Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wednesday 2/5/2014 Penn Center; St Helena Island

Frogmore Stew

     On St. Helena Island, the day started cloudy and rainy, but suddenly cleared in the early afternoon with temperatures in the low seventies.  I toured Penn Center, which was the first school built for black children in the United States.  If you have trouble finding Penn Center, it is about a mile south of Frogmore South Carolina.  Yes, Frogmore as in Frogmore Stew.  A life-long local told me others try to imitate the genuine Frogmore stew, but they don't know about the secret ingredient.  You see, Frogmore Stew was made as a community on Friday nights.  Each fisherman and farmer would bring a portion of their catch and/or crop, and it was all cooked up together.  Even a child could catch a crab or pull up a potato or carrot and contribute his or her share to the community meal.  Thus, the ingredient everyone misses is love.   

picture of an 1860's era cabin

     Penn Center was a school built by Quaker missionaries from Pennsylvania in the 1860's.  The students were black children from the surrounding islands, including Hilton Head, Daufuskie, Edisto, Hunting Island, Tybee Island and others.  They were brought over by boat and stayed at the campus through the week.  

     The school was quite remarkable as it combined traditional subject matter such as reading, writing and arithmetic with industrial and home making arts.  The boys were taught sustainable farming, harness making, shoe and boot making, iron working, basket making, wheel making, carpentry and masonry.  The girls were taught cooking, sewing, mattress making, home management, canning and other skills.  

     There were numerous photos in the museum of teachers who had originally been students at the school, so it lasted a few generations.  Now it is a historical site that is a lasting tribute to both the Quaker's kindness and the black's willingness to learn.  All of the buildings shown below were designed by the Quakers and built by the teachers and students of the school over a span of 60 years.  There are numerous other buildings not pictured.

     I am not sure where the Quakers got the architectural ideas for some of the buildings - especially the ones with the tile roofs. But also the second story porch design on this building - very unusual for a building built over a century ago.

      Martin Luther King came here to rest and to plan the marches and demonstrations.  There is a cabin that was his on a river in another section of the 500 acre tract.

     I had thought I was going to be photographing Hunting Island and Tybee Island, but a friend in Bluffton has found himself in a bit of a jam and asked if I could help him.  So, I will be in Bluffton a few days.  I didn't know how I was going to make it work out there anyway - they want $17 a night to pitch a tent.  I still have not pitched my tent by the way - I keep wanting to if for no other reason to make sure I have everything I need.  But I saw a sign that looked promising - 

Camping lessons.  I wonder if they teach match striking, lantern fueling, whittling, knife sharpening - things like that?   I might have to stop in one day and inquire.  Maybe they can teach me how to camp without having to pay $17 a night.

All have a great Thursday !!

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