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So my most recent field trip revealed that the dwelling located on Kathwood Plantation in Jackson, SC (Aiken County) was not a slave cabin. Originally called Cedar Grove Plantation, it was owned by Catherine Elizabeth Fitzsimons Hammond and her husband James Henry Hammond 1831 – 1864. James Henry Hammond was a politician and planter from South Carolina. He served as a United States Representative from 1835 to 1836, the 60th Governor of South Carolina from 1842 to 1844, and United States Senator from 1857 to 1860. The current main house on the site was built in 1904, the one before it had burned. While we are not clear when the cabin was built, the nails used; the bricks used for its foundation; the saw marks in the boards used in its construction helped us to conclude that it was not an antebellum structure. That’s the bad news.
I learned about this site when the current owner, Rebekah Farber, contacted me several months ago after reading a story about the project in a Charleston, SC magazine. http://charlestonmag.com/features/overnight_historian. My online research made it plausible that I add the site to the 2014 calendar of dwellings of which I would spend a night. After establishing a date for the stay, skepticism about the condition of the cabin kicked in. In the meantime, I was contacted by a high school group from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who wanted to interact with the Slave Dwelling Project by spending nights in slave dwellings in South Carolina with me and helping with some clean up and simple repairs. Seeing Kathwood on the list, they thought it would be perfect. So yes, I will meet the group at the Kathwood site in May to conduct some cleanup and minor repairs of the cabin.
We also decided that the stay will occur in October. It will be a stay similar to my Middleton Plantation stay for the dwelling that I stayed in there is also a freedman’s cottage. I will have an opportunity to interpret the period of reconstruction and the slavery that occurred at plantations on the Savannah River. When emancipation came, many of the enslaved people left the plantations and never looked back. Some left and discovered a cruel world of prejudice, Jim Crow laws and disenfranchisement and therefore came back. Some never left because that was the only life that they knew. We also chose October because the Farbers are part time residents and that will be a time when they will be there; the weather should be pleasant; and school will be in session. Both Rebekah and I had fun brainstorming the possibilities of how the site can and should be used for educational purposes, reminiscence of the same desire of the owners of the slave cabin at Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, SC.
In its current condition, I will be able to invite three other people to spend the night with me in the cabin. Part of my assignment as a result of the field visit is to make referrals for the restoration work that needs to be done to the cabin. I know of two such contractors based on the work they did at Laurelwood Plantation in Eastover, SC and Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.
Now, back to James Henry Hammond. He also owned Redcliffe Plantation which borders Kathwood Plantation and is today owned by the state of South Carolina. There is at least one original slave cabin that still stands on that site. It is still my desire to have access to that cabin for an overnight stay. Maybe the collaboration being formed between the Slave Dwelling Project and Kathwood Plantation can help break through the bureaucracy that has prevented me from having that stay.
So my field research revealed that the cabin at Kathwood Plantation is not a slave cabin but there was a point in its history that people who lived there were formerly enslaved. The relationship being forged between the Slave Dwelling Project and the owners of Kathwood will ensure that the cabin will be restored and used for educational purposes. It also has the potential to assist in forming a meaningful relationship between a private owner and a state owned entity which can enhance the interpretation of slavery in that region of the state and the Savannah River. The Slave Dwelling Project and Kathwood Plantation can play well together. It would be nice if Redcliff Plantation would join us. When I lose, I win.