I am especially excited to have the accounts of the current owners of Hopsewee Plantation, the Beatties, and Dr. Cheryl Lane, Assistant Professor, Francis Marion University. I can imagine one day, the descendants of former slaves finding great value in this collaborative effort. Thank you for sharing this experience with us!
About Our Freedom
Collaborative Efforts of The Slave Dwelling Project Embraces Hopsewee
By Joseph McGill, Jr. |
Program Officer, Southern Office
William Aiken House, 456 King Street, 3rd Floor, Charleston, SC 29403 | Phone: 843.722.8552 |
Fax: 843.722.8652 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org |www.preservationnation.org
Saturday, August 6, 2011 found me at Hopsewee Plantation. Located on the North Santee River in Georgetown County, according to its website, Hopsewee, a South Carolina National Historic Landmark, is preservation rather than a restoration and has never been allowed to fall into decay as it has always been cherished. Only five families have owned it, although it was built almost 40 years before the Revolutionary War. Hopsewee would be my third stay in Georgetown County, Hobcaw Barony and Mansfield Plantation being the other two.
This stay came about as a collaboration with the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor. The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor extends 240 miles across South Carolina, stretching from the mountains of Oconee County, along the Savannah River, to the port city of Charleston. It is divided into four regions and contains the following counties: Abbeville, Aiken, Anderson, Bamberg, Barnwell, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Edgefield, Georgetown, Greenwood, McCormick, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens and Saluda. The 17 counties of the Heritage Corridor offer a cross-section of the state's historical, cultural, and natural resources that tell the vibrant story of South Carolina's centuries-long evolution and culture. The area describes the progression of upcountry and lowcountry life, from grand plantations and simple farms to mill villages and urban centers, and how their history affected South Carolina as a state and America as a nation.
My limited research revealed that there were at least 33 plantations located on the North Santee River in Georgetown County. Other rivers located in Georgetown County are South Santee, Black, Sampit, Waccamaw and Pee Dee which all contained numerous plantations. From the 18th century to the Civil War, slaves planted, tended, and harvested the crops that made plantation owners wealthy and Georgetown County, South Carolina, the second largest rice producer in the world.
Arriving early would prove to be beneficial, I took advantage of the time to explore the cabins and take lots of pictures before the mosquitoes ran me back into the Tea Room where the dinner and presentation was going to be held. After dousing myself with insect repellent, I decided to give it another try. The repellent worked. I took more pictures and even went to the waterfront to spend a little time there. I parked myself on the jogging board which was located next to the mansion. A joggling board is a long, pliable board that is supported on each end by wooden stands. The board is springy, and a person sitting on it can easily bounce up and down. It originated in the Lowcountry of South Carolina around Charleston in the early 19th century.
As I began to reflect on the Slave Dwelling Project, I could hear thunder and see lightning bolts off in the distance. When one of those thunder claps was heard immediately over head, I decided that I had done enough reflecting and went back to the Tea Room giving praise that I had taken lots of pictures while the sun was still shining.
Aside from the dinner and the lecture, one other new twist was being added to this stay. For the past six months or so, I have been working with Dr. Cheryl Lane, Assistant Professor at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. Dr. Lane received a grant from Francis Marion to conduct research on the Slave Dwelling Project. This was the night that she would experience a stay first hand. Dr. Lane and her husband, Tom, shared one cabin while Terry James and I occupied the other. For you first-time readers of this blog, Terry James is a fellow Civil War reenactor from Florence, SC. This was Terry’s sixth stay, and yes, the fifth time he slept wearing authentic slave shackles.
When the dinner crowd began to arrive, a number of us went on a tour of the mansion. To my amazement, no subject matter was taboo for the tour guide. I was thoroughly impressed that a Caucasian female was so knowledgeable, willing and comfortable with interpreting all aspects of slavery that made Hopsewee function as a plantation.
The dinner was excellent. I lectured as folks continued to eat. During the lecture, I yielded some time to Terry James so that he could talk about sleeping in shackles. I then allowed Dr. Lane to end the lecture talking about the research grant that she received from Francis Marion University for the project. Adding those two elements to the lecture still did not prepare me for the first question that I got which was. “How do you feel about the confederate flag?” My immediate thought was what does the Slave Dwelling Project have to do with the confederate flag, but I did not say that out loud. Luckily, as a Civil War reenactor for the last twenty years and wearing my Civil War uniform at the time the question was asked, I had heard this question before and gave my opinion accordingly.
The next morning we all gathered in the Tea Room for more conversation and breakfast before we all went our separate ways. We all came to the conclusion that Hopsewee Plantation and the Slave Dwelling Project must continue to work together because of our similar interests. As I drove away, I was still haunted by the query about the confederate flag. My only conclusion is that maybe the Slave Dwelling Project has nothing to do with the confederate and maybe it has everything to do with the confederate flag. I do know this: As proven my overnight stay at Cliveden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, slavery also existed north of the Mason-Dixon Line. As I continue to seek permission to sleep in former slave dwellings from the owners, I know that there are more out there like Frank and Raejean Beattie who will grant me my request. It is their work that has to be highlighted so that they may inspire others to do likewise. This project will examine slavery wherever that institution existed. I will continue to work with the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor and Hopsewee Plantation to help preserve the dwellings and interpret the stories of the all the people involved in America’s “peculiar institution.”
494 Hopsewee Road
Georgetown, SC 29440
Dr. Cheryl Lane, Assistant Professor, Francis Marion University