THE NAME GAME, PART TWO


Jenkins, one of the most common Lowcountry names, appears all over Johns Island and, of course, here on Seabrook Island's Jenkins Point. This thumb-shaped peninsula jutting into the marshes on the northwest of the island, once home to herds of dairy cows, has been known by that name since before the Civil War, cited as such in an 1863 land sale in which descendants of William Seabrook sold most of Seabrook Island to the Gregg family but retained Jenkins Point for their herd's grazing. Cattle were still present as late as 1955 and had to be moved elsewhere as early development efforts got underway.


The progenitors of the far-flung Jenkins clan were three Jenkins brothers who emigrated to Beaufort County from Wales in the early 18th-century and promptly set about marrying into the handful of wealthy prominent landowners already present, from the Fripps of Beaufort County to the Legares and Seabrooks of Edisto and Johns islands. By the turn of the 19th-century, Johns Island's Walnut Hill and Hickory Hill plantations were owned by Jenkins descendants.



Johns Island's Esau Jenkins

The surname was given to the enslaved who worked the plantations, whose descendants settled onto their own farms with Emancipation. Closer to our own time, during the Civil Rights era, Esau Jenkins (1913 - 1972) became a driving force in the movement to register Black voters, provide educational equality for Black children (the original Haut Gap high school near Maybank Highway was built largely due to Esau's efforts) and create the Progressive Club, a cooperative market for Johns Island Blacks on River Road. Its cinderblock ruins still stand next to a commemorative plaque.



Esau's Volkswagen minibus, in which he ferried his neighbors and their children to polling places and schools, became so famous it's now on display in the Museum of African-American History in Washington, D.C. Esau's statement that "Love Is Progress. Hate Is Expensive" appeared on the rear of the bus, a sentiment carried on by his children (a grandson, Abe Jenkins, passed away earlier this year) who have all been active in voting rights campaigns and have served in county government positions. Esau is also remembered by the bridge over Church Creek that connects Johns and Wadmalaw Island bearing his name.



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