Edisto Island is a delight to visit in the Low Country of South Carolina. Drive down most any dirt road and be surrounded instantly by beautiful old oak trees covered in spanish moss. For me, leaving the hustle and bustle behind for this relatively quiet island is just what is needed to fully relax. Of course, walking even a couple of feet in to the dense undergrowth just off the road has never been on the menu for me. I wonder what it was like for the British and later, the Union, to navigate the dense undergrowth with its accompanying wildlife.
Relaxing on the island wasn't always possible for the locals in the past. The island was populated by Edistow Indians in the 1500s. Through time and wars, the island survived, although the populations changed. In 1860, there were over 5000 slaves reported on the major plantations owned by the planters. Many of these names can be found due to the gracious translation of others.
With its remote and limited access, General LEE decided not to defend the island, but rather, asked the planters to evacuate. The slaves were left behind. The Union forces did overtake the island and sent many slaves to St Helena Island.
After the war ended, the free slaves returned expecting to receive land as had been promised by President LINCOLN. History tells us this did not happen. Instead, the titled owners returned and now had paid employees.
It wasn't until decades later that bridges and roads were improved so the getting to and getting off the island became easy.
Several years ago, I was given a book on Edisto by a beloved family member who knew of my affection for the island. This book was written in 1955 by Nell S GRAYDON with photography by Carl JULIEN. What makes this book so special? It is signed by both of them. In addition, the chain of ownership is documented in the book with the last owner being dear friends of the family.
Within this book are stories of the plantations and of the Negroes in the area. While there are no stories about slavery per say, there are a couple of stories about those who were alive as children when the war ended. In it are fascinating reads of Maum Rachel, who delivered children of the island. This story takes place right after the end of the war, when she and the new doctor learned they could work together in a difficult birth. Another story is that of Josephine WRIGHT, who remembered the "last big gun shoot."
Of interest is also knowing that a slave cabin from the old Point of Pines Plantation now resides in Washington at the Smithsonian. I wonder who would be more surprised-- the plantation owner or the slaves who lived in it?
Ahh genealogy. Going back in time on Edisto through a book takes me to a place where time seems to almost stand still. Almost.