Saturday, August 6, 2022

Elizabeth Hyde Botume's Civil War

South Carolina school teacher with the shadow of
Fort Sumter in the background.

Elizabeth Hyde Botume (1823-1904) was one of the teachers who went to South Carolina to work with the freedpeople along the South Carolina coast, dispatched by the Freedman's Aid Association. As she wrote Booker T. Washington in 1902, she volunteered to teach people who had once been slaves in the Sea Islands.

She wound up on the island of Port Royal, which since a Union victory in the first year of the war had been a Union outpost. 

Union troops marching into Beaufort, South Carolina, the town on Port Royal.

White plantation owners abandoned the islands, leaving the enslaved people essentially free but without food or other necessities. The "Port Royal Experiment" began with numerous charitable organizations sending teachers, missionaries and bureaucrats. The islands attracted more self-liberated people, increasing the population throughout the war.

Residents at the Old Fort Plantation
The photographs from the Library of Congress

One 1863 estimate of the population of freedpeople on Port Royal was about 9,000. The nominally free people were legally freed on January 1, 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation when a ceremony was held at the Old Fort Plantation to read the text to a joyous audience.

Old Fort or Smith Plantation residents
The 1860 census listed 131 slaves on the cotton plantation.

Elizabeth Botume  (her name maybe pronounced like Bottom) outlined her educational philosophy and experiences in her 1892 book First Days Amongst the Contrabands.

Here she explains why she used the term contraband
in her title.

Elizabeth was a practical woman, a fan of "needles and thread and soap and decent clothing" as the "best educators" of people who'd been kept in degrading conditions for generations. At first, supplies were hard to find. 
"There was some coarse, heavy contraband goods [osnaburg, jeans cloth or other fabric for slave clothing] stored in the arsenal. Could I make use of it in my school ? I replied, we could use anything that could be cut with scissors and pierced with a needle;. So he donated several pieces of dark hickory-brown twilled cotton.
Something that looked like this?
"One of the 'Disciples' in Boston had already furnished me with a generous supply of threads, needles, thimbles, etc...."

Sewing classes were a treat for everyone.
"The chief amusement of the girls was to sing and to sew on their patchwork. Sewing was the most fascinating of all, in which the mothers deeply sympathized. The only thing all the women would beg for was 'scraps for quilts.' "
One girl wanted work to take home. 
"If Miss Noy only gave me sewing at home, I'd make one big quilt before this month was done."

The Old Fort plantation, formerly owned by John Joyner Smith, was where Elizabeth settled and had a school built. She brought two of her nieces with her to the Whitney School, named for the New Englanders who funded the project, perhaps this building recorded by Hubbard & Mix, photographers from the town of Beaufort.

 Miss Botume standing on the porch?

Another Hubbard & Mix photo of the teachers at Smith's Plantation,
likely Elizabeth (left) and her sister's daughter Frances Sophia 
Langford Haseltine (1842-1887)

Sisters Fannie & Lizzie
from Find-A-Grave

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Botume Langford Lombard (1846-1928 )
 also accompanied Aunt Elizabeth to Port Royal. 
The girls' mother had died in 1864.
A note to the newspaper The Freedmen's Record

The Freedmen's Record published a list of teachers in 1865

Listings tell us where they were located, where they came from and who "adopted" or sponsored them. Elizabeth came from Boston and was supported by donations from the Whitney Family, Sister Fanny by the Indiana Street Church Freedmen's Aid Society.

Croquet Party, Old Fort Plantation

Hubbard & Mix also published a stereocard showing the teachers at Smith's Plantation playing croquet. Judging by the clothing in the photos taken that day I would guess Elizabeth is on the left, Fannie the woman on the right and perhaps her sister Lizzie in the center.

Other teachers and students are pictured in this shot of the Smith Plantation photographed by E.W. Sinclair. Library of Congress.

You don't often see people smiling in 19th-century photos but here we have
a large grin.
"To each girl a needle, to each woman a needle and a 'hank' of thread.... But the boys begged for one needle too which I gave, to their infinite delight."

The boys objected to the girls' privileges:

" 'Tain't fair," we heard them say; 'The gals has all the things.' So in time, when our stock of goods increased, we had a class of boys in sewing, some of whom did most creditable work."

Students at the nearby Penn School, photo by Hubbard & Mix.
What IS that woman in the back row holding?

First Days Amongst the Contrabands by Elizabeth Hyde Botume


JustGail said...

Part of me thinks she's holding a dress with the front neckline facing the camera. Another part of me thinks she's holding a baby in a cloth, with her hand shading its eyes.

Barbara Brackman said...

JustGail---picture is vague. I thought of a garment. Baby is also a good guess in a blanket.