South Carolina Department of Archives and History
National Register Properties in South Carolina

The Oaks, Beaufort County (S.C. Sec. Rd. 165, St. Helena Island)
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Facade Left Oblique Right Elevation Rear Elevation

The house at the Oaks is significant for its association with the military occupation of St. Helena during the Civil War and with the establishment of Penn School, the first school for freedmen in the United States. The house was built ca. 1855 by John Jeremiah Theus Pope and Mary Frampton Townsend Pope. With the federal occupation of the island in November 1861, the owners left the island and the plantation was confiscated. Edward L. Pierce, one of the leaders of the Port Royal Experiment, chose the Oaks as his headquarters because it was the first plantation to be reached on St. Helena by boat from Beaufort. The Oaks remained St. Helena headquarters throughout the war and was the center for military and agricultural activities on the island. On June 18, 1862, Ellen Murray, who had ten days earlier arrived from Pennsylvania, opened a school for freedmen in a back room of the house. She was helped by her close friend Laura M. Towne, also from the Pennsylvania Freedmen’s Relief Association. The house also served as a hotel for military personnel from Port Royal, superintendents, and teachers. The house is an I-House and the basic core of the house is characteristic of this vernacular form. Listed in the National Register October 6, 1988.

View the complete text of the nomination form for this National Register property. In addition, the Historic Resources of St. Helena Island, ca. 1740-ca. 1935 includes historical background information for this and other related National Register properties.

Most National Register properties are privately owned and are not open to the public. The privacy of owners should be respected. Not all properties retain the same integrity as when originally documented and listed in the National Register due to changes and modifications over time.

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