On a cold, sunny morning in November, the two U.S. history classes (8th and 12th grades) took a road trip south to visit several historic sites in Georgetown and Charleston counties.
Our first stop was the Sewee Preserve on the South Santee River. After a short walk through the pines to the marsh, we came upon a clam midden, a hill made of clam shells dating from the 1500s. The Indians who made it may have used it as a high, dry vantage point to see up and down the river.
Then we walked along the marsh to an circular, man-made formation in the marsh known as a shell ring, which is much older than the midden (it is from about 4000 years ago). The ring (about 50 feet in diameter) is made of clam shells, oyster shells, and broken pottery. Because it is built up higher than the marsh, it is ringed with distinctive vegetation. Shell rings such as this are found all up and down the East Coast, from Virginia to norther Florida. Their purpose is still unclear.
We got back on Highway 17 and stopped at the Wildlife Observation pull-off on the North Santee. There, we walked along former rice levees and looked for wildlife. Some people got to see ibis and an osprey. Our group was pretty noisy, so we didn’t see that much!
Heading south again across the Santee River Delta, we went into Hampton Plantation, where we were met by a delightful park ranger named Hannah who gave us a guided tour. We got to try pounding Carolina Gold rice in a mortar and we saw the entire house, upstairs and downstairs. We learned a lot about the families who lived there since the 1730s, both free and enslaved, from Hannah’s talk and primary documents that were on display.
We lunched in style on the porch and lawn of Hampton Plantation. Kingfishers gratefully attacked their food and lounged in the sunlight. Some kids tried the joggling board and had a skipping contest.
Our final destination was the Rice Museum in downtown Georgetown. We climbed up three stories to the Brown’s Ferry Vessel display. The Brown’s Ferry Vessel is the oldest colonial boat ever discovered. It was built in the early 1700s and sank in the Black River around 1730-1740. This merchant cargo vessel is a shallow-draft work horse, designed to move goods from the plantations to other points for sale or export.