26 August 2015

Ribbon Creek Author Book Talk - Sept. 15

The Parris Island History and Museum Society is leading the commemoration of 100 years of training Marines on Parris Island. A key component of the celebration is a series of speakers and discussions on the history of Parris Island and the Marine Corps. We are contributing to the community effort with a program to better understand the circumstances and resolution of a military crisis back in 1956. 

Please join us for “COURT MARTIAL AT PARRIS ISLAND: THE RIBBON CREEK INCIDENT” with AUTHOR JAY STEVENS on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 11 am | BDC@ Bluffton Branch, 120 Palmetto Way | Ages 12 to Adult | Free | Room for about 100 people
On the night of April 8, 1956, a forced march led to the death of 6 Marine Recruits on Parris Island. Author and jurist, John Stevens, III explains the court-martial and the effects of the Ribbon Creek Incident on the US Marine Corps.
About the author:  John C. Stevens III, a retired Massachusetts trial court judge, was a practicing attorney for more than twenty-five years. Judge Stevens is a graduate of Brown University and Suffolk University Law School and a contributing author for the Massachusetts Family Law Manual. He spent the summer of 1957 as a Parris Island recruit and experienced firsthand the aftermath of the Ribbon Creek drownings and the McKeon court-martial. He lives in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Copies of the book are available for check-out from the Local History sections at the branch libraries.

These commemoration events and discussions are a collaborative effort of the Parris Island Historical and Museum Society with Historic Port Royal Foundation, Beaufort County Historical Society, Santa Elena Foundation, the Beaufort District Collection of Beaufort County Library, and the Town of Port Royal.

BDC@ Hilton Head Branch, 11 Beach City Road, tomorrow, August 27 at 2 pm. See photographs and hear first person accounts about the night death came to call 122 years ago, highlighting the Red Cross’s recovery efforts on Hilton Head Island. It's free and open to anyone over age 12 interested enough to attend.

23 August 2015

The Most Devastating Natural Disaster in Beaufort District's History (thus far)

Oh the wind did blow so high 
And de storm was all abroad
But yet we recognize in it
The wonderful power of God.

Today the story of the “Tide of Death” of 1893 is largely unknown outside our region. Nevertheless, the Great Sea Island Storm still ranks in most registers as the fifth most deadly hurricane in US history. It remains the biggest natural disaster to befall Beaufort District. 122 years ago it devastated Beaufort County.  

When the storm came ashore it hit a radically different Beaufort County than the one we live in today. The county stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Charleston & Savannah Railroad Track wedged between the Savannah and Combahee Rivers. It's population was roughly the size of Hilton Head Island’s today, about 35,000 people. The County was over 90% black. Port Royal and St. Helena Sounds were very busy with shipping. The major source of employment was phosphate mining. Indeed, 60% of the phosphate produced in the US came from SC and half of that was mined in Beaufort County at good wages of $1 – 2 a day for the Black Sea Island laborers who made up the bulk of the labor force.

The bare bones history of the storm is captured in this historical marker put up at Penn Center in 2008 by the Beaufort County Historical Society: 12 ft tide, 120 mph winds, killing 2000 or more, leaving more than 70,000 destitute. 

A History of Storms on the South Carolina Coast, a report from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, summarizes the storm this way: 

Category 3 Extreme storm; winds SE 96 mph (Charleston); storm surge approached 20 feet on lower coast; St. Helena and other sea islands (Hilton Head) overflowed in considerable part; at Beaufort “ the water was so high that following the storm a catfish was found gilled on a fence that surrounded the Methodist Church”; property damages assessed in the millions of dollars (perhaps $10 million)’ at least 2000 and perhaps as many as 3000 lives lost in coastal Carolina, primarily at Beaufort, St. Helena, and Lady’s Island, from drowning.  
Under normal conditions, the Beaufort County Coroner’s Office held 3 to 8 inquests per month in 1892 - 1894 but August 1893 was not ordinary. In the final three days of August 1893, juries determined the cause of death for almost 300 people – and we do not have any surviving records for much of Beaufort County. The Casualty list of names of 294 people whose deaths were attributed to the Great Sea Island Storm of 1893 in the Beaufort County Coroner’s Inquisition Records is posted at http://bdcbcl.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/storm-of-1893-death-list/. You can read the Inquisition Records in the Beaufort District Collection Research Room during our regular hours of operation.

Susan Hazel Rice (1830 – 1911) of Beaufort describes the Great Sea Island Storm of 1893 in her diary:    
Susan Rice's Diary, Beaufort District Collection

Sunday, Aug. 27, 1893  
The wind blew all night & is still blowing as I fear we may get the gale yet … My head aches too. About 4 oclock the wind rose and at bed time it was a gale so he staid & a blessing he did for the tide was 2 ft deep in our lower story & plastering falling & rain beating in everything.
Monday, Aug. 28, 1893                                                                                                                        What a gale we had all night Every room soaking wet, sashes blowing in & Mr. W & Lewis were all night nailing doors & sashes We all lay on pallets in the sitting room but got no sleep until 4 A.M. When day light came what a scene of desolation. The tin is taken completely off our shed room & blinds blown off & sashes broken. not a dry room in the house & the lower story in dreadful condition. But we are better off than many others. My cow was drowned & most of the chickens. Can't make fire in stove as chimney is broken in & stove full of salt water. Our cistern ruined. 

The Sun Dispatch, a newspaper out of Charleston, probably the issue of September 3, 1893 reported about conditions in Beaufort County. Section headings of the article “Out of the Depths” describing the situation in Beaufort County include: The Coroner’s Gruesome Task; Eight Feet Higher than Spring Tide!; Over a Million Dollars Lost; Eighty Per Cent of the Houses Gone; Lowland Crops Utterly Destroyed; Four Thousand at St. Helena Hungry; Senator Verdier’s Story of the Storm; and Money Losses in Beaufort Town among others. 

Booklet by Rachel Mather; Palmetto Post Editor Samuel H. Rodgers (BDC)
Relief efforts were hampered by the extent of the destruction.   The local Relief Committee consisted of six men: George Holmes, Beaufort’s Intendant (Mayor); Robert Smalls, Port Collector; William Lockwood, Banker; Capt. N. Christensen, Hardware Merchant; Thomas F. Walsh, Dispenser (Liquor store owner); E.F. Convonsieur, Railroad Agent, and George W. Ford, Colored [sic].  Circumstances in the field rapidly overwhelmed the Local Relief Committee. Governor Ben Tillman asked Clara Barton and her Red Cross organization to take charge. This would be the first hurricane relief effort in the history of the United States Red Cross.  Barton and her staff arrived in Beaufort on September 20 and remained for 10 months to provide relief. Rachel C. Mather of Mather School was singled out for her compassion and charity by Palmetto Post editor, S.H. Rodgers (See image above). 

If you want to hear more about the Sea Island Hurricane, meet me at Hilton Head Branch Library on the 122 anniversary of this natural disaster. Every time I give this presentation I include something new I've learned through additional research - and this presentation will be somewhat different than the ones I did at Coastal Discovery Museum back in January 2015. I've nipped and tucked, pluffed up and smoothed out segments of those presentations for next week.  

(Natural & Local History)
Thursday, August 27 at 2 pm | BDC@ Hilton Head Island Branch, 11 Beach City Road
See photographs and hear first person accounts about the night death came to call 122 years ago, highlighting the Red Cross’s recovery efforts on Hilton Head Island.

Can't make it to Hilton Head Branch Library on the 27th? We've posted a revised list of materials on the topic of the Sea Island Storm for those who are interesting in learning much more about this local historical natural disaster and its long-lasting effects.  One can also find list of materials about Rachel C. Mather https://bdcbcl.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/rachel-c-mather-1823-1903-3859k4scvdgpj-22/

Don't want to do your own research?  If you can only read one book about the devastation, I recommend that The Great Sea Island Storm of 1893 by Bill and Fran Marscher is the one for you to read. Check out a copy from one of the branch library local history sections.

Please note: The Research Room contains rare and unique materials.  For example, the small collection of photographs that were taken in the days immediately after the Hurricane of 1893 and the Storm Swept Coast by Rachel C. Mather are being readied for inclusion in the Lowcountry Digital Library so that those who cannot visit the Beaufort District Collection in person can still view the photographs and read the booklet to better understand what happened here from August 1893 to July 1894. Both the photographs and the booklet should be available by the end of the year.
A History of Storms on the South Carolina Coast by Laylon Wayne Jordan with Robert Dukes, Jr. and Ted Rosengarten, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, 197?, p. 32. 

“Out of the Depths,” [probably the Sun Dispatch (Charleston, SC), September 3, 1893, front page and maybe other pages]. 

“The Storm of 1893,” uncited.  A photocopy was distributed during the Heritage Society of Beaufort Annual Luncheon, 2004. 

“The Deadliest, Costliest, and Most Intense United States Tropic Cyclones from 1851 to 2010 (and Frequently Requested Hurricane Facts)” by Eric S. Blake, Christopher W. Landsea and Ethan J. Gibney, National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center, August 2011.  

“Sea Island Sufferers” http://dc.statelibrary.sc.gov/bitstream/handle/10827/638/State_of_the_State_Address_1893-11-28.pdf?sequence=1 begins at p. 43.  Governor Tillman asks the SC General Assembly to grant the State Comptroller-General the authority to suspend collection of state taxes in the hard hit counties of Beaufort, Colleton, Berkeley and Georgetown during his Annual Address delivered in November 1893.

19 August 2015

Rowland & Wise: Author Book Talks Schedule

The long awaited volume 2: Rebellion, Reconstruction, and Redemption (out now and available for check out in the Local History sections at the branch libraries) and volume 3: Bridging the Sea Islands’ Past complete The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina to 2006 (release date October 31, 2015). The authors will offer a brief presentation about their work and autograph your copies at several locations in the Fall. Books will be available for purchase at each session. Each session is co-sponsored by the USC-B Libraries.

· Thursday, Sept. 17th at 4 pm | BDC@ Beaufort Branch Library, 311 Scott Street, 1st floor —Reservations Required due to size of room: Call 843-255-6468 or e-mail gracec@bcgov.net to sign up. Don't delay. Get your name on the list of 50 today!

· Thursday, Nov. 12th at 4 pm | BDC@ USC-B South Campus Library,  8 East Campus Drive, Bluffton

 · Thursday, December 3rd at 4 pm | BDC@ Hilton Head Branch Library, 11 Beach City Road | Ages 12 to Adult

·     About our speakers: 
    Dr. Lawrence Rowland is a frequent and very popular presenter for the BDC. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of USC who states unequivocally  that “All American history begins in Beaufort” and convincingly makes this case in entertaining and informative lectures. 
Dr. Stephen Wise is a frequent and very popular presenter for the BDC. He is a well respective historian of Civil War era naval history.  He is the Director of the Museum and the Cultural Resource Manager for the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. 

        Together, they are Beaufort County’s “Dynamic Duo Local History Rock Stars.”  

16 August 2015

Check Those Mortality Schedules, 1850 - 1880

Most budding genealogists know that they should check the Federal censuses for their ancestor but many overlook checking the various Mortality schedules for their ancestor. If your ancestor happened to die between June 1, 1849 - May 31, 1850 or June 1, 1859 - May 31, 1860 or June 1, 1869 - May 31, 1870 or June 1, 1879 - May 31, 1880 you may miss a treasure lode if you overlook the Federal Mortality Schedules.

The Federal Mortality schedules record the names of all persons usually living at home who died during the 12 months ending on June 1 of the census years of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. The key terms are the words "all persons." Although the enslaved were considered property under the law, the enslaved who happened to die in that 12 months preceding the Federal Censuses of 1850 and 1860 were included by name. (Slavery was outlawed by the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865). Other key data found in the mortality schedules about the deceased are his/her age, gender, marital status, color, profession, and condition. Place of birth, month and cause of death and number of days ill are also given. The enslaved deceased person's owner was included in the 1850 and 1860 schedules as well.

As with all the Federal censuses, information collected varied from census to census. In 1870 the national origin of the deceased's parents was added. The Mortality Schedule for the 1880 census includes length of time lived in the county, records of his/her citizenship, notes whether the disease was imported from another area, and name of attending physician.

Mortality schedules are essentially nationwide, state-by-state death registers that predate the recording of vital statistics in most states. (The State of South Carolina did not require registration of death until 1915.) In many states where vital records were not kept it provides a nation-wide death register for five years of those who happened to die June 2, 1849- May 31, 1850; June 2, 1859- May 31, 1860; June 2, 1869- May 31, 1870 or June 2, 1879- May 31, 1880. Even though it is commonly acknowledged that not all deaths were reported, the mortality schedules remain an invaluable source of information and family historians should check each one for their ancestors.

Ancestry Library Edition (ALE) provides an index to individuals enumerated in these mortality schedules entitled "U.S., Federal Census Mortality Schedules Index, 1850-1880." Each individual is linked to the census image on which they appear. Researching the mortality schedules can be a bit tricky as not all information that is recorded on the actual census is included in the index. Therefore, it is important that you view the image on which your ancestor is recorded to obtain all possible information about him/her. This database often included the names of the slave owners whose slaves had passed in the year preceding thee 1850 and 1860 enumeration date.  ALE recommends that one uses the 'Other' field to locate slave owners.

Ancestry Library Edition has a chart of the mortality schedules available by state at  http://search.ancestrylibrary.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8756.
The Beaufort District Collection has printed copies of the 1850 and 1860 Mortality Schedules for South Carolina and we have 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 on microfilm.  In addition, the Ancestry Library Edition database contains images from the 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880 Mortality Schedules.

As with all genealogical research, one's goal is to garner ever more clues to flesh out your ancestors. By using these schedules to document death dates and family members, it is possible to follow up with focused searches in obituaries, mortuary records, cemeteries, and probate records. They can also provide clues to migration points and supplement information in population schedules.

Please note: The library's subscription to Ancestry Library Edition is only available within library walls. (Users cannot access from home.)

Need some help searching for your ancestors? You can "Book a Librarian" for advice on how to do family history research and/or to get help using Ancestry Library Edition. Call 843-255-6468 or e-mail gracec@bcgov.net to arrange a Research Consultation.

12 August 2015

August Outreach & Programs

The Beaufort District Collection sponsors programs about local history, Gullah culture, natural history, archaeology, genealogy and materials preservation on a recurrent basis throughout the Beaufort County Library system. We're featuring local history, natural history, archaeology, films, a tour, exhibits, and military history during August:

The "Reconstruction History Long Ignored, Neglected: Are We Finally Ready to Talk?" panel exhibit from the USC-B Libraries is currently on display in our 2nd floor lobby. 

We're also working with USC and the Beaufort Chapter, ASSC to reach out to the community tonight through the USC-B Reception and Book Signing with Dr. Larry Rowland and Dr. Stephen Wise. (At long last, volume 2 of the History of Beaufort County South Carolina is published!) We're taking some of our own Civil War, Reconstruction era, phosphate mining, and Hurricane of 1893 treasures to display. Library Director, Ray McBride and Library Assistant Director, Jan O'Rourke will be on hand to meet-and-greet you and answer any questions you might have about the Library system. If you have any questions about the items and surrogates on display, feel free to ask me for more information.

Meg Gaillard, Archaeologist
Tomorrow morning, Meg Gaillard, Archaeologist with the SC Department of Natural Resources Heritage Trust Program will be here to show documentary films about Fort Frederick, the oldest tabby structure in Beaufort District, and lead participants on a tour of the Fort Frederick historic site. (We regret that we cannot provide transportation to the site on the Naval Hospital grounds). Join us in the Beaufort Branch Meeting Room at 11 am for the film showings. Come early as we can only seat 50 people. 

For photos from the Historic American Buildings Survey about Fort Frederick click http://www.loc.gov/pictures/search/?q=Photograph:%20sc1116&fi=number&op=PHRASE&va=exact&co%20=hh&st=gallery&sg%20=%20true.

On August 27th,  I'll be sharing images and personal accounts about the Hurricane of 1893 at Hilton Head Branch on the 122nd anniversary of the most devastating disaster to ever befall Beaufort District. That presentation will begin at 2 pm.

We also expect that the "We Are P.I.: Making Marines" panel exhibit from the Parris Island Historical & Museum Society will arrive very soon. (Stay tuned for the announcement).