Joseph McGill, Founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, Visits Hobcaw Barony

Last month, the Between the Waters team was joined by Joseph McGill, founding director of The Slave Dwelling Project, for a week-long series of events at Hobcaw Barony.  Following our “Voices of the Village” panel discussion, Patrick Hayes joined McGill (and Hobcaw volunteer Alec Tuten) during his overnight stay in the former home of Laura Carr, a formerly enslaved woman who worked as a  field hand and midwife.  

 Joseph McGill relaxes in front of the hearth in Laura Carr's home before participating in an interview for our forthcoming Between the Waters virtual tour.

Joseph McGill relaxes in front of the hearth in Laura Carr’s home before participating in an interview for our forthcoming Between the Waters virtual tour.

Brief but inspiring, our overnight stay in the dwelling sometimes called the “Carr Cabin” or “Laura’s House” began somewhat late in the evening with arrival and setup for a videotaped interview. The plan for our interview set with Mr. McGill was to keep shadows and dark corners of the interior intact to approximate the light, most likely that of a candle or hearth, that Ms. Carr and others who lived there might have experienced. The irony of how easily this dwelling could be lit, if not overly lit, by a battery powered LED light kit purchased on the internet was not lost on us.

Our extended interview with Joseph McGill covered a range of topics, some familiar to those who have spent time with Mr. McGill, others unique to our visit and this particular dwelling. We discussed Ms. Laura Carr’s role as Friendfield’s root doctor and midwife and how that layer added to his experience and interpretation of the space. We also discussed Robert McClary, a former resident of Friendfield Village, and how his ongoing visit provided a rare opportunity for Mr. McGill and the public to interact with someone who had lived in a dwelling relatively unchanged since the antebellum era. This videotaped discussion with Mr. McGill will be part of the Between the Waters web documentary and virtual tour in 2016.

The Between the Waters team shared this tiny room in Laura Carr's dwelling. The "living room" was not much larger than this space.

The Between the Waters team shared this tiny room in Laura Carr’s dwelling. The “living room” is not much larger than this space.

We took to our bedrolls almost immediately after the interview. Though the spring weather was particularly kind that night, I imagined how extremes easily changed the situation during Ms. Carr’s time. Rest, while not fitful, was full of strange, vivid dreams certainly influenced or suggested by the history of the space. One dream in particular, that of a hand placing a smooth river stone on my head as I slept, continues to be a topic of discussion between me and my colleagues.

I awoke to my colleague sitting on his bedroll using his phone to take a photo of a shuttered, barndoor-style window through which a thin square seam of sunlight leaked into the room. Perhaps it was this same seam of light that Ms. Carr, or those who lived here before her, woke to every morning as well. Clearly, as I later learned, her day would have already begun.

 

To learn more about The Slave Dwelling Project, visit their website: http://www.slavedwellingproject.org

A Link to the Past: Debbie Baruch Abrams Returns to Hobcaw Barony

Debbie Baruch Abrams, 92, a resident of Georgetown, S.C. and cousin of Bernard M. Baruch, political advisor to several U.S. presidents and former owner of Hobcaw Barony.

Debbie Baruch Abrams, 92, a resident of Georgetown, S.C. and cousin of Bernard M. Baruch, political advisor to several U.S. presidents and former owner of Hobcaw Barony. This photo was taken during our initial visit with her at her home in Georgetown, S.C., October 17, 2014.

Reprinted below is an article published in the Coastal Observer (Pawley’s Island, S.C.) about Mrs. Abrams’ visit and our project.  The Between the Waters team thanks Lee Brockington and the Hobcaw Barony staff for their assistance in making this day possible.  We are also grateful to the Coastal Observer for covering the event.  Lastly, we would like to thank Debbie and Marilyn for sharing this special occasion with us.    


By Jason Lesley, Coastal Observer 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Debbie Baruch Abrams, 92, and her daughter Marilyn Friedman are greeted by Hobcaw Barony senior interpreter Lee Brockington.

Debbie Baruch Abrams, 92, and her daughter Marilyn Friedman are greeted by Hobcaw Barony senior interpreter Lee Brockington.

Debbie Baruch Abrams sat in her cousin Bernard’s house last week and talked about the family’s gatherings at Hobcaw Barony for a recording crew from South Carolina Educational Television.

The video will be part of an interactive website called Between the Waters.  ETV received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for nearly $300,000 to build a website exploring the history, nature and culture of Hobcaw Barony that is due to be finished in 2016.Abrams, 92, said her grandfather and Bernard Baruch’s father, Simon, were brothers, and her grandmother and Baruch’s mother were first cousins.  She was born in Camden and moved to Georgetown after she married Helmar Abrams, a druggist.  She taught school and remembered having Doc Lachicotte as a student.

Abrams’ interview and another planned with Robert McClary, a former resident of Friendfield Village in Feburary, will be combined with the ETV documentary, “The Baruchs of Hobcaw.” It consists of old and new photos, film and sound recordings, maps, art and video on the website.  Visitors to Hobcaw will be able to download an iPad app in the future and listen to the interviews as they walk around the property, he said.

Between the Waters Producer Patrick Hayes captures a moment between Hobcaw Barony senior interpreter Lee Brockington and Debbie Baruch Abrams.

Between the Waters Producer Patrick Hayes captures a moment between Hobcaw Barony senior interpreter Lee Brockington and Debbie Baruch Abrams.

Jackson said Abrams was able to remember more details of the Baruchs once inside Hobcaw House.  “It’s becoming increasingly uncommon to find someone who has an intimate connection to the space,” a spokesperson said.  “It’s just a joy to have her back.”

Abrams, who was accompanied by her daughter Marilyn Friedman, did not spend much time with Belle Baruch but remembered her for helping Frances Milam, a young Georgetown girl who suffered from infantile paralysis.

“Belle was a lovely person,” Abrams said, “and did a lot of good that people didn’t know about. She was never advertising what she did.  Belle saw that the child had everything that she needed until she died. Belle was very conscious to do what she could for people.”

Belle Baruch invited Frances to swim in the pool at Bellefield and had a concrete sidewalk poured so she could maneuver her wheelchair in and out of her parents’ house in Georgetown, according to Hobcaw’s senior interpreter Lee Brockington.

This photo was taken by Marilyn Friedman, daughter of Debbie Baruch Abrams, prior to their departure. The Between the Waters team thanks them for sharing their stories with us and looks forward to future visits.

This photo was taken by Marilyn Friedman, daughter of Debbie Baruch Abrams, prior to their departure.  The Between the Waters team would like to thank them for participating in this special event.