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Slave Dwelling Project Visits Laurelwood Plantation in Richland County, SC

 

Joseph McGill's Slave Dwelling Project Visits Laurelwood Plantation in Richland County, SC

 

Slave Dwelling Project Visits Laurelwood Plantation
Left to Right: Michael Bedenbaugh, Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation; Jeremy Thomas, New Owner Laurelwood Plantation; Joseph McGill, Slave Dwelling Project

 While my last few stays afforded me the opportunities to stay in slave dwellings in the states of Texas and Louisiana and gave me the opportunity to have many other people share that experience with me, it was now time to get back to basics, sleeping in the slave dwellings alone.  That opportunity would come at Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, Richland County, SC on Friday, April, 15, 2011. 

The property had just been purchased from the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation by the young couple Jeremy and Jacqueline Thomas from England.  A public gathering was planned at the site to celebrate the sale.  Participants at the gathering included the new property owners; representatives from the Palmetto Trust; family members of the previous owners; descendants of the original builder; the press;  other interested community members and a stray cat.

This would be the second time that the Slave Dwelling Project and the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation would intersect.  The first was my overnight stay at a slave dwelling on Morris Street in Anderson, SC.  I was confident that this stay would be equally as pleasing.  As I approached the dwelling, my confidence for sleeping in it began to diminish.  When I entered the dwelling I became thoroughly convinced that my overnight stay there would not happen.  Surrounded by trees, although still standing, the dwelling had lost some of its structural soundness. 

Slave Dwelling at Laurelwood Plantation
Slave Dwelling at Laurelwood Plantation, SC

My desire for self preservation overrode my desire to proceed with the project.  All was not lost, with the permission of the new owners I was given permission to sleep on the porch of the big house and given access to the big house if it became necessary at some point during the night.  So there I slept at Laurelwood Plantation on the porch of the bighouse alone with the company of a stray cat that made its presence known throughout the night.

I left there with the assurance from the new owners that before restoring the big house, they would restore the slave dwelling first.  They will live there while the big house is being restored.  Thank you Palmetto Trust for having an easement program that will ensure historic buildings will be restored and a special thank you for finding owners for Laurelwood Plantation who will not shy away from any of its previous history.

Slave Dwelling Project Visits Laurelwood Plantation
Nancy and Bill Malloy, Cheraw, SC

The next night, Saturday, April 16, I was scheduled to stay in Cheraw, SC in a slave dwelling that was restored by Bill and Susan Malloy.  I was also scheduled to give a lecture on the Slave Dwelling Project prior to the stay, at the Southern African American Heritage Center in Cheraw.  The lecture was a success.

 When I got to the beautiful home of Bill and Susan Malloy, Bill reminded me of our first conversation.  It was a result of my overnight stay at Hobcaw Barony in Georgetown, SC.  Staying with me that night was a writer for the Charlotte Observer by the name of Eric Frazier.  Bill contacted me after reading the article that appeared in the Charlotte Observer about the stay at Hobcaw Barony.  Bill and Susan did not disappoint when they served a meal of baked beans, coleslaw and ribs for dinner.  I was thoroughly impressed by the restoration that was done to the former slave dwelling.  One of two located in their back yard, the spacious building was complete with a gas heater; a refrigerator stocked with beer and water; and several easy chairs; this could easily qualify as the ultimate “man cave”.  The Malloys currently use the space for their music room.

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