This hardworking Lowcountry village welcomes newcomers who appreciate simplicity.

By Katie Atkins Gregg
September 05, 2006
This hardworking Lowcountry village welcomes newcomers who appreciate simplicity.
J. Savage Gibson

Life moves slowly in McClellanville, South Carolina. "Folkseither love or hate it," says Bud Hill, director of The VillageMuseum. "Most of us have roots here. But if you're what I'd call acharacter, then you'd fit in just fine."

Less than an hour's drive separates this marshfront communityfrom Charleston to the south and Georgetown to the north. "We don'thave a maintenance or police department. There aren't even anytraffic lights," Bud says. "That's why we all pitch in and wear twoor three hats." When Bud isn't busy at the museum, he helps at towncleanups, volunteers with local organizations, and serves as deputytown marshal.

McClellanville began as a coastal retreat for rice and indigoplanters in the mid-1800s and later evolved into a fishing town.Fishing still anchors the local economy. Working residents whodon't make a living from the sea commute to out-of-town jobs.Hurricane Hugo's devastation brought national attention in 1989,and locals have fought to maintain small-town charm ever since.

A few specialty shops, eateries, and churches dot PinckneyStreet, the main thoroughfare. The road ends at Town Hall, openingto an expansive view of Jeremy Creek and weather-beaten shrimpboats idling through the marsh.

Mary Duke, town clerk and treasurer, moved here in 1973 with herhusband. "He grew up here and wanted to come back," Mary says."This sort of family atmosphere is hard to find." She points out,though, that with each benefit comes a drawback. "In three words,it's peaceful, beautiful, and buggy."

McClellanville attracts numerous artists and writers. The lateArchibald Rutledge, South Carolina's first poet laureate, foundinspiration in its scenery. Creative people like it because"there's room to think here," says Bernadette Humphrey, director ofMcClellanville Arts Council. "It's soulful and easy to call home.Although sometimes it isn't easy to live here―the earthinessis not for everybody."

Villagers embrace full-time newcomers, but warn againstexpectations of change. "It's one of the few remaining old workingcoastal villages," says Bernadette. "You have to pick and choosewhat's important to you. Don't try to bring your convenienceshere." Most residents agree with Bernadette―and loveMcClellanville just the way it is.

(published October 2006)