The Heritage Library is a place to become one with our past.
The resort town of Hilton Head Island is not often thought of as a repository for historical record, yet, it is. Hilton Head is home to the Heritage Library, a nonprofit organization that safeguards local and state history — old periodicals, letters and historical photographs, plantation ledgers, Freedmen depositions, smugglers’ records, research projects, some of the Lowcountry’s earliest maps and more. It also works to preserve historic sites like Fort Mitchel and Zion Chapel of Ease Cemetery.
For such a small Island, Hilton Head figures into the birth and evolution of our nation in a big way. It was instrumental in pushing back the Spanish settlements creeping up from St. Augustine. It grew the first crop of Sea Island cotton in the 1790s. Hilton Head fell to Union troops in 1861 and was instrumental in the blockage of Southern ports. It sheltered hundreds of the formerly enslaved at Mitchelville during the Civil War. And the Island saw the last stand of a general locking horns with President Johnson to implement Lincoln’s plan for Reconstruction.
Connecting the dots of the past can be challenging.
But the library’s employees, champions and volunteers work hard to bring the history of the Lowcountry to the present. Their passion for its mission leaves no doubt as to why USA Today named Heritage Library one of the “10 Great Places to Trace Your Family Roots.”
The library offers a modest daily fee and affordable annual membership options, which provide patrons access to a number of major ancestry and heritage databases.
The library is an affiliated with the Family History Library.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints operates the Family History Library. Heritage houses restricted records maintained by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
By Dani Ray
2 Corpus Christi, Suite 100, Hilton Head