One form of punishment at Charles Towne was placement in the stocks, an extremely unpleasant, backbreaking form of torture.
This is a common house where African slaves and indentured servants lived.
The Legare-Waring House is out of place on what is supposed to be a representation of the original Charles Towne landing site. It is like putting a McDonalds in a street scene of 1870s Dodge City.
The trouble with giving so much land away was it belonged to someone else: the Native Americans. Imagine for a moment that a spaceship arrives in your city, 150 aliens disembark, then claim your house and land as their own. If you protest that it already belongs to you, they’ll use force to remove you. It’s also too bad that you have no immunity to the diseases the aliens brought with them, because chances are one of those will kill you. If not, the aliens can always sell you into slavery, which has the dual benefits of generating a profit and ridding the area of one of its troublesome humans.
It was just such a scenario that faced the native people in the Carolina region when the English colonists arrived. These settlers were neither ready or able to create a brand new town carved out of the wilderness, nor did they do very well feeding themselves. Fortunately for them, the Kiawah and other friendly Native American people helped them survive. Indeed, the Kiawah chief, known as the Cassique, offered to allow them to settle at Albemarle Point in exchange for help against their enemy, the Westos, who were armed with European guns. To this the settlers agreed. One of the museum’s information signs takes the Native Americans to task for giving the settlers aid, saying, “But in the end, their engagement with Charles Towne led to their own destruction.” This is unfair. Had they prevented the English from gaining a foothold in their territory, more would have come. And kept on coming in overwhelming numbers the Native Americans had no hope of stopping.
As if the incredible wrong committed against the Native Americans were not enough, the Lords Proprietors also gave the colonists the right to bring and own slaves of African origin into the colony because such a labor force worked so well in the English West Indies on the sugar plantations. Indeed, before the three ships bringing the colonists to Carolina—Port Royal, Albemarle, and Carolina—headed to their final destination, they stopped in Bridgetown, Barbados, to see how sugar plantations were run. To grow as much as possible, the island’s trees had been completely stripped away. The elite who owned the plantations ran the island with an iron first. Many free whites not of the planter class were treated not much better than the black slaves, who were brutalized.
The Carolina colonists were also allowed to bring indentured servants, which they did. This has caused some to argue that whites, too, were victims of slavery in America, but the comparison is wrong. Those who became indentured servants did so voluntarily with the promise that when they paid off the cost of their voyage to Carolina, they would be freed. Slaves of African dissent were kidnapped, treated as chattel rather than fellow human beings, and in most cases could never gain their freedom short of running away. Not that indentured servants were treated well. Some who found life in the colony too harsh fled to St. Augustine, which was controlled by the Spanish. Escaped slaves of African decent were welcomed by the Spanish in Florida.
Nearly all the information presented so far came the Visitor Center’s museum, and this is just a barebones account of the massive amount of information found on its walls. Once outside, the number of information signs diminishes considerably, as does interesting things to see. The first place one of my traveling companions and I encountered was an Native American archeological site predating the Charles Towne landing that was, according to those who dug it up, ceremonial in nature. However, archeologists ascribe religious connotations to just about everything they unearth, so I am a bit skeptical that they know its real purpose with certainty.
Archeologists have also been digging up the Horry-Lucas family’s plantation that once occupied these grounds, its mansion having burned down in 1865 during the Civil War. The overseer’s home, known as the Legare-Waring House, did survive and still stands on the site despite being as out of place as would a McDonalds in an 1870s recreation of Dodge City. Best I can tell, the museum offers no tours of the house, instead renting it out for parties and gatherings.
One of the few replica buildings visitors can enter is called the common house. Here African slaves and indentured servants slept. Inside there are no information signs to give context to what a person is seeing. Their addition would be welcome, although I would suggest a staff member or two dressed in period costume residing here to answer questions and tell visitors what life was like for who those who inhabited this dwelling would be even better.
The one thing I really wanted to see was the ship Adventure—technically a ketch—because I love going on tall ships. I had a devil time locating her because the full color map given to me at the Visitor’s Center is upside down. Whoever drew it thought it a good idea to orient it to the north despite the fact the grounds are south of the museum’s entry point. Once I figured this out, I rotated the map 180 degrees and was able to follow it with no problem.
On board the Adventure stood a staff member dressed in period costume who knew his stuff and told me all sorts of interesting things. The ketch was used as a trading vessel meant to go up and down the Atlantic Coast as well as to Barbados. The Lords Proprietors only goal was, after all, for the colony to make money and give them a return on their investment, so naturally they wanted the colonists to trade locally as well as find a cash crop to send back to England. The cash crop proved elusive. The tropical plants the colonists brought with them failed when the winter cold killed them. Other crops the colonists tried were indigo, cotton, ginger root, grapes and olives. Timber, of which Barbados had none and Britain little, served as the first cash crop. Trade with the native people in furs sold to Europe was also profitable. Although no information sign that I saw reported it, rice would one day become the area’s first renewable cash crop until one day being usurped by cotton.
The colonists chose to settle where they did in part out of the real fear that the Spanish to the south would attack them. No doubt they were aware that in 1565 the Spaniards had wiped out the French colony of Fort Caroline in Florida. As it turned out, the Spanish did make an attempt to attack Charles Towne, but a storm kept their ships from arriving. Out of concern for security and a desire for access to a deep water harbor, in 1680 the colonists moved across the Ashley River to Oyster Point, now Downtown Charleston, where they stayed free of the Spanish but did once have a nasty visit from the pirate Blackbeard.