During the U.S. Women's Open at the Country Club of Charleston, fans will see the world's best players compete on a golf course that is architecturally significant as well as challenging. However, if it were possible to travel back in time to the American Civil War, a very different landscape would be visible.
Back then, the land on which Seth Raynor built one of the most admired golf courses in the game was owned by the McLeod family, as part of their 1,693-acre plantation. Today, the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission (CCPRC) operates the recently opened McLeod Plantation Historic Site. Adjacent to the U.S. Women's Open venue, the 37-acre site preserves the McLeod’s Antebellum house, barns, outbuildings and former slave dwellings, and shares the stories of the people who once worked this land.
Visitors to McLeod will learn about the dozens of people who once worked on the Sea Island cotton plantation. Men, women and children like Pompey “Hardtimes” Dawson, his wife, Judy, and their children were forced to cultivate the cash crop considered to be the finest cotton in the world at that time.
The groundbreaking historical interpretation being done at McLeod caught the attention of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which has partnered with CCPRC to offer workshops for members of the Association of African American Museums.
“We try to emphasize these were real people, human beings who were victims of the inhumane practice of slavery,” says Gina Ellis-Strother, director of marketing at Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission. “We talk about them with names and real stories that show the human side of this inhumane practice. Our hope is that by emphasizing their humanity we can grow to understand some of the difficulties that we experience today in terms of race relations.”
Although the historic site is closed during the U.S. Women's Open Championship, it is open to the public Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To learn more, visit CharlestonCountyParks.com.