HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. (WSAV) – A 93-year-old Hilton Head woman, whose family has ties to the Civil War, says developers are trying to force her to sell her land by using harassment and what she calls a “frivolous lawsuit.”
“I’ve pretty much been a fighter all my life,” said Josephine Wright.
Even at 93, Wright — a grandmother to 40, great-grandmother to 50, and great-great-grandmother to 16 — says she is ready to fight for her home and her family’s past and future.
“This house means it’s a home, a place where I want to be at this age.”
The property has been in the family since just after the Civil War. Her husband was a Gullah Geechee Islander. His relatives escaped slaves and were freed by Union soldiers.
The home is now under fire from Bailey Point Investment Group.
“It puzzled me at first, but then it got me angry,” said Wright.
The suit names Wright and the property’s co-owner and Wright’s former daughter-in-law, Delores Wright.
Delores Wright moved away from the property in February, giving in to what she called the stress of living next to the construction site.
Bailey Point is the group developing the land right behind her home on Jonesville Road.
The 29-acre, 147-unit plan is well on its way. It has already been approved by the town, and construction has begun.
But Bailey Point says Wright is blocking their progress.
They filed a lawsuit saying parts of her home are on their property, and they have the paperwork to prove it. Three different issues are named in the lawsuit filed in Beaufort County court.
Wright already paid to move a shed, which cost about $1,900, and got rid of a satellite dish. But the developers say her porch is still on the land they own.
“You can see I’m at least 12 feet away from the border line which is right there,” Wright pointed.
Neighbors helping her say it’s 22 feet away from the road that Bailey Point built.
Josephine says this isn’t about a porch.
The developers made offers to buy her land and she claims when turned them down – they started harassing her. She claims her tires were slashed, trash thrown on her property and a snake hung from one of her windows.
“I guess they figured I would become so unnerved with the harassment that I would say take it. But they don’t know me. I am here to fight for what I have,” said Wright.
“I don’t want to say anything that can be used against me, but I think they are unscrupulous and greedy and they want all the property they can get their hands on,” said Wright.
“Once we did some investigation, we found out this 147-unit development was going in and it had already been approved before anyone even knew about it,” said Kelly LeBlanc, who is part of the newly formed Jonesville Preservation Society.
She and her fellow neighbors, many of whom are related and native islanders, have garnered support from Hilton Head residents and town leaders. The goal is to make sure the island’s past here and everywhere is protected.
“We don’t have the right to change what has already been approved; that ship has sailed. We can’t change the zoning,” said LeBlanc. “The town is looking very closely at the permitting, at the approval phase. The town is making sure it is done to the letter of the law.”
Wright now has a lawyer of her own and is ready to fight for her property and her history.
“I want to just keep my property and them to leave me alone.”
Former State Rep. Bakari Sellers is teaming with Wright’s legal team, now asking other people to call the developer and to call lawmakers to help Wright keep her property.
“We sent a letter two weeks ago simply asking the developer to communicate. Simply asking the developer to speak to us. Speak to her. Just to have a common conversation about how to move forward,” said Sellers. “I think more disrespectful than a no is a non-response.”
Wright has a lawyer and is fighting the lawsuit, but her family is asking for help paying the legal bills for that battle. A GoFundMe has been set up to help Josephine with her legal expenses.
“We are very big on generational wealth, or trying to accrue it,” explained Sellers. “When you talk about poverty in our communities it’s because we don’t have land, and when we do, people want to take it away. There are a lot of people to pick on.
“Pick on me. Don’t pick on a 93-year-old woman who has lived her life doing nothing wrong.”