In this interview, Rovena Owens relates the story of her family on Sullivan’s Island beginning with Vincent Peter, whose father was a slave trader. According to Owen’s family tradition, one of the captured African women became both Vincent’s slave and his wife. They arrived on Sullivan’s Island around 1812-13. Owens then traces her family history through succeeding generations, many of whom were free people of color, including Louis Peters, her second great-grandfather, her great-grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Pezant, and grandmother, Margaret Etta Pezant, who married Alan Perry Jones. Their daughter, Rovena Agnes Jones, married Walter Hazel, a member of the prominent Manigault family of Charleston. Walter was “kicked out” of his family for marrying a woman of color. Rovena Agnes Jones and Walter Hazel were then the parents of Rovena Owens. While discussing her roots on Sullivan’s Island, Owens discusses the topic of racially mixed families and their general acceptance on the island. Owens contrasted this sentiment with the attitudes of those who came from other parts of the country, such as the Fort Moultrie soldiers. Owens recalls island life as “paradise” where black and white children enjoyed playing, boating, and crabbing. Sundays were always popular times for the family on the island. Her grandmother had a pot of okra soup ready for whoever appeared. Some of Owens’ fondest memories were those Sundays with the ladies in the kitchen and the men out working on some kind of “project.” Owens also discusses the efforts made on the island to preserve its historic cemeteries. She also relates her family’s struggles with major storms such Hurricane Hugo. Through all of the storms, the Owens family homestead at Station 23 and Myrtle Avenue on the marsh side of the island, locally known as the “back beach”, remains intact. To Owens, Sullivan’s Island is “home,” where she’s comfortable.
Roy Williams’ family association with Sullivan’s Island goes back to about 1815. This interview focuses on Williams’ recollections of life on the island during World War II. He describes the leisurely pace of life on the island before the war. Williams was in first grade when World War II started. He was aware of the attack on Pearl Harbor, but it seemed very far away to him. The family moved to Charlotte, North Carolina when Williams was in the second grade. Life there was a contrast with life on Sullivan’s Island. There was much more awareness of the war. Williams describes scrap metal and paper drives that took place in Charlotte. By the summer following second grade, Williams’ father had left to become an engineer on a hospital ship making runs from New York to Liverpool, England. His mother took the family to the North Carolina beach for the summer where Williams collected debris from the frequent U-Boat attacks. His mother brought the children back to Sullivan’s Island by the time Williams entered third grade. The island was now in full military mode and populated by many people from other parts of the country. Williams describes the rationing that took place for everything from shoes to beef. The war economy provided his family with money, but there was nothing to buy. Williams talks about the fear of being bombed by the Germans. He recalls that relationship between the islanders and the military Fort Moultrie was good. For Williams, the fort felt like a protective umbrella that provided services such as fighting fires and providing hurricane shelter. Still, Williams could tell the nation was at war. Soldiers marched down Middle Street. There were practice amphibious landings around Station 9. At the northeast end of the island was Battery Marshall, which was fenced off. Williams described how there were stories of prisoners of war being held at that facility. Williams relates how the war became personal to the Williams family on a couple of occasions. He recalls the joy at the end of the war, especially VJ Day, a jubilant time because friends and family were coming home.
[Color image.] Caption (in French): 'Evenements des Etats-Unis: Charleston et ses fortifications. [Events of the United States: Charleston and its fortifications.] 1--Charleston. 2--Riviere Ashley [Ashley River]. 3--Chemin de fer de Savannah [Savannah Railway]. 4--Riviere Cooper [Cooper River]. 5--Riviere Wando [Wando River]. 6--Fort Pinkney [Castle Pinckney]. 7--Fort Ripley. 8--Fort Johnson (ile James) [James Island]. 9--Riviere Stone [Stono River]. 10--Fort Sumter. 11--Fort Moultrie. 12--Batterie Gregg (pointe de Gumming) [Battery Gregg (Cummings Point)]. 13--Fort Wagner. 14--Batteries rasantes du general Gilmore [grazed batteries of General Gilmore]. 15--Ouvrages pris par les federaux. [Works undertaken by the Federals]. 16--Phare Inlet [Lighthouse inlet]. 17--Batteries federales (ile Folly) [Federal Batteries (Folly Island)]. 18--Canonnieres et vaisseaux cuirasses [gunboats and ironclads]. 19--Hotel. 20--Ile et batteries Sullivan [Sullivan Island and Batteries]. 21--Moultrie. 22--Mont Pleasant [Mount Pleasant]. 23--Breach Inlet. 24--Shem Creek. 25--Batteries construite par les confederes sur l'ile James, dans le voisinage du fort Johnson [Batteries built by the Confederates on James Island, in the vicinity of Fort Johnson].
[Color image.] Caption (in French): 'Les troupes federales evacuant le fort Moultrie, apres avoir detruit le materiel de guerre.--D'apres les croquis de M.W.S. (Voir la Revuie de la semaine.)' [Federal troops evacuate Fort Moultrie, after destroying war materials.--from the sketch by M.W.S. (see the Review of the Week)].