Lowcountry Sites Marked for Underground Railroad Connection

By SHAMIRA MCCRAY, The Submit and Courier

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Slavery existed. And so did efforts to flee it.

In acknowledgement of those truths, the Nationwide Park Service has been working for a while to share the legacy of the Underground Railroad in America. And throughout the previous decade, 9 websites in South Carolina have been acknowledged on a nationwide degree for his or her connection to the resistance to enslavement.

Though its identify could recommend it, there was no practice and no railroad. The Underground Railroad refers back to the efforts of enslaved African People to flee bondage and achieve freedom.

The Park Service has used its Community to Freedom program to collaborate with authorities entities, people and organizations to advertise and protect this historical past of resistance. Greater than 695 places in 39 states have been acknowledged by the service for his or her verifiable connection to the Underground Railroad.

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Since 2020, three websites in South Carolina’s Lowcountry have been added to the community.


Robert Smalls is a well-recognized identify to many within the Lowcountry. And his story performs an integral half in Charleston’s wealthy historical past.

Throughout the Civil Struggle, Smalls, an enslaved man in Accomplice Charleston, seized the 149-foot transport ship the Planter from a dock close to The Battery and sailed it to freedom together with his household and a number of other different enslaved folks onboard.

A marker in entrance of the Historic Charleston Basis stated Smalls and 6 enslaved crewmen took the vessel earlier than daybreak when its captain, pilot and engineer have been ashore.

“They’d been eager about escaping for some time,” stated Sheri Jackson, a program supervisor for the Community to Freedom. “And they also selected this chance. They left early within the morning, they usually sort of simply sailed out of the Charleston Harbor.”

Smalls delivered the Accomplice boat to the Union blockade squadron. He turned the primary African American skipper of a United States-flagged ship when he was made captain. Smalls later turned a congressman and represented South Carolina throughout Reconstruction.


The Caw Caw Interpretive Middle in Ravenel is situated on the location the place the previous Elliot and Rose plantations as soon as stood. They each have been listed on the Community to Freedom for his or her relationship to occasions surrounding the 1739 Stono Slave Revolt.

Throughout this time, a gaggle of women and men from Africa determined to depart the Elliot and Rose plantations and head south to St. Augustine, Fla.

“The Spanish stated, ‘Hey, if you can also make it to St. Augustine, you’re free,’ ” Jackson stated.

The phrases of the settlement have been that the enslaved folks needed to convert to Catholicism and serve within the Spanish navy as soon as in St. Augustine.

It’s believed that the freedom-seekers robbed the Hutchenson Retailer alongside the banks of the Wallace River for arms, ammunition and different provides for his or her journey. They killed the shopkeeper and apparently walked again towards Charleston to “Mr. Godfrey’s plantation” to kill him and his daughter earlier than marching southward, based on Thomas Thornton, the Caw Caw Interpretive Middle facility supervisor.

Thornton stated that earlier than midday, the group bumped into colony Lt. Gov. William Bull and his social gathering. They rounded up the militia and have been battling by midday close to the Edisto River. It was throughout by nighttime.

“There’s an account that claims that a number of the liberty fighters have been beheaded and their heads have been placed on pikes again to the highway into Charleston to be scary,” Thornton stated. “And several other folks escaped for a number of years earlier than they have been caught.”

As many as 100 folks have been concerned within the revolt by the tip. A number of accounts say 40 to 50 enslaved folks have been killed. Others that might show they have been form of “pressed into” the revolt have been pardoned, Thornton stated.

The Stono Slave Revolt elevated fears of slave uprisings amongst White folks, resulting in the institution of stricter slave codes.

The Elliot and Rose plantations are the one formally documented Stono Revolt websites, and that historical past weighs closely in interpretations on the Caw Caw Interpretive Middle. Thornton stated the middle interprets the revolt as a watershed occasion that modified the face of American slavery and the best way the colony functioned socially and politically.

4 Holes Swamp was believed to be a spot of refuge for freedom-seekers. The swamp is situated throughout the Francis Beidler Forest in Harleyville.

Researchers consider enslaved folks used the forest as a hall for journey and a spot to construct encampments. However a lot of the historical past nonetheless must be uncovered, based on Matt Johnson, director of the Audubon Middle at Francis Beidler Forest.

Johnson stated he believes freedom-seekers took benefit of the abundance of pure sources obtainable in swamp, together with meals and crops.

“I believe there have been a number of totally different sorts of makes use of (for the swamp), from simply being right here for a day or two to staying for longer intervals of time, or generally simply as a method of journey,” Johnson stated.

In the present day, the forest and swamp seems to be mainly the identical method they did for freedom-seekers tons of of years in the past. An elevated, 2-mile boardwalk is there now, however the forest has by no means been logged and nonetheless accommodates 1,000-year-old bushes that will have been touched by Native People and individuals who have been enslaved.

“To me, it’s actually attention-grabbing as a result of we do have that potential right now to see a panorama that appears as it will have regarded to folks on the Underground Railroad,” Johnson stated.

Being listed on the Nationwide Underground Railroad Community to Freedom is only one step towards what the Audubon Middle desires to do extra of: telling a extra full historical past of the land.

“It’s an necessary piece of historical past in South Carolina,” Johnson stated. “We would like this to be one thing that individuals learn about. And I believe the usage of swamps and different wetlands as locations of refuge will not be as well-known.”

Audubon has put in momentary interpretative signage alongside its boardwalk that shares among the tales of the forest’s relationship to the Underground Railroad. The group is engaged on one thing extra everlasting by the tip of the 12 months.

Different websites listed on the Community to Freedom embody Brattonsville in McConnells; Robert Smalls’ Burial Web site in Beaufort; Hampton Plantation in McClellanville; and the Heritage Library, Fort Howell and Mitchelville on Hilton Head Island.

There are possible a number of different websites within the state which are linked to the Underground Railroad. However to be acknowledged by the Nationwide Park Service, the location have to be nominated by a person or entity, and an utility have to be submitted. Purposes are accepted twice a 12 months, by Jan. 15 or July 15.

Due to this system, many individuals are wanting on the Underground Railroad in so many alternative lights, Jackson stated. They’re people who find themselves finding out the geography, water routes, written supplies and even commercials.

“So we’ve began a dialog about wanting on the Underground Railroad otherwise,” Jackson stated. “It’s extra than simply going 3 miles and spending an evening in any person’s home. Lots of people have been concerned.”

There’s a have to protect the locations linked to the Underground Railroad, and the Park Service hopes an official designation on the Community to Freedom might be a step towards that path.

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