McGill Sleeps in UpState Slave Dwelling at Price House

This is the most recent blog by Joseph McGill Jr. highlighting a recent stay at a slave dwelling in the UpState.  How fortunate were the students at Woodruff Elementary who had the opportunity to partake in this "living" history event.  Thank you so much for working so diligently to save and preserve our history, Joe! Please see the schedule of events below for the Slave Dwelling Project in 2012 so you do not miss out when it comes to a location near you!

Robin Foster

McGill Sleeps in UpState Slave Dwelling at Price House
by Joseph McGill, Jr.
Program Officer, Southern Office
 National Trust for Historic Preservation |
William Aiken House, 456 King Street, 3rd Floor, Charleston, SC 29403 | Phone: 843.722.8552 |
Fax: 843.722.8652 | Email: |

Nannie Jeffries, museum administrator of the Spartanburg County Historical Association, must be commended for being a visionary. It was late 2010 when she first proposed that I spend a night in the slave cabin at the Price House. Back then, the Slave Dwelling Project was in its infancy and even I had my doubts that the project would still be going on today. Nannie was determined and she made it happen in a big way. She incorporated the project into her three day Black history month program titled Persistence & Perseverance: Standing on the Shoulders of Others.

Because of Nannie's meticulous planning, I had the opportunity to survey the cabin prior to the time I was scheduled to stay. On this visit, the vastness of the cabin in comparison to some of the others I stayed in gave me the grandiose idea that many others would have the opportunity to join me for the experience. The functional fire place gave me the fantasy of cooking in the cabin; that would be a first. With the exception of the cooking possibility, this had the potential to be similar to the experience I had at Evergreen Plantation in Edgard, Louisiana when 20 people joined me for the sleep over.

As planned, I arrived early on Thursday, February 17. I met Zac Cunningham the site director and care taker. Woodruff Elementary School students were scheduled to come to visit the site. Prior to their visit, I wanted to prepare the cabin by starting a fire in the fire place and laying out my Civil War uniform accouterment.

The 3rd, 4th and 5th graders arrived as planned and were separated for the cabin presentation accordingly. These “teachable moments” were similar to the one at the slave dwelling in Egypt, Texas when I had the opportunity to address a class that visited the slave dwelling there. This opportunity was more thorough because I am far more familiar with South Carolina’s history than I am with that of Texas. Two print media representatives were also present and stayed as long as the kids did.

After a nice lunch at a nice restaurant in Spartanburg that included the board chairman of the
Spartanburg County Historical Association, it was my goal to get back to the cabin long before dark because of my plans to cook. Additionally, one of the media outlets from the morning event made plans to come back at 6:00 pm for some additional coverage. I planned to make beef stew from scratch so it had to be well on its way before dark. I had acquired all of the necessary ingredients and was confident that I could pull it off.

Once I got dinner going, I got a phone call from “old reliable” Terry James, fellow Civil War reenactor. Since Terry’s first slave dwelling stay at Brattonsville in McConnels, SC in November 2010, he has not missed a South Carolina stay since. He even stayed in the slave dwelling at Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington, NC. He has a total of six stays five of which he slept in shackles. Terry stated he was on his way. He and the photographer got there at the same time. After the photographer took several pictures, the writer showed up to obtain additional information for the piece she was writing.

After several hours of cooking, the beef stew was ready for consumption. I, Terry and Zac all had our share. No one complained we all even had seconds and more. That experience made me appreciate all that was necessary to cook a meal in a slave dwelling.

In anticipation of a TV camera crew showing up at 4:30 am, Terry and I turned in early. Terry again slept in the slave shackles. As scheduled, the TV crew showed up at the appointed time. We did a few live takes before I had to wash up and change clothes so that I could moderate the Black History Month symposium that was taking place at the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg.

Maybe I was ambitious in my thoughts when I wished that several people would share the experience with me by spending the night in the slave cabin at the Price House. Interacting with the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders from Woodruff Elementary School made that concern irrelevant because they too have a network of people that they can tell about their experience. Maybe I was ambitious when I said I would cook in the cabin, but I will do it again if given the opportunity in the future. Maybe I thought that Nannie Jefferies was ambitious when she set the date for me to stay at the Price House but it is visionaries like her who keep me grounded and let me know that this project is a lot bigger than me. The project is about those places that when restored can tell the stories of the people who once lived in them. So with that, I am proud that the Price House was the first stay in 2012 for the Slave Dwelling

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Slave Dwelling Project 2012

January 19 Lecture @ Claflin College, Orangeburg, SC
February 11 Lecture @ Magnolia Plantation, Charleston, SC
February 16 & 17 Stay & Lecture Price House, Spartanburg, SC
February 26 Lecture @ Mt. Moriah Baptist Church, N. Chas, SC
March 15 – 18 Coming to the Table, Richmond, VA
March 22 Lecture @ Williamsburg Co. Library, Kingstree, SC
March 23 Stay @ Friendfield Plantation, Georgetown, SC
March 30 – 31 Stay & Lecture @ Bush-Holley House, Greenwich, Conn
April 5 Stay @ Seibels House Kitchen House, Columbia, SC
April 6 Stay @ Lexington County Museum, Lexington, SC
April 12– 15 Stay & Lecture, Holly Springs, Mississippi
April 27 & 28 Stay & Lecture Sautee-Nacoochee, GA
June 11 Lecture @ Old Salem, Winston-Salem, NC
June 22 Lecture & Stay Heyward Washington House, Chs. SC
October 5 & 6 Stay & Lecture Bacon’s Castle, Surry, Virginia
November 9 & 10 Stay@ Boone Hall Plantation, Mt. Pleasant, SC
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