Monday, March 9, 2015

Walnut Grove Plantation in Roebuck, SC

Ten minutes south of Spartanburg, SC we stepped 250 years back in time at the Walnut Grove Plantation. Saturday was Living History Day and Lantern Tours at the plantation, and we took opportunity of relatively warm and sunny weather to explore this historic site. Established in 1767 by Charles and Mary Moore, the property features a Manor, a kitchen house, a schoolhouse and a wheat house, and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Learning about colonial-time weapons

In the 40 years they lived in Roebuck, Charles & Mary Moore raised ten children in a house they built themselves. We joined the tour group to get an inside look at the main house, and were shown from room to room while given an informative talk about life on the plantation two hundred years ago.

The main house

The majority of the boys soon headed outside, but Lauris stuck with me for the whole tour and enjoyed seeing how life was back in the day. We explored the sleeping and living quarters, and had our questions about various tools and other objects answered by a very knowledgeable guide. I was struck at how sturdy and long-lasting the structure was, and the durability and functionality of all the objects within.

Clockwise from top left: living room, the P's and Q's in the dining room, the food prep room, the master bedroom and the 2nd floor living space & bedroom

From the main house we headed into the kitchen house, kept separate from the main house because of the dangers of fire from the cooking fireplace. I just can’t imagine the difficulties of cooking for such a large family in such a primitive setting; to think that the Moores were considered rather well-off at the time!

Typical food including dried corn and local salt

This is as far as we got with the tour group, and after splitting off we rejoined our crew and continued our explorations, venturing closer to the campfire where a militia was conducting drills and signing up members…

The property was about 3,000 acres historically, a land grant from King George III. Mr. Moore was a schoolteacher, and relied on a dozen enslaved African Americans and his own large family to work the farm. During the Revolutionary War, the Moores supported the Patriots and are mentioned in the history books because of the 1781 raid by Loyalist William "Bloody Bill" Cunningham. The boys got a demonstration of a period firearm to give a taste of the volatility of the time: a black musket firing (thankfully) only black powder.

In addition to the home and outlying buildings, visitors can also view the property's cemetery and walk a nature trail that loops back to the pavilion. The old road that leads to the cemetery used to continue west one mile to another Moore family home, Fredonia. Thomas Moore - eldest son, Revolutionary War soldier, brigadier general in the War of 1812 & member of Congress – started construction of the home, which came under ownership of Andrew B. Moore, the county’s first doctor, and then Thomas J. Moore, Confederate soldier and state legislature. Fredonia burned down in 1977.

The schoolhouse

We lingered awhile in the cemetery with its mature walnuts; it gave an idea of how the entire area could have looked two hundred years ago.

Headstones were expensive, and so it's common to see fieldstones marking graves in old cemeteries

The nature walk wound through some pretty timber as well, although the walnuts here were accompanied by sweetgum, oak and other species. The trail with its grand trees and bordering creek proved a balm to the soul, a taste of my former life with its gullies, bare hardwoods canopy and the sound of leaves crunching underfoot.

We popped out at the pavilion, where there were a dozen colonial toys and games awaiting us. We took turns playing the game of Graces and rolling hoops with the boys.

Because we had missed Bubba’s BBQ it soon became clear that we would have to leave in search of a meal to satisfy the appetites of the mini-militia we had in accompaniment. It was a shame we would miss the lantern tours, which started at 6pm with tours every 30 minutes, but it was obvious we wouldn’t last that long, even with two dozen games on hand. We thanked the lovely folks at Walnut Grove Plantation before heading north for a quick stop at the European Market for some Latvian & east European supplies, and eventually dinner at the Taste of Thai in Spartanburg. It was a pleasant afternoon outdoors, although the boys might have more interest in attending Festifall at the plantation, the event that takes place the first weekend of October and features over 200 reenactors along with music & dancing and activities such as toy making, cooking, weaving, woodworking, basketry and candle dipping. However, for older children and adults (especially history buffs!), Walnut Grove Plantation is an unique opportunity to experience colonial history up close.

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