As a creative writing teacher, I’m always looking for ways to expose my young writers to strong examples of good writing and to the personal stories of respected, published authors. Recently, I accompanied some students along with their parents to McClellanville, SC and Hampton Plantation – the ancestral home of Archibald Rutledge, South Carolina’s first poet laureate. Rutledge grew up in a wealthy family with deep ties to the land and history of the South Carolina lowcountry. His great-great grandfather, Daniel Horry, purchased the land in the early 18th century and later built the house on this sprawling rice and indigo plantation. Rutledge spent his pivotal years roaming the land, learning to hunt the local wildlife, and befriending the children of former slaves. After decades teaching in Pennsylvania, Rutledge, already an established writer, moved back home to oversee the restoration of his beloved home. To the Rutledge enthusiast, such works as Home by the River and Tales of Whitetails bring this special place to life, and I wanted my students to experience it in person.
11:30—After an early 6:30 departure, we arrived at the plantation nestled in Francis Marion National Forrest, ate lunch, and relaxed under the live oaks on Hampton’s front lawn. The weather was perfect, and I highly recommend making trips to any lowcountry plantation in the spring when the bugs are few and the heat isn’t oppressive.
12:00— Our well-informed park ranger led us on a visit to the slave quarters area (no buildings remain), gave an interactive demonstration of how early rice planters prepared their product for shipment to Europe, and guided us through the house itself, emphasizing the various architectural layers that have been revealed through careful preservation techniques. The tour itself lasted approximately 45 minutes, but, in addition, we took the opportunity to stretch our legs on a couple of the attainable nature trails before departing for Charleston.
3:00—As a special treat the bus driver and I arranged for a quick detour to the beach at Sullivan’s Island. As you can imagine, this decision was a popular one with my high school students who, despite the cold water temps, frolicked in the sand, and some brave (or reckless) souls ventured out into the waves, jeans rolled up to the knees. The beach here is peaceful and uncrowded – something you won’t find at popular SC beaches like Myrtle Beach or nearby Folly beach in Charleston.
4:00—Once we entered the Holy City (as Charleston is called), we stopped at the visitor center to take advantage of the vast knowledge that the employees have of the area. Helpful literature is easily accessible as are coupons for local attractions (carriage tour opportunities abound) and fine eating establishments. The kids enjoyed the Market, where visitors can find unique locally handcrafted items. Think jewelry, t-shirts, specialty leather items, and the famous seagrass baskets. Buying one will cost a pretty penny, but the demonstrations are worth the time.
7:00—After dinner at various low-country cuisine establishments, we loaded up the bus once again and drove back to Greenville. It was a whirlwind trip and, admittedly, a little insane on my part, but we all had a great time and learned a little about a gifted writer and a culture tied closely to early American history.