“Gold-bugging” with Edgar Allan Poe


Dear Reader:

I mentioned to you in yesterday’s post that I was reading SKIRT magazine while in the waiting room at the Charleston Oncology Center Monday morning and found my beautiful niece Vikki in it….I also saw the name of a shop called Goldbugs on Sullivan Island. I googled the shop and instantly wanted to just drive over and get me a pair of “Goldbug” earrings or a pendant. Ashley Reid Martin, the owner, makes all the beautiful  jewelry on the island.

I smiled and thought to myself…’What would old Edgar Allan Poe think about all the places and streets named for him now on Sullivan’s Island?’ (including Goldbug Island, right off Sullivans) Little did he know by using Sullivan’s Island as the setting for one of his most popular mystery stories…that he would become a ‘favorite son’ of Charleston.

Much research and stories have been written about Poe’s stay on Sullivans’ Island as a teenage soldier….apparently the sights of this barrier island/fort ignited his imagination and he used it for several settings in later books…including The Goldbug.

“Sullivan’s Island became home to a soldier who had not yet reached his 19th birthday when the Army assigned him to Fort Moultrie in November 1827 and had, for whatever reason, signed up for military duty under an assumed name.

Edgar Allan Poe, America’s master of the macabre, had already published his first book of poetry when he enlisted as Edgar A. Perry. Poe’s formal education was interrupted when he was booted from the University of Virginia, apparently after running up heavy gambling debts. He spent 13 months at Fort Moultrie before cutting short his five-year enlistment and enrolling at the United States Military Academy. A year or so later, he was dishonorably discharged from West Point.

Though Poe spent only a year and a month in the Lowcountry, he left his mark on Sullivan’s Island – and the island apparently had quite an effect on him, as well, providing the setting for at least three of his stories: “The Gold Bug,” “The Balloon Hoax” and “The Oblong Box.” This is how he described Sullivan’s Island in “The Gold Bug”:

“This island is a very singular one. It consists of little else than the sea sand and is about three miles long. Its breadth at no point exceeds a quarter of a mile. It is separated from the mainland by a scarcely perceptible creek, oozing its way through a wilderness of reeds and slime, a favorite resort of the marsh hen. The vegetation, as might be supposed, is scant or at least dwarfish.

No trees of any magnitude are to be seen. Near the western extremity, where Fort Moultrie stands and where are some miserable frame buildings, tenanted, during summer, by the fugitives from Charleston dust and fever, may be found the bristly palmetto; but the whole island, with the exception of this western point and a line of hard, white beach on the seacoast, is covered with a dense undergrowth of the sweet myrtle. …”  ( Resource: Master of Mystery/Sullivan’s Island Was Once Home To Enigmatic Writer- Brian Sherman)

…Though he spent only 13 months on Sullivan’s Island, his legacy remains. Three streets, Gold Bug Avenue, Raven Drive and Poe Avenue, hark back to him and his works, and Gold Bug Island, across the Intracoastal Waterway in Mount Pleasant, is another testament to the eternity of his writing and poetry.

Poe’s Tavern on Middle Street, also named in his honor, offers fare reminiscent of the island’s early years. The menu includes hamburgers with names such as Gold Bug, Pit & Pendulum, Annabelle Lee, Tell-Tale Heart and, a fitting tribute to Poe’s time on the island, Starving Art

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to “Gold-bugging” with Edgar Allan Poe

  1. bcparkison says:

    A lot of artist don’t become famous until they are long gone. Enjoy the kido’s


  2. Becky Dingle says:

    There is a reason for that…all their energy went into their works ; not so much into relationships…leaving these artists most;y lonely in their own lifetime..only alive when writing, painting, singing, etc. But after their deaths…these sacrifices bring much joy and /or awe to the future generations.


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