Alice Bailey Stevens’ Edisto roots go back to 1720. She was born at Blue House Plantation, where she lived until 1929, when the family moved to Brookland Plantation. In 1945, she married Johnson Stevens of Lambs Bluff Plantation on Yonges Island. They had three children. She attended high school on Edisto, graduated from Winthrop, and did advanced studies in South Carolina history at the Citadel. She taught primary school for 26 years in Charlotte, Charleston, and Yonges Island. Asked to speak about the history of transportation on Edisto, Alice noted that every facet of life was affected by transportation or the lack thereof. She detailed the early modes: long boats owned by the plantation owners that could make their way to Charleston from North Edisto through a series of cuts. Those on the south end side had a much longer way to row. Lack of transportation also affected early Islanders’ opportunities for worship; they had to travel by boat to Church Flats on Dixie Plantation until they successfully petitioned to have their own church. It limited romantic opportunities as well, as travel between islands was challenging: ‘Some just had to marry the local girls,’ Alice noted. ‘They're still doing it.’ By 1910 the Stevens Line Company began providing daily service to Edisto. Alice gave a snapshot of her lineage: In the early 1800s, her great-grandmother married Ephraim Mikell and moved to Blue House, which his son, Ephraim Jr., inherited. It began as an indigo plantation, but also grew rice, some cotton, and had an orchard. After the boll weevil destroyed the cotton industry, truck farming took over (beans, cabbage, and seed potatoes that came from Prince Edward Island). The black women would sit in a circle, cutting potatoes, and singing spirituals, some 60 years after the Civil War had ended. She also talked about other African American traditions that endured: in cooking, in the language, and in agriculture. Other reminiscences: riding horses at Sea Cloud plantation, the bounty of Blue House, Brookland’s devastation, the practices of people from the Burrough, She ended her talk with a dramatic recounting of two catastrophic events on the Island (the 1886 earthquake and the 1893 hurricane), the first of which involved a crack in the earth in which water bubbled up as if it had ‘come straight up from hell,’ the second of which told of a tragedy that left a lone family survivor ‘fierce,’ and determined never to set her foot in water again.
Marian Calhoun Murray was born in Evanston, Illinois, and later moved with her family to Asheville, where she attended high school. While at Agnes Scott College, she was invited to a house party at Edisto, where she met her future husband, J.G. Murray, a native Edistonian. They married in 1935, in Asheville; she was henceforth known on Edisto as ‘the girl from off.’ The couple moved to the Island after a brief stay in Mt. Pleasant, where J.G. worked with Micah Jenkins at Boone Hall. Coming from the city, Marian had much to get used to when they moved to Edisto: the smell of pluff mud, no electricity, water delivered by a pump, and a wood stove to cook on. J.G. had gotten a job as landscape architect for the Edisto Beach State Park, being built by CCC workers. Marian and a friend tried to teach the young CCC workers to read and write—her first foray into teaching. Marian spoke briefly about the economy on Edisto in those early days, mentioning a repair shop, an oyster factory, several stores (Perry’s, Bailey’s, Posner’s), and farming, the backbone of the economy. By the mid-1940s, J.G. was managing the farm at Cypress Trees Plantation. Farming was done with mules, carts, and wagon, using the task system developed in the plantation days. Major crops were cabbages and potatoes. She also recounted memories of the hurricanes of 1940 and 1959 on Edisto, as well as wartime rationing. In 1941, when a vacancy came up at the Edisto Island School, Marian got a job teaching English, Latin, science, and biology. Parker Connor was the principal; other teachers during her time there included Sally Pope, Arlene Jenkins, Sarah Hopkinson, Lena Armstrong, Florence Park, and Clytie Sayer. Marian spoke of the strong support from the parent organization and from churches—only two at that time, she said, Presbyterian and Episcopalian—which put on annual holiday parties, operettas, and minstrel shows. The school underwent many changes during her 30-yeare tenure, including consolidation with mainland schools. The Edisto Island School closed in 1971, and Marian went on to teach at St. Paul’s Academy through 1976, serving in 1977 as headmistress. But she mourned the loss to Edisto: ‘We were sorry to see the school close,’ she said, ‘because that ended the main community spirit that held us together.’
Reverend McKinley Washington was born in a small community outside of Sumter, South Carolina called Stackhouse Place. In this interview he talks about life on Edisto Island during the height of the civil rights movement including the changes he has witnessed. McKinley’s dad was a sharecropper and his mom a teacher. He graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina with both a degree in political science and religion and a Master of Divinity. During college in the early 60’s he was part of a lunch counter demonstration and listened to Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X when they visited campus. McKinley shares many of his own civil rights experiences. He came to Edisto Island in the mid-60’s to pastor the Edisto Presbyterian Church which was African-American. At this time the African-American community was very poor. Rev. Washington helped organize and was part of the South Carolina Commission for Farm Workers, Community Action Program, Head Start Program, Political Action Committee, and the NAACP. He describes how he worked to get African-American’s registered to vote, to integrate the local schools, the state park, and swim on Edisto beach. He was persuaded to run for public office and elected to the State House of Representatives. There his goal was to get things done in rural areas such as Edisto Island. He fought for roads to be paved, ditches to be cleaned, and was instrumental in getting money for a new bridge to replace the often broken down drawbridge. The new 1993 bridge is named in his honor. He went to Washington to plead for the Sea Island Healthcare Center. After the old Edisto Island School closed rather than be integrated, he helped the African-American community buy it for recreation, summer, adult education, and daycare programs, and community center. McKinley describes his work with Fritz Hollings and the changes in the Republican and Democratic parties. He says that while things have improved tremendously for African-Americans, there is a lot still left undone.
Emily Hutchinson Meggett was born in Edisto, as were her mother, Laura B. Hutchinson (who later moved to New York), and grandmother, Elizabeth Major Hutchinson, who raised Emily. Through her grandmother’s line she is related to Jim Hutchinson (her great-grandfather, sometimes called a ‘king’ of Edisto, who was the illegitimate son of Isaac Jenkins Mikell). Emily attended Seaside, Geneva, and Limay—all Edisto schools. She didn’t finish high school; she married in 1951 instead. With her husband, Jessie Meggett (who once lived in the Point of Pines cabin that now resides at the Smithsonian), Emily raised ten children, all of whom attended Edisto schools and later went on to college and successful careers, in fields as varied as the stock market, nursing, teaching, government administration, and the military. She has 24 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren; only one of the latter lives on Edisto. For 46 years, beginning in 1954, Emily worked for the family that owned Dodge Plantation. The family had a staff of six who worked for them as needed during the winter months. She rose from dishwasher to cook to housekeeper over that time. In the summers, she worked over the years for the Bolton, Mitchell, and Pepper families, among others. Emily talked about the Mother Emanuel murders; she had a family connection to two people who died there. She said she felt sorry ‘for the people who lost their lives, and for that young man and his family.’ She continued: ‘Back in the slavery time, people taught their children hate, and ain’t all of [it] erased. There's still some there.’ Of race relations on Edisto, she acknowledged that she had seen big changes but that she would like to see more. ‘I'm saying this for years and years...the Lord don't want us to be separated. He made you, he made me. [We’ve] got a different color of skin—but you've got the same red blood, and I've got the same red blood, so he don't want us to separate. He wants us to be close to each other...I don't see colors. I see you as a person.’ Maybe, she joked, she thought that way because of her connection to Jim Hutchinson: ‘I got a streak of lean in me, coming out of the white family.’ Emily Meggett has traveled widely: to Germany, Paris, London; Maine, Tennessee, Florida, Maryland, Colorado. When asked where she wants to be, though, she doesn’t hesitate: ‘This is where I want to be.’
Born in 1923, Jane Murray McCollum is the third generation of her family to live at Jack Daw Hall Plantation, located on Edisto Island’s Frampton Inlet. From an early age, she called Jack Daw home. It is also home to ‘Murray’s Graveyard,’ a spot of land her great-grandfather gave to the black slave families, and a separate graveyard, called ‘Jenkins’ Cemetery, for whites. Jane came of age during the Depression, which the family weathered by living off the bounty of land and sea—’...fish, oysters, clams...and all kinds of vegetables’—and by operating a small store called the Sea Island Bargain. The Murrays also, on one terrifying night, rode out the hurricane of 1940 at Jack Daw. Jane comes from an artistic family: Her mother, Faith Murray, was an artist who taught at Charleston’s Gibbes Art Gallery; her father, Chalmers Murray, was a writer, best known for his novel, Here Come Joe Mungin. Her father had a long-time friendship with the artist Jasper Johns, who also had a house on Edisto, She and her sister (also Faith; also an artist) went to the tiny Seaside School on Edisto—there were only seven students in Jane’s class—and she later attended the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina, after which she joined the WAVES. Having served in the Hospital Corps, she subsequently went to nursing school, receiving her training at Roper Hospital in Charleston. When she married, Jane moved to Greenville, SC, until her husband’s retirement; In response to a question about race relations in the intervening years, Jane responded that she saw little difference: ‘When I was growing up here, I didn't even realize they were black. They were really friends...Coming back, I still feel the same way.’ But she does feel that the relationships between blacks and whites were better in those days. Jane has lived at Jack Daw exclusively since 1986. She crabs and swims off a floating dock on the same waters she knew as a child. Following in the family tradition, she paints. As to how her return to Edisto suits her, Jane says: ‘Just to be able to sit here on this front porch and look over there at the creek and the beach and to hear the wind blowing through. Can’t do much better.’
Nicolas Lindsay was born in 1927 at the Hotel Davenport of Spokane, Washington. He was the son of renowned American poet Vachel Lindsay and poet Elizabeth (Lisa) Connor Lindsay of St. Louis. His father killed himself when Nick was four; he and his sister were raised by their mother thereafter. The family moved across the country: to Illinois, California, Alabama, Maryland, and to New York, where he attended boarding schools. Nick did not graduate from high school, but went to work in a steel mill instead, where he helped organize Steel Workers of America, CIO. Later he attended college in Connecticut and got a scholarship to UNC, where he met his future wife, Frances Easley DuBose (DuBose). They raised 10 children and have been married for 70 years. DuBose, a South Carolinian, had visited Edisto as a child, a connection that led to the young Lindsay family’s moving to the Island in 1955. Before arriving on Edisto, Nick worked briefly for the Atomic Energy Commission, which was building what came to be known the Savannah River Project. After the family moved to Edisto, Nick worked as a teacher for a time; but he needed to make more money, so he took on carpentry work, building houses and boats, among other things, including the steeple on the Episcopal Church, which he and his wife did together. The two of them also got involved in efforts to help the black residents of Hollywood and Edisto register to vote—a dangerous business at the time. Because of intimidation by armed white men at the registration center, ‘Nobody got out of the car. I turned around; we came home.’ He continued: ‘We were troublemakers,’ citing the history of the white Presbyterian Church he was asked to write, but which the Church subsequently declined to publish. Nick referred to another book he wrote, And I’m Glad, an oral history mostly narrated by Edisto Islander Sam Gadsden. He discussed a number of renowned Edisto Islanders throughout its history, including April Frasier (on whom, he noted, the title character from Here Come Joe Mungen was based); slavery-era plantation owners Townsend Mikell and his father, Isaac Jenkins Mikell; the ‘King of Edisto,’ Johnny Thorne, who established the freedmen’s village of Shago; and Jim Hutchinson (‘the founding father of the Republican party’) and his son, Henry.