The Edisto Island Mattress Swing

Contributed by the misplacedmtnman

Those who have ever vacationed at Edisto Beach will fondly recall a certain unique landmark that can be spotted along SC-174, the singular scenic drive out onto the coastal island. The “Mattress Swing” is what my family has always called it, but some old locals refer to that bend in the road as “Mattress Point.”

Admittedly, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s just an ordinary mattress on a wood frame, suspended by four ropes under a giant live oak tree. But the idea is pretty novel, and looks to be a fun ride. Whenever my family travels to Edisto, we always look for the Mattress Swing, and usually find it occupied by a little kid or two, swaying gently in the warm breeze, while a handful of adults lounge in chairs nearby. Dad always jokes, “You wanna stop and get your picture taken on it?” and the kids all laugh as we speed by, anxious to reach the beach house. The Mattress Swing is always a prominent reminder that “We’re Almost There!”

A man named Frank “Tish” Gadsden, whose mother was a direct descendant of the original slaves on the island, lived in a mobile home near this tree and decided to construct the hanging apparatus so he would not have to lie on the ground when he dozed outside in the summertime. It seems his wife would insist upon this arrangement when he was on a drinking binge and neglected to bathe regularly.

The swing was initially an eyesore to some, but when many visitors to Edisto Beach stopped to photograph or draw the local oddity, Tish decided to start charging five bucks for the priviledge. Later the price doubled as the fascination continued.

I visited Edisto Island this past weekend, and was disappointed when I passed the spot where the grand tree stands and saw no Mattress Swing, only four loose ropes dangling on the ground. What happened to the Mattress Swing? Where were the people who used to hang out there, selling produce, playing cards and waving to passers-by?

I got angry when I heard the rumor that local government officials had decided that if Mr. Gadsden wanted to continue his little souvenir photo operation, he’d have to purchase a business license and pay taxes. Isn’t that just like those greedy idiots? I thought. They crack down on some poor old guy making a few bucks off of a homemade swing, an unusual art display that became an invaluable advertisement for the town, a beloved landmark that gave the area unique character, and thereby ruin the whole thing for everybody. Way to go, jerks. Hello gubmint – goodbye swing.

But after doing a little research on the internet, I discovered that this may not actually be the case. You see, Mr. Gadsden died on November 12, 2009. Evidently no one has seen fit to take up his legacy and continue his work. That’s why there’s no “Mattress Swing” anymore. That’s why Edisto has lost its landmark.

Either way, it’s a shame.

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7 Comments to “The Edisto Island Mattress Swing”

  1. I too wondered what happened to the “mattress swing”. After hearing what has happened I feel as if part of my “Vacation inner child” passed away with Mr. Gadsden. So glad to hear that the tax man had not gotten his hands on this piece of free enterprise because if that was the fact the “TATA TREE” over the bridge as you leaves the island would be next.

  2. Sad to hear about Mr. Gadsden passing. Slowly old Edisto is passing away. I hate to see it go.

  3. Even thought the swing is now gone, we have some infamous moving land marks. Now more than ever, the beautiful bald eagle can be seen near the big bridge. It is a sight worth stopping to take a picture! Maybe we can move toward new treasured picturesque landmarks.

  4. I was just in Edisto July 2011, and the mattress swing was back!

    • hi the swing gets put up on all hoildays that is my family he was my moms brother its put up sorry you all missed it

  5. Thank you for putting up the swing! It’s such a part of Edisto since my childhood as well. I love to share the story with others. Blessings upon your family!

  6. It’s been 20 years since I’ve played on it, I’ll never forget how much fun I had on that swing as a child.

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