Sunday, 24 June 2012

No 20 - Boon Hall, Charleston

Hi from Clare,                                                       Saturday 23rd June 2012

Part two of sight seeing in Charleston South Carolina.

We visited Boon Hall which is a working plantation dating back to the late 1600. We spent about 4 hours touring the house, the slave quarters and a coach tour of the plantation. The best part is the entrance to the property, which is stunning. We drove through two ¾ mile rows of 250 year-old live oak trees with Spanish moss festooning from the branches - truly beautiful. The worst part is the area known as the lowlands is a paradise for mosquitoes. We had great clouds of them swarming around us. Fortunately for us Andrew brought the repellent which we applied liberally throughout our visit.

250 year old Oak Avenue and 1936 Boon Hall

In the seventeen and eighteen hundreds Boon Hall was a slave run cotton plantation. The whole slave story is pretty sickening. The poor devils had no life at all. When they arrived from Africa they were auctioned off and families split up with mother, father and children going in different directions. Once on a plantation they were not allowed to leave the plantation, so they never saw their families again. They worked from dawn to dark (or in Gullah language from "can't see" to "can't see") and there is plenty of evidence of whippings, hangings, burning at the stake, rape and brutality.

Original brick slave quarters & City Slave Mart

The workers slept close to the cotton fields with 20 to a small wooden shed with no windows and dirt floors. I read that each slave might get a blanket every three years. They were fed on a meagre diet of grits (corn cereal) and beans. At Boon Plantation there were 27 brick quarters for skilled slaves. These quarters were close to the house and seen as a status symbol for the owner, boasting to visiting white folk that owning slaves costs money. There were two families and normally 15 skilled slaves in these small quarters but at least they had a fire place. A recent archaeological dig revealed that many animal bones were buried under the slave's quarters. They must have gone out at night (at great risk) to hunt for meat. In fact what the archaeologists found is that these slaves had a better diet than the landowners - good for them.

I was shocked to discover that on today's values the average price of a slave was $25,000 to $40,000 depending on their skill level. However any children born to slaves were born into slavery and so after a period of time and numerous babies, the initial investment looked pretty good.

We read that 3% of the population of Charleston owned 95% of the slaves. Most of these families were the political movers and shakers including the Governor who owned 1700 slaves. Some of the whites owned a million dollars worth of slaves (on today's prices) so they didn't want to see the abolition of slavery and the demise of their fortune. Interestingly the cotton industry collapsed when slavery was abolished because no one else would do the work. America stopped importing slaves from Africa in 1808 but slavery continued until the Civil War around 1865. In the Slave Mart we read that a total 750,000 slaves both imports and domestic passed through Charleston.

Heyward-Washington House & Nataniel Russell House

We visited a few of the historic homes. The Heyward-Washington House built in 1772 and named such because George Washington stayed there for a week when touring the southern states (it's a bit like Elvis slept here). It is known as Charleston's Revolutionary War House as the owner was a patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was furnished with Charleston made furniture and had a formal 18th century garden.

We then went to the Nathaniel Russell House built in 1808 and recognized as one of America's most significant neoclassical dwellings. It has a very graceful interior with elaborate plasterwork, geometrically shaped rooms and a magnificent free-flying staircase (unfortunately no photos allowed). Nathaniel was a merchant, an importer and exporter and owner of a rice plantation. He is recorded as owning the largest number of slaves totalling 1861.

Charleston residential district

Each day we would walk into town via a different street. I loved the Classic Georgian houses, which in England were built with stone, but in the USA were replicated in timber. We also went down to Rainbow Row which represents the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the US and dates back to 1680. After the Civil War (1860s) and decades of neglect the houses were declared a slum. However the Preservation Society of Charleston restored them back in 1920. It's just another wonderful success story of how Charleston has restored and preserved their history for all to enjoy. I hope we will call into Charleston on our way back down the coast as there is still plenty to see.

Rainbow Row & the waterfront Boulevarde

We are currently in Beaufort, North Carolina after sailing overnight from Charleston and arriving here in the early hours of Thursday. Andrew caught two Mahi Mahi on the trip so we have been enjoying succulent fish dinners. We will explore the small town today before heading north via the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW). This will be a new experience for us as we have shallow water, tides and low bridges to negotiate. We will be able to sail in some places but for most of the time we will be motoring. We have heard that the ICW is beautiful so I will let you know in our next newsletter.

Love Candy xx

At 5:29 PM23/06/2012 (utc) our position was 34°42.91'N 076°39.91'W

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