Zion Chapel of Ease


This is the site of the first church on Hilton Head Island which was completed in 1788.  This location was the center of activity on the island in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as the church was in close proximity to a Militia muster house and a Masonic lodge.  It is also home to the oldest existing structure on the island, the Baynard Mausoleum, which was built in 1846 by William Baynard, a wealthy Plantation owner.  The cemetery contains the graves and memorials for four Revolutionary War Patriots: Isaac Baldwin, James Davant, John Stoney, and Charles Davant. Charles Davant was ambushed by a Tory militia unit, was mortally wounded, and is the only known Patriot casualty on the island.

The Construction of the Church & Consecration

The Hilton Head Island Episcopal Church of Ease of St. Luke’s Parish was built c. 1786 under the direction of Isaac Fripp and Captain John Stoney. The chapel was consecrated in 1833. In 1834 the communion service, which is still in use (where), was imported from London. The chapel was abandoned and destroyed in 1868.

Zion Cemetery, with the massive Baynard mausoleum built in 1846, marks the location of the Chapel of Ease.

  • S. C. Institute of A. & A. original listing

“....the Reverend Philip Mathews, husband of Rebecca Davant, and the minister of Zion Chapel."

  • Holmgren, Virginia C., Hilton Head, A Sea Island Chronicle, p. 68

The First Burial & Earliest Pastor...

“...the first burial was that of Lydia Page Davant, wife of James Davant, in 1795. This was seven years after the church was built there in 1788, and named ’Zion Chapel of Ease’. It was under the administration of the pastor of the new St. Luke’s Episcopal Church recently built on the mainland along Euhaw Road between Coosawhatchie and Scriven’s Ferry.”

“The building was neatly made of wood on a brick foundation, about forty by thirty feet in size. There was no parsonage, and when the minister came from St. Luke’s on alternate Sundays...he spent the night at one of the island plantations. One of the earliest pastors was the Reverend Andrew McCullough or McCully.”

  • Holmgren, p. 63

Reverend James Stoney Returns to the Parish

“...in 1867 the Reverend James Stoney returned to St. Luke’s Parish...he tried to hold services in Zion Chapel of Ease...stood empty and unused.” “Soon after Stoney’s last visit in 1867 the abandoned building had been torn down...no doubt to serve in some freedman’s cabin. Even the foundation had disappeared. The ground was plowed over for planting...”

  • Holmgren, p. 113, 114

“A historical marker at the site of Old Zion Chapel of Ease will be unveiled on Sunday, April 1, at 3 p.m. The Marker is donated by the Hon. Thomas P. Stoney...”  “In 1868 the Rev. Dr. James Stoney, rector of the Church of the Cross, Bluffton reported to the Diocesan Convention that Zion Chapel had been abandoned and destroyed. For a time the old Oak Grove Baptist Church stood on the old foundations, but was subsequently removed.”

  • The Island Packet, March 8, 1973

“...described in the marker as “A chapel of St. Luke’s Parish, established May 23, 1767, built of wood shortly after 1786...was consecrated in 1833.”

  • The Island Packet, March 29, 1973

Imported Chalices Mark Reconsecration of the Church

       38BU1158 | Intersection of U.S. 278 and                                Mathews Drive

       38BU1158 | Intersection of U.S. 278 and                                Mathews Drive

“Two beautiful silver chalices made by the Barnard silversmiths in Paternoster Row, London, were brought to Hilton Head in 1834 for use in the Zion Chapel communion service and were greatly treasured, although worship might be held there only five or six times a year, for want of a pastor. No doubt those graceful chalices were part of the re-consecration of the chapel after some years of disuse, for church records of 1829 reported that the chapel had been ‘thrown out of use as to the worship for which it had been originally erected’. Small wonder that the church was little used, since the minister in charge of St. Luke’s Parish was supposed - for an annual salary of $700 - to hold services not only at St. Luke’s and Zion Chapel, but also at the courthouse at Coosawhatchie and in the Union Chapel at Grahamville.”

Pastors serving Zion Chapel include the Rev. Andrew McCullough (McCully), Philip Mathews, Samuel Sitgreaves (1821), Peter Van Pelt (1824), Thomas J. Young (1827), B.C. Webb (1836-38), Alsop Woodward (1839-53), James Stoney (1853-61), assistants J.B. Seabrook and the Rev. J.W. Taylor and layman C.R. Cross.

  • Holmgren, Virginia C., Hilton Head, A Sea Island Chronicle, p. 70

      “In 1867... the lovely silver chalices of the Communion Service, brought from England in 1834 had already disappeared. No doubt they had been stolen after the fall of Fort Walker. When next heard of they would be in a pawn shop (in Philadelphia) covered in rust and tarnish, and the man who bought them mistook them for antique goblets. When the tarnish was removed he was amazed to see the sacred Christian symbols and the words ‘Zion Chapel of Ease’. They were returned to the parish and are in use at St. Luke’s on Hilton Head."

  • Holmgren, p. 113, 114

Churches Built, Abandoned, and Demolished

A well appointed chapel, 30x40 feet, of wood with brick foundations, boasting a sterling Communion Service imported from London, was erected in 1788 under the direction of Captain John Stoney and Isaac Fripp. It was consecrated in 1833. Members of the Barksdale, Baynard, Chaplin, Davant, Fripp, Kirk, Mathews, Pope, Scott, Stoney and Webb families worshipped there until 1868 when the church was abandoned and gradually destroyed. Later Oak Grove Baptist Church was built on the same foundations. Now only Zion cemetery, with its massive granite Baynard Mausoleum surrounded by the tombstones of members of many of the old island families, remains to bear witness to an era almost forgotten.

  • Peeples, An Index to Hilton Head Island Names (Before the Contemporary Development), p. 43.

A Chapel of St. Luke's Parish, established May 23, 1767, built of wood shortly after 1786 under the direction of Captain John Stoney and Isaac Fripp, was consecrated in 1833. Members of the Barksdale, Baynard, Chaplin, Davant, Fripp, Kirk, Mathews, Pope, Stoney, and Webb families worshipped here. By 1868 the chapel was destroyed. 

  • Sign erected by Hilton Head Historical Society