The Reconstruction Exhibit at the Beaufort History Museum has taken on a special relevance in light of the growing interest in historic tourism and the importance of Reconstruction in Beaufort County. Congressman Jim Clyburn and members of the National Park Service toured various local sites in Beaufort County recently to evaluate the possibility of designating the County as a national monument to the Reconstruction Era.
Those who would like to learn more about Reconstruction in Beaufort County might begin by visiting the Beaufort History Museum, which is currently showcasing an exhibit that illuminates this fascinating era in the history of South Carolina and the nation. Titled “Islands of Hope in a Sea of Distress,” the Exhibit tells the stories of Reconstruction in the Beaufort District through original photos, text, documents and artifacts
During Reconstruction, the period immediately following the Civil War, most of the South was suffering from devastation and upheaval. But due to the enterprising spirit of newly freed slaves and an overlapping series of propitious events, Beaufort County and the Sea Islands were propelled into a period of recovery, resurgence and prosperity.
Reconstruction in Beaufort began earlier than in other areas in the south. Following the Battle of Port Royal Sound in 1861, Union troops occupied Beaufort and established headquarters, supply centers and medical facilities. Local white planters fled.
With the Civil War still raging, 10,000 slaves were liberated in the Beaufort District. Schools were for whites only and it was illegal to teach slaves to read. Northern missionaries established the Penn School and Mather School to educate the newly freed men, women and children as part of the Port Royal Experiment.
Robert Smalls, who was born a slave here, helped lead Beaufort through Reconstruction. Business boomed. The sources of prosperity were timber, phosphates and shipping, all spurred on by the completion of the Port Royal Railroad in1873, which provided the means to more efficiently transport products into and out of the area. Former slaves came to own land as freedmen and agriculture flourished.
With these stories as the backdrop, the Exhibit concentrates on four main areas: Education, Politics, Commerce and Agriculture, presenting photos and artifacts to support the narrative.
Beaufort History Museum has evolved to focus specifically on the history of the Beaufort District. It strives to manage and display artifacts and documents held by the City of Beaufort, telling the compelling stories of this area from the early 16th Century until modern times.
The Arsenal address is 713 Craven Street. BHM’s hours of operation are 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM Monday – Saturday. Docents are on duty to provide information and conduct tours. A donation of $7.00 per visitor ($6.00 for Seniors) is required. Children and active military are admitted free of charge. Please visit the website at www.beauforthistorymuseum.com or BHM’s Facebook page for updates and news from the Museum.
Our mission is to preserve, promote and interpret the experiences of our past that influence us now and in the future.
The Beaufort History Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. 713 Craven Street, Beaufort, SC 29902