By Dr. Dale Rosengarten, Founding Director of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston Library
On a cold afternoon at the end of February, I accompanied 20 first-year students at the College of Charleston on a field trip to Drayton Hall. The class I am teaching, “Charleston as a Classroom,” features a field trip every Thursday, with an extra hour added to the schedule so we have plenty of time. As we boarded the bus for Drayton Hall, I was happy to see we had 100% attendance, despite the frigid temperatures and the fact that we were just one day away from spring break.
We were greeted at the edge of the parking lot by Cameron Moon, a recent College of Charleston grad who works for Drayton Hall as the Preservation Coordinator. She was soon joined by Carter C. Hudgins, Deputy Director, and Rosemary Giesy, the interpreter who would lead our tour. Cameron and Carter talked about the history of the property and their professional involvement. We headed across the lawn and Rosemary began to tell us about the history of Drayton Hall and the people who lived there.
The house and grounds were as spectacular as ever, but what made the place come to life was Rosemary’s animation and deep knowledge of the subject. As the mother of a C of C alum her appreciation of her young audience was palpable. We explored the house from top to bottom, finishing up on the ground floor (as the temperature continued to drop!) with a slide show about Drayton Hall’s African American history.
“The scenery was beautiful but the house was even more beautiful, if not for the view, for its elaborateness. The fine detail that went into the wood-carving and crafting of the estate was amazing. There was such precision and small detail to observe. I found it amazing that the original paint was still there, if not a little worn. I loved hearing the story of what each room was used for whether it be a bedroom or a room to entertain guests, a dining room, another living room, or even a “VIP” sort of room used for entertaining the finest of visitors. I loved hearing about the last Drayton to live in the house and about her many, many dog paintings in the front room.
Learning about the slaves who worked there and their relationship to the Draytons was interesting. The basement was dark and colder than the rest of the house and if that wasn’t sad enough, the site of their unmarked graves with the beautiful arch and peaceful scenery did it for me. Our guide was so warm, welcoming and knowledgeable about everything there was to know about the plantation. She was so memorable with her big red coat and excited talk.”
—Haley Olds, student
(For additional student responses, visit the class’s blog.)
Shortly after our visit, Dr. George W. McDaniel, president and executive director of Drayton Hall, made an offer I couldn’t refuse: to bring a group of descendants of Drayton Hall—both heirs of the owners and descendants of the enslaved—to the college for a panel presentation. We scheduled the program for March 18 and invited not only my students, but also Grant Gilmore’s historic preservation majors, Simon Lewis’s English class, and Ruth Ellen Gruber, the Jewish Studies Program’s Distinguished Visiting Scholar this term.
Shown above and below: sixty-plus people packed into Room 227 in Addlestone Library, and McDaniel started the session by introducing our guests: Catherine Brown Braxton, Rebecca Campbell, and Annie Meyers—all relations of Richmond Bowens, whose ancestors were brought by the Draytons from Barbados in the 1670s —and Shelby Nelson, grandson of the last Drayton to own Drayton Hall.
First we watched a short and powerful video, after which the four panelists spoke about their connections to Drayton Hall and the way that race relations have changed in their lifetimes. Annie Meyers said her cousin Richmond Bowens helped her overcome the negative feeling she had toward Drayton Hall, where her ancestors were enslaved. Richmond’s fondness for the place and close friendship with Charles Drayton gave her a different sense, and she began to feel comfortable and positive.
“I see a change in generations,” said Rebecca Campbell. “Now we hang out together, go to conferences together—it was not always so. We’ve learned to love and forgive. We are now seeing the light. To make America grow we got to work together.”
Shelby Nelson described his feeling of “coming home” when he reconnected with Drayton Hall. He called the house “a real treasure” and said that in 1974, when his grandfather Charles Drayton and great-uncle Frank Drayton decided to sell the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “it was the best thing we ever did.”
Catherine Braxton turned the discussion in a historical direction. She and her sister Rebecca own the Borough Houses, historic properties at the foot of Calhoun Street in Charleston that are remnants of a largely African American neighborhood. Catherine declared: “Drayton Hall is my roots.” After emancipation, the freed people stayed and worked to earn something to live on. “My family left a legacy there. My grandfather was born there as a free man.”
“Coming to the table,” Catherine said, is what meetings of descendants of slave owners and of the enslaved are called, and they are happening in many places. “We’ve been wounded and need to heal.” She welcomes opportunities to confront the demons of slavery. In 1978 she visited Gorée Island, off the coast of Dakar, Senegal, where captives were once bought and sold. “I could smell, feel the pain.”
While Annie did not go to Africa, she found deep roots at Drayton Hall, where her grandmother worked, sewing and cooking and sweeping the yard. With the help of genealogist Toni Carrier, she has made progress tracing her lineage. She is now “doing my DNA,” to get further clues about where her people came from. With some prompting from George, Annie also described how she got involved in the sit-in at Kress’s on King and Wentworth Street in 1960. She joined the picket line demanding the right to sit at the lunch counter. “Something needed to be done,” she said, “and we did it.” For more on the sit-in, check out this article by the Post and Courier: “A Lunch Unserved: How the 1960 Kress sit-in changed Charleston.”
The Drayton descendants made a profound impact on my students, adding a layer of understanding to what they learned on the field trip. I asked them to write down their reactions to the panel and here’s what they had to say:
“It was the most beautiful act of forgiveness I have ever seen. Never before had I witnessed history resolved in such an elegant and hopeful manor. There was so much love between them all that I felt as if we too were being welcomed into the family.” —Emma Lieberman
I found the entire presentation quite moving. I got chills [watching the video] as one of the descendants of the Bowens family started singing in the graveyard of her ancestors. The connection between the Draytons and the Bowens today is heartwarming and is a perfect example of the impacts of history, time, and understanding. They say they are like a family, but it is clear the relationship and respect for one another goes much deeper.” —Kristen Kita
“It was really special to me to have descendants of the former slaves that worked at Drayton Hall and Shelby Nelson, a descendant of the Draytons, come talk to everyone. I found it fascinating to see them sit together at a table sharing what one house means to them. It warmed my heart to see how close the families have somewhat become considering their history so long ago. I am even more thankful for the fact that Drayton Hall is open to the public and we are able to appreciate and admire such a beautiful home that holds many memories along with untold stories.” —Lawson Thompson
“The video and presentation explaining the history of the Drayton Plantation brought the site to life through the stories and experiences of those closely connected to the families who lived there, and most especially, those who worked as slaves. I was delighted to see that the descendants of those who lived on Drayton are still very involved with the plantation and keep close contact with one another.”
“The discussion and video about Drayton Hall were fantastic and inspiring. It was great being able to ask the panelists my questions and they did a very good job providing detailed answers. The way they are able to share their personal feelings and stories with us is amazing.” —Owens Morgan
“The presentation was a great experience for many reasons including actually meeting descendants of Drayton Hall. It was also enjoyable and interesting to hear them out on their own perspective of their historic lineage. Their perspectives were invaluable and appreciated. It was awesome to see the complete reconciliation of the Draytons on behalf of the descendants of their slaves because it really highlights the long way we’ve come in race relations.” —Mikey Bishof
“First of all, I want to thank each and every member of the panel for coming and speaking to us. I feel that the best way for us to learn is by hearing the stories first hand, and I think the way it was structured allowed us to hear from all sides. . . . We are most likely the last generation to be able to hear these stories from a first or second hand account, and so in order to keep these viewpoints alive we need to listen and in turn share their stories.” —Paige Claire Mesher
“It was a great experience getting to hear stories from people who are directly related to Drayton Hall. They had very interesting things to say and they made Drayton Hall easier to understand. It was a great opportunity that not many people get to experience. I thought it was very nice and thoughtful of the presenters to take time out of their day to come talk to us.” —Caroline Whitaker
“The Drayton Hall descendants who came to speak to us were very interesting. I thought that it was very cool and would have loved to stay longer.” —Allie Garland
While the take-away message was one of reconciliation, the Q&A session broached a number of thorny issues facing the field of public history. Can plantation site interpretation do justice to the lives of the slaves as well as the masters? How can reluctant descendants be persuaded to “come to the table?” How can the field of historic preservation and museum studies attract more African American practitioners? What can be learned from examples of “Dark Tourism” elsewhere? I asked my colleague Ruth Gruber, as a specialist in Jewish heritage tourism in Eastern Europe, to ponder this question.
Photos courtesy of Dr. Dale Rosengarten unless otherwise noted.
Drayton Hall is celebrating its legacy of remarkable women, past and present, during National Women’s History Month. Over the past three centuries, Drayton Hall has been home to generations of women who have distinguished themselves in remarkable ways. This month, we are highlighting the lives of three members of the Drayton family: Ann Drayton (c. 1680-1742), Rebecca Perry Drayton (1758-1840), and Charlotte Drayton Manigault (1781-1855).
By Brittany Lavelle Tulla
We’re familiar with the men of Drayton Hall, but how much do we know about the women of Drayton Hall? The ones who maintained and protected Drayton Hall, who kept the property going even during times of turbulence and chaos, and who were successful business women and entrepreneurs? Ann Drayton (c. 1680-1742), Rebecca Perry Drayton (1758-1840) and Charlotte Drayton Manigault (1781-1855) are names that deserve to be synonymous with the grandeur and strength of Drayton Hall.
Ann and Thomas, the parents of John Drayton, lived at what is today Magnolia Plantation. By 1719, Ann found herself a widowed mother of four. She chose not to remarry, and instead positioned herself within the ranks of the male planter elite with an objective to ensure a financial cushion for her young children. She served as manager of the family estate and by the time of her death in 1742, she had significantly multiplied her family’s properties, becoming one of the most successful female landholders of her time. It was Ann’s social status and financial holdings that allowed her children’s entry into the southern elite and ultimately set the foundation for her youngest son John to construct Drayton Hall. It was Ann who paid John’s outstanding property taxes, gave him twice the land his father bequeathed to him, and brokered his marriages into some of the most powerful families in the South.
Rebecca Perry Drayton
From l-r: Miniature portraits of Rebecca Perry Drayton and her daughters Ann Drayton (1778-1830) and Susannah Drayton (1777-1810), c. 1787. Scanned images are from the exhibit catalog Henry Benbridge (1743-1812): American Portrait Painter.
In 1775 at the age of 60, John married 17-year-old Rebecca Perry, and Drayton Hall gained its youngest, and perhaps most significant, colonial mistress. Yet four years later, at the age of 21, Rebecca found herself a widowed mother of three. She managed Drayton Hall as the British army occupied its lands, and protected and ensured the survival of the estate her husband spent his lifetime creating.
Rebecca followed in her mother-in law’s footsteps and never remarried. By 1810, she had invested in over a dozen property holdings in Charleston. She was a renegade in a man’s world, claiming real estate in every corner of the city and even secured properties for her daughters and her slaves. She transitioned from a teenage bride to a commanding entrepreneur. A widow for over 60 years, she did not require the protection of a man or the law to expand the property holdings of her branch of the Drayton family tree.
Rebecca’s stepson Charles took ownership of Drayton Hall by the 1790s, and the environment manifested by both Ann and Rebecca became the background to childhood memories for Charles’ daughter, Charlotte. At the age of 19, Charlotte married Joseph Manigault, and she moved to a new residence on the peninsula, the Joseph Manigault House (c. 1802).
Charlotte Drayton Manigault
Charlotte used art and her appreciation for the built environment as a respite from her domestic responsibility. She created valuable watercolors and sketches of her family’s Lowcountry plantations. Today, artwork and architectural descriptions from her diary provide us with some of the most accurate documentations of her family’s estate as well as other Lowcountry residences. She also carried on the Drayton women tradition of meticulously conducting business on behalf of her husband (who died in 1843) and sons, by meeting with clients, regulating finances, and surveying downtown markets. Today, her portrait welcomes visitors into the Joseph Manigault House, and its centralized placement is a well-deserved representation of the Drayton women influence.
The lives of these women clearly attest to how a mother, a wife, and a daughter drastically strengthen the mosaic of the historic landscape and architecture of Drayton Hall and ultimately the American South. Together, they established, advanced, protected, and conserved the memory of the Drayton estate. Their legacy stands the test of time.
Brittany Lavelle Tulla is owner and lead researcher of BVL Historic Preservation Research, a Charleston-based historic research firm dedicated to embracing and preserving historic places through researching and profiling the history that shapes them. She is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Historic Preservation and Community Planning at the College of Charleston and the national research consultant for the Charleston World Heritage Coalition. Brittany received a Master of Science degree in Historic Preservation from the College of Charleston/Clemson University joint graduate program, where she completed her thesis “The Making of a Legacy: The Drayton Women and Their Influences on the Lowcountry Landscape and Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Charleston.” Drayton Hall stole Brittany’s heart from the moment she walked on the property. Its history and landscape has been woven into every fabric of her life, and in 2013, she got married on the banks of the Ashley River at Drayton Hall.
By Jessica Garrett
One sunny morning in October of 2012, I crossed the Ravenel Bridge from Charleston into Mt. Pleasant, and I kept driving until I reached the banks of Jeremy Creek in the village of McClellanville.
I had traveled there to meet with Selden “Bud” Hill, director of McClellanville’s Village Museum, and Michael Prevost, president of White Oak Forestry and board member of Drayton Hall Preservation Trust. Bud and Mike had told me that they were interested in getting a 6.6-mile portion of a nearby road—the Old Georgetown Road, often referred to as the King’s Highway—listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a means of preserving the road in perpetuity. This was in the suggestion of none other than Drayton Hall’s executive director George McDaniel, who had met with Mike and Bud to discuss the road’s preservation the year before.
That morning Bud and Mike introduced me to the road’s long history: to its origins with the Sewee Indians and its use as a trading path; to a number of great South Carolinians who lived along it like Edward Rutledge, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and Thomas Lynch, Jr, the youngest signer of the Constitution; to its role in the Revolutionary War under the command of the “Swampfox,” General Francis Marion, and in the development of St. James, Santee’s economy; and to its use as part of the official north-south post route as early as 1773, a route traveled by the nation’s first president on his 1791 “Tour of the Southern States.”
Then we hopped in Mike’s Ford F250. We headed west, out of the village of McClellanville, and north on Highway 17. We turned off on Rutledge Road and traveled for about a mile before we turned left onto a lonely dirt road, surrounded only by the forest. This was it. This was the Old Georgetown Road.
And what struck me right then was that you didn’t have to close your eyes to imagine what the road looked like in the 18th century. The road and the longleaf pine forest looked just like the first descriptions I had read: when George Washington described it as “sand and pine barrens, with very few inhabitants,” as he traveled the road during his 1791 tour of the southern states (Lossing 1860, 181); and when Archibald Rutledge, the nation’s first poet laureate described the St. James, Santee Episcopal Church, built along the road in 1768 as “a shrine in the wilderness, flanked on three sides by the immense loneliness of the pine forest.”
Standing in the ancient church only enhanced the sense of timelessness I felt. Often called the Brick Church at Wambaw, it is built in the Georgian style with pedimented porticos supported by four round columns of brick and offering tall wooden box pews in the interior. It is sparsely beautiful, and its architecture, craftsmanship and state of preservation seem to beckon stories from centuries past to come forth and mingle with the present.
What makes the Old Georgetown Road even more remarkable than its historical appearance is that this 6.6-mile section of the Old Georgetown Road is one of the last and longest continuously unpaved public portions of the 1,300-mile pre-Revolutionary road that connected Charleston, South Carolina to Boston, Massachusetts (Dollarhide, 1997, 1). As local resident David Doar recounted in his 1907 Sketch of the Agricultural Society of St. James, Santee, “From the earliest of times until the railroad was established the road running through the Parish formed one of the links which made the most direct route of travel from Charleston to the North, then our people were in the world, for all who were bound to the most settled part of the United States had to pass this way” (Doar, 1907, 26).
The first to “pass this way” were the Sewee Indians. Your mind’s eye doesn’t need much convincing to narrow the road and transform it into the Sewee’s Broad path. There you can see the Sewee laden with goods they had derived from the deer and bear they had hunted—from skins to fishing line and glue—would trade with the tribes like Kiawah, Stono, Edisto, Ashepoo, Combahee, Wimbee, Coosa, and Santee to the north and west. (Miles 2004, 10). No bears to fear (or hunt) today, but walk no more than ten feet and your steps can become as slow and deliberate as the British explorer and naturalist John Lawson’s as he journeyed throughout the region in 1701 learning from the Sewee and the new French Huguenot settlers, most of whom Lawson notes, “follow a Trade with the Indians, living very conveniently for that Interest” (Lawson, 1709, 12). Despite the vast wilderness he encountered on his travels, Lawson still referred to the Old Georgetown Road—then, in 1701!—as “the Road from Charles-Town, and the rest of the English Settlement”. Even in these early colonial days, the road was more of a highway that connected all of the English colonies than the sandy path it appeared to be.
About a third of the way along the road, south of Rutledge Road, is Jones Pond (which is not a pond at all). It is one of South Carolina’s unique Carolina Bays, an unexplained, isolated wetland. Here the sun, clouds, fresh water, and cypress limbs are tangled together, the line between reality and reflection hard to determine. Jones Pond is at once peaceful and a little spooky, and no doubt part of British General Banastre Tarleton’s inspiration for the nickname he gave to General Francis Marion, the “Swampfox.” Look closely at the clumps of marsh grass and cypress, and Marion appears, crouching behind them ordering General Peter Horry to “move to Wambaw, where forage can be had….as your new position at Wambaw will be more secure, your men will not be so much harassed. I wrote to you in my last that no boats or persons should pass from or to Charles Town without you or my passport.” In Carolina Bays like this one, Marion hid and protected his men, all while ensuring that the only route to Charleston—the Old Georgetown Road—remained blocked to the British.
Of course, travelers from Drayton Hall no doubt “passed this way” too. While researchers have not found documentation, if William Henry Drayton, John Drayton’s oldest son, travelled overland to Philadelphia after being elected to serve in the Continental Congress in 1778, he would have taken this route. Just ten years prior, a British surveyor had described the road as “very good, but sandy in a few places” and no doubt that same streetscape would have greeted William Henry Drayton. Along with him might have traveled his young, inquisitive, and very bright son, John, born in 1766, who attended school in New Jersey while William was serving the nation in Philadelphia. Would he have enjoyed stopping at the taverns along the way or feeling the water under his feet as they ferried across the South and then the North Santee? Later, John would become a regular traveler along the road. He and his wife Hester Rose Tidyman owned Hopeland plantation, located on Memim Creek, a tributary of the North Santee River. John served as governor three times, and as governor’s duties demanded, he would have journeyed south along the road to travel to Charleston and Columbia. In his internationally acclaimed book, A View of South Carolina, as Respects Her Natural and Civil Concerns, and in his Carolinian Florist, this astute observer and writer described the flora, fauna, and agricultural practices one would have seen in the region.
William Henry Drayton’s niece, Charlotte Drayton Manigault, surely traveled along the Old Georgetown Road “to the North” in the 18th and 19th centuries too. Charlotte was the daughter of Charles Drayton, third owner of Drayton Hall, and she married Joseph Manigault. While they lived “in the city” at the house known today as the Joseph Manigault House (owned and operated by the Charleston Museum), they also owned a plantation called White Oak on the north bank of the North Santee River and not far from her cousin, Gov. John Drayton. Perhaps her father, Charles Drayton, headed north to visit her from Drayton Hall on occasion. Maybe the extended Drayton family came together at St. James, Santee Episcopal Church. Their travels would not have been solitary for with them would probably have been their slaves, serving as carriage drivers, footmen, or grooms for the horses, and who might have used the trip to bring news back to the enslaved community at Drayton Hall.
The Draytons’ use of the road seems even more certain when you consider who else chose to journey down it in 1791. Indeed, the nation’s first president George Washington selected the road as part of his “Tour of the Southern States.” According to his biographers, Washington was a meticulous planner: one biographer writes, “he had mapped the route, calculated the mileage, estimated the rate of progress, and planned the length of his stop at each town” (Lipsomb, 1993, 2). If the road was dependable enough for our first president, then surely it was the one South Carolinians along the coast would have used. Perhaps, too, this is a reason to start calling the road “The President’s Highway” instead of the King’s Highway.
For a road so important to the burgeoning nation, it’s decidedly off the beaten path today, and of course that is no doubt why it remains so well preserved. As soon as Route 40 (modern-day Highway 17) was completed in 1929, it became the primary way to travel between Charleston and Georgetown. As a Mrs. W.S. Allan wrote in her April 1930 presentation, entitled “The Kings Highway,”—a moniker that seems to have become common only in the 20th century—this new route “after the manner of modern highways, demonstrates its belief in the geometric axiom that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, by leaving the old winding King’s Highway at times for a shortening of the road” (Allan, 1930 12).
Mrs. Allan’s speech reveals something new about the Old Georgetown Road: the road, preserved and un-updated, even if rarely traveled, could serve as a means to evoke the state’s past. Her description of the route is more of a timeline than a narrative—connecting the individuals who were born at or lived in the plantations along the road and important events in South Carolina history. In her description of Eldorado plantation, for example, Mrs. Allan not only mentions it was built by General Thomas Pinckney, but she also tells the story of how Pinckney’s marriage to a daughter of Rebecca Motte connects this site to the “patriotic burning of her home at Fort Motte to prevent its falling into enemy hands” (Allan, 1930, 8). She is proud of her heritage and of the places that ignite passion for local history.
In truth, Mrs. Allan captures the emotional side of heritage tourism—of connecting to the past through travel—which continued to bring people like her to the Old Georgetown Road in the first half of the 20th century. Her conclusion is full of nostalgia and love for history as she writes “But oh! For those who can sense it, the glamour of the past is still there over it all as surely as the gray moss on the age old oaks along ‘The King’s Highway’” (Allan, 1930, 18).
And it is Mrs. Allan’s conclusion that brings me back to present day, or at least near present day. For it is was on a sunny Sunday afternoon this past fall, on October 19th, that a group of forty or so South Carolinians gathered at the St. James, Santee Episcopal Church to celebrate the addition of the Old Georgetown Road to the National Register of Historic Places. Bud Hill, Mike Prevost and George McDaniel were back together in the very place where they had first discussed how to preserve the road in perpetuity. Also at the ceremony was Eric Emerson, Director of the SC Department of Archives and History and advisory council member of the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust. Eric’s agency helped craft an application that gained approval first at the state level, eventually at the national level.
Together with local residents, we commemorated the history of the Old Georgetown Road, and we celebrated its preservation. More than that, though, we reveled in the fact that because the Old Georgetown Road still looks so untouched by the passage of time, anyone who travels along it today can so very easily imagine being part of South Carolina’s past—whether walking alongside the Sewee who traded along this Broad Path, attending services with members of the Brick Church who would go on to become signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, performing reconnaissance under Francis Marion’s orders, or witnessing George Washington and his retinue passing down the road as the nation’s first president, or even perhaps traveling with Charles Drayton from Drayton Hall going to visit his daughter Charlotte and his nephew John on their plantations on or near the Santee River.
Jessica Garrett served as Drayton Hall’s director of development until 2011. Today she continues to work in historic preservation and conservation as a freelance writer. She lives in Charleston with her husband and four young children.
Allan, Mrs. W.S. “The King’s Highway” (lecture delivered to the Rebecca Motte Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Charleston, SC, April 12, 1930).
Doar, David. A Sketch of the Agricultural Society of St. James Santee, South Carolina and an Address on the Traditions and Reminiscences of the Parish, Delivered Before Society July 4, 1907. Reprinted by the St. James Santee Historical Society.
Dollarhide, William. Map Guide to American Migration Routes, 1735-1815. North Salt Lake, UT: Heritage Quest, 1997.
Lipscomb, Terry W. South Carolina in 1791: George Washington’s Southern Tour. Columbia, SC: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1993.
Lossing, Benson J., ed. The Diary of George Washington from 1789 to 1791: Embracing the Opening of the First Congress; and His Tours through New England, Long Island, and the Southern States; together with His Journal of a Tour to the Ohio in 1753. New York: Charles B. Richardson and Co., 1860. Page numbers refer to the original. http://archive.org/details/diarygeorgewash00editgoog
Miles, Suzannah Smith. East Cooper Gazetteer. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2004. Page numbers refer to the original. http://books.google.com/books?id=S-sgZXwSsPEC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Friends of Drayton Hall are pleased to present the second season of the Drayton Hall Distinguished Speakers Series. Beginning with the opening event of the 2015 season, you’ll experience a range of thought-provoking presentations related to America’s history and culture by some of today’s most respected historians, archaeologists, and curators. Speakers will also highlight the connections of Charleston and Drayton Hall to their research interests and answer questions from the audience.
The series is held in downtown Charleston at South Carolina Society Hall, 72 Meeting Street, Charleston SC 29401.
Ample on-street parking and public lot parking is available within a block of the South Carolina Society Hall.
Doors open at 5:30 pm with a wine and cheese reception sponsored by the Francis Marion Hotel. Presentations start promptly at 6:30 pm. No advance reservations; please arrive early as seating is limited.
For more information and sponsorship opportunities, please contact Tara White, Development Events Coordinator, at 843-769-2627 or by e-mail.
How do you research, document, and interpret the history of a community that has seemingly vanished from the landscape? A session last November at the National Preservation Conference in Savannah gave some answers. Organized by George W. McDaniel, executive director of Drayton Hall, the session featured Toni Carrier, founding director of Lowcountry Africana and former Wood Family Fellow, as well as five descendants of Drayton Hall: Catherine Brown Braxton, Rebecca Brown Campbell, Annie Brown Meyers, Charles Drayton, and Shelby Nelson. “Our purpose was to show how historic sites could recapture seemingly lost history and connect it to people today,” said McDaniel.
Entitled “Preserving Our History, Telling Our Story,” the session was the first offered at a National Trust conference that included descendants of a historic site as participants. They are connected to the site because their ancestors were either slaves or slave-owners at Drayton Hall. As with most historic sites today, these descendants never lived at Drayton Hall, but they have special memories and connections to the site, passed on from generation to generation, thanks in no small measure to the site’s preservation.
Together, the five descendants represent more than three centuries of American history. Shelby Nelson and Charles Drayton are both ninth-generation descendants of John Drayton, who established Drayton Hall in 1738. A video of their grandfather, the last member of the Drayton family to own Drayton Hall, was featured at the session. “I think the groundbreaking outreach underway at Drayton Hall towards being ‘the tie that binds us’ can become such a positive message for all historic sites and people alike,” explained Charles Drayton. The descendants shared with the audience their special memories of Drayton Hall, and also encouraged others to embrace the concept of shared histories in order to interpret all sides of the plantation experience.
Sisters Rebecca and Catherine started researching their family’s connection to Drayton Hall with the assistance of their cousin, Richmond Bowens, who was born in 1908 and was also a gatekeeper and historian at Drayton Hall. Annie’s mother and her aunts and uncles were all born at Drayton Hall in the early 20th century, and she is the niece of Richmond Bowens. 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. They shared their family’s history and spoke about the importance of bridging the divide between the descendants of the enslaved and slaveholders.
During the session, Toni Carrier presented her in-depth research of primary sources, including written records, photographs, drawings, and even a memory map produced as a result of oral histories of Richmond Bowens. While the map identifies the locations of houses, stores, and graveyard of the post-Civil War African American community at Drayton Hall, there are no buildings standing and few photographic or documentary records remain in family possession. Carrier researched this lost history, and put significant pieces of the puzzle back together again by interweaving oral history interviews with her dedicated research online of census records, deeds, marriage and death certificates, and other primary sources. As a result, she was able to write a brief history of each family’s home site and to characterize that landscape as having been occupied by a tight-knit community that valued hard work, cooperation, and education.
The session ended with a call to action for the audience to find out more about their own family histories. “For people who are interested in learning more about their family’s past, we would encourage them to commit to family, to learn their roots, to ask questions of their elders, and become engaged with their communities to promote and preserve their history,” said Rebecca. Eric Emerson, director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, reiterated that point and explained that this session has inspired sites in Kentucky and Tennessee to undertake such programs with descendants. In ways such as this, Drayton Hall makes a difference.
An individual’s personal library has the potential to reveal significant information about their character, interests, worldview, and education. Such is certainly the case at Drayton Hall where research has identified what is likely a list of the titles that once graced the bookshelves of John Drayton (c.1715-1779), the builder of Drayton Hall. Written by son Charles Drayton (1743-1820), such a list contains more than 440 titles published before or during John Drayton’s lifetime, indicating his intellectual pursuits and attention to the ideals of the enlightenment.
Not surprisingly, the list of titles includes nine architectural pattern books that were undoubtedly utilized to construct Drayton Hall. Additional areas of interest include natural history, astronomy, landscape design, horticulture, dance, and even gastronomy. As research continues to investigate the titles of Drayton’s library, we anticipate that an increased understanding will be brought to Drayton, his educational opportunities, and academic pursuits.
This month, we are sharing our latest research on John Drayton’s library with a series of posts featuring some of the volumes he would have owned and read.
Included in this listing for John’s library are several important works that exhibit methods on growing food crops, but also works devoted to pleasurable pursuits in ornamental gardens and landscape design. The Gentleman’s Recreation: the Art of Gardening Improved (1717) by John Laurence is an early book that likely illustrates John’s interests in the extravagant leisure gardens and fountains of a country gentleman. General System of Hydrostaticks and Hydraulicks (1729) by Stephen Switzer addresses the mechanics of water pressurization for such embellishments. Philip Miller’s Gardeners Dictionary (1731) and Kalendar (1732) were popular guides for growing plants for consumption, medicine, and profit. The use of a calendar system simplified the task of when to plant, tend to, and harvest in simplified terms which most gardeners, including John, might utilize to great advantage.
An individual’s personal library has the potential to reveal significant information about their character, interests, worldview, and education. Such is certainly the case at Drayton Hall, where research has identified what is likely a list of the titles that once graced the bookshelves of John Drayton (c.1715-1779), the builder of Drayton Hall. Written by son Charles Drayton (1743-1820), such a list contains more than 440 titles published before or during John Drayton’s lifetime, indicating his intellectual pursuits and attention to the ideals of the enlightenment.
Not surprising, the list of titles includes nine architectural pattern books that were undoubtedly utilized to construct Drayton Hall. Additional areas of interest include natural history, astronomy, landscape design, horticulture, dance, and even gastronomy. As research continues to investigate the titles of Drayton’s library, we anticipate that an increased understanding will be brought to Drayton, his educational opportunities and academic pursuits.
This month, we are sharing our latest research on John Drayton’s library with a series of posts featuring some of the volumes he would have owned and read.
As this is the time of year to delve into the recipe files for our cherished family recipes, it is fun to note that John Drayton’s library also contained cookbooks. He owned both the 1736 edition of The Modern Cook: Containing Instructions for Preparing and Ordering Public Entertainments for the Tables of Princes by Vincent la Chapelle and the 1774 edition of The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse. Ms. Glasse’s cookbook was a favorite among the English and English colonists alike having first been published in 1747 and then reprinted through the early 19th century. The two recipes below come from the 1774 edition and may have made their way onto a dining table in Drayton Hall. The first, A Carolina Rice Pudding, highlights South Carolina’s cash crop of the pre-Revolutionary colony and the second, To Stew a Turkey Brown, may provide a few pointers for your own Thanksgiving turkey this year—you may have been forgetting that all important anchovy! Bon appetite!
What is it?
This artifact was recovered from the south flanker well excavation in 1980. It is a very beautiful mid-eighteenth century sweetmeat glass with a honeycomb-molded bowl made from leaded glass. It very likely graced the tables of John Drayton during the last course of a meal when sweetmeats were served in addition to dried fruits and nuts.
Drayton 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.
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 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.