Now in its fifth year, the Slave Dwelling Project has allowed me to spend nights in extant slave dwellings in fourteen states. The stewards of these dwellings range from private, non-profit, local government, county government, state government and federal government. With all of the stays to date, I had never spent a night in a dwelling owned by the state of South Carolina. That changed when on the night of Saturday, March 7, 2015, I spent a night on the property of Hampton Plantation in Charleston County, South Carolina.
When I started this project five years ago, the first organization that told me no to my request of spending a night in one of their extant slave dwellings was the South Carolina Department of Parks and Recreation. More specifically, it was a request to spend a night at Redcliffe Plantation located in Aiken County. After being told no, the SC Department and Recreation was not treated well by me in my presentations.
Fast forward, recently, I was contacted by the Department and invited to Redcliffe to discuss a sleepover. The meeting was enlightening, they explained to me that just as I am passionate about this project and label it as research, those dealing with the paranormal are just as passionate about labeling their acts as research. They went on to say that the Slave Dwelling Project had proven itself as legitimate and extended the invitation to stay at Hampton and Redcliffe Plantation.
Although there is no extant slave dwelling at Hampton Plantation, I did not say no to the invitation to spend a night at the site. An extensive archaeological dig is currently going on at Hampton that has uncovered the foot print of one of the former slave dwellings.
I proceeded to the site directly from Hopsewee Plantation on the North Santee River in Georgetown County where I had spent the night in a slave cabin the night before. The drive there could have taken less than ten minutes had I not stopped to take extensive photographs. Hampton Plantation is located on the South Santee River just inside the Charleston County line.
As I approached the dig site on foot, I was enamored by the site of a lift and immediately requested to be taken up in it to get a bird’s eye view of the site. The request was granted and I got lots of great shots from that vantage point.
Throughout the day the public was invited to visit the dig site and interact with the archaeologists and volunteers. I gave a Slave Dwelling Project presentation to a standing room only crowd in the parlor inside the mansion.
Before heading out to nearby McClellanville for dinner, I and staff members who would be spending the night pitched tents near the dig site.
Mother Nature did not make the sleepover easy because the temperature hovered around freezing throughout the night. A pit fire offered some solace but the cold won the night. A dog barking in the background eventually chased a deer in the vicinity of where we were camping. As the conversations faded, we were all in our tents before midnight. One couple retreated to their car to spend the night. My fear of sleeping in a tent in near freezing weather subsided when I learned quickly that insulated sleeping bags work well.
The next morning was with the pit fire going again, we got to watch a beautiful sunrise. Coffee was prepared on a camp stove and we got a visit from the park manager and his beautiful family. The tarp was pulled back over the dig site and secured before we all began to go our separate ways.
While it is my intent to sleep in extant slave dwellings, I often break the rules. I’ve slept in a recreated cabin; I’ve slept in a freedman’s cottage; I’ve slept in the Old Charleston Jail; and I’ve slept among ruins. Through archaeology, the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation Tourism is making a huge investment in moving in the direction of interpreting a more comprehensive story of Hampton. That should not go unnoticed and should be rewarded. This stay has changed my way of thinking in that those many sites that do not have extant slave dwellings but are willing to put forth the effort to tell the whole story, I am more than willing to come pitch a tent and help with that transition.
Videographer Katherine Ferguson of the Serve Company was there to record her second installment of the 2015 South Carolina Slave Dwelling sleepovers. Here is the link: https://youtu.be/GLFurtE4Qnk