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Author Archives: Merianna Neely Harrelson

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A Respected South Carolina Lady

Lucas Pinckney 1722-1793

     During the 18th Century, a
woman’s role in society was to be a wife and mother. There were a few women
that found their place in South Carolina history in a different way than

      Eliza Lucas was born on December 28, 1722
to Anne and Colonel George Lucas in Antigua, British West Indies. She
was the oldest. As was society’s way, her brothers were sent to London for
their education. But Eliza and her sister Polly were not left out; they also
received an English education, which was unusual. Eliza enjoyed music and
French, but she fell in love with botany.

     Because Colonel Lucas inherited three
plantations from his father in the Lowcountry, the family moved to South
Carolina in 1738. He was called back to Antiqua the following year, and Eliza
became the head of the household in her father’s stead. She sought his advice,
while at the same time reading through his library. Agriculture was her prime

     At age 17, Eliza was running the family’s
plantations, taking care of her ailing mother, teaching her younger sister, and
starting a new venture with indigo seeds sent by her father.

     Success wasn’t immediate. A rare
Charleston frost killed the first crop, and worms ate up the second. The third
year was promising, but a dishonest employee betrayed her. On the fourth year,
seventeen pounds of indigo were exported to England, and Eliza changed the
economy in South Carolina. She didn’t give up, and her determination to
keep-on-keeping-on is an example to all of us.

     Eliza’s father died in 1747, but she
continued with her new business. Historian Edward McCrady wrote, “Indigo proved
more really beneficial to Carolina than the mines of Mexico or Peru were to
Spain….The source of this great wealth…was a result of an experiment by a mere
girl.” (Perhaps you will agree with me that Eliza Lucas was hardly a mere

     But it wasn’t all work for Eliza.
Charleston society beckoned her, and she became close friends with Charles and
Elizabeth Pinckney. Elizabeth thought of Eliza as a daughter, and the
relationship was warm. Because Charles Pinckney traveled so much, Eliza became
a regular visitor at the home. To no avail, Elizabeth fought a year-long battle
with illness and left Charles a widower at 45. Charles asked Eliza to marry
him, and the ceremony took place on May 27, 1744.

         Eliza Pinckney enjoyed
her new life and home at Belmont Plantation. She spent many days planting
magnolias and oaks. She continued her experiments with hemp and flax and
revived the silk industry in the Lowcountry.

     Even though the land and agriculture
appeared to call her by name, Eliza and Charles had three sons and one
daughter, and her devotion to her husband and family was the major calling on
her life. She believed what the Bible said about a woman’s influence in the

     The Pinckney’s left South Carolina in 1753
for five years in England. Eliza took a gift to the Princess of Wales. It was a
handspun silk dress that Eliza had made.

     Unfortunately within months of their
return home, Charles died of malaria. Eliza grieved, but she continued to keep
busy. She wrote frequently to her sons at school in England and her new English
friends. She enjoyed visiting with her friends in Charlestown, also. Harriott
married, and soon Eliza became a grandmother with all its privileges.

     With war with England pending, C.C and
Thomas came home in 1769, and the whole family pledged its support to the
American Revolution. Eliza unselfishly gave to the cause, and the British
repaid in kind by destroying her property. Both Eliza and Harriott acted as
spies for General Francis Marion throughout the war.

     After the war, Eliza went permanently to
live with her daughter. She had the opportunity to influence her four grandchildren.
In 1791, mother and daughter entertained President George Washington with their
Southern hospitality. And when Eliza Lucas Pinckney died in 1793, President
Washington returned their graciousness by offering to be a pallbearer at
Eliza’s funeral.

     We can learn much from the life of Eliza
Pinckney. She was a determined woman who followed her dreams, and that
beautiful blue of our flag reminds us of her. This woman of substance had
visions far beyond her years or her time, and we are the benefactors. Her
influence was finally noted in 1989 when she was inducted as the first woman
into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame.

    The Charleston
City Gazette
wrote in her obituary, “Her manners had been so refined by a
long and intimate acquaintance with the polite world, her countenance was so
dignified by serious contemplation and devout reflection…that it was scarcely
[possible] to behold her without emotions of the highest veneration and

     Thank you, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, for your
sterling example. We salute you!

French Toast

It is Saturday morning, and my dad always fixed French Toast for breakfast on Saturday mornings. I can smell the bacon frying now, and the aroma almost sends me to my kitchen.  I can even see the butter melting in the midst of the syrup sliding off the toast.  Perhaps you have a similar memory.

Our memories from childhood continue to invade our adult years, don’t they? Most often from my generation they involve food events around a table, whether it is a simple Saturday breakfast or an elaborate Thanksgiving dinner. In looking back, it is the fellowship, not the food,  that I remember being the sweetest. Laughter and everyone talking at once were the main course of the menu.

Just the other day, I read and watched a video on the history of French Toast. This is a different recipe that my dad used of only milk and eggs, but I enjoyed reading the long history of this favorite of many generations. In fact, the allure is sending me to my kitchen after all, and maybe you might add it to your Saturday morning routine.  We never know how the simple traditions from our childhood will invade our present with smiles and memories.

Happy Saturday!

Who doesn’t like a nice big plate of French Toast? For me it brings back fond childhood memories of Saturday mornings — usually during the holidays when no one seemed to be in a hurry to change out of our pj’s to go anywhere. Truly, French toast a quintessential breakfast food, though I’ll eat it for any meal if given a chance — especially if it’s served with real maple syrup, a dab of melting butter, and maybe some fresh fruit or berries on the side.

But did you know that this delectable dish we call French Toast has been around for over  a thousand years? And it wasn’t always breakfast fare, in fact, it likely started out as a dessert.

The earliest documented recipe for French toast can be found in the Apicius — a collection of 4th and 5th century Roman recipes. The dish is simply titled, “Another Sweet.” Its translation reads:

“Break a slice of fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces. Soak in milk and beaten eggs, Fry in oil, cover in honey, and serve.”

Bread was known as the staff of life. It was the dietary pillar of cultures around the world. But what was one to do when their bread went stale?

In an old nameless English cookbook from 1430, later compiled and published under the name “Two 15th Century Cookery Books,” We find a recipe for bread dipped in egg yolks, fried in butter, and sprinkled with sugar.

“Eyren” is an old plural form of the word “egg.”

The name of this dish is the French word, “Payn Perdeuz,” meaning “Lost Bread” or “Wasted Bread,” suggesting the recipe was intended for bread that had gone stale. This name seemed to stick for many years in the vocabulary of English cooks.

Karen Hess, who transcribed Martha Washington’s Book of Cookery, says,

“The English early took to pain perdu and made it their own; it was rarely omitted from a cookbook, usually listed under “made dishes”…or any dish that amused the cook or showed off her skill.”

Here is our take on an 18th-century recipe for Payn Perdue:

The Compleat housewife, Eliza Smith, 1739


1 – Medium loaf of firm enriched bread. (The No-Knead “French” Bread in our most recent video would make a perfect choice. If you’re not up to making your own bread, Challah, Brioche, or a Country French loaf will work perfectly. Stale bread is better. You can leave it out overnight if you need to, out of reach of the critters)
8 – Egg yolks
1 Cup of Cream
1/4 Cup Sweet Sherry
1-1/2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Grated Nutmeg

3 – 4 Tablespoons Butter

For the sweet sauce (instead of maple syrup)

4 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
1-1/2 Tablespoon Sugar
2 Tablespoons Sweet Sherry


Take a sharp or serrated knife and slice off all the outer crust of the bread. Cut the remaining crumb into slices about 3/4″ thick.

In a bowl, mix the egg yolks, cream, sherry, and sugar. Season with grated nutmeg.

Dip the bread slices in the egg mixture, making sure you get the edges as well,  and set them on a plate for a while — 15 minutes should do, unless your bread is really stale, then it might take longer.

While the bread slices are sitting there soaking up the egg mixture, go ahead and mix the melted butter, sherry and sugar for the sweet sauce. Set this nearby for serving your toasts.

Melt 3 to 4 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. You may have to be very careful handling the bread at this point, depending on the type of bread that you use. When your butter has stopped bubbling and it’s quieted down just a bit, fry your payn perdue slices on both sides until they are a golden brown.

Pour the sweet sauce over your slices and serve.

Refined white sugar in the 18th century came in cone-shaped cakes, wrapped in blue paper. Sugar Nipperswere often employed to break it apart.

For authentic alternatives to our 18th century sweet sauce, you can also use honey, light molasses, maple syrup, or you can simply sprinkle it with sugar and a bit of ground cinnamon.

A sweet and sour alternative that is likewise very authentic, would substitute verjus for the sherry. Verjus is the unfermented juice of unripe grapes. It was commonly used in the 18th century for pickling and spicing up sauces in place of vinegar. It’s available online.

Camden, 2012

According to its web site, Historic Camden, “the oldest existing inland town in South Carolina, was part of a township plan ordered by King George II in 1730. The frontier settlement, initially named Fredericksburg Township (later Pine Tree Hill), took hold by the 1750’s as Quakers and Scots-Irish emigrants and settlers from Virginia put down roots.

Joseph Kershaw, a native of Yorkshire, England arrived in 1758 and established a store for a Charleston mercantile firm. He prospered, and by 1768, the town was the inland trade center in the colony. At his suggestion, the town became Camden, in honor of Lord Camden, a champion of colonial rights.

In May of 1780, the American Revolution returned to Charleston, and the town fell to the British. Lord Charles Cornwallis and 2500 British troops immediately marched to Camden and set up the main British supply post for the Southern Campaign. For eleven months, the citizens of Camden understood the atrocities of war.

Two battles were fought near by. The Battle of Camden, the worst American battle defeat of the Revolution, was fought on August 16, 1780 nine mile north of our museum. Nearby, General Nathaniel Greene and approximately 1,300 Americans engaged 950 British soldiers commanded by Lord Francis Rawdon on April 25, 1781. It was a costly British win and forced the Redcoats to evacuate Camden.”

On November 4-5, 2012 Historic Camden celebrated its 42nd annual Revolutionary War Field Days. These are some pictures from the event.

We stayed once again at the beautiful Bloomsbury Inn in Camden, S.C. Katherine and Bruce Brown are the gracious innkeepers. This picture is a bit dark, but Katherine and I were enjoying a look at the old kitchen. She decorates this for the holidays, and their family enjoys this space. You will enjoy looking at the web site and joining them on Facebook. But most of all you will want to visit their historic home. You might have read the diary, written in book form called Mary Chestnut’s Civil War, and this was her home.

For you that enjoy coffee, you might want to try the Bloomsbury Inn coffee carried by our own Little River Coffee House in Spartanburg. It is delicious!

On the Bloomsbury Inn web site is a blog you will enjoy reading and a YouTube video that takes you on a tour of the house. For you that look for new recipes, Katherine kindly shares hers.

The pictures above tell the story, as the British soldiers await the American forces behind the gunfire they are hearing. They try to deter the rebel forces with their six pound cannons, but the Patriots resolutely continue to get closer and closer.  It was exciting to watch the fleeing British soldiers being followed by the cavalry. Steadily, the Americans pushed their enemies until the skirmish was won.

Colonial Cats, Mice, and Candles

Candles were essential in Colonial days. With no electricity, candles were a needed source of light. 

Once the sun set, it was a dark and shadowy world in colonial America. In most smaller homes, people saw only by the light of the fire on the hearth. Candles weren’t used  unless you really needed them. Even the well- to- do lived in comparative darkness. Candles were carried from room to room, and they were used in lanterns.

Most women used tallow (animal fat) from cattle or sheep to make their candles, and the smell was unpleasant. Bayberry was added to help the smell. The Moravians used beeswax, to make their candles, and they were popular for those who could afford to buy candles. Merchants from the Moravian settlement in North Carolina took their wares to Charlestown to sell in the stores.

Here is a video that will help you see the time that this one job took.

There were many mice and rats that the colonists had to deal with when it came to their food supply, and believe it or not, these rodents even ate candles. So the women kept these precious candles in wooden boxes to protect them. Cats were a necessity in most households to keep those mice at bay. Some of the richer homes even had openings to the outdoors to encourage their cats to go in and out.

Candlelight gives us an ambiance in our homes today, and scented candles are easily bought. Maybe the reason we keep them in cabinets or drawers is to keep the mice away, and we didn’t even know this was an issue. 

My mother used to change her candles with the seasons – pink for spring, yellow for summer, burgundy for fall, and red at Christmas. She enjoyed the scented ones and would burn them periodically; they weren’t just for decoration.

I have a new candle that I am lighting each afternoon in our kitchen. Its scent is called Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin pie.  I believe it has influenced me to bake two pumpkin pies recently, but it has not encouraged me to adopt a cat!

Gingerbread Cookies

Cooking in the 18th century was quite different than today. Enjoy this video of a precious cook that enjoys gingerbread cookies.

Doesn’t this make you want to go to the kitchen on this windy fall day to bake some cookies to enjoy with a cup of tea? My grandmother taught me to dip my gingerbread cookies into the hot tea; it softens the hard cookies, and they melt in your mouth. Yes, I believe I will have two!

Festifall at Walnut Grove, 2012

 On Saturday and Sunday, October 6-7, we spent our days at Walnut Grove Plantation for Festifall. One of the most popular vendors was the toy maker. I bought a new linen cap that his wife made, and John bought the game of graces, a windmill, and a game seamen used to play called Shut the Box.

There was curiosity at the hay bale that intrigued these young ladies. Behind them you can see the musician playing a fife, what we would call a flute today.

 All around  the camp, the women had their hand work in their laps. Knitting, crocheting, sewing, and spinning was everywhere. We saw skeins of yarn, mainly yellow, brown, blue, and red, that had been hand dyed. These colors were popular during colonial times because the available plants and nuts to make them were in the yards and herb gardens.

Her smile about reading my book made my day!

This man was taking a break from his woodworking. He had a display full of both small and large pieces. Surrounded by spoons of various sizes and shapes, boxes, and small pieces of furniture, you can see the dough bowl he was working on.

Soap making was essential to colonial life. This lady showed both the process and the finished product. The iron pot was at a slow boil. Did you know that women made soap out of ashes?

 During these Colonial times, weaving was often men’s work. It took a lot of strength to pull the warp of yarn tight. As you can see, this couple had several small looms threaded to make sashes or belts.

 This silversmith was casting a pewter spoon when we saw him. Pouring molten metal into a mold was the first step. Letting it cool down for a few seconds, he then broke the mold and snipped off the drips around the edges.

I was totally surprised to learn that candle wicking was popular during these times. About thirty years ago, my mother and I made a lot of decorative pillows for our beds. Twisting the special thread around a needle either two or three times made a knot that became part of a pattern. It is like whitework embroidery. The ladies would have used the thread similar to the braided, cotton thread for candle wicks.

On Sunday, we arrived at the end of one of the church services. Some of the adults were standing, and most of the children had found a bench to sit on. It was a small group of all ages. What was so strange was to hear the pastor lead in a prayer that asked for blessing for the king of England and his family.

 A friend from Musgrove Mill offered to take our picture. A former pastor I knew used to say, “A little powder and paint helps a woman to look like what she ain’t.” I could have used a little lipstick.

Many were fascinated by the work of the cooper. He had buckets in various stages of completion. To learn more about a cooper, look at this site from Williamsburg.

The woodcarver taught this young lady how to carve a spoon, and she was obviously proud of what she did. From a piece of kindling we would use in the fireplace was crafted a spoon that could be used for cooking. Our colonial ancestors wasted nothing.

 On Saturday, this reenactor was making corn husk dolls with the children. On Sunday, she demonstrated the art of healing. During these days, the mother of the family would have knowledge of herbs and their healing properties. Often she was the only doctor a family would ever have. Not only did she provide medical treatment, she made oils, poultices, and mixed medicines.

We enjoyed all the music played Becky Cleland and Ben Seymour. Ben makes dulcimers and plays them beautifully. Becky plays the bones, pieces of wood that are clicked together in a rhythm that is easily caught. The Celtic tunes they sang as duets had children and adults mesmerized. You might want to visit their web site at

On both days, the battle fought between Bloody Bill Cunningham and the Patriots at Walnut Grove was reenacted. Once again, he was driven off before he burned the plantation. The rifles were loud, and some of the children put their hands over their ears. But this weekend was all about remembrance. We had the opportunity to celebrate our colonial heritage and see a battle that we read about in books come alive.

Those Scotch-Irish families that lived all across the Upcountry were firm in their beliefs that the land they built their houses on was theirs and not the king of England’s. They put their lives on the line and were considered troublemakers, just like the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Our unalterable resolution would be to be free. They have attempted to subdue us by force, but God be praised! in vain. Their arts may be more dangerous then their arms. Let us then renounce all treaty with them upon any score but that of total separation, and under God trust our cause to our swords.

— Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, April 16, 1776

Celebrating July 4, 2012 in Old Salem, North Carolina

 On July 3, John and I visited Bethabara for the first time. We were overwhelmed with information from the different docents and given an enlightening tour of this first Moravian settlement in North Carolina. Bethabara means House of Passage, and fifteen single men arrived there in 1753. “They all had a deep passion and belief that God would guide them” from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to their new                            

                                                                    wilderness home.

 By the next spring, more than 15 acres of fields were cleared and planted. Fences and houses were standing. For protection, a palisade was built around the buildings. It took two years to build the grist mill, but only eighteen days to build the palisade. More families followed the original settlers.

 The 1788 church has been reconstructed and restored to exhibit the simple, not easy, daily lives of these settlers. Their community life blended with their religion. Whether a person was washing clothes, making shoes, or teaching children about Jesus, it was all done from the heart. The community was like a family with everyone having a job that benefited all.

 The wrist latches on the doors are made 
to be opened with an elbow if hands were full; it still works.

 This basket was in the kitchen, and during the summer it might have held potatoes from the garden or apples picked in the fall. Dirty clothes could have filled at any season,

 One of the rooms is set up as a schoolroom with one long table for the students and this plain desk for the teacher.

 You can see the quill pen and ink well on one side and the bell to bring order from possible chaos in another handy position.

 This doll on the child’s bed in the master bedroom waits patiently for its owner.

 Parts of an original cellar, where food would have been stored, gives us a different view of our pantries today. In these root cellars, they would have buried the vegetables in the dirt.

 The medicinal herb garden includes those plants that would have been used during the 18th. century; it is a living history exhibit for visitors. Dr. Hans Martin Kalberlahn was the first physician, and he originally planted the garden. Because of his expertise, this settlement became a regional medical center. These plants would be like our prescription drugs today.

 Fresh water was necessary, and some of the original wells are evident.

 There was a museum of period tools set up in a barn. This fish basket caught my eye. Putting the basket in the running water with some bait takes care of attaching a worm to the hook.

 On July 4, we spent the day in Old Salem. Salem, translated “peace,” was founded in November, 1766, and completed in 1771by the Moravians. The festivities of the celebration began with the militia marching in to post the colors. Everyone stood for the Pledge of Allegiance

Speakers celebrated the Naturalization Ceremony; there were 60 candidates from 38 different countries. Strong voices were raised as they recited the Oath of Allegiance. The applause from the spectators was deafening as new citizens waved American flags in the air. Like a college graduation ceremony, the new citizens’ names were called. They proudly walked to the podium to receive their papers. It was a moving ceremony.

Emblem of Hunt club

 The Gun Shop is the oldest, continually working gun shop in America. Today
 make about a dozen rifles a year that are used for hunting. Rifles used in the
Revolutionary War battles of Cowpens and Kings Mountain were crafted here.
The huntsman’s task in the Old Salem community to bring in fresh meat. The
rifles were made for the hunters.

Pistol made by Old Salem Gunsmiths

Members of 4th of July Band

Fire Truck

Water Buckets for Fire Truck filled by the women

On the steps of the tavern at 2:00, we assembled to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence read. As you can see, the reader was dressed in period costume. Standing in front were men, women, and children attired in modern clothing and in 18th. century clothing, and the significance of this touched my heart. We must pass on to the next generation the importance of our freedom and our gratitude to those that fought in the Revolutionary War.

Crier for Reading of News

Crier Reading the new Declaration of Independence 

Ancient Silhouette Making machine

 Four women had put needle and thread into designing this quilt. Some crafts need to be passed down.

 There was one more ceremony at the end of the day that again included reenactors and visitors to Old Salem. The first city to plan a celebration for the 4th of July was Old Salem; it was in 1783. Psalm 46 was read, and all walked around the square singing “Now Thank We All Our God” as those first families did.

 It choked me up with emotion to hear adult voices floating across that square, and it was with pleasure and joy that John and I joined them.

 The band played while we sang, and then the benediction was read from Psalm 29:11. “The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people, His people with peace.” Amen

History Lessons
Knitting Lesson

I met many new friends that day from all across America, and I enjoyed talking to them all. With a few colonial toys on display, I had the opportunity to answer questions about our ancestors.

Early Flag

 In the Miksch House, built in 1771, the docent was set up in the small kitchen cooking lunch. Dried herbs hung from the ceiling in cloth bags tied with string to keep the critters out.

Meal Preparation

 Some of the crocks had lids; others used imported cork. A housewife of the 18th. century used what was available at the time; one was sealed with a corncob as the stopper. As you can see, one of these is covered with leather and tied with string.

Food Keeping Vessels


 The room was filled with baskets, pottery, bowls, bottles, graters, pewter spoons, and wooden spoons of all sizes and shapes.

More Food Storage Vessels

Potatoes from the garden

More storage vessels

Cooking on the hearth

 This is the Miksch House from the outside. It was the first single family home built in Salem. Matthew Miksch was trained as a gardner in Europe, and he supported his family in America by growing and selling vegetables and seeds. His wife Marie baked and sold gingerbread. (Maybe she swapped recipes with Winkler’s Bakery across the street.)

I wonder what the family would think of their home today.

These three days in and around Winston Salem reminded us once again of the price of freedom. We believe the Moravian motto is worth remembering.
                     “In essentials, unity

In non essentials, liberty
In all things, Love.”

Camden, 2011

The Revolutionary War Field Days in Historic Camden was on November 5-6 this year. There were so many things to do, as well as reenactors to talk to about life during the Revolutionary War. Dr. Christine Swager and I told stories about three Revolutionary War women who fought against the British and Tories. Throughout the two days, there were artillery demonstrations, a fashion show, fife and drum performances, and colonial craftsmen. 

The Historic Camden Revolutionary War Site is called an outdoor museum on a 98 acre plot of land. On this weekend, there is a time warp as many walk the paths in colonial costumes. I met Dr. Benjamin Franklin, and he was just as witty as I imagined.

There were shops on Sutler’s Row where we could buy replicas of these times. A baker was set up right next to our tent, and the lines to go in his tent were always there. Right before we left, I finally broke down and bought toasted sourdough bread with melted cheddar.

The Battle of Hobkirk’s Hill was reenacted on Saturday. The preparation was evident in the camps, as men from both sides readied themselves for their parts. This battle took place on April 25. 1881, but the cannon and musket firing gave reality to the men who fell to the ground.

In the camps, life went on without interruption. There were meals to fix, mending to do, and knitting to complete.

Children of all ages played with sticks, balls, and whatever was lying around. I saw no X Box games set up. A wooden spoon beat a cadence in the background.

The camp was in constant motion and activity. Small children carried buckets to get water. There was practice with bows and arrows. Above is the evidence of hunting expeditions with the tanning of hides. To survive in the eighteenth century, everyone had to be a participant.

The artillery demonstrations helped the visitors realize that everyday life had in its background the possible sounds of enemy fire at all times. The bright sun and cloudless sky could have been deceiving.

I wonder what these two soldiers were talking about. It appears to be a serious discussion. Even though both are at ease, there is an intensity in their stances. I guess the camaraderie in the military never changes, whatever the war under discussion.
     This brings to my mind a quote by Peter Muhlenberg from a Lutheran sermon read at Woodstock, Virginia in 1776. “There is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away. There is a time to fight, and that time has now come.”