Thursday, August 28, 2014
More than 40 women and a few good men gathered Aug. 25 at Hobcaw Barony for a trip into history and a look at the roles women played in the history of the Winyah Bay river’s plantations.
In some ways, the history is the present – the houses, written about in the history books are still standing or have been re-created on the land that was home to the original plantation homes – in other cases, it’s creating a new chapter.
Capt. Rod Singleton charted the course while he and Lee Brockington, Hobcaw’s senior interpreter, recounted the stories that are part of their families’ background or what they have gleaned in their studies of history.
It was the opportunity to hear the stories that drew Libby Charles and Rosemary Petreccia of North Litchfield to the pontoon and the morning’s cruise.
They checked the chart – a map to the landlubbers – as Singleton pulled away from the Hobcaw dock and picked up the microphone.
Even before he could get started, a bald eagle soared over the boat.
Passengers were treated to Singleton’s folksy banter and Brockington’s historical knowledge as they traveled past homes owned by families who are part of Georgetown and the Grand Strand’s Revolutionary and Civil War histories – names like Peter Horry, his wife, Margaret Guignard, and Belle Isle, Elizabeth Waties Allston Pringle, Adele Petigru Allston, Nightengale; Chicora Wood, Litchfield and Waverly – the names come quickly, but the visions of the houses linger.
Not as well known, but no less important, were the slaves that contributed to the rice plantations, to keeping the home fires burning while the men were at war.
“These are the people who cut swaths that saved nearly two hours on a trip to Hobcaw from the Waccamaw River,” Singleton said, deftly steering his pontoon into the time-saving cut-through.
Brockington recalled the story of a slave named Mack who refused to turn over the Nightengale keys to Adele Petigru after the Civil War, when she returned to her plantation to view the damage.
Undaunted, said Brockington, Petigru made her way through the crowd of newly freed blacks who had gathered outside the house, greeting each of them by name and inquiring after their families.
“By the time she got to Mack, the former slaves were behind her.”
The trip was well worth the trip to Hobcaw for Charles and Glenn Leath of Prosperity and their friends Edward and Faye Pender of Columbia.
“I just love the Lowcountry,” said Glenn Leath.
For Faye Pender, it was the history. She’s a member of Colonial Dames 17th Century, Daughters of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Colonies. “A chance to learn,” she said when asked what brought her to the trip.
Some of the modern history is changing. For instance, Direlton, one of the sturdier houses along the waterway, owned by the state and home to a New Castle, Del., book publisher Thomas G. Samworth, retains lifetime tenure on the property.
The state has designated the land as a wildlife preserve.
Not everything was historic. Singleton and Brockington pointed out how the environment of the area is changing – everything from the invasive phragmites (reeds) to the ospreys who nest in the pines and trees along the waterway.