Lake Norman & Mooresville

History, mystery entwine at cemetery

Oaks Plantation Cemetery, Brookgreen Gardens

1931 Brookgreen Drive, Murrells Inlet, S.C. 800-849-1931; www.brookgreengardens.com

Activities: On Dec. 31, 1812, a boat carrying the wife of S.C. Gov. Joseph Alston left the pier at Oaks Plantation; the oarsmen pulled south to Georgetown, S.C., where Theodosia Burr-Alston boarded the schooner Patriot, bound for New York.

The ship never arrived, and she was never seen again. Maybe.

Theodosia Burr was the only child of widower Aaron Burr, who became U.S. vice president (1801-1805), killed arch-rival Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, and died in disgrace 32 years later.

Theodosia married wealthy and well-connected planter Joseph Alston in 1801 when the Burrs were riding high.

Her tragic life and mysterious disappearance made her the stuff of legend. Reports of her beautiful ghost were reported in Georgetown, at Huntington Beach and nearby DuBordieu Beach ("DEB-a-dough").

Brookgreen Gardens offers self-guided walks of the Oaks Plantation History Trail, which includes the Alston family cemetery. There's no marker for Theodosia, but there are for her husband and son. Signage along the trail identifies where archaeologists located the footprint of the Oaks plantation house, the overseer's house and slave street. The tour won the Heritage Tourism Award from the S.C. governor's office this year.

The walk can be done in 45 minutes.

The Oaks area is in a remote part of the Brookgreen grounds; noon-3 p.m. daily; Brookgreen's mini-bus runs shuttles to the trailhead every 30 minutes.

Cost: $3 for the Oaks Plantation History Trail, in addition to regular Brookgreen admission ($12; $10 for 65 and older; $6 for ages 4-12; 3 and younger, free).

Target audience: Strollers, those interested in history/archaeology, hopeless romantics.

Directions: From Myrtle Beach, drive south 18 miles on U.S. 17 Bypass. Brookgreen is across U.S. 17 from Huntington Beach State Park.

Travel time from Charlotte: 4 hours.

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