Last November third, it was my birthday and I turned 30 (!!!). For this special occasion, Stephane rented a car, so we can go whatever I choose to. Since our arrival in South Carolina, I dreamed of visiting an old plantation. I then made some research on Internet to learn that it is quite expensive to visit a plantation… and looking at the pictures on their websites, I realized that we already live on a plantation..!
Oh yeah! Litchfield Plantation is the oldest rice plantation along the Waccamaw River. It would be from the 1700’s. We don’t find a lot of information about the history of this specific plantation on Internet. Probably because, for this area, it is a plantation among many, having known different owners and slavery (more than 150, according to the information on Internet: more than my number of friends on Facebook!).
I have always been interested in history, especially the history of Europe and the period of the Great Wars (because of two movies: Sissi and Schindler’s List). And these reasons have motivated some trips: discover some magnificent castles…or the horror of concentration camps. But the history of the United States had not yet piqued my curiosity…until our arrival in South Carolina.
There is a small history museum in Georgetown (SC), on Broad St., where I had the chance to spend an afternoon last spring. I strongly suggest that you stop there, if you go through this area. The cost of entry if really cheap (about 5$) and the the guides are passionate volunteers. There are thousands of artefact’s in this museum. I don’t remember the name of my guide that afternoon, but he took the time to explain patiently every single one and it was really interesting. He also explains very well the cultivation of rice. Having never studied the history of the United States, I always thought that the main production at that time, in the south, was the cotton (it is not what they produced, in the movie ”Gone with the wind”?). Nope! According to the information at the museum, the production of rice is the most important for the country here, in that time. South Carolina was in fact a really important exporter of rice.
Another thing that surprised me a lot at the museum is their explication of slavery. Coming from north, we learned in school all the barbarity of black slavery in United States and the American Civil War to end it. At the museum, we learn something else. In french, we say “l’autre côté de la médaille”. Apparently, the slaves had ”good quality” of life: they were housed, fed and, for some (children) sent to school. The worst thing that could happened, if a slave didn’t reach his objective for the day (…the objective of the plantation), he would be deprived of his meal at the end of the day. The day after, he would have to reach his objective for the day before and of new day. When the South losts the war, the plantation were sold low price to the “Yankees”. The slaves, now released, went up North to work in factories, where the working condition would have been worse than those of the plantations. Now, we can ask : what is a “good quality of life” when you don’t have the freedom to make your own choice and own goal? There are always two sides of a story and it is interesting to listen to them both, if you keep an open mind.
Of course, it is impossible to talk about South Carolina and history and not to mention a ghost story. Litchfield Plantation is not an exception and also has its own ghost, one of the owners: the Docteur Tucker. The legend tells that, being a doctor and having emergencies all hours of day and night, Dr. Tucker used to be late at home. In the middle of the night, Dr. Tucker arrived at the gate of the plantation. He rang the bell, but no answer, the gatekeeper probably sleeping. He tied his horse at the gate and walked home. To make sure he will not wake his family, he used the private staircase. Now, it’s said that, at night, we can sometimes hear the sound of the bell at the entrance or the sound of a horse. People, in the house, heard footsteps in the stairs. One of the owners of the plantation removed the bell because of this story.
Whether or not we believe in ghosts stories, it musts be admitted that, an old plantation, at night, looks pretty scary, with its old oaks covered of moss and the sound of wild animals. Sorry, but I will certainly not test if this legend is true or not!
But it is at the end of the day, with the light of the sunset, that the plantation shows all its charm. Under the light of the orange sky, the field takes a gold shade. We can hear birds. It seems like they are hundred around. They are dancing in the sky.
The old houses of the plantation show signs of their tiredness and give us the impression of being spectator of their history. But above all, my street, my beautiful street: Live Oaks avenue. The old oaks let see the last sunlight of the day. These old oaks… if only they could talk, they would have probably so much to tell…
In the morning, the sunrise is as beautiful as the sunset. It’s a new day on Litchfield Plantation and this is our spot!
And you, where is your spot?