John C. Calhoun’s grave in St. Philip’s Episcopal Church western cemetery is the source of many a unique historic legend and mystery. Calhoun, who was born in Abbeville, South Carolina, was buried at St. Philip’s in 1850, despite the fact that he was a Calvinist who attended the Huguenot Church when in Charleston.
Calhoun died in Washington DC, and was initially buried there, but was exhumed and returned to Charleston with a grand funeral parade and was buried in the western, or “stranger’s graveyard”, which got its nickname from a 1760’s decision by the congregation to set aside a section for those who died here while on visits or business – because in those days they didn’t ship the bodies home. This adds to the flavor of a curious incident during the Civil War, when Calhoun’s body was exhumed and placed in an unmarked part of the eastern graveyard as a precaution against desecration by Union troops. Known as the “friendly graveyard”, from the legend that this part is reserved for members of the congregation born in Charleston, the eastern side would only hold Calhoun until after the war, when, again according to legend, it was decided the man from Abbeville should be in with the “strangers”. In the 1880’s, Calhoun’s body was moved again to its current site and the massive monument that bears his name.
In the 1960’s, there was a rumor that Calhoun had been dug up again, this time by a group called STORCH, “striving to return Calhoun home”, who wanted him to join his wife Floride at her grave site in the upstate. Probes were made and the grave proved to be undisturbed, but poor old John C. Calhoun may not be completely at rest, considering how much fuss has been made over moving and locating his grave.