The St. John’s Hunting Club was founded in 1800 and still meets regularly. According to club vice president/archivist Richard Porcher, the club did not meet from October 1861 to December 1866 because of the Civil War. Meetings were suspended after the May 13, 1869, meeting. The club was reorganized May 15, 1900. During World War II, meetings on May 23, 1942, and October 13, 1945, were suspended. It has met every October and May since 1945.
Keith Gourdin and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the October 13, 2007, meeting by Dr. Richard Porcher. It was held at the clubhouse on Butter Road in Bonneau Beach on the remains of old Pooshee Plantation on the banks of Lake Moultrie. Meetings have been held there since 1945.
Prior to that, meetings were held in many different places including Wampee Plantation, Indian Field Plantation, Middlebrook Plantation, Black Oak Churchyard, Henry Lucas’s home in Pinopolis, and Pooshee Plantation.
Keith and I drove from Pineville through St. Stephens to Bonneau. We were told protocol from 1800 would be strictly maintained, so we wore coats and ties even though the temperature was in the 90s, and the clubhouse was not air-conditioned.
The clubhouse was constructed from buildings abandoned by CCC after construction of Lake Moultrie in the late 1930s. Bricks from Pooshee Plantation were used to make the entrance pillars on which was placed the sign, which reads St. John’s Hunting Club, St. John’s Berkeley, May 1, 1800 (At that time St. John’s Berkeley was a South Carolina parish between St. Stephen’s and St. James’ Goose Creek. These are now contained within Berkeley County and the parish names have disappeared.).
Keith and I signed the guest book and were introduced to many members and guests. At noon, the bell sounded and all members filed into the clubhouse. The guests continued to chat around the outdoor bar. Most of the conversation revolved around family connections, the shrinking lake, the heat, and the size of the gnats. A few braved to defy tradition and removed their jackets.
The official meeting lasted about 30 minutes, then we were joined at the bar by the members. At exactly one o’clock, the bell announced dinner, and we all filed into the clubhouse, removed our jackets, and took our seats.
The clubhouse was one long room with three rows of tables. A small kitchen and office were at the front and two toilet stalls were at the rear. Deer heads, maps, and ancient photographs lined the walls. Seated at the head table were President Francis Marion Kirk Jr., Secretary-Treasurer Dr. Bill Cain, and Speakerfor the Day Dr. Simmons Tate. Keith and I sat at the end of the middle table with Dr. Porcher.
Port and Madeira wines were poured into the stemmed glasses beside the iced water mugs. After the invocation and the Doxology by President Kirk, plates of the traditional fare were placed on the tables by the servants—baked ham, fried chicken, red rice, chicken and rice pilau, butter beans, macaroni and cheese, and sliced tomatoes. “The same food since 1800,” someone said. Following the meal, chocolate brownies and cigars were passed around.
President Kirk offered the first toast prescribed in the by-laws, “Gentlemen, I offer a toast to the St. John’s Hunting Club.”
We held high our Madeira, “To the St. John’s Hunting Club.”
Vice President Porcher offered the second prescribed toast, “To the President of the United States of America.”
Park Ravenel Dougherty then introduced his father-in-law, Dr. Simmons Tate of the Columbia law firm Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, P.A., who delivered the day’s speech on the South Carolina Reconstruction government and Gen. Wade Hampton’s Red Shirt Revolution.
Tate was thanked by Daniel Ravenel for his scholarship and friendship. President Kirk announced the next meeting would be held the first Saturday in May 2008 and adjourned the meeting.