Many visitors to New Grace return again and again to sail on Sabine Lake, kayak and fish in the sparkling winding rivers, hike over panoramic trails and enjoy dining in its many cafes, restaurants and bistros. If you’re looking for a getaway not far from home where the rule is kindness and down home hospitality with a generous helping of good humor and conversation then New Grace will not fail to satisfy and reward the senses.

However, not many first time visitors are acquainted with the intriguing, unique and not-so-southern history of New Grace, South Carolina. Its history is a testament to its cultural diversity, independence and unfailing commitment to the importance of individual integrity, hard work and fair mindedness. The citizens of New Grace pride themselves on being able to work together to insure a quality of life worthy of its heritage.

 

cave-828604_640IN THE BEGINNING

In the early 1600s merchants in the Louisiana Territory were looking for an overland route to the busy and prosperous port at Charleston, South Carolina. Goods coming in and out of New Orleans had to travel down the east coast and around the Florida peninsula which was expensive and could take months depending on weather and safe passage considering the smugglers and foreign ships that preyed on unescorted ships.

A wealthy New Orleans merchant, Charles Ranier, sent Albert de Beaufort Grace with a small party to travel up the Mississippi searching for a land route to the port of Charleston. De Beaufort Grace was an excellent record keeper and his journals, sketches and reports have survived and provide an accurate account of his travels. He arranged for a Native American guide Quech-ewe-ay (carelessly pronounced Wich-a-way) who accompanied him on subsequent expeditions.

On one of their later expeditions the party found themselves in a torrential rain storm and sought shelter in what appeared to be a cave. When the storm passed De Beaufort Grace and his party explored the cave and found a rear exit which opened upon a beautiful lush green valley nestled among rolling low rising hills with rivers and lakes. Although, he never found a river-land route to Charleston, New Grace was settled. With the influx of Creole, French and Cajun ex-pats arriving from New Orleans, New Grace was well on its way to becoming the all-embracing community which many of our citizens today claim their roots. Just go on up on the porch and pull up a rocker and a fan and have a glass of sun brewed kickin’ iced tea (you’ll need that fan) and talk to Mama Lulu.

THE CIVIL WAR YEARS  

 antietam-140322_640 Given the diversity of its settlers New Grace was fiercely antislavery. Contrary to the rest of South Carolina the citizens of New Grace provided sanctuary to all escaped slaves and practiced extreme measures to dissuade, mislead and expel slave hunters. New Grace was a stop on the Underground Railroad and was well acquainted with Harriet Tubman. You will find a statue honoring her bravery standing as a symbol of equality for all in Freedom and Justice Park behind the New Grace Court Complex on Main Street.

 New Grace remained unscathed by Sherman’s March through the south. According to personal diaries and journals this was due more to the ingenuity of the town than military strategy, compromise or secret agreements. Knowing that Sherman was on their doorstep a town meeting was convened to discuss saving New Grace from the ravages of Sherman’s troops. One town person, Philomine Truharte, fondly called Miss Philly, practiced in working roots, claimed to be a “natral” healer and a all-seeing reader of tarot suggested that all the town needed to do was take down the sign showing the way to New Grace, put bushes and forest debris on the road and extinguish all candles between sunset and sunrise. We’ll never know if blind Union scouts, good juju or just dumb luck intervened, but New Grace is still here and as Mama Lulu points out, “Jest as purty and pristine as it ever was like God intended it to be just like my precious ancestor predicted.” No one contradicts Mama Lulu.

By the late 1800s rice and cotton were cash crops. Although slavery never had a foot hold in New Grace, farming became very important and was an economic mainstay for the region. Workers were hired earning a fair wage and were able to purchase and farm their own land. One of the earliest cooperatives started here when farmers agreed to planting and selling specific crops and sharing profits. Farming is no longer a driving force of the economy of New Grace, but the original ideals are still in place.

 

FROM THEN TO NOW AND BEYOND

 
  • Rafting the Emera River, Acadia

In the early 1900s Brenda Lee Holloway, the famous painter, brought New Grace to the attention of artists around the world through her vivid watercolors of tree lined streets, lake views and historical buildings and parks. Ms. Holloway spent a great deal of time in New Grace and established an artist colony that still attracts artists to the area. Many tourists schedule sittings for portraits during their stay.

 Artists have donated sculptures and statues that can be seen around the county in parks, and buildings. Every summer the Holloway Center for the Arts offers classes in painting, sculpture and folk art which are open to children and adults. Scholarships are available for participants who demonstrate exceptional promise.

 New Grace has continued to grow and prosper.   There is an established equestrian community which is widely known for its breeding and rehabilitation programs and facilities. Once every three years New Grace is host to the Beaufort Classic. Ladies enjoy wearing colorful and sometimes outrageous hats while gentlemen don top hats and walking sticks. One need not be a horse lover to enjoy the three-day event which culminates in a banquet and grand ball. Tickets go like hotcakes so the earlier you purchase the better.

 In an effort to maintain its charm New Grace is determined to oversee construction and business opportunities. There are no skyscrapers and the golden arches can be seen on a tavern sign. Restaurants and local business shops abound on pedestrian-only walkways and cobblestone courtyards. Shop owners are encouraged to landscape and decorated their outdoor spaces. New Grace is not a town that rolls up its streets when the sun goes down. There is plenty of night life and something for everyone from theaters, music clubs, bistros and performances in the parks which are always free.

Let’s not forget Sabine Lake. Fishing, boating, swimming and water sports are year round. Sabine Lake has over 500 miles of coast so there’s room for all to enjoy. Living on the lake is a dream come true.

Once you visit New Grace you are sure to return.

All are welcome.

See you soon.