Charleston has no shortage of well-known sites to satiate a hunger for history. A quick Google search will lead you to dozens of tours, but it might not lead you to Ed Macy. His walking tour of Magnolia Cemetery may be the best kept secret. Kevin, the very knowledgeable concierge at the Courtyard Marriott in Charleston, tipped off friends. Intrigued we booked our excursion. Ed picked us up at the hotel and drove to the cemetery, located 10 minutes outside the downtown area.
Along the way, he explained the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard. The latter adjoins a Church. In the mid-19th century rural cemeteries gained popularity – a European trend that made its way to the U.S. On the former grounds of a rice plantation, Magnolia opened its gates to the living and the dead in 1850. Many of the late Charleston elite had requested a move to the new digs in their wills. Visitors traveled quite a distance and would picnic on the grounds. Macy, well-versed in funerary tradition, explained the Victorian customs and attitudes regarding death.
He shared the stories of Charleston’s first families, architectural details of mausoleums and the meaning of motifs on monuments. The ethereal landscape is punctuated by looming Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss and a large tidal-fed lagoon. If your ashes are buried there, one day they’ll drift into the Cooper River.
Whether you are poetically, artistically or historically inclined, there is something for everyone at Magnolia Cemetery. To set up your tour, contact Ed Macy.
EVENT: Annual Confederate Ghost Walk at Magnolia Cemetery on October 14th and 15th. Reenactors in period costume will illustrate what life was like during the Civil War during this candlelight tour. Groups leave every 30 minutes beginning at 7 p.m. and the last leaves at 9:30. Each tour lasts approximately 1 1/2 hours.