Less Traveled 2010

Tracy Pou

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Small Town Spotlight: Bluffton

Posted 9/12/2010 4:17:00 PM

Bluffton is not your average small town, but it certainly has all the charm of one. In classic less traveled style, I stopped in Bluffton after veering off Highway 278 on my way to Hilton Head Island recently.

With no set agenda, I browsed around town to see what I could find. My first stop was the historic Campbell Chapel AME Church. Former slaves purchased the church in 1874 from the Bluffton Methodist Church in need of a building to worship in as part of the growing African Methodist Episcopal church movement. The old church edifice is not open to the public. However, a few church members took a break from landscaping to show me around their new church building, which was built about six years ago.

After touring the beautiful sanctuary, I headed to the banks of the May River and The Bluffton Oyster Company, the last oyster shucking house in South Carolina.

When I stepped out the car, the mounds of discarded shells caught my eye immediately. The shells, deposited from previous oyster shucking operations, has built up the land at the oyster company for more than 100 years. Inside, customers were busy picking out the fresh seafood that the Bluffton Oyster Company is famous for: local oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, fish fillets, live blue crabs and soft shell crabs. After checking out the variety of seafood, I headed to the shucking room to talk with two ladies who were prepping the soft shell crabs. Kind and gracious, they told me how they had worked at the Bluffton Oyster Company for nearly half their lives. As I listened and watched them meticulously pull the meat from the soft shell crabs, I was humbled and glad that I ventured beyond the seafood counter. While the Bluffton Oyster Company is best known for its seafood, the men and women who catch and prepare it, especially the ladies in the shucking room, make up the heart of the place.

My trip to Bluffton was an abbreviated one. I wish I’d had more time to take in all the town has to offer. Bluffton is an ecclectic mix of unique shops, rare natural beauty and lots of history. In fact, the town has a one-square-mile National Register Historic District. Visitors should be sure to check out The Heyward House -- an 1840’s Carolina farmhouse that serves as the town’s official welcome center. That’s a good starting place to discover Bluffton.

Click here for more information on Bluffton or call (843) 717-3090.