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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: 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.

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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 http://nationaldayoflistening.org/downloads/DIY-Instruction-Guide.pdf."

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!

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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 (http://www.fold3.com/title_700/south_carolina_estate_inventories_and_bills/: accessed 27 Mar 2013), Estate Inventory of John Ball, Book E (1802-1819) pp. 458-4677.

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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
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The Campbell Family Reunion: Connecting the Dots

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I was once told by a genealogist early on in this project that “you concentrate on saving the places, we will put the people there.”

Since the Slave Dwelling Project started in May 2010, unexpected liaisons have been formed. At the Bush Holly House in Greenwich, Connecticut, I spent the night in the slave dwelling with two descendants of slave owners and the descendant of a slave owner and one of his slaves. At Bacons Castle in Surry, Virginia two African American sisters, whose great - great aunt was enslaved there, spent the night and they are now interacting with the property because of the project. In the dwelling on the campus of Sweet Briar College, one of the participants was the granddaughter of the last person who stayed in the cabin.

Along the way, I have had the privilege to address many family reunions. The locations of those addresses were usually in a banquet room of a nice hotel. My address to the Campbell family reunion would be the same but first let me set the stage.

When the project was in its infancy, I attempted to stay in the slave dwelling at Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, SC. The dilapidated condition of the dwelling dictated that sleeping in the dwelling was not an option, however, in an effort to remain true to the project, I slept on the porch of the big house which also needed to be restored. New owners Jacqueline and Jeremy Thomas who at the time of purchase were living in England vowed to restore the cabin. Being true to their word, I returned in April of this year to spend a night in the newly restored cabin. I was joined by two Richland County high school students and their history teacher; Prinny Anderson, descendant of President Thomas Jefferson; Terry James, fellow Civil War reenactor who sleeps in slave shackles; and Jeremy Thomas, owner.

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While at work, I got a call from Michelle Dawson. Once we verified that I was the person that she was looking for, she explained that she was doing research on her family tree and had traced her enslaved ancestors to Laurelwood Plantation. Through my blogs written about Laurelwood, she had tracked me down. She explained the challenge she had finding the physical location of the property and upon finding it, locked gates denied her access. Her true emotion was felt through the phone when I agreed that I would come to Myrtle Beach to address her family reunion. I stated that I could not make any promises but I would try to get them access to the property. A call to Jeremy a few days later confirmed that not only could the family have access but he would be at the property to greet them when they arrived.

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Slave Dwelling Project ~ 150th Battery Wagner Commemoration, Two Nights in Jail

150th Anniversary Commemoration, Assault on Battery Wagner

By Joseph McGill

"Approximately 200,000 African American men served in the Union Army and Navy during the American Civil War. For this particular stay, it was not much of a stretch for the Slave Dwelling Project and my Civil War reenacting to come together."

Joseph McGillFounder, Slave Dwelling Project
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For the followers of the Slave Dwelling Project, you have become accustomed to the blog that I write after every time that I spend the night in a slave dwelling. You may also be aware that I am a Civil War reenactor so making history relevant is what I love. Our reenactment group is Company I, 54th Massachusetts Reenactment Regiment. Historically, the group was the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Approximately 200,000 African American men served in the Union Army and Navy during the American Civil War. For this particular stay, it was not much of a stretch for the Slave Dwelling Project and my Civil War reenacting to come together.

The Assault on Battery Wagner occurred on July, 18, 1863. This was the battle portrayed in the 1989 award winning movie Glory featuring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington. Although other Black regiments preceded and followed the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, because of this movie, this group is best known. For the past 10 years, Company I has been going to Morris Island, SC, the site of that battle to commemorate the men who fought, died and were captured there. This year would be different. Since this was the sesquicentennial or the 150th anniversary of that battle, we had to do more and do more we did.

On Sunday, July14 members of the local Civil War reenactment group worshipped at Mt. Zion AME Church in Charleston, SC. It is documented that historically, men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry worshipped at this church. After the service, the members proceeded to the Friendly Society Cemetery to place a wreath on the grave of Lt. Steven Swails who was one of only three Black officers commissioned in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. This is important because at the onset of the war one could count the number of Black officers in the Union army and navy on one hand. After the Civil War, Lt Swails who was originally from Cooperstown, NY, stayed in South Carolina and became a State Senator, lawyer and the Mayor of my hometown of Kingstree, SC.

Fort Moultrie 1

On Monday night a small contingency of the local Civil War reenactment group gathered at the Seashore Farmers Lodge to view the movie Glory. The lodge was built about 1915 by local black farmers. Their organization provided insurance, advice, and burial assistance to members. The newly restored building fell into disrepair and was almost lost to demolition by neglect before concerned community organizers stepped in and saved it. Unfortunately, technical difficulties would not allow us to show the movie on a large screen. Fate would have it that only about five people showed up so we wound up showing the film on a computer screen which worked out just fine.

The next day we would find ourselves back at the Seashore Farmers Lodge for a day of living history. It was on this day, July 16, 1863 that that the 54th Massachusetts got its baptism of fire. The historical marker at the lodge states “During the Civil War (1861-1865) Sol Legare Island was the site of several camps, artillery positions and battles. On this date, one of America's first African American Army Regiments, organized in the North and led by Union General Alfred Terry; bravely gave their lives to win the freedom of enslaved Africans who were held in bondage here and on plantations throughout the south. 5,200 Federal Troops occupied this Island. The 54th waged a gallant battle but lost 14 men, 17 were wounded and 12 missing. It is with great pride and humble gratitude that we honor their unwavering courage and sacrifice for a moral cause. The lodge is located on the grounds of where Union forces camped before they engaged in the Battle of Sol Legare Island.” The day was filled with living history demonstrations and storytelling with a good mixture of community, state and national visitors.

Wednesday, July 17th would find us at Trident Technical College. By then, the Civil War reenactors from out of town began to show up. The guys from Company A in Boston were there. These were the guys who allowed me to fall in with them at the last two inaugural parades of President Barack Obama. The guys from Company B out of Washington, DC were there. Company K out of Atlanta showed up. Others representing Civil War United States Colored Troops (USCT) showed up from New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina. The evening event had a sparse turnout and we got all of the activities in before the rain started. We then went to the world renown Gullah Cuisine Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant where the famous chef Charlotte Jenkins did not disappoint with a spread of baked chicken, collard greens, okra stew, rice, yams, bread pudding and a side salad. A formal introduction was given to the group by me with a question and answer period that followed. Bringing all of these groups together was a little contentious but nothing that could not be easily overcome. It was revealed that in the room we had a descendant of one of the drummers of the 54th, a descendant of William Carney the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the 54th, and several men who acted in the movie Glory.

54th Mass Company I Fort Moultrie

Thursday, July 18th found us at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, SC. The history of the fort spans the Revolutionary through World War II. It was from this fort on the night of December 26, 1860, under the cover of darkness, Major Robert Anderson would spike the guns and proceed to Fort Sumter. He would hold his position at Fort Sumter until after a 34 hour battle which started on April 12, 1861. As typical with the National Park Service, the rules were strict but we gave the public a great show that included lectures, storytelling and musket firing demonstrations. Putting all the guys in one formation was not as problematic as I anticipated. We even had a contingency of Confederates who participated in the Fort Moultrie event.

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Above: 150th Commemoration, Photos by Herb Frazier

At 2:30 pm we began to board the boats that would take us over to Morris Island. The transport to the island was completed without a hitch although I was receiving calls for a seat on the boats up until the time we left the dock. The event on the island was carried out flawlessly. My only regrets were that high tide did not allow much beach to conduct the activities and we did not have enough time at the end of the program for people to reflect. We proceeded back to Fort Moultrie where we were fed and the activities continued. The evening culminated with a presentation by Lt. Governor Glen McConnell who is himself a Civil War reenactor. We ended the event by lighting luminaries that represented each man killed during the Assault on Battery Wagner.

Casualty List of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment from the Assault on Fort WagnercroppedAbove: List of USCT Soldiers Missing After the Assault on Battery Wagner. With Kind Permission of Fold3.

My Trip to South Carolina

By Kharson McKay, Age 11, Descendant of David Miles Moore, 54th Mass. USCT

"Everyone slid out of the boat and we stepped out onto the sand. It took my breath away. This was the Island where my ancestor David Miles Moore stepped into history!"

Kharson McKay, Age 11Descendant of David Miles Moore, 54th Mass. USCT
photo

Above: Kharson McKay (Left). Photo by Herb Frazier

My name is Kharson McKay. I am 11 years old from Austin, TX. I love the Civil War. When my dad Bob McKay told me I had been invited to participate in a civil war re-­‐ enactment, I was so excited to do it. My mom made me a costume (that apparently wasn’t very authentic) but it was still a great costume and I love it. Here’s the story of my trip to South Carolina. On Sunday, July 14 my dad and I drove 9 hours to my Sister’s house in New Orleans to pick up my 9 year old Nephew, Quinn McKay. We stayed for a while but we had to get back on the road. From there we drove to Olustee, FL to see the battlefield where my ancestor David Miles Moore, The drummer boy for the 54th Mass Company H. fought his final battle before he mustered out of the civil war in 1865.

It had closed just a minute before we got there at 5:01 so we went over the gate and took a couple of photos and videos and got out quick. After that we drove to Jacksonville, checked into a hotel right by the beach and swam in the ocean for a while. We tried swimming against the waves, but every time the tide came in it threw us back to the shore! Soon it got dark and we had to go back to the hotel. The next day we stayed for a while longer at the beach then had to get back on the road. We finally got to South Carolina and checked into our hotel. We heard there was a meeting at a university, and that got switched around but we finally got to the park where we saw everyone in uniform talking to each other and shaking hands. A few of the other re-­‐enactors greeted us and we met a lot of the local people. A couple of the men and women spoke about where they were from and how they got here, then they did an amazing living history skit.

Soon it started to rain and we all went to dinner at a restaurant with a great Gullah/Geechee buffet. Sitting down with our food we talked about the reenactment and information about what was going to happen the next day at Fort Moultrie. After 2 hours of eating and talking we all went home to get some rest for the big day. That day, Thursday, July 18th I took a shower, put on my uniform and walked out of the hotel to reenact one of the most important battles in the history of The Civil War. When we got to Fort Moultrie I was amazed by the Fort and the different costumes and gear people had! I wasn’t quite prepared, but the park visitors center let me borrow a drum and a couple of the men there helped me look more authentic.

After a few hours of gun checking, firing demonstrations, eating, and history talks, we all got on the boat to Morris Island. There, everyone slid out of the boat and we stepped out onto the sand. It took my breath away. This was the Island where my ancestor David Miles Moore stepped into history! We knelt down into the sand and a lot of blinding pictures were taken of us. We got up again, played a marching cadence, and marched to a spot on the island were we all got into ranks and fired the guns. The drummer boys played Battle Hymn of The Republic. I couldn’t play the drums at all so I just played the bass part of it. The men fired their guns into the air and we all got back onto the boat. I will never forget that moment when I first felt the sand. Thank you Mr. McGill for inviting me on this wonderful trip. I had a lot of fun and I am thinking about doing this again. Thank you.

Fort Moultrie 8 Fort Moultrie Group Photo

Stay at Old Charleston Jail

By Joseph McGill
Encampment Old Jail 11

The Old Charleston Jail was built in 1802 using bricks that were made by enslaved people along with their carpentry and masonry skills. My desire to extend the Slave Dwelling Project to the Old Charleston Jail was based on the fact that after the battle that was portrayed in the movie Glory, some of the Black soldiers who were taken as prisoners were held there. The American College of the Building Arts now holds classes in the jail and allotted me 15 slots for people desiring to share the experience with me. When I revealed to the public that I was going to spend two nights in the Old Charleston Jail, I immediately started to get responses about ghosts. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I do all within my powers to respect those that do.

I got to the jail at the appointed time of 6:00 pm to meet the tour guides who would be giving ghost tours in the jail. A prior meeting determined that we would interact only minimally with the tour groups. Nearly half of the people who signed up for the first night stay were no shows which at this point in the project did not surprise me but it turned out that nine Civil War reenactors, all males, would sleep in the jail that night. To my surprise, all of the reenactors were very anxious to interact with the tour groups. The tours started at our Civil War encampment where the visitors were presented with some story telling about how former slaves became Union soldiers. They then proceeded inside for their tour through the jail.

I tagged along on one of the ghost tours and enjoyed what I witnessed. Our drummer and youngest member of the Civil War reenactment group who was also scheduled to stay in the jail, went on one of the tours, as a result, we spent a great part of the night convincing him that everything would be fine inside the jail. 11:45 pm and the tours were over but for most of us who were to sleep in the jail, that time would have to come later. Some of the out of town reenactors wanted to hit some of the bars in town, while the rest of us just hung around outside engaging in conversation and enjoying adult beverages. Around 2:00 am we all found ourselves inside the jail to claim the spots where we would sleep. Despite all of the talk about ghosts, I found the night uneventful.

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We would find ourselves back at the jail on Saturday, at 3:00 pm for a period of living history for the general public. I had anticipated a respectable contingency of Confederate reenactors so that we could give the visiting public a feel for how both sides operated during the Civil War, but only three Confederates showed and that number included one lady. That turned out to be a good thing because the crowd was very sparse but they were treated to interpretation and storytelling. At 7:00 pm we had to once again switch into a mode for receiving ghost tour groups. The routine was the same as the previous night. Eight people would stay in the jail that night, five men and three women. The crowds for the tours were just as robust as the previous night which was an indication to me that this is a lucrative industry. After the ghost tours were completed, we again found ourselves chatting outside and drinking a few adult beverages. On this night we did not occupy the building until 3:00 am. To my surprise when I woke up the next morning, two of the young ladies who spent the night had already left. I am still adamant about not believing in ghosts, the fact that my van would not start that morning because of a dead battery and the fact that the battery in my watch died when I was in the jail was pure coincidence.

In March of this year, I attended a panel discussion at a conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on ghost tours. It was concluded that one can obtain more African American history on a ghost tour than on a regular history tour. Personally, I have a problem with that. Participating in the event at the jail is bringing me around to seeing things differently. When we interacted with the tour groups, through our interpretation and storytelling they learned how men of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry became prisoners at that jail, in other words, we hit them with some real history. To that end, I am willing to work with the American College of the Building Arts and the ghost tour company to address their groups in the same capacity in the future. There are times when you have to get in where you fit in. As for ghosts, I will spend several more nights in that jail if the opportunity presents itself in the future.

Related Reading

"My First Night In Jail," Part I, from the blog South Carolina Traveler
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Sleeping With the Past: Slave Dwelling Project Overnights at Hall House, Salisbury, NC

Hall House, Salisbury, NC
Another View of Hall House
Hall House Grounds
Carol Rathburn and Ray Barber of Historic Salisbury Foundation
Joseph McGill, Prinny Anderson and Terry James at Hall House
Joseph McGill Explores Hall House Grounds
Slave Dwelling and Kitchen
Joseph McGill and Prinny Anderson
Prinny Anderson on Steps of Hall House Kitchen
Interior of Slave Dwelling and Kitchen
Prinny Anderson in the Kitchen Area of Slave Dwelling
Hearth Where Meals Were Prepared
Joseph McGill Beside Slave Dwelling Hearth
The Public Program Was Well-Attended
Prinny Anderson Addresses Attendees of Public Program
Prinny Anderson Discusses the Slave Dwelling Project and Coming to the Table
Terry James Converses With Salisbury Community Members
Terry James Visits With Community Members
Ray Barbour Shows Terry James the Hall House Grounds
Hall House by Night
Peg and William Puza
Brian Davis, Executive Director of Historic Salisbury Foundation
Brian Davis Prepares the Fire
Preparing Breakfast ~ Fire is Ready
Preparing Breakfast in the Hearth
Breakfast is Ready!
Enjoying Breakfast Prepared by Brian Davis
Morning After Overnight Stay in Slave Dwelling
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As a field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I have known Brian Davis, the Director of the Historic Salisbury Foundation in Salisbury, North Carolina since he was employed by the Galveston Historic Society in Galveston, Texas. Approximately one year into his current position and when the Slave Dwelling Project was in its infancy, while on a visit to Charleston, SC, Brian made the invitation for me to stay in the slave dwelling at the Dr. Josephus Hall House. At the time of the invitation, we billed it as an opportunity to commemorate Juneteenth because coming from Texas, Brian was quite familiar with the African American tradition of commemorating June 19, 1865 as the day of freedom from the institution of slavery.

As the time for the stay grew nearer, I became a little nervous due to lack of publicity of which I have become accustomed. Brian revealing that he would not be able to attend the presentation because of a conflict was somewhat disconcerting. I was beginning to get the feeling that Brian in his new position had bitten of a little more that he could chew and may have over promised what could be delivered. What I thought I was dealing with I had seen before because there are people who are in positions to make decisions but there are always board members who have the final say. Moreover, I know that the purpose of the Slave Dwelling Project is not palatable to some because it takes them out of their comfort zones. Eventually, some information about the stay did indeed appear on the Facebook page of Historic Salisbury. Additionally, an article on the event did appear in the Salisbury newspaper five days before the event was scheduled to occur.

As a result of the newspaper article, my concerns were compounded when I got a phone call from an African American resident of Salisbury who shall remain nameless. In the nicest way that I can explain, this person was inquiring if I and the project were for real. I received a quick lesson on race relations in Salisbury and was informed that African Americans did not readily interact with Historic Salisbury or any of their activities. Although, I was satisfied in making my request for this person to attend and would be thrilled if this person would convince other African Americans to do likewise, I was not confident that there would be any African Americans at the presentation.

Hall House, Salisbury, NC

Its website describes The Dr. Josephus Hall House as follows: “Salisbury's landmark residence was originally an 1820 two-story Federal style double-pile frame house used by the girl's department of Salisbury Academy. In 1859, Dr. Josephus Hall (1805-1873) added a two-story front porch with cast iron oak leaf and acorn ornamental openwork, a gateway arch, and square-edged clapboard. The front windows were also lengthened. During the Civil War, Dr. Hall served as hospital surgeon and surgeon in charge at the Salisbury Confederate Prison. Between 1890 and 1910, the attic was enlarged with a high-hipped roof and dormers. Historic Salisbury Foundation purchased the home in 1972 from the Hall family, which had continuously occupied the residence for 113 years. The descendants donated the elegant period furniture to the foundation. A two-room detached kitchen, staffed before emancipation by enslaved persons, was carefully restored over a three year period and opened to the public in 2006. The Hall House is individually listed in the National Register for Historic Places.”

Hall House Grounds

When I arrived at the site on Friday, June 14 at the appointed time of 4:00 pm it was a beautiful sunny day which made it perfect for the picture taking that I needed to do. Nestled on a prominent corner well within the city limits of Salisbury, its deep setback from the street gave more than adequate room for its well manicured lawn. That lawn and the house provided many photo opportunities with every step I took onto the property. As I approached the house, the slave dwelling where I would spend the night came clearly into focus for it was located on the right side of the “big house”. Respecting protocol and avoiding the urge to go to the slave dwelling first, I reached the door of the mansion, rang the bell and knocked to no avail. As I was headed to the slave dwelling, I was hailed by someone on the street. The hailer was Prinny Anderson, a descendant of President Thomas Jefferson, who is a member of the group Coming to the Table which provides leadership, resources and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery. Since meeting Prinny in March of 2012, this would be her third overnight stay in a slave dwelling, her first two were Bacon’s Castle in Surry, Virginia and Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, SC.

Prinny and I would experience the slave dwelling for the first time together. The red building, which appeared larger than most I had slept in to date, was locked so we had to admire it from the outside. The two front doors were an indication to me that the structure was designed for two families. My prior research revealed that the building was a kitchen for the big house plus living space for the slaves on the property. The building was also relocated from behind the big house to its current location. During its evolution it was once used as a garage. We were eventually met on the property by Carol Rathburn and Ray Barber who unlocked the building to give us access. Upon entering through the kitchen, I laid my eyes upon a table, chairs and accouterments necessary for cooking which made the space seem cluttered and overly adorned. The other side was more open but also adorned with materials which may not have been in the space when it was inhabited by slaves but, like the items in the kitchen, they could be used effectively for interpreting the lives of slaves. I took the stairs which led up to the attic to peer into the space. The attic spanned the entire length of the building so despite it being an A frame lots of people could spread a pallet and sleep there.

Slave Dwelling and Kitchen
Peg and William Puza
Joseph McGill and Prinny Anderson Outside Slave Dwelling
Prinny Anderson on Steps of Hall House Kitchen and Slave Dwelling
Prinny Anderson in the Kitchen Area of Slave Dwelling
Interior of Slave Dwelling and Kitchen
Joseph McGill Beside Slave Dwelling Hearth
Hearth Where Meals Were Prepared
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We then were taken on a tour of the big house. It became evident to the tour guide that I was more interested in knowing more about the owner and the fact that the building was first used as a school for women than the architectural significance of the house or its content. We were joined in the house by our host Brian Davis. He apologized for not being able to be at the presentation, the reason being he had a major part in a local play. He would be joining us for dinner, he would sleep with us in the dwelling and he would cook breakfast in the dwelling the next morning so in my mind all of that more than made up for him not being able to attend the presentation. After eating dinner at a local restaurant, we returned to the house and were greeted by the local media. Lots of pictures were taken inside the slave dwelling where an interview was also conducted.

Prinny Anderson Addressing Attendees

Our host Doug Black, president of the board for Historic Salisbury Foundation and who also treated us to dinner, gave me a ten minute warning and stated that a small crowd of about thirty people had gathered with four African Americans among them. He further stated that the four African Americans was the most diversity he had ever seen in an audience on that property. When I rounded the corner and saw the crowd, I was pleasantly surprised. The crowd was double the size with half of them being African American. With no PowerPoint, I used the method of presentation of talking about all twelve states with slave dwellings of which I have stayed. I deliberately left out the states of South Carolina and Virginia because Prinny Anderson would include those states in her presentation. After the presentation, the African American person who gave me the phone call prior to my arrival to give me a crash course on race relations in Salisbury came forth. It was already clear to me and made clear by that person the decision was not only to show up but to convince other African Americans do likewise. For that, a big heartfelt thank you was in order.

Terry James Visits With Community Members

As Prinny and I continued to share information with the dispersed crowd, who should show up but “Old Reliable” Terry James all the way from Florence, SC to participate in the fourteenth stay. Judging by some of the conversations of which I engaged, it was obvious that Facebook played a vital role in helping to produce some of the audience. A local historian, gave me confidence that the information that I disseminated in my presentation was correct. He also told me about several other buildings in the state of North Carolina that fits the criteria of the Slave Dwelling Project.

When the audience left, five of the six people who would sleep in the cabin gathered on the front porch of the big house. Joining Prinny Anderson, Terry James, Brian Davis and me for the slave dwelling sleepover would be Bill and Peg Puza a local couple. Bill had problems believing that Terry would be sleeping in slave shackles. The conversation was fun and full of laughter covering everything from ghosts to rats. When Brian showed up, the conversation then moved into the salve cabin. Prinny set the mood by lighting a candle and burning sage. We formed a circle and uninterrupted conversation started to flow by all of us taking turns in expressing why we were here in this space. I was the first to fade knowing that I had an obligation to drive to Tuskegee, Alabama the next day.

Brian Davis Prepares the Fire

On Saturday morning we got a bonus, as promised, Brian cooked a meal of eggs and bacon in the fireplace of the cabin. In the forty four places stayed, this was only the second time that occurred. The first was the Price House in Woodruff, SC and I was the one to do the cooking. The breakfast provided set the mood for more conversation with us discussing how the Historic Salisbury Foundation can keep the African American community engaged. I had great examples of successful programs involving slave dwellings that were being conducted elsewhere; Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC; Hopsewee Plantation in Georgetown County, SC and the Holly Springs Pilgrimage in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Brian stated that he and staff were more than willing and capable to make a day exploratory trip. We all took more group shots before we went our separate ways.

Morning After Overnight Stay in Slave Dwelling Hall House

I must admit that I was not getting a “warm and fuzzy” feeling going into this stay. The publicity did not occur as quickly as I am accustomed but maybe that was my reminder that this project is not about stroking my ego and that everything happens in its own time. Brian not being able to attend the presentation, but his reason was legitimate for he is an outsider who needs to be embraced by the community in which he works and participating in a local play is a great way to do that moreover; he more than made up for not attending the presentation by sleeping in the cabin with us and treating us to breakfast which he cooked in the fireplace of the cabin. How cool, classy and welcoming was that? The phone call that I got from the African American citizen giving me a quick lesson in race relations in Salisbury, NC was a point of concern but I would also be skeptical about someone wanting to spend the night in a former slave cabin. The end result of the stay erased all of my skepticism. The experience of this stay taught me that every now-and-then, I must be checked and humbled. The Slave Dwelling Project is much bigger than Joseph McGill, it’s about the enslaved ancestors, and it is going to require patience on my part to assist in saving, bringing attention to and interpreting the places where they once dwelled. I must also remember that the stewards of these places allow me the privilege of applying the project at these sites and that I must respect and honor all of the guidelines that apply. Brian knew before and as a result of the stay it was reinforced that I, Prinny Anderson, Terry James and all Slave Dwelling Project Ambassadors are his support system for ensuring that we leverage all of the positives that were accomplished by allowing us to spend a night in the slave cabin on the property of the Hall House.

Sleeping With History, Re-Awakening Our Ancestors’ Lives

By Prinny Anderson

The Josephus Hall House sits on a large plot of land, well set back from the residential streets and surrounded by box hedges, lawns, and flowerbeds. The house is a substantial size, with fashionably decorated rooms downstairs and upstairs and white, lacy iron balconies out front. But the reason for my visit on June 13th was to stay in a much smaller, more modest building off to one side – the red-painted, one-and-a-half story kitchen and slave dwelling.

Prinny Anderson in the Kitchen Area

The Historic Salisbury Foundation cares for the big house and the kitchen slave dwelling, and the signs of their care are in clear evidence. There is a neatly tended kitchen garden in the space between house and cabin; an array of cooking implements on the hearth or hanging on the walls; and a freshly swept brick fireplace. The kitchen slave dwelling is divided into two spaces on the ground level – a cooking area to the right and a work area to the left. The shelves, baskets of cotton, and spinning wheel suggest some of the work that might have gone on there. It is thought that there were about 12 enslaved people living on Dr. Hall’s urban farmstead, a mix of adults and children, but as of now, there are no details about who these people were. They would have most likely slept in the loft space above the working areas, with perhaps some sleeping on the floor of the work room itself.

Interior of Slave Dwelling and Kitchen

This is the third slave dwelling in which I’ve spent the night, and it was certainly the best kept and most snug of the three. The tidiness and snugness brought to my mind images of people busy at work, moving in and out of the building, running across the kitchen garden to the big house, down the lane to other out buildings, and chatting, laughing, calling out to one another. That very image of sociability and busy work is a powerful reminder about how the enslaved people made life in the Hall House possible. Every aspect of daily life was provided to the Halls by the unknown, unnamed people who worked and lived in the kitchen slave dwelling. Everybody came through this little building. Medicines, food, hot water for washing, clean laundry, new clothing, household implements, maybe even children’s toys and small pieces of furniture would have been tended to here. The buzz and hum of life itself were kept up around this building, since there were only 4 members of the Hall family and three times that number of enslaved people. At least this is the image that plays out in my mind.

But how little is known about the people who kept life going on this property! How little are they acknowledged; how thoroughly taken for granted and overlooked! The image of a lively, tidy, snug place is framed with gentle melancholy for me, sadness at how inadequately we honor and respect the life-givers of Hall House.

Prinny Anderson Discusses the Slave Dwelling Project and Coming to the Table

On the brighter side of the image were the events of the evening, overnight and morning visit. A good sized group gathered on the lawn outside the big house to listen to Joe McGill talk about the importance of saving slave dwellings, sharing the history of the enslaved people, and honoring their contribution to American life. Many more than expected in the group were African American, from well behaved youngsters to lively, laughing matrons. After the formal event was over, the overnighters sat on the front steps, talked and traded stories. Then we moved into the kitchen slave dwelling where we were going to sleep for the night, formed a circle, and shared why we had come for the night and what it meant to us. One of the most poignant questions was: How can we look at the truth and tell the history of the ancestors who lived here without reliving the pain? Indeed.

Brian Davis, the Executive Director of The Historic Salisbury Foundation, was one of the people who slept overnight in the kitchen slave dwelling. It was his first such overnight, and he gave his full commitment to it. Brian slept directly on the floor, wrapped only in a sheet; I suspect his night’s sleep was very much like that of the enslaved people before him. It was likely less comfortable than mine, in a sleeping bag on a foam pad!

The morning brought us a very special experience. Probably for the first time in decades, maybe even since Emancipation, breakfast was cooked in the fireplace. The simple act of frying bacon, cooking eggs, and serving out the meal on the kitchen table took me straight back to the mid-1800’s.

Brian Davis, Executive Director of Historic Salisbury Foundation
Brian Prepares the Breakfast Fire
The Breakfast Fire is Ready
Breakfast Cooks in the Hearth
Breakfast is Served!
Enjoying Breakfast Prepared by Brian Davis
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Each overnight stay in a slave dwelling is an opportunity to re-awaken life, bring voices back to the rooms, put food back on the table, and light another fire on the hearth. Each overnight stay in a slave dwelling calls forth stories and images of the ancestors, the ones who lived in these buildings before our visit. Each overnight stay in a slave dwelling reminds a growing circle of people about the ones who were forced into labor in our country, who nurtured their masters’ lives, and who built our society, our structures, and our economy. Sleeping for one night on the floor seems a small act to honor, remember and bring back to life all that those ancestors were as hard working, enduring people and all that they contributed. Won’t you come sleep with history for one night?

A Few Reflections on My Participation in the Slave Dwelling Project on June 14, 2013 – Salisbury, NC

By William Puza
Peg and William Puza

6/19/13 - Today is Juneteenth, and I stand honored to have had the opportunity to commemorate the anniversary by being invited to spend the night of Friday, June 14th in the slave quarters of the Dr. Josephus Hall House in Salisbury, NC. This Slave Dwelling Project raises awareness about the need to ensure that these structures are preserved & restored; they are witness to the important past of African Americans enslaved before the Civil War. On Friday night, the public first heard a fascinating description of the Project by its creator, Joseph McGill, a descendant of slaves, and his colleague Prinny Anderson, herself a descendant of Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemmings. We were enthralled with the knowledge and insight shared by Terry James of the Massachusetts 54th, the other Project participant. While we heard them talk about their family backgrounds and their work, I started to wonder what I could possibly bring to the discussion that would take place behind the closed doors of the slave dwelling after dark. They are descendants of slaves and of slave owners, and my background is different. I am a descendant of European-Americans who were not slave owners, and who lived in a part of our country seemingly less affected by Slavery. Yet we are all connected, and we are all deeply impacted.

Personal reasons for wanting to stay over at the slave quarters were many, and I jumped at the chance. As a volunteer with HSF, I greatly enjoy working as a docent at the Hall House. Each time visitors came by, I’ve felt troubled by the lack of information that I have, and that I’ve been comfortable sharing, about the kitchen and slave quarters of the house. Human beings, families, men, women, and children LIVED and WORKED there, yet they are not known to us in the same way that the family members from the big house are. To know more about the African Americans who lived there, and to find ways to share that information is both a true objective for me, as well as an obligation. It is the important “rest of the story.”

After the crowd left, we sat for a long time talking on the steps of the Hall House porch. Mr. McGill, Mr. James, and Ms. Anderson told us about their work, told us things we didn’t know about slavery, about what happened after Emancipation, and about the talents, fortitude & inner strength that their ancestors exhibited. Theirs is a history of people brought here against their will, and denied the basic personal rights that give us all hope and the ability to ‘live for the future.’ It’s an eye-opener to learn that the suicide rate among enslaved people was so low. Hopelessness was not prevalent, when it certainly might have been. These lessons are crucial to understanding the American story, with deep and far-reaching implications, just like the strength and fortitude that we know were shown by others in our country’s history -- the leaders of the American Revolution, the Founding Fathers, and the immigrants who struggled for acceptance in the 19th and 20th centuries.

When we finally blew out the candles, in the silence of the slave quarters, came one of the most profound parts of the experience for me. In the dark, I could hear the sound of the shackles that Mr. James chooses to wear at night, to authenticate the experience. I remained very quiet, but found myself unable to stop the tears that welled up and eventually began to silently flow. It was important to me that I didn’t make any noise; I was embarrassed by my inability to “control myself,” but even more ashamed, as a student of history, of all that I do not know about Slavery in America. Have you ever thought about the prospect of being shackled before you go to sleep at night?

In the morning, breakfast was prepared on the open hearth & shared by the group. I think I realized that at least we had made a start in bridging the gaps between what we might think we already know, what we maybe have not really wanted to know, and what we actually DO know. For helping with that, I’m grateful to the folks from the Slave Dwelling Project, and to Historic Salisbury Foundation for bringing them here.

Slave Dwelling Project – June 14, 2013 – Brian Davis

Brian Davis Executive Director of Historic Salisbury Foundation

As relatively new at the position of executive director for Historic Salisbury Foundation, I am constantly learning more about the history of sites and artifacts in Salisbury and Rowan County, North Carolina. It is amazing that the former kitchen and slave dwelling (1825) at the Dr. Josephus Hall House (1820) survives to this day. This is no-doubt due to its conversion into a garage for automobiles in the early part of the 20th century. Thanks to the generosity of donors and volunteers, the building was restored in 2005 and provided a comfortable stay for the group of six who slept there on the night of June 14, 2013.

I joined the group around 11:15 p.m., as they were making their way back to the slave dwelling from the front yard of the main house. As we settled in, everyone took turns sharing what they expected to gain from the experience. For me, it was a faint glimpse into what it must have been like for the slave families who lived in the structure and how their daily lives unfolded.

What assumptions could I make? I’m reasonably confident that since this was the kitchen, it would have been inhabited by the cook and her family. One side of the building would have been where she and her husband slept, and probably served as the family’s “living room” as we would know it today. Presumably, the children would have slept upstairs in the loft, which is accessible by a narrow stair at one end of the building. The other large room on the ground level would have been used for food preparation for the main house and for meals served to her family. Numerous families would have lived in the building, as both slaves and as freedmen, since its construction. The 1860 Census lists two slave couples and their children as living on the property, which at that time, would have encompassed the entire city block. Presumably, there would have been several other outbuildings on the land. Research notes that “Aunt Rachel” was the name of the cook featured in a photograph from around 1860, and that she had two daughters, who were house maids. There is still much work ahead to learn about Aunt Rachel and the other families with connections to the former kitchen and dwelling, as well as incorporating the findings into educational experiences for all visitors.

Around 1 a.m., the group of six decided to turn in for the night. I asked whether anyone would like the doors and windows open, thinking it may help keep us cooler in the June evening. Everyone seemed comfortable with having them closed. I brought a sheet and a feather pillow that was my great-grandfather’s as my bedding, and found a spot on the pine plank flooring next to the kitchen table. I woke several times throughout the night, between the feel of the wood floor and the cool temperatures, and was the first to start moving around on Saturday morning. I assembled firewood and kindling, while the others began to stir and started the kitchen fire once more.

With the restored fireplace in the middle of the building, we planned an attempt at preparing breakfast in the former kitchen. After a short time, glowing coals were raked forward from the fire and a small trivet positioned over them. While Peg Puza picked chives from the herb garden at the Hall House and cracked eggs, I fried bacon in a cast iron skillet passed down from my Aunt Carolyn, one of the women who taught me how to cook at an early age. She passed away 9 months ago, and this was the first time I’ve used the skillet – seems like a fitting tribute. With the bacon finished, eggs were poured into the sizzling skillet and quickly scrambled. The welcoming aroma of breakfast – absent from this building for possibly 100 years – returned once again.

Enjoying Breakfast Prepared by Brian Davis

The small group gathered around the table and recounted our experiences and observations from the lecture and overnight stay. With each question answered, ten more came to mind. We took one last look around before scattering in different directions, but not before noticing a piece of newspaper from 1879 that had been plastered on the wall, obviously as insulation against drafts. It compared the prices of groceries that year, with the cost of the same items in 1860. It made me think about differences in not only the cost of provisions but also their availability and variety that may have changed in those 19 years as well as the freedoms gained.

A small group touring the house and kitchen later that afternoon, remarked on the smell of bacon in the air and how it really hit home the fact that the building was once used so regularly – serving as a home and as a place where there was always a fire burning and the next meal being prepared.

We are just starting the journey to investigate and interpret this former slave dwelling and kitchen and I hope in the near future, we can do their stories justice.

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Adventures on a Dirt Floor: Slave Dwelling Project Visits Oakland Plantation, Simpsonville, SC

Oakland Plantation House, Simpsonville, SC
Oakland Plantation Spring House
The Old Well Pump
Barn Where Slave Dwelling is Housed
L to R ~ Joe McGill, Greg Owens, Terry James
Slave Dwelling Timbers Peek Through the Barn
Exterior of Slave Dwelling
Hand Hewn Log Timbers
Interior of Cabin With Dirt Floor
Through the Window
Public Event at Oakland Plantation
Kitty Wilson Evans Portrays Kessie
Young Visitors Enjoy Presentation
Visitors Enjoy Hands On With Kitty Wilson Evans
The Day Was Filled With Hands On Activities
Hands On Brick Making
Bricks Are Drying
Preparing to Dip Candles
Preparing for the Meal
Young Visitors to Oakland Plantation
L to R ~ Greg McKee, Rick Owens, Terry James
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There are occasions when the concept of the Slave Dwelling Project is challenged. Oakland Plantation located in Simpsonville, SC would challenge the project in many ways. Already having spent a night in slave cabins in Anderson, Greenville, Woodruff and Pendleton, Oakland Plantation would be my fifth stay in the upcountry of South Carolina. Like my stay in the slave cabin at the Woodburn House in Pendleton, Oakland Plantation was not on the list of places to stay that was released in November 2012. In fact, this stay came about as result of the stay at the Woodburn House in Pendleton, SC.

The information distributed at the site states: “In 1823 the Dr. Thomas Collin Austin family established a working plantation on this site. The Austin family was one of the earliest settlers in this area. This property was part of a land grant to his grandfather Nathaniel Austin. Dr. Austin’s father, Colonel William Austin, who served as a private in the Second Regiment South Carolina Militia during the Revolutionary War, gave the land to Dr. Austin. Colonel Austin’s home (Gilder Plantation) located at the corner of Highway 14 and Bethel Road was the birthplace of Dr. Austin in 1790. Dr. Austin studied medicine in Philadelphia and practiced medicine in the area from about 1818 until his death in 1883. He excelled as a planter, a good old horse and buggy doctor noted for his skill as a surgeon and general practitioner. A doctor’s office once existed on the site until 1953 when it was torn down as the house was remodeled. The plantation is a prime example of an early 1800s, 1900s farm.”

Oakland Plantation House, Simpsonville

In my desire to increase the number of extant slave dwellings slept in, I accepted an invitation to participate in a program titled “Celebrate the Emancipation: Hollingsworth Outdoor Center Honors History Through Juneteenth.” I arrived at the site at 9:00 am on Friday, June 21. On the site, the big house was obvious. It was also easy to identify many of the outbuildings and their uses. What was not obvious to me was where the slave cabin was located. I met the owner Brian Micke who was doing work in the yard. He was well aware of my reason for being there and told me where the others were setting up for the occasion which was at a location adjacent to his property. I immediately went there thinking that I would see a building that resembled a slave cabin. To my surprise, I was led back to the initial site by Greg McKee to view the slave cabin. I met Greg about two months prior when I spent the night at the replicated slave cabin at the Woodburn House in Pendleton, SC. Greg would be sleeping in the cabin with me and Terry James that night.

Barn Where Slave Dwelling Is Housed

When I reached the cabin, it was obvious why I did not see it when I first reached the property. Located in what appeared to be a barn, was a log cabin that local historians believed to be a slave cabin. With skepticism, the more I explored the structure with Greg the more convinced that I became that slaves did at some point of the structure’s existence dwell there. In the 44 cabins of which I had slept, this would be the second with a dirt floor. Luckily for me, the first cabin with a dirt floor, Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood, Maryland had a ½ story above where I was able to sleep. It was my desire that I could do the same here. Located to the immediate left of the front entrance were the steep ladder/stairs that led to the top ½ story. I took the stairs gaining enough height to peer my head into the ½ story. What I saw did not give me confidence that I would be sleeping up there. Remnants of hay that was once stored there were spread sparingly throughout. I stepped gingerly into the space because there were some floor boards that I felt could not support my weight. After that inspection, the jury was still out as to where in the space I would sleep.

Barn Where Slave Dwelling is Housed
Slave Dwelling Timbers Peek Through the Barn
Exterior of Slave Dwelling
Hand Hewn Timbers
Interior of Cabin With Dirt Floor
Through the Window
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The day would be filled with activities for the visiting audience which was comprised of mostly children. The activities included broom making, cooking a hoe cake, fashioning a brick, and hand dipping candles. The audience was also treated to a living history presentation by Kitty Wilson Evans, portraying Kessie, a field slave from the republic’s early days. Additionally, a music and storytelling session with John Fowler, who is finalizing a book on George Mullins, (also known as Trotting Sally), a legendary turn-of-the-century fiddler who was born at Oakland Plantation in 1885, was conducted.

My session of course was on the Slave Dwelling Project and was given at the slave cabin. After convincing the audience that I would be spending the night in the space, the rest of the presentation went along smoothly. After the presentation, the questions were fast and furious but the important thing was that the kids got it. My day got better when Brian the property owner told me that putting plywood on the floor of the cabin was an option. When the groups left, I went on a tour of the property with Greg. The property is the Hollingsworth Outdoor Center and is owned by the YWCA of Greenville. We came to a spot in the woods where it was obvious that some trees were planted in a circular pattern. Its location along an historic road, the spring house, the dried up stream and the archaeological dig that was going on in the space in the woods convinced me that this space was once a Native American settlement. Additionally, the property was well designed to accommodate visiting groups. While sitting at an amphitheater well imbedded in the woods, we were only interrupted by the sound of a lawnmower at a nearby housing development.

Public Event at Oakland Plantation
Oakland Plantation Visitors
The Day Was Filled With Hands On Activities
Kitty Wilson Evans Portrays Enslaved Woman Kessie
Young Visitors Enjoy Presentation
Visitors Enjoys Hands On Activities With Kitty Wilson Evans
Hands On Brick Making
Bricks Are Drying
Preparing to Dip Candles
Preparing the Meal
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After putting the plywood on the floor of the slave cabin, Rick Owens arrived with two air mattresses for me and Greg. Rick was the gentleman partially responsible for the stay for it was he who arranged for me to stay at the Woodburn House in Pendleton, SC. He also stated that the air mattress was a donation to the slave dwelling project. Our evening would continue on the porch of our host. “Old Reliable”, Terry James, eventually made it in from Florence, SC. This would be Terry’s fifteenth stay and again he would be sleeping with his wrists shackled. When Terry arrived, his first view of the cabin had to be made with the use of flash lights. I had already warned him that this would be his first encounter with a dirt floor. To my surprise, he did not have any doubt that the space was once a cabin that once housed people. His inspection and knowledge of the hand hewn timber impressed me. His only concern was that he had to sleep between two acknowledged snorers. On the porch of the main house, our host Brian treated us to vanilla ice cream adorned with strawberries and whipped cream.

Greg McKee, Rick Owens and Terry James

In the cabin, we had all agreed that we would sleep with the door open. What we did not factor was the street light that would shine into the space. The next morning as I attempted to get up off the air mattress, I encountered a cramp that would not quit so I questioned if this donated item was a blessing or a curse. Rick arrived on the property with all of the materials necessary to cook breakfast. He prepared for us turkey sausage, eggs and french toast. Terry James, being the professional photographer that he is, took intricate pictures of the space and other buildings on the property before we all went our separate ways.

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Beaufort, SC 1868 Voter Registrations, Bluffton Precinct

BeaufortVoterRegsCovercropped

Beaufort County, SC 1868 Voter Registrations

St. Helena Parish Registration Precinct

Bluffton Election Precinct

Indexed by Alana Thevenet

Source: South Carolina, Secretary of State, Records Deposited with the Secretary. Abstracts of Voter Registrations Reported to the Military Government, 1868. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Record Group 213000, Series No. S 213103

White

Allen, J. Garvey

Anderson, W.H.

Allen, Wm. Gaston

Colored

Addison, Moses

Albert, David

Allston, Ben

Allston, Cuffy

Allston, John

Allbright, Soloman

Aiken, Billy

Allston, Martin

Anderson, Simon

Adams, Paul

Alfred, Charles

White

B(illegible), Geo.

Bee, C.W.

Baynard, E. M.

Barnwell, Ed. H.

Bratham, J.L.

Colored

Brown, Prince

Burton, Samuel

Bryan, Soloman

Braham, John

Burns, Sancho

Brown, Marcus

Bryan, Richard

Brunecomb, Cesar

Brown, Frank

Brown, George

Blake, Alick

Bright, Kit

Bowens, Frank

Brown, Billy

Bruin, Andrew

Brown, Adam

Blue, Cippio

Brown, Ned

Benjamin, Alexander

Brown, March

Brown, John

Brown, Peter

Bolton, Daniel

Ball, Daniel

Brown, M.H.

Bryan, Robert

Brown, Lymus

Barnwell, Peter

Blige, May

Brown, Cesar

Buckner, Alexander

Buncombe, Jeffey

Bryan, Bighlam

Bryan, Bachus

Brown, Ned

Brown, London

Bonaparte, Peter

Bentley, Henry

Brown, Henry

Barnwell, Tom

Barnwell, Sandy

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Beaufort County, SC 1868 Voter Registrations, St. Helena Church Election Precinct

BeaufortVoterRegsCovercropped

Beaufort County, SC 1868 Voter Registrations

St. Helena Parish Registration Precinct

St. Helena Church Election Precinct

Indexed by Alana Thevenet

Source: South Carolina, Secretary of State, Records Deposited with the Secretary. Abstracts of Voter Registrations Reported to the Military Government, 1868. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Record Group 213000, Series No. S 213103

White

Alden, Wm. H.

Abeel, Edgar

Colored

Alston, Israel

Anderson, Harry

Aikens, Peter

Alston, Sam

Alston, Prince

Aiken, March

Aikens, Benjamin

Aiken, Nero

Austin, Ned

Austin, Prince

Alston, Alston

Anderson, Edward

Aiken, Lazarus

Aikens, August

Aiken, Cesar

Ashley, Monday

Allbright, Smart

Anderson, Titus

Alston, Jeremiah

Alston, Tom

Armstrong, Duncan

Ancrum, Owen

Atkins, Jim

Adams, Doyle Dexter

Anderson, Lester

Atkin, Edward

Adams, John W.

Aiken, March

Allston, Monday

Aiken, Toby

Augustus, Gibb

Abney, James

Allen, Robert

Atkins, Ned

Atkins, Samuel

Alston, Abraham

Brantley, Israel

Bell, James

Byers, Toby

Brown, Phillip

Brown, Cesar

Brown, Robert

Bowles, Beckham

Bryant, Moses

Brown, Brister

Bryan, James

Brantley, Adam

Brisbane, Israel

Bryan, Robin

Brown, Henry

Bryan, Taff

Boddisseme, Brister

Bright, Moses

Brown, Jack

Bowles, William

Brown, Ned

Blue, Robert

Baron, Titus

Bennett, Adam

Brown, Henry

Bailey, Abel

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