Day Thirty-Three: Plantation Life, Cotton is King, North Carolina

Our day started in Aiken, South Carolina, which happens to be where I lived for a little less than a year in 1990. We started this trip thirty-two days earlier by spending the night in Dayton, Washington, where I lived for a little less than a year in 1969. Here’s what’s surprising – I remembered much more about Dayton than I did about Aiken. Essentially, I remembered almost nothing about Aiken. It’s a growing town, and it is very different than it was twenty five years earlier. Also, my time there was not happy, and I have a hunch I let all memory of the place go the day I left.

We spent a fruitless bit of time, driving around, looking for things I might remember, then gave up and headed to Redcliffe Plantation. I took lots of pictures of Redcliffe, including the inside, but as I looked at the pictures, I realized that I forgot to take a shot of the front of the house. Instead, here’s a shot of the back:

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That shot looks an awful lot like that cloud is actually emerging from the chimney, but I promise there were no fires burning today, as it was another 90 degree day in the South. Redcliffe was donated to the state of South Carolina by the fourth generation to inherit it, as he died without children and none of the other relatives had the scratch necessary for the upkeep. The state took ownership in the seventies and has maintained it as a Historic Site ever since.

The plantation was originally owned by James Henry Hammond, famous for his “Cotton is King” speech in 1858, leading up to the Civil War. What he said was, “Cotton is King.” What he meant was, “Don’t mess with our right to own slaves.” Hammond was one of the most vocal of all the pro-slavery southerners. Oh, and he seemed unashamed to have had sexual relationships with his four nieces. Because of the time period, he went on to be elected US Senator (a position he resigned as soon as Lincoln was elected) while the four teenage girls were thought to be “tarnished,” and never married. Hammond goes on the list of people that karma seems to have missed, at least in public view.

Knowing his history (he owned 300 slaves at one time) tarnished the whole plantation for me, but we took the tour nonetheless. The house is huge, and I’m sure it was lovely for its time. Here are a couple of shots of the inside:

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That’s the entry hallway, which is where the plantation’s parties were held. The furniture throughout the house is original, but is a mixture of the four generations that lived there, spanning 100+ years.img_1695

It was a cool house, and from a historic standpoint, I was glad to see it. Knowing that every floorboard and painting was bought and paid for through the labor of slaves, made the whole tour feel uncomfortable for me. Well, that and the three incredibly unruly little boys who ran amuck  (amuck, amuck, amuck!) while the ranger tried to control them and their mother ignored them. That’s not quite right. She would say, “Boys! Don’t do that.” Then, she would turn her back on them and let them do whatever they wanted. People!

When we were done with the tour of the house, we walked through the two room house where the slaves lived. Twenty people lived in the two room house, better suited to four people. This is the inside:

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I don’t know if it’s because I was born and raised in the Northwest, or my deep-seated belief in equal human rights for all, but I felt like I needed a shower, and it wasn”t just because of the heat, for once. Although we drove through an area with many other plantations, we were definitely full of the whole scene, so we just drove for the rest of the day.

We did come across a couple of other interesting deserted buildings on the drive, though. We had lunch in Johnston, SC, and on the way out of town, we saw this old house:

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I know it’s falling down, but look at the lines. I can’t imagine why anyone would let a house this artful get to a falling down state like this.

Dawn spotted this old, abandoned school while she was driving. Not sure what I was doing – daydreaming, probably.

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It looks like a little one room schoolhouse straight out of Little House on the Prairie, but the sign on the front says it was in use until 1958.

As the afternoon wore on, we passed over the state line into North Carolina. One of the first sights that greeted us on the side of the road was this:

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I peeked inside to see if it had been used, but I think that is a mystery I will leave unsolved here in the blog. You’re welcome.

Once again, I have no idea where we are going tomorrow. I will find out just a little ahead of you. 🙂

Cheers, and safe travels!

Shawn

5 comments

  1. As you talked about the plantation and the horrible things that took place there, I probably would have run out. I can understand needing to scrub your skin really hard in a hot shower. Bad vibes! I have no love for S.C. at all, but I’ll leave it at that. I’m happy you are out of that state to be quite honest. Looking forward to more stories about your trip around America… ❤️

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  2. Thanks for the commentary on your day’s travel. I always love learning some little tidbit of Americana or specifics of American history that I wasn’t taught in school. As far as unruly children due to lack of effective parenting, I agree, ugh! I love children and they’re incredible, but unfortunately, many children nowadays are being raised by people who have no idea how to parent or the diligence to follow through. Oh golly, I’d be too afraid to peek inside an abandoned toilet sitting by the side of the road. As always, safe travels!

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  3. All the toilet needs is some flowers and then it could be decorative. Love abandoned buildings, so tempted to look inside and love to think about who lived there and why it was abandoned. Take care, safe travels

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  4. I am probably the only one who will say something like this. We have to remember that slavery did not exist only in the South. There were slaves all over this country at one time. Slavery was considered a lucrative business in Africa, and the natives there were the ones who sold the slaves to slave traders who took them all over the world. Slavery still exists today, but it mostly hidden from the general public, and the Muslims are the world’s worst perpetrators of this. I guess it sounds like I am on a soap box, but I am not. The Southern plantations were places of slavery, but there was a cast system amongst the slaves themselves. The house workers were at the top of the list with the field workers at the bottom. However, even the field slaves thought of themselves as higher than the poor white trash who lived in the area. Now, I am not, in any way, condoning slavery, but just remember it didn’t just exist in the South or the United States. It is part of our history, and we need to remember this period of our history and not let it happen again. Unfortunately, there are many people right now living in slavery with no recourse. We need to think of them also and try to remedy that situation.

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