The Chapel of Ease on St. Helena’s Island: Ten Years Later

Sugar and I went on a day trip to Datha Island. It’s a private community now, and a nice lady from a history group arranged a tour of Datha and also the Penn Center which is nearby on St Helena. 

Further along the road from the Penn Center is the ruins of the White Church, a Chapel of Ease. It’s a highly photographed spot, and it’s a readily accessible location. 

I took photos here probably 10 years ago when Sugar was following the trail of his ancestor Dr. George Mosse. We know that Dr. Mosse was part of an early congregation on St. Helena in the late 1700s, and we further know that Jonathan Norton donated 2 acres of land on St. Helena for the site of a church. 

A chapel of ease was a way for folks on the plantation to have church services when a trip to their church in town was too difficult. This particular chapel was located on an island over two hundred and seventy-five years ago, and it is not the closest island to the mainland. It’s part of a chain of sea islands along the coast. So, if you wanted to go to your home church in Beaufort, you’d have to go from St. Helena to Lady’s Island to Beaufort. These areas were isolated, and bridges weren’t dependable. Toss in travel by horse and buggy or wagon, and ferries or boats, and that makes for a long, possibly dangerous, trip to get to town in time for church. I can’t imagine keeping my frock clean during all this. I have a hard enough time finding clean pants. 

The “ease” part of all this was to indicate that it was easier to attend a religious service if travel to town was difficult. However, Chapel of Easy sounds cheap and impertinent, at least to me. The added bonus would be that having a chapel nearby would let you drop in for prayer or meditation or solitude, a way to ease your heart and soul. So Chapel of Ease could mean whatever you needed it to mean, in my book. 

We park under a giant live oak between the road and the chapel. My back is to the road, and I’m almost standing on the pavement to get all of the tree in the shot. The things I do for you people. 

Look up, from whence cometh my help. 

I posted these photos on Facebook. I think that the bricks in the photo of the front wall are a patch job. One woman commented that tabby was the stucco of the day, and that tabby had been applied over the building which was brick underneath. My thoughts are NO. NoNoNo. I do not want that woman laying any bricks for me, even though she might be an expert. (Rolls eyes here)

A close-up of the tabby in the window with a perpendicular wall in contrast.


More window.


Just inside the front door looking ar the rear of the building.


The tabby building material is stuccoed over and pointed to look like individual blocks.


So many tabby ruins. So little time. 

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2 Responses to “The Chapel of Ease on St. Helena’s Island: Ten Years Later”

  1. Tracy Willingham Says:

    We have a place on Fripp Island. I’ll look this place up next time I’m over there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ruth Rawls Says:

      It’s so close to Fripp! My in-laws had a place on Fripp at 424 Porpoise starting in the early ’90s. But we never left the beaten path from Beaufort to Fripp.


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