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Sea-ing History: Tucked-back James Island neighborhoods overlap Civil War battlefield site

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Sea-ing History: Tucked-back James Island neighborhoods overlap Civil War battlefield site

PHOTO BY LAURA OLSEN An avenue of oaks covers the roadway into Seaside Estates, located in the back of the Seaside Plantation neighborhood.

Pam Ruff was raised in southern York County, Pa., just above the Mason-Dixon line.

But she would wind up residing below the invisible barrier that separated North and South 150 years ago. In one of those odd twists, she lives in a neighborhood offshoot named for a Civil War general from Pennsylvania — and a Confederate at that.

“I moved here in 1998 to take a job at the MUSC Children's Hospital,” Ruff says. “I love the history and have done some research. It's wonderful.”

She bought a home on James Island in Seaside Plantation, which had recently opened its Pemberton section. Not long after moving in, she discovered the connection with C.S.A. Brig. Gen. John C. Pemberton, a Philadelphia native who married a Virginian and would command the Confederate Department of South Carolina and Georgia based in Charleston.

He was in charge during the Battle of Secessionville on James Island, where Rebel forces repelled the Union Army in June 1862.

Lou Sell, likewise an unofficial historian who moved from Columbia to Seaside Plantation close to 20 years ago, says, “There was a story that the Yankees were going to attack at night.” They planned to cross the marsh to Fort Lamar close by, but, “They had never heard of pluff mud.” The soldiers got stuck and were easy targets for Confederate marksmen.

“It's significant to us that we live on land that was under siege,” Sells says.

Today, Seaside Plantation overlays some of the old battlefield — notably where Union soldiers encamped during the Secessionville battle. Historically-protected earthen works dot the neighborhood.

Ruff says Union and Confederate died in the battle, and both sides suffered huge losses in the five-year War Between the States. “This war was fought by Americans,” she says.

Just a couple of years ago, a resident unearthed an object in the yard that turned out to be a 19th century artillery shell. “You think we are a community intertwined with history,” Ruff says.

Seaside Plantation's ties to Charleston's earlier days is indeed a drawing card. But residents are lured by many other attractions.

Ponds and marsh intersect the neighborhood, which is separated into five enclaves: Egret's Pointe, Planters Trace, Majestic Oaks, Pemberton and Seaside Estates. The original two branches, custom-home-filled Seaside Estates and Egret's Pointe, date back 20 years or so and were built on what was once farmland. Pemberton, Planters Trace and then Majestic Oaks were added between the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

Numerous families, as evidenced by basketball goals at street edge, and empty nesters live in the neighborhoods as do couples and retirees.

A community dock abuts Seaside Creek: Boaters take the tidal creek to Clark Sound and residents float down the tributary on oversized inner tubes affixed with beverage holders.

The neighborhood is removed from traffic yet close to the beach, strip shopping centers and peninsular Charleston. “I have eight minutes from downtown and four minutes from Folly Beach,” says Pat Broghamer, a Kentucky transplant who is flying the University of Kentucky flag in recognition of the Wildcats' appearance in the NCAA Basketball Final Four.

At the same time, the community offers style and price variety in the type of house to buy.

“We have homes from $4.5 million to $157,000; that's about everybody,” says Broghamer, a Realtor with Brand Name Real Estate and president of the Seaside Plantation Property Owners Association.

The priciest homes are in a private reserve of six estates that look out over the sound. Two of the homes are for sale in the semi-wooded sector off Sea Eagle Watch; they are 4,600 and 5,400 square feet on 2.5 and 5-acre lots respectively and are priced at $2.5 million and $4.5 million.

Most of the houses in Seaside Plantation, however, are priced in the $200,000 to $500,000 range.

In her first year as POA president, Broghamer says she wants to bring the enclaves together so the residents can get to know each other and work with each other on common issues. The first community-wide event is an ice cream social in June, likely in a grassy area near the dock entrance.

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When Todd Peterson and his wife, Pam, a school teacher, were looking for their first house to buy, the couple happened upon Seaside Plantation.

“It was a new community. We liked it. I had lived on James Island a good bit of my life,” Todd Peterson says.

They bought an 1,800-square-foot cottage with a fairly large yard in the community's Egret's Pointe enclave. Two children and 18 years later, the Petersons still call that first residence home.

“It really is a quiet neighborhood,” says Peterson, who is president of the Egret's Pointe homeowners association. “There's a creek across the street from me,” he says.

Gearing up for a camping trip with son T.J., 17, and daughter Ashley, 5, Peterson cites how the neighborhood suits the family's enjoyment of the outdoors.

He's frequented the Seaside Plantation community dock, putting in a kayak and a 15-foot motor boat. “I've caught a lot of spot tail down there, trout, a flounder or two,” he says.

Similar tales are repeated throughout Seaside Plantation's five boroughs.

“You have a nice sense of community,” Ruff says.

Seaside Plantation is one of a half-dozen or so neighborhoods set back a few blocks from Folly Road along Secessionville Road. Nearby communities include Secessionville Acres, Fort Lamar, Ocean Neighbors, Wexford Sound, Stonefield, Westchester and Bur Clare.

To get to Seaside Plantation from downtown Charleston, travel south over the James Island connector and turn left on Folly Road. Take Folly for about three miles and turn left on Bur Clare Drive. Cross over Secessionville Road and the entrance to Seaside Plantation is ahead.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or


Location: James Island Number of homes: 375 (not including condos)

Square footage: 1,100-5,300 square feet

Look and feel: Village split among five enclaves linked by oak-covered road. Egret's Pointe, near-the-front yet removed, touts tidy bungalows; Planters Trace sports mid-sized houses and well-kept yards; adjacent Majestic Oaks takes in larger, brick-accented houses; Pemberton consists of seaside cottages set close together; and Seaside Estates showcases high-end and million-dollar homes. Some houses border marsh, ponds or Clark Sound. The 14-unit Marshview townhomes are off Seaside Plantation Drive.

Homes on market: 12 (22 more including nearby subdivisions)

List prices: $125,000-$4.5 million

Schools: James Island Elementary, James Island Middle, James Island High

Fun facts: Seaside Plantation overlays part of the battlefield for the Civil War Battle of Secessionville, which is re-enacted yearly in Mount Pleasant and Johns Island but not for 15 years on James Island; Pemberton is named for C.S.A. Brig. Gen. John C. Pemberton, a Pennsylvania native and commander of Charleston defenses.

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