Hobcaw history project aims to fill in the gaps

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Eileen Keithly/For the Times Dr. Karen Smith points out the differences in the brick she found on the ground when compared with the bricks on the Baruch’s house. This brick looks to be much older than the bricks on the Baruch’s house.

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A unique group of experts gathered last week to begin a journey through the history of 16,000 acres on the southern peninsula of the Waccamaw Neck known as Hobcaw Barony – seeking to uncover the mysteries of Hobcaw’s past.

Visitors to the Baruch house overlooking Winyah Bay have included Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt.

However, beyond recent historical records and oral histories, the only sources of information about the extended history of Hobcaw Barony are found in one brief (1991) archaeological survey by archaeologist Dr. James Michie, an equally brief hobby diver survey for artifacts in Winyah Bay and a historical resources report of the Hobcaw Barony Historic District on file with the National Register of Historic Places.

That is about to change.

USC’s South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthropology archaeologists (SCIAA), South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV), and Leland Ferguson, distinguished professor emeritus of anthropology at USC, are collaborating to address the gap in archaeological research on the property.

In May, this group will begin what it hopes will be a very long-term collaborative research program at Hobcaw Barony, all with permission from the Belle W. Baruch Foundation.

“Most of the tests that Dr. Michie conducted were shovel tests, not very deep,” remarked lead archeologist Dr. Karen Smith, director of applied research at SCIAA. “It will be interesting to see what we find.”

It is the goal of the team to carry the Hobcaw narrative more fully from the present into the past.

SCETV will document the collaboration of cultural stewardship.

Initial funding for this project has been provided by the Archeological Research Trust (ART) and the South Carolina Humanities Council. Working closely together, the team of archeologists will begin to uncover the gaps in history, while the team from SCETV documents the historical holes the archeology team fills by dissecting the area.

Walking with map in hand, Hobcaw executive director George Chastain guided the group of historians and historical benefactors down a dirt road that he noted was part of the original “Kings Highway.”

“Belle loved this land, and this project is perfectly in line with her wishes for Hobcaw,” Chastain said.

At the time of her death 50 years ago, in 1964, Belle Baruch’s will created a foundation to own and operate Hobcaw Barony “for teaching and research in forestry, marine biology and the care and propagation of wildlife, flora and fauna, in connection with colleges, and/or universities.”

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