Monday, April 5, 2010

A Little Lowcountry History

Last month, Jeannette and Jennifer headed to South Carolina for a whirlwind tour that accomplished many conservation and marketing objectives. They met with many conservation breeders, members, and organizations in effort to promote many of ALBC programs and projects. The next series of blog entries will focus on this field work.

We left on Wednesday morning for our tour of the Lowcountry of South Carolina. On our way down, we met ALBC member and conservation breeder Gra Moore to drop off Java and Buckeye eggs. Gra has the facilities to hatch many eggs, and he’s helping with the Buckeye and Java recovery projects.

After dropping off hatching eggs, our first stop was the home of Rabbit Lockwood and Debbie Chard which is North of Charleston, in Huger, SC. Rabbit owns Marsh Tacky horses and is a harbor pilot in Charleston harbor. At 70 years-young, he knows a lot of history about the Lowcountry. We drove many miles through the swamp and through the Francis Marion National Forest, before we arrived at the inconspicuous gate for the home. Driving up the driveway, we could see open fields and huge, century-old live oak trees cloaked in Spanish moss. Up on the hill was the house of Longwood Plantation. It was beautiful.

When we arrived, Rabbit offered to give us a tour of the place - so we hopped on the golf cart to ride around the property. At over 350 acres, walking the property would have been a challenge. He had 2 labs and a little Maltese that joined us for our jaunt around the property. As we were riding through the woods, Rabbit shared some of the history of the property. It was first established by Saint Julienne de Malichare (sp?), a French Huguenot who moved to the area sometime in the 1600s. As we were riding through the woods, we happened upon a chapel. The chapel was built on the property because the British declared that they wouldn't recognize any marriages not performed in an Anglican Church - so the French Hugenots just built an Anglican church so their marriages would be legal. The chapel was rebuilt/bricked in the 1700's and you could see dates carved into the bricks. In fact, there was a free mason symbol etched into one of the bricks along with a 1700 date. The property sits along a tributary of the Cooper River and right at the edge of the chapel was where they'd dock the boats to come to church. Today, they open the chapel up twice a year for a service and they have a picnic in the meadow afterwards. It was amazing to see such an old piece of history.

Just when we thought we couldn't find any more historical gems, we rode through the woods some more and arrived at Middleburg Plantation, one of the oldest wooden plantation homes on the eastern seaboard that is still standing. The plantation home has a "live oak drive" with some of the largest trees I've ever seen. The Spanish moss is draped from them. It's a scene out of a movie. This property was occupied by both the Union troops and Confederate troops during the Civil War. On the glass panes in the windows, you could see where Union "General Potter" had etched his name into the glass of the house.

Next to the plantation house was the original commissary building. It was in rougher condition but still standing. On one side of the building there was a holding area, where they'd keep slaves when they were first brought to the plantation. We rode around back of the house and saw the remains of the old rice plantation. There were the rusted remains of where a water wheel once was to mill the rice. In later years they had a steam engine to turn the wheel. They had built a huge brick furnace structure where they'd start the fire. There were pipes that transferred the heat. All these pieces were still there, but in poor condition.

We continued to ride around the property where we made our way to the Marsh Tackies. We took many photos for the Marsh Tacky studbook. We saw some chickens on the property that are referred to as “Hell Hole Swamp chickens.” It is rumored that these chickens were fighting chickens that lived wild in areas of the Hell Hole Swamp. Something has figured out how to kill and eat these birds, so there are very few if any left. Rabbit still has two roosters. ALBC is investigating this lead to determine if these birds are still around in other pockets and if they may be of genetic importance.


After dinner and documenting local history and animals, we turned in for the night. Next stop, Charleston….


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