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:

A Caines Family Tradition

Duck Cabins at Clambank Landing

Duck Cabins at Clambank Landing, Louis Aston Knight

A watercolor in the reception hall of Hobcaw House depicts two modest homes that once stood at Clambank Landing. Sitting on one of the porches is a figure thought to be Sawney Caines carving duck decoys while his wife washes clothes in the yard. This painting is one of many that Bernard Baruch commissioned from noted American landscape artist Louis Aston Knight in 1916. Hobcaw Barony – one of the few places on earth where a landless poacher such as Sawney Caines, who, as the story goes, saved President Grover Cleveland from sinking into the pluff mud of Winyah Bay, might be hired as a hunting guide by the economic advisor to five presidents. A hunting guide, who after being immortalized by an eminent landscape painter, found fame himself, albeit posthumously, as a folk artist of some of the most collectible duck decoys of the early 20th century. Caines decoys of this era have sold for over $100,000 at auction.


A Caines Family Tradition, Jerry Wayne Caines

The Caines brothers – including Ball, Bob and Pluty Caines in addition to Sawney and Hucks – were descendants of longtime residents of Hobcaw dating to the 18th century. With the exception of Ball Caines, they served as hunting guides for Bernard Baruch and his guests. It was the Caines’ expertise that helped hunters bring down 100 ducks at a time prior to federal game limits in 1918. Hucks Caines’ grandsons, Jerry and Roy Caines followed in the family tradition, working as commercial fishermen and shrimpers. In this video, shot on the Hobcaw House dock, they discuss the high standards they maintained for the fish they caught and sold.