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History Comes Alive in Brattonsville

Kerry Egan Kerry Egan

Ever wondered, when the power goes out for a few days after a big storm, how in the world South Carolinians survived a few hundred years ago, without electricity, cars, refrigerators and air conditioning?

Historic Brattonsville gives you the chance not just to learn about South Carolina's past, but to actually see it recreated. From hog butchering to sheep sheering to blacksmithing to fabric making, you can watch historic re-enactors engage in the everyday activities that were a regular part of life in 18th and 19th century Upstate South Carolina.

Brattonsville is a now a 775-acre living history museum in the Upstate, but it was originally a plantation. The land was settled by a Scotch-Irish family, the Brattons in the colonial era. Between that time and the Civil War, dozens of enslaved people lived and worked there, growing cotton as a cash crop, as well the food crops needed to run the plantation. Historic Brattonsville endeavors to tell the story of these two groups of people-African-American and Scotch Irish-who shaped the history and culture of the Upstate.

In the 18th century, this part of South Carolina was considered the backcountry, the frontier. Life was hard, with little in the way of infrastructure or amenities. Many-maybe most-of the things needed for everyday life had to be either grown or made right there.

Fields are still planted and harvested at Brattonsville, and heritage breeds, or the type of livestock that would have been grown hundreds of years ago, are still raised and butchered.

On July 12, 1780, an important Revolutionary War battle was fought on the land: the Battle of Huck's Defeat. William Bratton and his troops launched a surprise attack at dawn on the British troops led by Captain Christian Huck. After only 10 minutes, the British were routed and fled in defeat.

The battlefield has been preserved and visitors are welcome to walk the land on an interpretive trail to see where patriots battled the British. On certain weekends each year, re-enactors recreate the battle, complete with costumes and the sounds of musket fire. If you're interested in seeing the battle re-enactment, make sure to check the Brattonsville website for specific dates.

There are over thirty structures on the site, including two house museums. Some of these buildings date from the rugged colonial period. Some are from the period between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and illustrate the growing importance of the Bratton family in the area. The Revolutionary House was originally a one room log cabin. Additions over the year enlarged the house.

The Homestead, built in the 1820s is a grand and gracious home, reflective of the changing quality of life as this part of South Carolina transitioned from backcountry to a thriving agricultural community. 19th century life was quite different from the 18th century. Brattonsville's docents do a wonderful job of explaining the demands of daily life for the residents leading up to the outbreak of Civil War in 1864.

While history books may focus on military battles, economic policies or lists of explorers, a place like Brattonsville shows kids that the past was made up of people, not so unlike them. It's that living quality of a living history museum that makes a place like Brattonsville unlike any other.

Kerry Egan
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