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FamilySearch Digitizes Freedmen's Bureau Records for SC

3 Generations of Doctor Family in Letter to Freedmen's Bureau M1910 Reel 89 Taget 1

FamilySearch this week digitized all 106 rolls of the microfilm series Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA Micropublication M1910). This new collection of 118,737 images is one of the most significant for tracing formerly enslaved ancestors in South Carolina. The 106 rolls of microfilm span the date range of 1865 to 1872.

Freedmen's Bureau records are an invaluable resource for learning where your ancestors were prior to 1870 and can often provide clues for discovering an ancestor's final slaveholder. Among these records are labor contracts, rations lists, land warrants, military bounty claims, letters received and sent, applications for restoration of property to former slaveholders, transportation requests, hospital records and more.

When used in conjunction with the 1869 South Carolina state census, 1868 voter registrations and 1869 militia enrollments, these records can help you learn a lot about where ancestors were, and what they were doing, prior to 1870.

You can access this free collection here. We will be developing a series of blog posts about this new collection. Topics will include navigating the records, types of records and the information each contains, and how to use these records to corroborate family oral history and break through the 1870 brick wall.

The records are also a valuable source of primary documents for educators to use in the classroom.

We're very excited about this collection being digitized. It is not yet indexed but you can access all 106 rolls of microfilm from home. We look forward to exploring these records with you! If you find a treasure, please share it here in the comments. We would love to hear how your research in these records is going.

You can view the reel guide for this collection here in our research library. The guides provide an in-depth look at what each microfilm contains, to help you select which films you would like to view.

Happy Ancestor Hunting from the Crew at Lowcountry Africana!


Overcoming Three Obstacles to Recording Your Oral History Interview

You can now more smoothly record and share your ancestor’s story with the tools and advice shared here. With careful planning and the right tools, you can feel the satisfaction that comes with preserving your family history for future generations.

If you have tried before and felt that the technology that you used complicated the process or if you really did not know what to do with your file after production, you do not need to feel that way this time when you sit down this Thanksgiving to record. Using the following tips and strategies, you won’t be caught by these three obstacles that would otherwise cause you grief.

1.Figure Out Which Tools Suit You Best.

You do not really need expensive equipment. You probably are already holding the most convenient device to record the interview – your smart phone or iPhone. The following apps can be downloaded to your device:

Tape A Talk

Tape-a-Talk: I have used this app several times successfully. The sound quality was great each time. Even if you will not be with you the person that you want to interview this Thanksgiving, all you have to do is call them from your Android device after you begin your recording with Tape-a-Talk. Hang up, and stop the recording. It will be saved as an .mp3 file on your device. Oh, did I mention this app has a free version?

See “The Best Voice Recording App for Android.” Download it here. Also see the video: “How to use Tape-a-Talk” (YouTube).

Tape-a-Talk Screenshot by Robin Foster

Audio Memos

Audio Memos: If you have an iPhone, see “The Best Recording App for iPhone.” Download it here.

Audio Memos Screenshot by Robin Foster


StoryCorps: StoryCorps has partnered with SoundCloud making it possible for you to log in here using your Facebook account or your SoundCloud account where you can then record your interview right from your web browser using the SoundCloud app. You can then upload the interview to the Wall of Listening where you are invited to share your story. Be sure to have a photo of you and the person you interview to upload with your recording. Post the link to your interview on the National Day of Listening: Lowcountry Wall of Listening Facebook page too!

StoryCorps Screenshot by Robin Foster

Other Ways

If you conduct a long distance interview, use Skype to record it. Keep in mind that someone may have to help your interviewee set up the technology ahead of time. If this technology is a bit of a leap for you, you may consider using a digital recorder or a laptop and a HD webcam.

2. Sound Quality

Be sure you and your relative are positioned close enough for your voices to be picked up clearly. If either of you have a soft voice, you may consider using a separate microphone that is compatible with the device you will use to record.

Keep the microphone far enough away to prevent distorted sounds, and make sure it is kept still and does not brush against clothing or other objects. Record in a quiet place, but make sure your voices do not echo. Do a test run beforehand to make sure everything works properly and you are comfortable using the technology.

3. Sharing the File

You will not want your interview to just sit forever on your device. You will probably want to share it with others if you were given permission to do so. You may choose to share in more than one way. Video formats are best converted to .mp4 or .wav files (Windows Media Player). Sound files are most commonly .mp3. Here are a few ways to share:

  • - Save on CD
  • - Upload the interview to StoryCorps
  • - Share videos on YouTube or Vimeo (Sometimes videos need to be converted to .mp4 or .wav or other formats to share them. You can do this with Windows Movie Maker which comes automatically on a PC)
  • - Create a DVD (Photoshop Elements)
  • - Upload the file to Dropbox or Box, and e-mail a link to the file to family members

Now you have some planning before the big day. I hope these ideas help you to be ready for your Turkey Day interview! Please let us know how things went in the comment section below.


5 Ways to Celebrate the National Day of Listening

Simple Ways to Honor Those Who Have Touched Our Lives

Friday, November 29, 2013 is the sixth annual National Day of Listening.

Each year, Story Corps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

While your loved ones are gathered for the holidays, why not sit down with an elder and learn more about their lives and their memories of those who came before you?

In so many ways, listening to elders gives voice to ancestors. Elders hold the stories behind the documents we gather in our family history research - the stories of how our ancestors lived, the challenges they faced, the family traditions they passed along to us.

The National Day of Listening is a great time to gather and preserve the life stories of loved ones, but there are many ways to celebrate the holiday. Here are five suggestions for how you can participate in the National Day of Listening:

1. Interview a friend, loved one or community member

Interview a friend, loved one or community member about his or her life, and record and preserve the interview. Then you can share who you interviewed on Story Corps' Wall of Listening.

To record your own National Day of Listening Interview:

  • Find someone you would like to interview
  • Create your question list
  • Sit down to record your conversation

StoryCorps has created a free Do-It-Yourself (DIY) interview guide with step-by-step interview instructions, equipment recommendations, and sample questions that is available online.

You can record your interview using equipment that is readily available in most homes—from cell phones to tape recorders to computers or even pen and paper.

By participating in this year’s National Day of Listening, we hope you’ll find that taking the time out to interview someone about his or her life is the least expensive but most meaningful gift that you can give. And you will create wonderful memories to make the holiday season all the more special.

Don't have time for a full interview? You can ask a few questions of elders or other family members who are gathered for Thanksgiving. You may learn new details for breaking through brick walls in your family research.

2. Help Raise Awareness of the National Day of Listening

This year we've created a fab sign for you to share before the National Day of Listening, to help Story Corps raise awareness and encourage your friends to participate. You can grab the sign here and print it out. Don't have a color printer? No problem, you can grab the graphic in greyscale below, too:

Story Corps has chosen "Stories of Love and Gratitude" as this year's theme. You can help raise awareness of the National Day of Listening by snapping your picture with the sign, then sharing it on our Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook.

Then don't forget to share it on your own Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn page with this text: "The National Day of Listening is a new national holiday started by StoryCorps in 2008. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks all Americans to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one, using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide at"

Here are images you can grab that are the perfect size for sharing on Facebook and Google+:

Voila! You have helped Story Corps raise awareness of the National Day of Listening!

3.Participate in the Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook

We've created the Lowcountry Wall of Listening as a place to share who you will interview for the National Day of Listening, share pictures of your interview and discuss the experience. Come join the conversation!

4.Set aside an hour to record your OWN story
and preserve it for those who are yet to come. Have you ever wished an ancestor had left a journal or some recollections about their lives? You can make it easier for descendants to remember you by recording your own story. You can also bring out family photographs, flip them over and place a caption on the back - a simple way to preserve family treasures for future family historians.

5.Transcribe old family history interview tapes

Do you have tapes of family oral history interviews you conducted in the past, but have not yet transcribed? Bring them out, listen anew and start transcribing. You may find details that will reveal new avenues of research. Don't forget to share the transcriptions with family members as well.

Ways to Share and Preserve Your Interview

There are many ways to share and preserve your National Day of Listening interview:

  • Be sure to share a copy with the person you interviewed, so they can preserve their story for future generations of family members.
  • You can enter your name and the name of the person you interviewed on the Wall of Listening on the National Day of Listening website. When you fill in the Wall of Listening form, you can request a Certificate of Participation. You can also select to share your Wall of Listening entry on Facebook and Twitter.
  • You can share and preserve your interview on our Family Stories page, where you can share text, sound and video recordings.
  • Will you be blogging about your National Day of Listening interview? Send us the link to your blog entry and we'll share it on Facebook and Twitter!

However you choose to celebrate the National Day of Listening, we hope it is a wonderful opportunity to share a special experience with someone who has enriched your life. We look forward to hearing about your National Day of Listening experience!


Guest Blogger Thomas MacEntee: Heritage Travel Comes of Age

Travel Iconsmall

There comes a time in our lives when the need to learn more about our ancestors “kicks in.” The timing is different for everyone, but one component of the discovery process that more and more people are embracing is the concept of heritage travel. Making a trip, or a series of trips, back to the land of our ancestors can bring meaning to family history and actually change the way we look at not only ourselves but also travel.

Trip Savvy – This Is Not Your Grandfather’s Travel

Our ancestors may have crossed the ocean on a ship or across America in a covered wagon, but our own travel has become much easier in the 21st century. Not only can we get from point A to point B faster and in comfort, but consider all the “tools” at our disposal to enjoy the trip and preserve the memories.

We live in an age when we not only can take photos and videos with our smartphones, but actually use them to plan a heritage trip. Take a look at Pinterest and you’ll see some amazing resources including apps to find the best airplane seat or how to keep a travel journal.

I’m sure you’re tired of hearing, “There’s never been a better time . ..” but it is true when it comes to travel. So pack your suitcase (or valise as my grandparents would say) and plan your next trip to a place where your ancestors lived.

Tips and Tricks for Planning Heritage Travel

Here are some ideas to consider when planning your next trip with a focus on family history:

    • Travel Solo or With Someone? Whether you decide to go it alone or with one or more fellow travelers is up to you. Take some time to understand what type of traveler you are (Bare bones? Adventurous? Pampered?) and whether you’ll be a good fit with others.
    • Plan Early. Now is the time to start looking at Spring 2014 travel and beyond. This doesn’t mean you can’t make a trip now. In fact, you should always have a bag packed and ready to go for those last minute specials that pop up!
    • Set Goals. Many travelers make a list of the “must see” or “must experience” places on a trip. The same can be true for a heritage trip: seeing your great-grandparents farm, visiting the stores where they shopped etc. Make a list and prioritize the stops.
    • Call Ahead. Travel books and even websites can only help you so much. Imagine the disappointment if you tried to visit a historical site only to find it closed? Make sure you use the phone and email to ensure that you’ll be able to experience those “must see” places.
    • Be Flexible. Stuff happens. Have a back-up plan and also plan for emergencies. Make sure family members know where you will be and how to reach you.
  • Collect and Preserve. You’ll have great experiences on your heritage trip, but how will you share them with others? You may need to plan ahead to make sure you can preserve the best moments of the trip. Download any apps you need and make sure you have all the tools required for capturing photos and more.

Travel With Purpose and Meaning

How do you describe to a friend or even a stranger, what it was like to visit the places where your ancestors lived, worked and laid the foundation for your being here? You won’t know until you make that journey yourself. I can’t predict everything that may happen on your own heritage journey, but I have a pretty good idea: the trip will pass all too quickly and you’ll want to preserve every moment so you can savor it again and again.

© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

About Thomas MacEntee

tmacenteemar2013 cropped

Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogy research and as a way to connect with others in the family history community. He is the author of Family History Trippin’: A Guide to Planning a Genealogy Research Trip available at Amazon.

When he’s not busy writing blog posts, organizing the 3,000+ members of, teaching online genealogy webinars and more, Thomas is busy in his role as “genealogy ninja.” Stealth is not easy, but he manages to get the inside track on emerging technologies and vendors as they relate to the genealogy industry. After being laid off from a 25-year career in the tech industry in 2008, Thomas has been able to “repurpose” his skill set for the genealogy community and loves to see other genealogists succeed, whether it is with their own research or building their own careers in the field.


Coming Wednesday, Nov. 6 ~ Lowcountry Roots Travel Blog!

Coming Soon Button Black Background

Coming Soon! Wednesday, November 6, 2013, we will launch the new Lowcountry Roots Travel blog on LCA! And who better to launch a travel blog than Genealogy Travel Ninja Thomas MacEntee? Thomas has just published the Kindle book Family History Trippin' - A Guide to Planning a Genealogy Research Trip.

For the blog launch, Thomas will be guest blogging to share heritage travel tips, and 3 lucky readers will win free copies of Thomas' book!

Please be sure to join us here Wednesday, November 6 at 6:30 p.m.!

About Thomas MacEntee

tmacenteemar2013 cropped

Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogy research and as a way to connect with others in the family history community. When he’s not busy writing blog posts, organizing the 3,000+ members of, teaching online genealogy webinars and more, Thomas is busy in his role as “genealogy ninja.” Stealth is not easy, but he manages to get the inside track on emerging technologies and vendors as they relate to the genealogy industry. After being laid off from a 25-year career in the tech industry in 2008, Thomas has been able to “repurpose” his skill set for the genealogy community and loves to see other genealogists succeed, whether it is with their own research or building their own careers in the field.


Marshlands Plantation

Marshlands Plantation

Associated Owners and Documents

John Ball (1760-1817) [1]

References Cited

[1] Ball, Edward 1998 Slaves In the Family. New York: Ballantine Books, p. 264; "South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872," Database online at Fold 3 ( accessed 27 Mar 2013), Estate Inventory of John Ball, Book E (1802-1819) pp. 458-4677.


Teachers: How Your Students Can Celebrate the National Day of Listening

What is the National Day of Listening?

Friday, November 29, 2013 is the sixth annual National Day of Listening.

Each year, Story Corps asks all Americans to set aside an hour on the day after Thanksgiving to interview a friend, loved one or community member about their lives, and to record the interview using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, smartphones, tape recorders or pen and paper, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide.

Ideas for Bringing the National Day of Listening Into Your Classroom

The National Day of Listening is a great time for students to learn more about their family history. Here are a few ideas for activities:

  • Use StoryCorps' Do It Yourself Guide for a class discussion of great interview questions. Students can then interview a family member and share what they learned in class.

  • Kids can draw a picture of who they will interview and send it to us. We'll share it right here in the Youth Corner and on our Lowcountry Wall of Listening on Facebook!

  • Younger children can work with parents to build a photo family tree, then share their tree in class
  • More Resources

    Here is a helpful lesson plan unit called "Listening to History," from our friends at EDSITEment. Students will learn about oral history and listen to selected interviews from the site History Matters.

    Here is another great oral history unit from Rochester Oral History Archive.


    Hidden in Plain View ~ Slave Dwelling Project Overnights at Two Urban Slave Quarters

    College of Charleston
    Joseph McGill Visits Former Slave Dwelling at 16 1/2 Glebe Street
    Joseph McGill in Doorway of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
    16 1/2 Glebe Street, Former Slave Dwelling
    Property Now A Guest House
    Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
    Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
    Modern Amenities in Former Slave Dwelling
    Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
    Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
    Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
    16 1/2 Glebe Street
    16 1/2 Glebe Street
    16 1/2 Glebe Street
    Slave Shackles
    Interior of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
    Terry James
    Glebe Street, Charleston, SC
    Terry James in Doorway of 16 1/2 Glebe Street
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    The weekend of August 30 – 31, 2013 was intense for the Slave Dwelling Project for I would find myself spending the night in two different slave dwellings in two nights. Both locations, 16 ½ Glebe Street and 25 Longitude Lane are located in the city limits of Charleston, SC.


    Before the first stay, I had to take a detour to Randall Hall on the campus of the College of Charleston to be one of three panelists to speak on the subject titled “Charleston: Holy City and/or Slavery Central?” Also on the panel were Professor Joe Kelly of the College's Department of English whose book America's Longest Siege: Charleston, Slavery, and the Slow March toward Civil War has just been published, and Mark Berry, of the College Publications team, whose article on College of Charleston alum Colonel John C. Fremont appeared in the College of Charleston Magazine last year. The panel addressed one of the most important paradoxes in American political history—how a nation founded on the universal principle that all men have the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could have remained a slave-holding nation for nearly a century after the Declaration of Independence, until the end of the Civil War.

    16 ½ Glebe Street


    Three years into the Slave Dwelling Project and until Friday, August 30, 2013 I had only spent the night in a former slave dwelling on the campus of one institution of higher learning. That institution was Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia. 16 ½ Glebe Street located on the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina would be my second on a college or university campus. The dwelling is currently used as a guest house by the college so surprisingly prior to the stay, I talked to at least two people who had stayed in the dwelling before with no knowledge that it was a former slave dwelling and I am willing to wager that 95% of the people who have stayed there did not know that the dwelling once housed slaves.


    When I saw the dwelling, it was obvious to me that it indeed once housed slaves. The location alone (behind a “big house”) was enough for me to make that determination. I also concluded that despite the dwelling not presently having a chimney, it served as a kitchen / living quarters for slaves. The dwelling was well adapted to its current use as a guest house, fully equipped kitchen, living room and half bath downstairs and bedroom and full bathroom upstairs. With forty six stays in former slave dwellings prior to this one, I had stayed in some that had been adaptively reused in similar fashion but none could compare to this one. A flat screen TV and wifi made for an environment where I could get caught up on some work and communicate with followers of the project but before any of that happened, I could not help but take a walk through the streets of Charleston.

    My destination was Wild Wings restaurant on Market Street which turned out to be farther away than I thought but the walk, meal and adult beverage were well worth it. During the walk, I could not help thinking about the slave labor involved in all of the antebellum buildings along the route that I took, making the bricks and erecting the buildings requiring slave tags in order to carry out those tasks.


    When I got back to the dwelling, I finally started to enjoy the amenities. The adornment of the structure made it difficult to imagine the lives of the slaves who once lived there. Were they there to service the house located in front or were they part of the population of enslaved people who serviced the College of Charleston. Paul Garbarini who is an avid researcher who experienced a night stay in the slave dwelling with me at Heyward – Washington House in Charleston is doing that research.

    Having wifi provided a unique impromptu opportunity. After broadcasting photographs of the dwelling on my facebook page, the comments started to come in hot and heavy. Wifi and a laptop made it possible to respond to the comments immediately. I had tried this concept before (minus the pictures) with some success and some failure but those experiences were forecasted therefore the audience anticipated the interaction. This spur of the moment experience gave the participants one of the best opportunities yet to interact in real time with the project.


    As promised, Terry James showed up for the stay. Like me, he marveled over the amenities in the dwelling. Terry’s last two stays were the Old City Jail which had concrete floors and the cabin in Simpsonville, SC which had a dirt floor. After directing Terry to the bathroom upstairs, he then discovered that there was a half bathroom down stairs neatly tuck under the steps that led upstairs. That night Terry would take the couch downstairs and I would take the bed upstairs. Like clockwork he would again sleep in the slave shackles.

    The next morning, when Terry and I stepped outside so that Terry could apply his skill of photography. Terry impressed me because he now has a discerning eye for former slave dwellings. We both noticed that 16 ½ Glebe Street was the only slave dwelling left of the many that were once behind all of the houses that fronted Glebe Street. It was evident that the footprint of a huge commercial building belonging to the College of Charleston would not let the slave dwellings coexist, but my limited knowledge of the situation cannot allow me to say that the building was the demise of the dwellings because they could have been demolished long before the commercial building was placed there.

    We left 16 ½ Glebe Street, but little did Terry know that the slave dwelling that we would stay in that night would be just as luxurious.

    25 Longitude Lane

    Susan E. Heape, Owner of Former Slave Dwelling, 25 Longitude Lane
    Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
    Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
    25 Longitude Lane, Former Slave Dwelling
    25 Longitude Lane
    25 Longitude Lane
    25 Longitude Lane
    Interior of 25 Longitude Lane, Now A Private Residence
    Old Hearth in Former Slave Dwelling
    Terry James and Susan E. Heape
    Mary Ellen Morehouse
    Hospitality ~ Susan Prepared a Delicious Stew
    Terry James Customarily Sleeps In Slave Shackles on Overnight Stays
    Interior of 25 Longitude Lane
    Interior of 25 Longitude Lane
    Interior of 25 Longitude Lane
    Interior of 25 Longitude Lane
    Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
    Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
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    Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
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    Courtyard of 25 Longitude Lane
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    I gave a Slave Dwelling Project lecture before my stay at the Heyward – Washington House in Charleston, SC,. In the audience was Susan Heape, the owner of the former slave dwelling at 25 Longitude Lane. The next week when I was in Jacksonville, Florida Susan called me with a major concern. It appeared that in my presentation, I did not address the category of owners of former slave dwellings of which she is a part. Susan bought the dwelling for the purpose of using it as her primary residence. She insisted that I come over for a visit.

    The visit proved to be quite worthy. I awed at the meticulous work that she personally put into making the dwelling what it was. She excitingly expressed all that she did to ensure that she maintained as much of the historical integrity of the dwelling as she possibly could. Knowing that this was her personal space, I still had to ask that question, “When can I spend the night.” To my surprise, the answer was anytime. As time passed, we collectively decided that doing the stay on the same weekend as the College of Charleston stay was highly appropriate because it would be my opportunity to highlight those dwellings that are hidden in plain view.


    Hours before the stay, Terry James and I gathered on the Battery in Charleston in our Civil War uniform. As you would guess, the conversations and interactions there were quite interesting. It got more interesting when we would explain to the inquirers that we would be spending the night in a former slave dwelling in walking distance from the Battery. We further explained that there were several extant slave dwellings within the vicinity of where we were.


    On the walk from the Battery to 25 Longitude Lane, Terry again used his discerning eye to spot all of the former slave dwellings that were visible from the side walk. A tour guide in a horse drawn carriage slowed his tour enough to inquire of our purpose, when we responded that we would be sleeping in a former slave dwelling on Longitude Lane, he seemed a bit surprised. When we got to the dwelling, Susan greeted us both with big hugs, she had forewarned me that she had assembled an outfit specifically for the occasion. Her special stew was on the stove in the last stages of preparation. As she gave Terry a tour of the dwelling, I went outside to start taking my pictures for I have learned in this project to start taking pictures immediately so that I would not have to be rushed the next morning or take the chance that it might rain.

    The three of us headed back to the Battery. Susan had salvaged some flyers from the lecture that was given the previous day at Randolph Hall on the campus of the College of Charleston. On the walk to the Battery, Susan enthusiastically engaged all of whom she came into contact by giving them a flyer and starting the conversation about the Slave Dwelling Project. Terry and I took it from there. Unfortunately we had to break up the team because Susan had to head back home to meet a guest that she was expecting.


    When Terry and I got back to Susan’s place her guest Mary Ellen Millhouse had arrived. She attended the lecture the previous day and had asked the interesting question about how many slaves stayed around after they were freed. Mary, armed with her camera, expressed that she regretted not being able to go to the Battery with us and hoped that we would go back but Susan had already changed into more comfortable clothing and was now concentrating on serving the meal. It turned out that Mary owns a house in Beaufort, SC that once housed slaves. This was interesting, because since I started the project, I had been trying to identify extant slave dwellings in Beaufort, to no avail. It was as if Beaufort was in denial of its slave holding past. The result of the conversation with Mary was that a stay at the property will occur but we have to determine the right date in order to maximize its effectiveness.


    The conversation would continue over Susan’s specially prepared tasty stew. When Susan was convinced that she might lose sleep because of Terry, me or both snoring and that our interest was waning from the subject of extant slave dwellings to that of a football game, she made a firm decision to relinquish the space to Terry and me. She went to her second home on Edisto Island to spend the night. Terry and I were both satisfied with the outcome of the football game although Terry only saw portions between bouts of sleep.

    For sleeping, I took the couch while Terry spread his sleeping bag on the kitchen floor. Terry again donning the slave shackles before going to sleep. The next morning, Terry mentioned that his sleeping experience was not comfortable. I jokingly speculated that it was because he slept over the cellar but neither of us believed that for a moment. Terry was still in awe of the intricate work that Susan put into the dwelling. He was also impressed that she would trustingly leave the space in our possession. I told Terry that what Susan did was not a first and it was the power of the Slave Dwelling Project that warrants such acts.

    After a session of Terry taking intricate pictures, we both went our separate ways. Terry going home to Florence, SC and me, to toil at my place of employment, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens on Labor Day, the irony.

    Before I Met Joe McGill: A Slave Dwelling Project of My Own

    By Susan E. Heape

    "So, you might ask, 'How can you love a slave house? How can you live there, knowing that enslaved people once were forced to live and work there?' The answer is that I see myself as a steward of this property, with the duty and honor of preserving and maintaining that which someone else might destroy or deny."

    Susan E. HeapeOwner, 25 Longitude Lane

    In 2004, a terrible thing was about to happen: my seven cousins and siblings all agreed that it was time to sell Grand Daddy’s farm. I was the only one of this small group of heirs with any real connection, love, familiarity, use, or desire to preserve a tract of land that had been in my family for many generations. All of them, even though raised in the South Carolina Lowcountry, had turned into city slickers or plain old mercenaries or folks with a disdain for all things Southern! The thought of a pile of money was far more attractive to them than grand oaks, sandy trails through palmetto swamps, and gently rolling acres of sweet-smelling pines. Even the McKewn Branch, a flowing creek which once helped supply Charleston with drinking water, was not enough to warrant preservation.

    Meanwhile, I had turned into a regular woods-child, with a 4x4 pickup and a 27 speed off-road bicycle, both designed to take me anywhere I wanted to go on this property. If you get the idea that this place was close to heaven for me, you are correct. I found a peaceful sense of being home, knowing that many generations of my family had lived here, grown their own food, cut this timber to build homes, and hunted these woods for deer and other wild game. I held out for over a year, trying to convince family members that it was a sacrilege to sell this land. They thought I was silly. Then they thought I was crazy. Finally, they thought I was just plain annoying, and decided to sue me so that the developers could have their way with our property! Having heard horror stories regarding the way courts dispose of heirs property (typically devaluing the land and depriving the resistant family member of equal restitution), I had to capitulate to the sale. The developers were ruthless in requiring all of the property, or not buying any at all. After months of negotiating, the deal was concluded in early 2006. I was literally, physically sick from this experience! Not only was the property gone, but also family relationships. I had become “the outcast who almost prevented the sale; the troublemaker; the tree-hugger.”


    I resolved to use my proceeds to buy another treasure in the Lowcountry. I decided that having a special place here would be an ideal way to stay connected to my origins, and give me a sense of using my resources for a good purpose. I began shopping online as well as with a local realtor, with the goal of finding a historic property that was in need of love and restoration. From the first moment that I saw pictures of my house, I knew it was the one for me. Even though it was evident that a lot of work was needed, I could see the potential in these stout brick walls. I have known of this house my entire life, and can even recall what it looked like when I was a young girl---rather dreary with dark shutters, overgrown vines, and messy mulberry trees in the rear entry way!


    After submitting numerous offers to the seller, and being turned down, we finally were able to come to acceptable terms in April 2006. I was absolutely determined to buy this house, because it needed me and I needed it! When I say “it needed me,” I mean that there had been ongoing attempts by previous owners to transform this house into something modern, slick, and inauthentic to its slave dwelling origins. My mission, right from the start, was to acknowledge the truth about this structure and to honor that truth by restoring and preserving it, not hiding it. Over the years, I have removed modern plastic light fixtures, revealed interior brick walls once covered by gloss paint, installed heart pine floors identical to the few remaining original ones, and utilized historically accurate colors and fabrics throughout. I have also researched, designed, and installed a traditional African-American folk art garden. There are heirloom plants, natural elements such as seashells, and antique farming tools such as would have been used in bygone times. It has been strictly a labor of love, and I have personally done most of the work myself--- except for that beyond my abilities, such as plumbing and electrical. I love this place, and feel very protective of it.

    So, you might ask, “How can you love a slave house? How can you live there, knowing that enslaved people once were forced to live and work there?” The answer is that I see myself as a steward of this property, with the duty and honor of preserving and maintaining that which someone else might destroy or deny. While it has not been easy or inexpensive to own and restore this structure, I am so glad that I have been able to do so. These walls speak to me, and I hope to others, about a time in our shared history. While many lessons about the Civil War have been recognized and learned, there are so many other facts about this era that are yet to be acknowledged and explored. Hopefully, the identification and recognition of all historic structures, not just large or ornate ones, will serve as inspiration for ongoing discussions, discoveries, and understanding.


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    Join Lowcountry Africana ~ Unearthing Treasures: Tracing African American Ancestors at the South Carolina Historical Society

    Benseman Bible

    Please join Lowcountry Africana for a very special seminar at the South Carolina Historical Society, "Unearthing Treasures: Tracing Your African American Ancestors at the South Carolina Historical Society" on Saturday, November 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    What's special about this seminar is that seminar content will be customized to meet attendees' research interests and research experience. We will also work with registrants ahead of the seminar, to identify records at the South Carolina Historical Society that may be helpful for their research.

    We will spend the morning learning how to decipher meaning from plantation journals, maps, plats and photographs. After lunch, the remainder of the seminar will be spent conducting hands-on archival research with assistance from seminar leaders and archivists.

    We are excited to be able to offer such a quality research experience in a free seminar. We hope you will join us to explore the stellar collections at the South Carolina Historical Society!

    The seminar is FREE. Lunch is $10. Space is limited to 30 participants so please reserve now! To register, please call Virginia Ellison at 843-723-3225 ext. 11.

    Seminar Flyer With Logos