Beauty beyond the beaten path

by Julie Gyselinck

Taking in the beauty of this grand home encompasses senses other than just your sight. It is more than just viewing the home. It is the warm salt air blowing history around your body, the sounds of the rustling grass at your feet and wild birds who have flocked for centuries to this place, the smell of the salt air over the rivers and marsh, and horses calling over the pastures. It is a study in all things Edisto. Cassina Point echoes the history of the island, the people (past and present), the agriculture and the movies (we will get to that later).

If you had the opportunity to delight your feet by stepping foot on Cassina Point you would be hard pressed to imagine not wanting to live here or have anything to do with it, ever. But in 1844 those were the exact sentiments of a young Miss Carolina Lafayette Seabrook. Named by the Marquise de Lafayette, Carolina enjoyed the attention and flattery she received while visiting Philadelphia. Her entertaining social life up North is where she longed to exists and it is there that she met husband James Hopkins , the grandson ofa New Jersey signer of the Declaration ofIndependence. In his pursuit of Carolina, James followed her South where his love for her bloomed into a love for Edisto as well. Carolina accepted his marriage proposal and plans for a plantation home were drawn but the lumber for Cassina Point rested on the property for three years before Carolina agreed for their home to be built.

Time, as it does, passed. Children were born, fortunes were made on the rich Sea Island Cotton that was planted. When the Civil War crept close to home, the islanders were ordered to evacuate by Gen. Robert E. Lee. The Hopkinson family left their home on Cassina Point to take refuge inland. The intruding union officers found the gardens ripe with vegetables and the smoke houses filled with meat still hanging inside. The grand house and much needed food allowed the delighted soldiers to experience the comforts of Southern life, if only for a little while. 

Occupied from 1862-1865 by the 3rd New Hampshire Regimen , Cassina Point resting on a bluff overlookingthe water, allowed the union solders to keep eye out for incoming ships. The objects of their studies were clearly written on the walls, and are still visible today. Deep in the belly of the old plantation home, a secret lies, guarded by owners past and present and delightfully gazed upon by a lucky few.  Handmade brick floors and walls still echo the voices of the Civil War Solders and planters a like. The lead drawings, made by using bullets instead of pencils, wrap around the room. Ships of all makes and sizes, names and ranks, dates and even formulas for fertilizer written on the walls and doors in chalk over 150 years ago. A variable school room for union soldiers to learn about the enemies’ naval capacity and identify and log information on blockade runners trying to sneak supplies up river and alter the course of the war. It is truly a time capsule, and is probably the only sample of handwriting still in existence of those who put it there.

Today Cassina Point is a private home and horse farm for the Earnshaw family. Bruce and Tecla Earnshaw are only the second owners of the home outside of the Hopkinson family. The restoration took a little over a year and a half and upon completion they operated it as a bed and breakfast for almost ten years, closing around 2000 allowing them to enjoy the home in privacy. That is, until the movies came calling. 2010 saw the release of Nicholas Spark’s movie Dear John. Cassina Point was the main setting for the home and beloved horse farm of the main character, Savannah. 

Filming began in 2008 with over 100 people involved with the production. Even the horses got involved and had a few bit parts.  Most days, quiet has resumed at this plantation and wedding site on Edisto. In 2011 Tecla Ernshaw and Brenda Morris of Baily House Plantation combined enterprises to form "Plantation Weddings and Events” allowing a few lucky brides to feel like the graceful lady of the house, if only for a day. 

As the afternoon sun glows bright around the house, standing tall and everwatching over the grounds,   time still moving by but seems to leave no stamp on this well-loved and maintained home. Perhaps it is like a keeper of time and of memories for three families and soldiers unknown.