McLeod Plantation is unique. Shown on maps dating from eight years after the first European colonists arrived at Charlestowne Landing, no other site lying so close to the heart of historic Charleston can capture the feeling of life as it was in the great agricultural Sea Island cotton era, the Civil War period, and its aftermath.
McLeod Plantation is an archaeological gem where undiscovered treasures wait to tell their stories. It is a fragile time capsule of artifacts tracing history from the pre-Columbian period, through Colonial times and the Revolutionary War, to antebellum agricultural greatness and post-Civil War and reconstruction. As an emblem of life in an agrarian complex, McLeod remains as a rare survivor of its time.
McLeod stands as one of the few places where African-Americans can show their children the evidence of the unending struggle from bondage to freedom. The old cemeteries are reminders of slaves, freedmen, Confederate and Union troops, as well as many James Island families. This is a place where people can trace their families through the many graves of people who lie buried there, their spirits still attached to this piece of land.
It is truly a walk along the pathways of American history.
McLeod Plantation has been offered to the College of Charleston Foundation. We are concerned that this property will be permanently and irreversibly altered. The fields where so many people gave us our history, the cemeteries that remain to be delineated, and the archaeology that will tell us the story of McLeod's people will be forever changed.
We cannot allow this destruction. For the Indian tribes, the various owners of the land, the slaves who built this Sea Island plantation into a great agrarian complex, and the troops who served there, it must be saved. The soul and the memory of those people are still there.
We offer some solutions. Our study of the problem has identified several approaches to achieve the goal of saving this historic treasure. The Friends of McLeod, Inc. will work with any organization that is committed to the preservation of McLeod Plantation in its present form.
Our ideal for the plantation is a passive park with an active Sea Island Heritage Center.
- The Friends of McLeod, Inc. have contacted each County Commissioner in Charleston County regarding support in purchasing the plantation as green space and as a multicultural center. We are also contacting the SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and the SC Department of Archives and History as a first step in obtaining planning grants for preservation and archaeology.
- The Gullah/Geechee Nation is an extremely important part of the effort to interpret the history of the plantation, and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture and Clemson University comprise a great resource to interpret the agricultural areas. We will also seek advice from the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust, and follow their recommendations.
- When the purchase of the land is secured, the Friends of McLeod will apply for grants and donations to fund the conservation of the main house, the cabins, the outbuildings, and a more comprehensive archaeological survey.
- There are several large buildings on the grounds, i.e., the barn, the gin house, and the stables or carriage house. These three structures can be adapted for meeting areas, seminar rooms, and multipurpose uses while maintaining the integrity of the exterior. (The actual gin, the machine that removed the seeds from Sea Island cotton, is not at the plantation.)
- Other buildings will house various components of the pathways and will be used to illustrate the many activities of McLeod.
McLeod's last remaining field provides a great opportunity. A simple, well-maintained path around the exterior will provide a walking tour and vista of the many historical areas. Interpretive signs at appropriate intervals will tell the story of the importance of Sea Island plantations and the economy of the times, others will show the probable British camp sites dating from the Revolutionary War. Signs will guide visitors down the magnificent oak allee, the row of slave cabins and through the cemetery. All pathways will converge on the main house and its complex of buildings.
The Green Path will be a visual narrative of agricultural times during the reign of Sea Island cotton, illustrating planting, harvesting, and cotton gin operation, as well as demonstrating the profound effect Sea Island cotton had on the economy of Charleston. An alliance with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, the SC Agricultural Society, and Clemson University will provide the opportunity to exhibit actual planting of demonstration fields of cotton and other cash crops grown at McLeod. Plantings will include vegetable gardens typical of those that would have been planted by slaves behind the cabins.
The Red Path marks the old Colonial road, military positions from the Revolutionary War, areas occupied by Confederate troops, and other areas occupied by Union troops. In partnership and with the advice of the South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust, we anticipate military reenactments in the field, and signs denoting the history of James Island during each war, including the use of the main house as a hospital and surgery. We also look forward to the discovery of new facts by archeologists.
The Blue Path will lead from the slave cabins, across the cemeteries to the Wappoo Cut landing, and back to the plantation buildings. Partnering with the Gullah/Geechee Nation is imperative, along with pursuing a relationship with the proposed International African American Museum. McLeod will be instrumental in preserving a cultural heritage site for this museum, and we look to be partners in the living history vision of the IAAM. Joining with the IAAM and the city, a Cultural Heritage Tour including the Old Slave Mart and McLeod can be developed, and McLeod Plantation can be a site for museum fundraisers.
The Blue Path is composed of two segments:
The Gullah/Geechee component will show the history of the Gullah/Geechee people and Gullah as a language, including programs in Gullah, and possible language classes. It will showcase Gullah/Geechee culture and traditional art and crafts.
- The Slavery to Freedom component will show the history of slavery, the life of a slave family through use of a cabin furnished as it might have been in antebellum days, exhibits depicting a typical day in the life of a slave at McLeod, and clothing of the period.
The Yellow Path leads to archaeological areas where on-site work by universities and colleges can be observed by visitors. Artifacts found at McLeod will be exhibited in conjunction with information showing how the field of archaeology uncovers history. Classes in archaeological techniques will be included, along with excavations open for public viewing.
The Purple Path will lead to a component dealing with African-American Sea Islanders after Reconstruction. There will be an archives site to keep and study oral histories, the history of James Island churches, and other organizations and important sites (such as King Solomon Lodge), with a section including stories from McLeod on tape told by both blacks and whites.
All of the existing structures must be evaluated and stabilized. Our goal is to conserve, not to restore or rehabilitate, until every part is thoroughly documented. The barn, gin house, and carriage house must be assessed and stabilized to house a conference room, meeting rooms, and restrooms.
McLeod Plantation provides a small amount of parking under the oak allee facing west. We will lease sections of near-by parking lots, such as the Piggly Wiggly shopping center, Cross Creek shopping center, or others, and use small buses to convey visitors to the site.
As soon as McLeod is purchased, we will negotiate a conservation easement to protect the field in perpetuity.
PARTNERSHIPS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES
- State grants
- International African American Museum
- Charleston County
- City of Charleston
- Save America's Treasures
- Gullah/Geechee Nation
- South Carolina Battleground Preservation Trust
- Civil War preservation groups
- Civil War Battleground Preservation Trust
- The Sons of Confederate Veterans
- The Daughters of the American Revolution
- The Daughters of the Confederacy
- National Park Service
- National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Historic Charleston Foundation
- The Preservation Society
- Avery Institute at the College of Charleston
- Charleston County Board of Education
- Charleston Garden Club
- All other James Island Garden Clubs
- Area Churches
- Private Donations
- Corporate Donations
- Business Donations
- Other organizations concerned with preservation
WHO WILL MANAGE MCLEOD PLANTATION?
A non-profit organization will be established for the express purpose of running McLeod Plantation. A passive park (green space) can be set up quickly, and grants will be secured to conserve buildings and tell McLeod's story. We will set up an endowment fund for the express purpose of securing continued financial success.
Among activities suggested:
Church services and concerts under the oaks on a Sunday afternoon.
- Confederate and Massachusetts 54th and 55th re-enactors setting up camp and cooking with open fires for breakfast or lunch.
- Saturday Farmer's Market during the growing season. Only authentic local produce will be sold.
- A James Island Founder's Day - a homecoming once a year for James Islanders.
- Cooking demonstrations, tours, story telling.
- Tours especially designed for school children.
- Restoration of the grape arbor and plantings around it for use as a small special events rental area.
- Religious, business and corporate retreats.
LONG TERM ACTIVITIES
Eventual restoration of the dock on Wappoo Cut to allow tour boats to dock. This will also be James Island's waterfront park when and after small parking areas are determined.
A son et lumiere (sound and light) show to enhance the McLeod experience, starting with the native Indian tribes and continuing through the eventual seven flags that flew over McLeod.
A monument to the people of McLeod will be commissioned and created to stand in the cemetery by Folly Road
There are a variety of ways to finance McLeod's acquisition to ensure that this historic site will be open to all.
Many activities are possible. McLeod will be an important part of heritage tours. The plantation will also be valuable in playing a role in fund-raising for the International African American Museum.
Our plan is viable, affordable, and ensures that Mr. Willie McLeod's direction that McLeod Plantation be open to the public is met. (Read his will)
McLeod Plantation does indeed show what there was, how far we have come, and how far we have to go.
Please join with us to ensure that this last James Island treasure remains intact for generations to come.