From Historic Caretaker’s House to Interpretive Exhibit: Illustrating the Lives of African Americans at Drayton Hall

by Cameron Moon, Preservation Coordinator, the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust

As work begins on the new visitor center, preparations to repurpose the historic caretaker’s house into an interpretive exhibit are underway. While the postbellum period and the 20th century are not periods of primary significance at Drayton Hall, these years were pivotal for the preservation of the property. Phosphate mining became the major industry in Charleston after the Civil War, relying on the labor of freedmen who remained in the area after Emancipation.

Drayton Hall was first leased to a mining company in 1866, and tenant housing was subsequently built on the property to house the miners and their families. These families formed a community during Reconstruction, and many of them remained on the property through the first half of the 20th century, caring for the landscape and the main house while the Drayton family was gone. As we revisit our interpretation of the site with the construction of new facilities, our primary goal is to interpret a complete story of Drayton Hall, striving to illustrate the lives of the enslaved people, women, and African Americans.

Unlike the colonial and antebellum periods where documentation of the enslaved workforce is scarce, evidence of the postbellum African American community is available through census records, oral histories, photographs, leases, maps, and architectural remains. We plan to use the caretaker’s house to interpret the postbellum period and the 20th century at Drayton Hall, allowing us to exhibit this documentary evidence for the first time to interpret the lives of the people who lived at Drayton Hall from the 1860s until the 1940s.

Old Nancy Notes in front of pole fence

Old Nancy Notes, Drayton Family Servant, undated. Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

One of the residents of Drayton Hall during this period was Nancy Notes (referred to as “Nanny” by Richmond Bowens). According to Bowens, she worked as a nurse for the Drayton children, Charles Henry II, Charlotta, and Bessie, in the early 20th century. It is possible that Nancy Notes was enslaved by the Draytons. The name “Nanny” appears on an inventory of slaves from c.1857. The name of Nancy Notes’ husband on the 1880 U.S. Census, Quash, is also listed on this inventory. While further research may verify if Nancy Notes and “Nanny” are the same person, her position as a nurse for the Drayton children suggests she had an existing relationship with the Drayton family prior to living on the property after Emancipation.

Diana Roberts, Drayton Hall servant

Diana Roberts, Drayton Family Servant, undated. Courtesy of the South Carolina Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

Another woman we believe lived at Drayton Hall during this time was Diana Roberts. According to Richmond Bowens, she lived in one of the few identifiable houses along MacBeth Road today, referred to as the Roberts/McKeever House. It was a two-room framed house with an end chimney, brick piers and shingle roof. Diana does not show up on any census records from 1870-1940. However, a photograph labeled “Diana Roberts, Drayton Family Servants” exists in a collection of Drayton Hall photographs housed at the South Caroliniana Library. In the photograph, she stands at a wooden gate in front of a framed house, which matches the description Bowens gave of houses along MacBeth Road. The house behind her also matches the architectural remains of the Roberts/McKeever House on MacBeth Road today. The end chimney survives, as do the brick piers and other wooden framing elements. Further investigation will help us learn more about Nancy Notes, Diana Roberts, and the African American community that lived at Drayton Hall after the Civil War through the first half of the twentieth century.

We are excited to share this ongoing research with visitors, as this period of time was pivotal for the preservation of Drayton Hall, and it is a story that has often been left untold, until now.

Camerodrayton_hs_06n Moon is a graduate of the College of Charleston with a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning and a minor in Anthropology. Her honors thesis chronicled the adaptive reuse of the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street and its relationship with the surrounding neighborhood. Before joining the DHPT staff in September 2014, she worked for Edgewood Builders, where she learned construction, preservation and restoration techniques at Medway Plantation and houses in the historic district. Cameron is currently working on ongoing Drayton Hall conservation projects as well as converting the museum shop, housed in the former caretaker’s house, into an interpretive museum space.

 

Connecting People and Places through Historic Sites

edited MTW Flyer

On February 21, Drayton Hall President and Executive Director Dr. George W. McDaniel will present “Towards a More Complete History: Connecting Places and People by Engaging Descendants” at the highly acclaimed Marion Thompson Wright (MTW) Lecture Series. The title of this year’s series is Curating Black America: Celebrating the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Remembering Dr. Clement Alexander Price. The 35th annual MTW lecture series will be presented from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Rutgers University-Newark. Fellow speakers include Lonnie Bunch, inaugural director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and former Drayton Hall Site Advisory Council member; Bob Stanton, former director of the National Park Service; Spencer Crew, former director of the National Museum of American History; and Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian.

McDaniel’s presentation examines how historic sites can make a difference in their communities. “Too often history seems to be taught as something far away, but with historic sites, history is present and personal,” McDaniel said. “By their very nature, history happened at historic sites, good and bad. That’s what makes them historic, so we must recognize our history in all its complexity and diversity, and use it to bring people from diverse backgrounds together and to learn from and share that history.” Historic sites are turning to descendants and engaging them in the documentation and preservation of their stories. In the past year, Drayton Hall has participated in two conference sessions that have brought descendants of the enslaved and of slaveholders together. The resulting combination of places and people, especially descendants, leads to a more complete history and to a more humane understanding of historic preservation.

George McDaniel Rebecca Catherine nt edit

Pictured l-r: George McDaniel, Rebecca Campbell, and Catherine Braxton.

 

McDaniel’s presentation will feature a Q&A session with Drayton Hall descendants Rebecca Campbell and Catherine Braxton (pictured above). Sisters Rebecca and Catherine started researching their family’s connection to Drayton Hall with the assistance of their cousin, Richmond Bowens (1908-1998), who grew up at Drayton Hall and later became a gatekeeper and historian-in-residence. According to their family’s oral history, their ancestors were brought from Barbados to the Carolina colony by the Draytons in the 1670s as enslaved people. Deeply committed to history and historic preservation, Rebecca and Catherine will be sharing their family’s history and offering their perspective on why history matters.

The lecture series is dedicated in memory of Dr. Clement Price, the founder of the Institute on Ethnicity, Culture, and the Modern Experience who co-founded the MTW lecture series in 1981. Dr. Price was a Trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a Friend of Drayton Hall. “Clem was a remarkable man and leaves a legacy for us to live up to,” McDaniel said.

 

Memories and Meanings: Drayton Hall Descendants to Present at Distinguished Speakers Series

The 2015 Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series begins this month with an insightful presentation focused not so much on the place of Drayton Hall, but rather, its people. Please join us on Thursday, Feb. 19 for “Memories and Meanings: Reflections on Drayton Hall by Charles H. Drayton, III, and Other Descendants.” An interactive panel discussion will feature descendants of those who once lived at Drayton Hall, and reflect upon the significance of preserving the past at one of Charleston’s most historic sites. The discussion will bring together eight descendants to answer thoughtful questions and prompt audience participation, all moderated by Dr. George W. McDaniel, president and executive director of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust.

Charles Henry Drayton III will be sharing his family’s memories of Drayton Hall at the upcoming speakers series.

This session will give the audience the rare opportunity to discuss perennial questions about Drayton Hall, family history, and the importance of preservation with Drayton Hall descendants. Questions such as the following: What prompted Charles and Frank Drayton to sell Drayton Hall to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the State of South Carolina in 1974? What are Charles Drayton’s present thoughts about that decision? What are the thoughts of other descendants, both from the Drayton family and from the African American community whose ancestors had also lived there for generations?

Charles “Charlie” H. Drayton III, now 96 years old and one of the last private owners of Drayton Hall, will be reflecting on his family’s decision to sell the house in 1974.  His nephew, Frank B. Drayton, Jr., who serves on the Drayton Hall Board of Trustees, will also offer perspective.  Other Drayton participants include three of Charlie’s grandchildren: Charles Heyward Drayton, Greg Osteen Joseph, and Shelby Nelson.

Rebecca Campbell, Catherine Braxton, and Annie Meyers, descendants of the Bowens family, will also participate in the panel discussion. According to their family’s oral history, their ancestors were brought from Barbados to the Carolina colony by the Draytons in the 1670s as enslaved people. Braxton also serves as a member of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust Board of Trustees.

“Our advice to people interested in learning about their family’s past is to first commit to family, learn their roots, ask questions of their elders, and become engaged with their communities to promote and preserve their history,” said Rebecca Campbell. “We think that it is important to preserve one’s family history because much can be learned to assist in moving forward to bridge the divide between the ancestors and descendants of the enslaved and the slaveholders.”

This enhancement of Drayton Hall’s historic fabric is only made possible by the enthusiastic participation of its descendants. The descendants presented together at the National Preservation Conference last November and the South Carolina Historic Preservation Conference in April. “I am personally thrilled to be a part of a movement like this that seems so far overdue, and I am motivated to continue to participate in discussions like this so that we can spread the concept to other historic sites where the shared histories of English and African descendants have remained separate,” said Charles Heyward Drayton.

These oral histories further advance our understanding of the history of Drayton Hall, by combining myriad vantage points in one place. “The point is that we preserve historic buildings and places, to be sure, but the power of those places is enriched all the more by the stories and memories, good and bad,” said McDaniel. “At the same time, those stories and memories are given a reality by the preservation of place that they might not have in the abstract. History happened there.”

“Memories and Meanings” will very much be a forward step in the continuation of bridging the interpretation of Drayton Hall’s complex history. There will be ample opportunity for the audience to ask questions and to hear more memories and reflections the descendants have and what preservation means to them.

2015-Distinguished-Speakers-Series-Flyer-for-web

The Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series is held on Thursday nights at South Carolina Society Hall, 72 Meeting Street. Doors open at 5:30 pm with a wine and cheese reception, with presentations starting promptly at 6:30 pm. Presented by the Friends of Drayton Hall, admission is free and no advance reservations are necessary. Seating is limited. The 2015 Distinguished Speakers Series is sponsored by Richard and Jill Almeida, the Francis Marion Hotel, and the Chipstone Foundation. For other questions and sponsorship inquiries please contact Tara White, development events coordinator, at 843-769-2627 or twhite@draytonhall.org.

Drayton Hall to Reach a National Audience at Past Forward

George McDanielDrayton Hall will be represented in three programs at Past Forward, the National Preservation Conference held by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Savannah, Ga, November 11-14. Executive Director George W. McDaniel is the keynote speaker for the annual Historic Sites Luncheon and will be presenting “Making a Difference: Historic Sites and Their Communities.” Drawing examples from Drayton Hall and other National Trust sites including Cliveden, Montpelier, and President Lincoln’s Cottage, McDaniel will discuss how historic sites across the country are working to make their communities a better place through education, economic development, and preservation.

Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell

McDaniel will also moderate “Preserving Our History, Telling Our Story,” a session with five descendants of Drayton Hall as participants: Catherine Braxton, Rebecca Campbell, Annie Brown Meyers, Charles Drayton, and Shelby Nelson. This session was selected since it can serve as a model for other historic sites and house museums, many of which have descendants, but who are not closely connected to them. “This is an opportunity for attendees of the conference to learn from the descendants and ask questions,” said McDaniel. As with most historic sites today, these descendants never lived here, but they have special memories and connections to this site, passed on from generation to generation, thanks in no small measure to its preservation. Toni Carrier, founding director of Lowcountry Africana and former Wood Family Fellow, will also be speaking at this session.

Trish SmithTrish Smith, Curator of Historic Architectural Resources, will present “Preservation is Smart,” a session that will explore the various ways preservation professionals use technology to save historic places. Smith will be speaking specifically about the innovative use of 3D visualization technology for the digital restoration of Drayton Hall, a practice that has already enhanced the interpretation of Drayton Hall and holds considerable promise for the future.

If You Go

Keynote Speech: “Making a Difference: Historic Sites and Their Communities”

Speaker: George W. McDaniel

Nov. 13 at noon


Learning Laboratory: “Preserving our History, Telling our Story”

Speakers: George McDaniel, Toni Carrier, Catherine Braxton, Rebecca Campbell, Annie Brown Meyers, Charles Drayton, and Shelby Nelson.

Nov. 13 4:30-5:45


Learning Laboratory: “Preservation is Smart”

Speakers: Trish Smith and Prashant Singh, CTO and Co-founder of Local Data

Nov. 14 10:30-11:45 

For more information on the National Preservation conference, click here. 

Oral Histories: Continuing a Legacy

by George W. McDaniel, Executive Director

One of the wonderful things about working at a historical site is that one never tires of the questions it can raise. As is well understood today, one cannot research or interpret the history of a southern plantation without understanding the history of the people, both black and white, since both made the plantation possible. To deny one is to deny a complete and accurate  history of the site.

We are fortunate that members of the Drayton family left documentation and material culture that help us understand and present how their history evolved over time. But history of this site didn’t stop in 1865 or 1900, and our charge is to tell that more complete story. The exciting thing about the more recent past is that there are persons who can share their insights and personal reflections with us and add important human dimensions to the story. The Bowens family is an example, and to understand their heritage Drayton Hall has been actively involved in the research of archaeology, material culture, written documentation, photographic evidence, and oral history.

Richmond Bowens, born at Drayton Hall in 1908, sat in his rocking chair on the Museum Shop’s porch during the 1990s where he would recall his 23 years of life growing up on the property between 1908 and 1931 when Drayton Hall was still privately owned.  The rocking chair is part of Drayton Hall's collection.

Richmond Bowens, born at Drayton Hall in 1908, sat in his rocking chair on the Museum Shop’s porch during the 1990s where he would recall his 23 years of life growing up on the property between 1908 and 1931 when Drayton Hall was still privately owned. The rocking chair is part of Drayton Hall’s collection.

When I arrived in 1989, I was fortunate to meet Richmond Bowens. Born here in 1908, Richmond was the grandson of freed slaves and a remarkable resource for oral history. He loved history and also loved sharing history with others. He was very careful in explaining history as he remembered it, and did not venture forth in conjectures about things he did not know. We recorded his recollections as he walked the grounds, touring the cemetery where his ancestors were buried and the site of the tenant house where he lived as a child. Historian Charles Joyner from Coastal Carolina University and its media staff videotaped him in the mid-90s as he advised the excavation of his tenant home site, and the film was shown on the History Channel and on SCETV as well as at professional conferences as a model for interdisciplinary research.

Richmond was the gatekeeper at Drayton Hall and took that job very seriously. He welcomed people to the site as an ambassador, and also stopped people who tried to slip in without paying! In the early 1990s, he transitioned from the gate to the museum shop where he served as our unofficial “historian in residence.” He shared his recollections with visitors so that they could closely relate to the world he was describing, and presented photographs, census reports documenting his family, and actual stalks of rice and ears of corn so he could explain agricultural practices he knew growing up here. According to his family’s history, his ancestors came over with the Draytons in the 1670s from Barbados, so his history parallels that of the Draytons in America. As a result of all this, people would sit on the bench by his rocking chair and talk to him for hours.

In 1998, Richmond passed away and is buried in the cemetery here among his ancestors.  To continue his legacy, we began Connections: From Africa to America and infused his recollections into that program. We’ve also recorded descendants’ stories of life here in the 20th century in order to better answer those many questions a southern plantation site may generate.

Richmond Bowens’ legacy is continued by his cousins Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell as well as other descendants. The two sisters grew up in downtown Charleston and visited Drayton Hall from time to time. When Richmond was working here they came to visit him, and he shared his knowledge with them. They too are deeply concerned about the preservation of history and have helped Drayton Hall in a range of significant ways over the years to learn more about the history on the site and of specific individuals, as seen in the interactive DVD tour of the landscape.  For more insights into their thoughts about Drayton Hall,  I recommend watching the video produced by C-SPAN that features Catherine and Rebecca in the African American cemetery at Drayton Hall, which is available via this link.

Click the image above to watch the video by C-SPAN and American History TV. Featured in this video are interviews with Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell, descendants of both freed and enslaved African Americans at Drayton Hall.

Click the image above to watch the video by C-SPAN and American History TV. Featured in this video are interviews with Catherine Braxton and Rebecca Campbell, descendants of both freed and enslaved African Americans at Drayton Hall.

Elizabeth Drayton Taylor’s Long Love of Drayton Hall

Please welcome to the blog Alison Rea, Drayton descendant and longtime supporter of Drayton Hall. Alison’s mother Elizabeth  chose to honor her father, Charles deVere Drayton, with a bench at Drayton Hall to show her support and passion for the preservation of the house and her family’s love of this place. Since her mother was one of the original participants in our memorial bench program, we asked Alison to write up a quick blog on her family’s connection to Drayton Hall. Enjoy! 

Elizabeth Drayton Taylor, Drayton Hall descendant and mother of the author.

Elizabeth Drayton Taylor, Drayton Hall descendant and mother of the author.

For as long as I can remember, my mother, Elizabeth Drayton Taylor, has spoken about the love that her father and she felt for Drayton Hall. Indeed, I was always told that my grandfather died in his sleep in 1960 the night he returned from a last trip with Mother to Charleston and Drayton Hall. That is why it is so fitting that there should be a bench at Drayton Hall, facing the river, commemorating the love of both my mother and grandfather for the home built by their ancestor.

Charles deVere Drayton was born in Aiken, SC in 1882 and moved up to Washington  D.C. with his family as a child. There he practiced law, working for the Southern Railroad, and was an involved civic leader. He married Irma Biscoe Eliason and had three children—Charles, Elizabeth, and Dorothea.

Charles deVere Drayton, grandfather of the author.

Charles deVere Drayton, grandfather of the author.

My mother, Elizabeth Drayton Taylor, was born in DC, and lives there still. Before marrying, she was a fashion model, a researcher for Time Magazine and, during the war, an analyst for OSS.  Later, during a 14-year interlude in Denver, Colorado, she raised three children:  John Drayton Rea, Malcolm Dunbar Rea and me, Alison Bruce Rea.  In Denver, she also was active in politics—serving for many years as a Democratic district captain training several future Colorado governors and lobbying in some of the most progressive mental health laws and facilities in the country. She has one grandchild, Nicholas Edwards, who also currently lives in DC and is a filmmaker.

cer drayton

Charles Elliott Rowand Drayton, great grandfather of the author.

So, the question is, how are we related to John Drayton, the builder of Drayton Hall?  We are descended from his oldest son, William Henry Drayton (m Dorothy Golightly). Our line then went through their son, Governor John Drayton (m Hester Rose Tidyman), their son Alfred Rose Drayton (m Martha Rowand Summers), and their son, Charles Elliott Rowand Drayton (m Jessie Elvira Mackay), who was my grandfather’s father.

Interested in the memorial bench program at Drayton Hall? Please contact our Development Assistant Leslie Newman, at leslie_newman@draytonhall.org or give her a call at 843-769-2600. 

Remembering Samuel Ulin: Witness to the First Emancipation Celebration in South Carolina, 1863 by Toni Carrier

Please welcome our good friend Toni Carrier back to the blog! She was gracious enough to do an interview with us earlier in the year, and we discussed her ongoing research involving Drayton Hall and her amazing work at Lowcountry Africana. (Click here to read the interview.)  Now she’s written a piece for our readers to enjoy about the first Emancipation celebration in South Carolina, which occurred in 1863. Incredibly enough, one of the participants of this joyous celebration was Samuel Ulin, the great-great-grandfather of Rebecca Brown Campbell and Catherine Brown Braxton, descendants of the Bowens-Johnson family formerly enslaved at Drayton Hall.  Rebecca and Catherine are longtime supporters of Drayton Hall, and Catherine was just recently elected to our board. We love how Lowcountry Africana connects us to the past in such a tangible way. Thanks for blogging Toni! 

The morning of January 1, 1863 was greeted with great excitement in the Union military encampment on the Old Fort Plantation of J.J. Smith near Beaufort, South Carolina, for on that day a great celebration was to take place.

Port Royal had been captured on the morning of November 7, 1861. In the days following the capture of Port Royal, some 5,000 African Americans enslaved in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida had escaped from bondage and volunteered to serve in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) to fight for the freedom of those still enslaved [1].

The first full regiment of United States Colored Troops in South Carolina had been mustered in in early November of 1862 as the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry (later designated 33rd United States Colored Troops) [2]. Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson, an abolitionist from Massachusetts, had received command of the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry regiment, arriving in Beaufort in late November of 1862. Upon his arrival in camp, he commenced a journal of his experiences, and it is from his journal that we learn of the grand celebration on New Year’s Day of 1863.

Dress Parade of the 1st South Carolina Beaufort LC-USZ62-62492small

Above: Detail from “Dress parade of the 1st South Carolina [U.S.C.V.], Beaufort, S.C.” Library of Congress Digital Print LC-USZ62-62492 No Known Restrictions on Publication.

Higginson had received regimental colors which were to be presented to the new recruits, but the day’s focal point was the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln, which declared all slaves in the Confederate states forever free. For the men who had escaped bondage and lived as free since their muster into the Union army in November 1862, the morning of January 1 brought great joy, for their status would no longer be ambiguous – they would be officially free [3].

And so the day began with anticipation and excitement. Expecting a gathering of some 5,000 celebrants, Higginson had ordered ten cattle to be roasted. About 10:00 a.m. guests began arriving and soon every approach to the Smith plantation was thronged. The ceremony proceeded as planned, with the presentation of the regimental colors and reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Then, as Higginson described, “followed an incident so simple, so touching, so utterly unexpected and startling, that I can scarcely believe it on recalling, though it gave a key-note to the whole day.”

EMANCI~1

“Emancipation Day in South Carolina” – the Color-Sergeant of the 1st South Carolina (Colored) addressing the regiment, after having been presented with the Stars and Stripes, at Smith’s plantation, Port Royal, January 1
Source: Library of Congress Digital Photo ID LC-USZ62-88808. No Known Restrictions on Publication.

The moment the speaker ceased and as Higginson took and waved the flag, from out of the assembled crowd came a lone male voice in song: “My Country ‘t is of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty, of Thee I Sing.” This spontaneous celebration was soon joined in by others in the crowd. Higginson described the moment:

I never saw anything so electric. It made all other words cheap. It seemed the choked voice of a race at last unloosed. Nothing could be more wonderfully unconscious; art could not have dreamed of a tribute to the day of jubilee that should be so affecting; history will not believe it and when I came to speak of it after it was ended tears were everywhere.

One of the celebrants who witnessed this event was Samuel Ulin, the great-great-grandfather of Rebecca Brown Campbell and Catherine Brown Braxton, descendants of the Bowens-Johnson family formerly enslaved at Drayton Hall.

CatherineBraxtonRebeccaCampbell

Above: Catherine Brown Braxton and Rebecca Campbell, Descendants of Drayton Hall and Great-Great Granddaughters of Samuel Ulin. Photo Courtesy of Jay Millard

Samuel Ulin had escaped bondage in Florida and made his way to Port Royal, where he enlisted in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) on November 11, 1862. Born in Duval County, Florida, Samuel was 39 when he enlisted in the USCT for a term of three years. Ulin was present at the grand celebration of January 1, 1863 and was one of the Union soldiers of African descent officially freed on that day [4]. Samuel Ulin fought and was wounded in battle on July 9, 1863, when United States Colored Troops in three Union gunships engaged Confederate forces at Willtown Bluff. Samuel was one of 250 troops in the 1st SC Volunteer Infantry who departed Port Royal in three Union gunships – the John Adams, an armed ferry boat steamer, the Enoch Dean, an armed transport and the Governor Milton, an armed tug, on an excursion up the Edisto River on the afternoon of 9 Jul 1863. Their mission was to burn a railroad bridge some 30 miles up the river.

UlinSamuelUSCivilWarPensionIndexGeneralIndextoPensionFilessmall 300

Above: Civil War Pension Index for Samuel Ulin, 33rd United States Colored Troops. Source: Civil War and Later Pension Files, Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15, National Archives, Washington, D.C. Widow’s Pension Application No. 5833301, Nancy Ulin; Service of Samuel Ulin (Pvt., Co. G, 33rd United States Colored Troops, Civil War). Previous Invalid Pension No. 674522; Original Invalid Pension No. 652845

After a difficult journey in heavy fog, they anchored about 4 a.m. near the Morris Plantation. The bridge was defended by a small force of Confederate troops who were forced to retreat, but in the battle Samuel Ulin was shot through the right hand and in the left side of his chest. He was admitted to the Beaufort field hospital where he remained for two months. He was never quite well again, and his disability ultimately resulted in paralysis and his death August 19, 1893. His wife Nora Singleton, Rebecca Campbell and Catherine Braxton’s great-great grandmother, predeceased him in August of 1891 [5].

We do not yet know whether Samuel Ulin married Catherine and Rebecca’s great-great grandmother Nora Singleton before or after his service in the Union army, but because he was among the first soldiers to enlist in the United States Colored Troops in South Carolina, a rich narrative of the events he witnessed survives in two books, now digitized and available on the Internet. The first is Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s diary Army Life In a Black Regiment, which chronicles his experiences while commanding the regiment Samuel Ulin served in (the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, later designated 33rd United States Colored Troops). The second is Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S.C. Volunteers by Susie King Taylor, an army nurse whose husband was a soldier in the 33rd USCT. You can read the full text of each of these books in the South Carolina Full Text Reading Room on the Lowcountry Africana website.

UlinSamuelCompiledBirthPlaceOccupationPage 23 with border

Left:  Detail from Compiled Service Record of Samuel Ulin. Source: Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served with the United States Colored Troops: Infantry Organizations, 31st through 35th. Database Online at Fold3.com, http://www.fold3.com/title_692/31st35th_infantry/, accessed 13 Dec 2012. Original Data from NARA M1992. Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Belonging to the 31st through 35th Infantry Units, Organized for Service With the United States Colored Troops (USCT).

FURTHER READING:

For more information on the history of the 33rd United States Colored Troops, please see Who Lived This History? The 33rd United States Colored Troops (USCT) on the Lowcountry Africana website.

For Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Susie King Taylor’s accounts of camp life among the 33rd USCT, please visit the South Carolina Full Text Reading Room on the Lowcountry Africana website.

REFERENCES CITED:

[1] Rose, Willie Lee. 1964 Rehearsal for Reconstruction: The Port Royal Experiment. Athens: University of Georgia Press, pp. 194-196.

[2] Rose 1964, pp. 194-196.

[3] Higginson, Thomas Wentworth. 1870 Army Life In a Black Regiment. Boston: Fields, Osgood and Company. Original from Oxford University, Digitized by Google Books 22 May 2007.

[4] Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Who Served with the United States Colored Troops: Infantry Organizations, 31st through 35th. Database Online at Fold3.com, http://www.fold3.com/title_692/31st35th_infantry/, accessed 13 Dec 2012. Original Data from NARA M1992. Compiled Military Service Records of Volunteer Union Soldiers Belonging to the 31st through 35th Infantry Units, Organized for Service With the United States Colored Troops (USCT).

[5] Jones, Keith J. 2011 The Boys of Diamond Hill: The Lives and Civil War Letters of the Boyd Family of Abbeville, South Carolina. McFarland Publishers; Civil War and Later Pension Files, Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15, National Archives, Washington, D.C. Widow’s Pension Application No. 5833301, Nancy Ulin; Service of Samuel Ulin (Pvt., Co. G, 33rd United States Colored Troops, Civil War). Previous Invalid Pension No. 674522; Original Invalid Pension No. 652845.

Lowcountry Africana Comes to Drayton Hall!

Drayton, Charles. Estate Inventory, Charleston, SC, 1820. Charleston District, South Carolina Estate Inventories, 1732-1844, Vol. F (1819-1824), pp. 246-248.

In African-American genealogical research, there is a term that describes the dearth of records associated with former slaves prior to 1870. Researchers call it the “1870 brick wall,” and for many people, it literally is that, when it comes to researching their ancestors–the 1870s census was the first time that African-American former slaves were listed by names and surnames. One researcher set out in 2007 to blast through this brick wall and simultaneously digitize as many historical records as possible. Toni Carrier received a masters in applied anthropology from the University of South Florida, and building off the work she did for her thesis, founded Lowcountry Africana, a not for profit research organization and free online database focusing specifically on the region known as the Gullah/Geechee Heritage Corridor which extends from Wilmington, NC, in the north to Jacksonville, FL, in the south. Toni explains that, “the 1870 brick wall is the biggest obstacle to success for those looking to find historical records of enslaved ancestors. The 1870 census was the first to list African Americans by names and surnames. The 1850 and 1860 census enumerated enslaved African Americans, but listed them by age and gender only, not by name. Unless you know who the slaveholder of your ancestor was, it takes a lot of detective work to make the leap back to plantation records.” That’s why Toni and her fellow researchers at Lowcountry Africana gather as many records from Emancipation to the 1870 census as they can uncover, digitize them, and allow free access to online tutorials to enable people to shed light on these records.

For Toni, finding these records and allowing people access to them is not something she does only for a love of history. For her, there is a moral imperative. “Our ancestry is the sum total of our individual experiences. Because of cultural factors, there are important stories out there that haven’t been told, and will be lost forever if someone doesn’t do this work–everyone should care about preserving these records.” For some people, genealogical research might seem like the provenance of a few historically savvy dilettantes, or armchair researchers. But Toni and the researchers at Lowcountry Africana feel that everyone, regardless of race or ethnic origin, needs to know their roots. Toni likes to quote her colleague Robin Foster who says that “anyone can define you if you don’t know who you are.” Robin explains that she looks to the struggles and adversity that her forbearers faced in order to gain perspective on her own challenges. For Toni, her French-Cajun ancestry is her anchor in the world. “I treasure the recipes, stories, and heritage of my ancestors–and anyone can learn their family’s heritage if they know how and where to look.”

For descendants of enslaved people from the Drayton network of plantations, Toni’s research has unearthed a goldmine of important historical information. Using Charles Drayton’s diaries, she has uncovered stories of sacrifice, struggles, and heroism. Because two-thirds of the slaves that were owned by Charles were sold, there are many families in the Lowcountry that had roots at Drayton Hall but were separated from them during the mid-1800s. Their ancestors were later freed from other plantations in the area but may have important Drayton Hall roots. For Toni, Charles’s diaries shed a human light on the Drayton family history that until now hasn’t been fully explored. “These diaries really “people,” the historic landscape, and bring the human experience back to a history that can be seen as simply facts, places, and lists.”

Close up of text, listing of enslaved African-American's names.

Toni and the researchers at Lowcountry Africana are busy compiling over 30,000 pages of historical documents pertinent to Drayton Hall that will be available to the public starting this fall. Once all the documents are uploaded onto the website, researchers can query the database and look at all sorts of information, seeing across the spectrum of births, deaths, and incredible experiences.

Of the 30,000 documents that Toni and her team have uncovered and are busy uploading to their database, one story in particular has stood out to her and stands as a shining example of the intrinsic worth of their particular type of historical research. “In our research we uncovered a story about a group of enslaved ancestors at Jehosee Plantation, near Edisto. One of the women in the group went to gather berries in the woods and was bitten by a rattlesnake. Two of the enslaved men that were there, quite possibly without the permission of the overseer, carried this woman on their backs to Charleston to be treated by Dr. Charles. This story is downright heroic and shows the sheer determination and fortitude of these enslaved ancestors.”

For more information, please go to http://www.lowcountryafricana.com

Widening the Circle of Family History

Posted by George McDaniel, Executive Director

Drayton Hall is very much about family heritage. That was demonstrated at the September 20th celebration of the 100th anniversary of Richmond Bowens’ birth. Richmond was born and raised at Drayton Hall and returned in later years to become one of the first gatekeepers and an authority on African-American life at the site. Descendants of Drayton Hall attended the event and many came away determined to help future generations learn more about their common heritage.

Thanks to that program, I learned about Richmond’s younger sister, Emmie Lee Bowens Jenkins, born at Drayton Hall in 1917 and now living in St. Albans, Queens, New York, with her daughter, Mildred Thompson. I contacted Mrs. Thompson and accepted her invitation to visit. Joining us was another daughter, Ellen Alleyne, and their cousin, Mary Anne Brown, who is Emmie Lee’s niece.

(L-R) Mary Ann Brown, Ellen Alleyne, Ella Thompson in the arms of her great-grandmother Emmie Lee Bowens Jenkins, Mildred Thompson, and George McDaniel.

(L-R) Mary Ann Brown, Ellen Alleyne, Ella Thompson in the arms of her great-grandmother Emmie Lee Bowens Jenkins, Mildred Thompson, and George McDaniel.

I was immediately made to feel at home by the aromas of Southern cooking, complete with fried whiting, grits, biscuits, and sausage. Another special pleasure was that Mrs. Thompson’s infant granddaughter, Ella Thompson, was there. Emmie Lee’s grandmother was named Ella Bowens, so it was remarkable to see Ella Bowens’ great, great, great granddaughter carrying on her name.

My main reason for wanting to interview Mrs. Jenkins was to ask for her help in identifying individuals in historical photographs from the state archives and Drayton Hall’s collection. At age 91, her physical faculties have diminished, but her mind is still fairly lucid. There’s no doubt that had someone recorded her recollections four or five years ago, they would have obtained a clearer and more vivid account. That loss demonstrates the importance of documenting oral histories while our elders are still in full form. Still, Mrs. Jenkins was able to identify a number of people and confirm the identity of others. Now, when we put together a family tree or present stories about former residents, we can add the photographs of Charles Bowens, Mary Fenneck, and others – thereby enabling future generations to connect to this site in more personal ways. The family also told us of others in South Carolina, Georgia, and Maryland who might help to widen the circles of Drayton Hall’s and their family history.

This meeting took place on Jan. 21st, the day after President Obama’s inauguration, which has sparked a renewed interest in history. It is our hope that you will be inspired to reach out to your own family and community to help share and preserve our history. I think our ancestors would be pleased.

A historic image on loan to Drayton Hall with previosuly unidentified subjects. Emmie Lee Jenkins was able to identify the two people as Charles Bowens and his older sister Mary Bowens Fenneck, the two oldest children of Caesar and Ella Camel Bowens.

A historic image on loan to Drayton Hall with previously unidentified subjects. Emmie Lee Jenkins was able to identify the two people as Charles Bowens and his older sister Mary Bowens Fenneck, the two oldest children of Caesar and Ella Camel Bowens. It is believed the image was taken at Drayton Hall around 1920.

Ways of Remembering: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Richmond Bowens, 1908-1998

91-year-old Susan Weston pauses at a photograph of Richmond Bowens. Mrs. Weston grew up next door at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and knew Richmond as a young woman.

91-year-old Susan Weston pauses at a photograph of Richmond Bowens. Mrs. Weston grew up next door at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and knew Mr. Bowens as a young woman.

This September marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Richmond Bowens (1908-1998), a seventh generation descendant of people who, according to family history, were brought as slaves from Barbados to Charleston in the late 1600s.  To celebrate this important anniversary, on September 20 over 100 people gathered to honor Mr. Bowens’ life and remember the lessons he passed along.  Most that attended the event were Drayton Hall descendants, both white and black.  The history that Mr. Bowens’ shared about the African-American community of Drayton Hall has allowed us to understand and share so much about the site’s history that was not written down or found in documents, a history that might otherwise have been lost.

The day began with a formal program under a tent placed near the cemetery.  Descendants, friends, family, and scholars shared their recollections of Mr. Bowens and how his life and lessons have inspired them.  The group then moved into the African-American Cemetery for an unveiling of a new headstone at Mr. Bowens’ grave.  Jazz musician Leroy Smalls, Jr. and vocalist Lorraine White, both Drayton Hall family descendants, provided the music for the procession into the cemetery.  Following the graveside ceremony, guests gathered back under the tent for a lunch provided by Gullah Cuisine.

Guests had the opportunity visit a number of exhibit areas set up for the day and to share their family stories.  Items that Richmond Bowens used while an interpreter were on exhibit as were a number of the archaeological finds excavated from the Bowens house site.  Toni Carrier of the Lowcountry Africana project was on-hand to collect family histories and share her research finds on the African-American populations from Drayton-owned properties.   Some family descendants had the chance to record their oral histories with our staff.  Plans were also shared for a proposed African-American Memorial, designed by the famed Charleston blacksmith Philip Simmons and his counsin Joseph Pringle,  and a new interpretive panel for the African-American cemetery.  We were fortunate to have Philip attend the event, who is a longtime friend and associate of many of the Bowens descendants and performed the repairs on the historic ironwork of Drayton Hall.

For some who attended, the day marked their first time back to the site in years, and for others the event marked the first visit since their childhood.  In all, the day offered an opportunity for us to reconnect with the living descendants of the Bowens family, and to make new connections with descendants of other families that lived and worked at Drayton Hall, and knew it as home.  The event was not an ending, but a beginning, for future efforts that will help Drayton Hall to reveal additional layers of its history and landscape, and to help shape the telling of their important stories.

You can see a photo album with some of the images from the day here.

Additional photographs of the event have been graciously shared by Mr. Joseph Chandler, and you can see those here.