Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thank you, Edgefield! Part II

First the answers to yesterday’s trivia questions.  The South’s famous red clay is red because it contains iron oxide (rust).  There is no difference at all between the clay you dig out of the ground here in the South and the “slip” that is used to make ceramics other than the color. 

Now about the classes:

There were eight sessions in two days.  Each session had several classes to choose from and unfortunately you had to pick just one class per session.  I wish I could have attended every class.  I wanted to give you a little info on the classes that I did attend.

Day 1 – Session 1
”An Overview of Edgefield Pottery” by
Master Potter Justin Guy
You can read about this one in yesterday’s blog.  Justin gave us the history of pottery making in general, Edgefield Pottery specifically,  and the history of several of the potter families in Edgefield District.  I am so glad I went to this one.  It was just fascinating.  Being able to be there when they opened the groundhog kiln the next morning just made it even better.

Session 2
”Revolutionary War Battlefield Research of Historic Brattonsville and Huck’s Defeat”  by
Michael C. Scoggins.
Michael not only gave the entire history of the historic battle, he also detailed the modern methods used to pinpoint the exact location of the battlefield.  His account of the events leading up to the battle had us on the edges of our seats.  This was history at its best.  I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about the battle tactics used by both sides, the weaponry and how the local residents were drawn up into the conflict.

Session 3
”The Civil War Widows Pension Application Process” by
Bernice Bennett
This class was a real treat for me.  I have “known” Bernice for quite some time but this is the first time I have met her in person.  She definitely didn’t disappoint.  Her class was both informative and fun.  Her sense of humor had everyone in the class cackling.  Here is a photo of Bernice Bennett and I.  She stays knee deep in the compiled service records and pension files at the National Archives so there is no one that knows these records better than she does.  She is part of the project that is digitizing these records for Fold3.


Session 4

”Sources for Genealogical Research at the
South Carolina Archives” by Archivist Steve Tuttle. 
Steve detailed the holdings of the Archives and included large, full color copies of the various records for  us to look at.  They have so much more available than I had imagined.  He also gave many helpful research tips on how to use the records to your best advantage.  He updated us on the digital images that are available and assured us that getting those documents online is a priority.

Day 2 – Session 1
”Was Granny Crazy? Researching Ancestors in the South Carolina Lunatic Asylum” by
Mike Becknell
Mike explained the laws governing access to the hospital’s medical files  He also told us about many other record sets that will have additional information even if you aren’t allowed access to the hospital records.  The information he presented was useful no matter which state your person of interest was committed in.  I have one person in my file that was at the Arizona State Hospital and one in the Mississippi State Hospital.  I now have a couple more places I need to check for documents,

Session 2
”DNA Research” by Jan Alpert (past president of the National Genealogical Society)
I was really looking forward to this one.  DNA research can get very complicated and I had so many questions.  Jan explained several of the harder concepts in very easy to understand terms.  I had thought “Chromosome Mapping” was just totally above me but now I understand it!  She is also a surname project manager (multiple surnames) and I was missing so much good information on those project pages.  My matches make so much more sense to me now.

Session 3
”Overcoming the Roadblocks in African American Genealogy” by Elvin Thompson
I happen to be working on a case study right now that involves a slave that was freed after the war so I knew I needed to attend this class.  Elvin used examples from his own family to make his points which made it all the more interesting.  One of Elvin’s main points was how important oral histories are.  In my case study, the oral history was absolutely critical.  Without that I wouldn’t have been able to find the supporting documents.

Session 4
”1860: Secession – Was it a Conspiracy?” by Ann Bowen
There was controversy all the way around.  In Lincoln’s first inaugural address on 04 Mar 1861 Lincoln stated, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”  [transcript available from Yale Law School].  I never knew that Lincoln said that.  Then on the other side, did you know that not all southerners were on board when the southern states seceded?  I knew of course that some men went north to fight in Union units but some southern states came very close to not seceding at all.  Was there pressure put on them to do so?  My head was spinning after this one.  It was amazing how much information Ann packed into her lecture.

Just as a side note:  This two day conference cost $30 (yes, thirty).  It included a catered “block party” held in the town square on Friday night.  We also got a cool tote bag loaded with goodies, a piece of authentic Edgefield pottery and a commemorative pin from the Mayor of Edgefield.  On Saturday we were able to watch them open the groundhog kiln and lunch was available at three different restored historic sites (lunch $10, proceeds to support these sites).  The entire town of Edgefield participated and supported this conference.  I am looking forward to next year. 

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Would love to hear more about the DNA presentation and was Granny Crazy....do you know if it will be on you tube? Thanks in advance!

  2. None of the presentations were videotaped :(

  3. Sounds like wonderful presentations. Thank you for sharing with us.

  4. Sounds like you got more than your money's worth for $30!
    Was the Mississippi State hospital in Tupelo? They have uncovered many, many graves while expanding NMMC. The Tupelo paper and the Historical Society have been talking about it for a couple of weeks.

    1. The East Mississippi State Hospital was in Meridian (Lauderdale County).