here before them.”
As Bain explained, DIHS has hosted a walking tour for Cainhoy Elementary, Philip Simmons Elementary, and Daniel Island School children that takes them to some of Philip Simmons’ famous pieces in the city.
“They learn about his history and then create their own art projects,” she said.
Bain believes that it’s an effective education method because it gets kids more involved. A similar program on David Drake, better known as Dave the Potter, is also being planned for local elementary schools. In addition to donating hundreds of history-themed books to area schools, DIHS has also created and distributed South Carolina “history trunks” to be used in third and eighth grade classrooms at Daniel Island School, Philip Simmons Elementary amd Middle Schools, and Cainhoy Elementary.
The historical markers that are around Daniel Island’s walking trails are also the work of the Historical Society, helping bring history alive for residents who are out enjoying nature. Bellinger Island is the most recent site to receive a marker.
The future for DIHS consists of more programming for students and residents of the area.
“This area is more than just a hunk of land that your house is on. It is an area that played a part in the development of the whole Charleston area,” said Thielfoldt. “So, we want to continue to be able to keep that information flowing to people, and as new people come in, we get to have a new audience every once in a while.”
The next DIHS program will be held at 7p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15, at the Daniel Island Library, featuring guest speaker Leigh Moring of the Historic Charleston Foundation, who will discuss “Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution.” For more information on DIHS and other upcoming programs, visit www.dihistoricalsociety.com.