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West Ashley Flashback

From Germany to St. Andrew’s Parish

Marie would walk from her home to Stocker Drive in Windermere to wait for the school bus. One day she recalls a passenger train came down the tracks, stopped and men disembarked. She soon figured out they were prisoners of war because they marched down Stocker Drive, across Savannah Highway to the POW camp. This camp was on the land that would later become Westwood and she recalls that the entrance to the camp was approximately where the John Wesley church sits today.Marie would walk from her home to Stocker Drive in Windermere to wait for the school bus. One day she recalls a passenger train came down the tracks, stopped and men disembarked. She soon figured out they were prisoners of war because they marched down Stocker Drive, across Savannah Highway to the POW camp. This camp was on the land that would later become Westwood and she recalls that the entrance to the camp was approximately where the John Wesley church sits today.


July 6, 2017
By Donna Jacobs | Contributing Writer

A path leaves Folly Road, runs parallel to the Atlantic Coast Line railroad track until it takes a left turn and ends in a clump of trees situated in the center of a field owned by the Harrison family. All of this is easily seen in a 1950s aerial of West Ashley.

The land was farmed by the Harrisons and later would be sold to Bill Ackerman for the development of South Windermere neighborhood and South Windermere Shopping Center. This clump of trees shaded the home of George and Irma (nee-Owen) Wessel and their three daughters Marie, Marlene, and Clair.

George Frazier Wessel’s parents immigrated to Charleston from the Hanover/Hamburg region of Germany. George was born in Charleston in 1903. Misfortune found him and five of his brothers in an orphanage where he lived until he was of the age to be discharged from the orphanage. Unceremoniously and without direction he was left on the street in front of the orphanage.

Mrs. Stubbs, of Stubbs Boarding House, discovered the frightened boy and took George in. He was introduced to the St. Johannes Lutheran community where he worked and began attending church. This kindness helped him find his direction in life.

In 1935, George moved his family to the one story house in the clump of trees on the Harrison property. The house was of wooden construction with a center hall accessing four rooms, each containing a fireplace. The kitchen was in a separate building behind the main house.

The family did have their own personal garden, a few livestock and even a mule. It would be natural to assume that he participated in the farming of the land. However, George was employed by SCE&G as a meter reader for all the meters west of the Ashley River including James Island and Johns Island.

Marie, the eldest Wessel daughter, was enrolled in first grade at St. Andrew’s Parish school on Wappoo Road. Originally the school only accommodated the grammar school grades. Students would attend high school downtown.

By 1940 the population of the Parish had grown and a new wing was constructed with eight classrooms for the high school students. Marie, as well as her sisters, was fortunate to attend all their grades at St. Andrew’s Parish High School.

In addition to her studies Marie played on  the half court girl’s basketball team at the center position. After graduation, Marie chose a career in nursing attending the school at St. Francis Hospital on the peninsula. She married Gordon Syrett in 1950. Their wedding reception was held in the Wessel home on the Harrison land.

St. Andrew’s Parish memories or other Interesting stories about West Ashley’s history? Contact Donna Jacobs at westashleybook@gmail.com.

 

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