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Day 104 - Rice & Gullah (Photo's Added)

We spent more time at Huntington Beach SP before heading south. We visited a Gullah shop & museum, then Georgetown & a Rice Museum.

semi-overcast 62 °F

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 62
Weather - Sunny to Somewhat Overcast, but mild (mid 60's)
Camped at Bucks Hall USFS Campground

Musings:

How is it I get tired of blacktop and traffic so quickly, but never seem to tire of Heron, Egrets, Brown Pelicans, etc.?

Narrative:

Anyway, Charleston should only be a short hop from Myrtle Beach, but we seemed to need several days. Hm. One reason is that when we got up on Huntington Beach SP, we didn't leave for Charleston right away. First, we both wanted to take one more walk to the beach...

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On the way back to the RV, we saw strange looking holes in the sand. We learned later that some types of crabs burrow into the sand and make these. Mom also saw honeysuckle blooming in December, which she wanted to point out.

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I wanted to see what kind of wildlife we could see in the daylight (rather than at dusk, when I went out last night), so drove over to the causeway again. Unfortunately, it was high tide in the morning, so we didn't see any more wood storks. One thing we did have was nice weather - as proof, here's Mom in short sleeves (and she thought we'd never make it out of the northern portion of the country).

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However, we did see lots of Heron, Egrets, ducks and other assorted birds.

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Mom noticed a very small heron, at first I didn't think it could be a Heron since it was so much smaller than the others, but I checked with the binoculars and it sure looked like a Heron. We asked at the Nature Center and found out it was a Tricolor Heron, which are in the park but are usually too shy to be out where people can see them.

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Here's another shot of the Tricolor Heron with an Egret nearby, to give you an idea how small it was.

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Finally, I did manage to capture a butterfly. The orange one is a Gulf Fritillary. We also saw some Cloudless Sulpher Butterflies but couldn't get them to stop for my camera, so will post a shot I took of one up at Jamestown but never included in the blog (is that cheating?) Keep in mind please, that I know nothing about butterflies. The park ranger identified the first one for me, the second I looked up on the internet (confirmed by the Ranger).

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The park rangers also told us they have over 100 allegators, but this time of year they normally stay in their dens and are in a state of semi-hibernation. So fortunately, I still have all my arms and legs and no shots of allegators.

Once we'd gotten all the shots we could of Herons, Egrets, Ibis's, and ducks - and convinced ourselves there were no Wood Storks out and about, we got back on the road and headed south again. As we approached Georgetown, we stopped for gas and Mom saw a sign for a Gullah Museum (pron. Gull - as in Sea Gull, ah or Gull-ah). It took us a long time to find it for some reason, they had signs but they were down low and we probably just spaced them off thinking they were real estate signs. It was pretty drive however. We did wind up in an area with giant live oak tree's with lots of Spanish Moss such as this.

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After backtracking a bit, we did finally locate the shop. It was originally a Gullah Shop, but is also now partly a museum. Very interesting place.

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This is run by Andrews Rodrigues and his wife Vermelle, or "Bunny". He is actually from Boston but went to college in SC and his wife is from the area. She normally offers tours of the area, but was out of town so Mr. Rodrigues showed us around the shop/museum with some of the history of African slaves, a subject for which he has obviously done quite a bit of reasearch.

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First up was a short lesson in Gullah. This term refers to a distinctive group of Black American's primarily from Georgia and South Carolina's coastal and sea island areas. The people came from different area's of Africa, but mostly from rice growing regions . They were brought over as slaves to work the rice plantations because the white plantation owners valued their knowledge of rice growing. They came from different African nations and spoke different languages, but also needed to communicate to survive. What developed was a language and culture that drew words and traditions from the different African cultures as well as American. More of their African heritage has survived than for many other groups because of the geographic isolation of the coastal plains and islands, also called Sea Islands.

Some of the culture and tradition include a distinct language, music and arts and crafts. Mr. Rodrigues showed us a "Dan Doll", which was made in Liberia to teach kids how to braid hair. They also had a nice collection of dolls which were named & dressed after people in the community. Miss Sookie wore a green & white dress. Miss Ida Mae wore a gold dress.

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Another Gullah craft that is a big thing in this area is Sweetgrass Baskets, in fact the signs along this section of Hwy 17 proclaim in Sweetgrass Basket Weavers Hightway - and it is lined with many family stalls selling all sorts of baskets. These are not inexpensive however as they are all hand made.

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"Bunny" Rodrigues is also a quilt maker in the Gullah tradition, which involves making story telling quilts with different panels. This one is a midwife's quilt, a midwife can use each panel to teach an expectant mother about the different steps involved in having her baby.

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A second quilt we looked at shows the Gullah history, from their capture in Africa, to the middle journey to America on a slave ship, to their life on a rice plantation and finally to emancipation. (Start at the bottom left and follow the store clockwise around the quilt.)

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Mr. Rodrigues also gave us a quick overview of how the plantation owners needed the slaves knowledge to build their rice operations, that the knowledge came from the slaves, yet the credit and the wealth went to the plantation owners. A similar path led to the production of Indigo, where history gives Eliza Lucas Pinkley credit for learning this technology but her daughter specifically wrote that she learned the craft from an expert negro dye maker.

I took a picture of some hand made tools, which I thought were rather interesting also.

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By this time, other customers were in the shop which pretty much ended our tour. We bought some books to help us learn more about this era and moved on to Georgetown a few miles further down Hwy 17.

We had heard about a Rice Museum in Georgetown, but otherwise didn't know anything about the place. Did you know Georgetown SC is listed in the book: "1,000 Places to See Before You Die? Interesting, we did focus on visiting the Rice Museum, but this does look like a nice place to spend some time in.

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The Rice Museum itself is housed in two buildings, one with a clock tower that once was the public market, the other in an old storefront with a cast iron facade. Our tour guide was Zella, who was gracious enough to let me photograph her but unfortunately my efforts didn't come out very well.

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The first building had a lot of information about rice growing in South Carolina and told a similar story to the one we learned at the Gullah museum. The Colonists were always trying to find a cash crop and get rich. They tried sugar, which had worked well in the Carribean (also based on slave labor), but sugar wasn't well suited to the South Carolina winter. Indigo was a big crop for awhile because the British paid them a bounty to produce the dye due to the embargo on the French West Indies. However, that dried up with the Revolutionary War. Rice, however, grew very well in the coastal regions of South Carolina.

Rice didn't really take off as a successful crop until the landowners started importing slaves from the rice growing area's of Africa. In fact, the growers valued the rice growing expertise of these slaves so much, a very lucrative trade was established between Charleston and Bunce Island, a British slave castle in Sierra Leone. A very small number of white plantation owners became very rich growing rice. Henry Laurens, president of the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1778, was the business agent in Charleston for the importation of slaves from Bunce Island.

Rice was a very labor intensive crop. By the 1850's, in all of the United States only 89 planters owned in excess of 300 slaves, 29 were rice planters. Only 14 planters owned in excess of 500 slaves and 5 of those were rice planters. In cotton fields, slaves worked from sunup to sundown. On rice plantations, the work was task based. In the 1850's, Georgetown exported 160 million pounds of rice, more than any place else in the world.

After the Civil War rice continued to be grown in the region, but in much smaller quantities as planters had to use paid labor. Then between 1893 and 1910 the region suffered from ten violent storms (some hurricanes) that impacted production. Finally other regions started growing rice, such as Texas and California and employed machinery that couldn't be used on the soft South Carolina soils. Georgetown rice growing started to collapse in 1911 and ceased completely by 1930.

The second building tour started on the top floor. This part is less about rice and more a museum for the County history in general. Inside was a large section of the skeleton of a boat. This is called the Browns Ferry Vessel because it was found near Browns Ferry, SC. These are the oldest documented remains of a boat built in colonial America. Boats were known to have been built earlier, but no remains have yet been found of anything older. This boat was built about 1700 and sank in 1730. It is believed to have been a coastal freighter, but was carrying a Davis Quadrant, a navigational aide normally used for offshore sailing. Texas A&M has constructed a model of what the boat probably looked like. I also included a shot of how they had to remove the roof of the building to load the boat remains into the museum.

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We probably could have stayed longer in Georgetown, but really wanted to see Charlestown and Savannah also and were starting to bump into our holiday plans to be in Atlanta by the 22nd, so we continued south. It was getting fairly late so we figured we'd camp for tonight and hit Charleston fresh in the morning. Mom was heading to another public campground on the beach when we saw a camping sign in the National Forest. We turned off and found Hampton Plantation State Park.

The plantation looked interesting but the interior tours were done for the day, so I just took a few pictures. This was the largest house in the "French Santee" region where the original settlers were French Huguenots (Like Henry Laurens family). They came to America to escape religious persecution. Since the Huguenots had suffered so much persecution, I find it a little odd that they had no trouble adopting to the plantation system of slave importation, ownership, and exploitatin, but perhaps that's just my 20th century sensibilities?

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However, we never did find any camping in this area so headed back to the beach campgrounds Mom had seen on the map. This was on the intercoastal waterway in a federal forest on the SC coast. Wasn't quite as nice as last night, but we did fine. Weather is starting to turn, big storm headed this way so it should start raining (& wind) tomorrow - but no snow or ice as they'll get up north...

Posted by jl98584 21:20 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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