“History Detectives” Comes to South Carolina to Tape an Episode Titled, “Bill of Sale”
Tapings to Take Place in Charleston and Marion County April 4-6
For Immediate Release
March 30, 2012
Columbia, SC… The national PBS program “History Detectives” will once again be in South Carolina to uncover an almost 200-year old mystery. Host Eduardo Pagán and the “History Detectives” crew will be traveling to Charleston and select locations in Marion County in April to uncover the past of a young slave girl.
The story begins when a Kansas woman, Jeanie Hans, was cleaning out her parents’ attic and found a document that haunted her. In a box of her grandfather’s possessions, tucked among books and old gun manuals she found an 1829 ‘Bill of Sale’ for the purchase of a 17-year-old “negro girl” named Willoby. Having a teenage daughter herself, Jeanie was disturbed by the thought of Willoby being sold into slavery and separated from her family. She turned to the “History Detectives” to help her find out what happened to Willoby and hopefully share this new found information with her family.
The mystery brings Pagán to South Carolina, for a search that begins in 1829. While researching their family trees, many African-Americans often come to a standstill at 1870 because census reports didn't include the names of enslaved people before that date. Will the “History Detectives” be able to put together a narrative of Willoby's life, and if so, what will it reveal?
“History Detectives” will be taping at these locations on the following dates:
- Wednesday April 4 - The Old Exchange, interviewing Nicole Greene, Director of the Old Slave Mart
- Thursday April 5 - The Marion County Archives and History Center, and the Hewn Timber Cabins on the campus of Francis Marion University
- Friday April 6 - The Grove Inn at Harlee B&B
**Times for tapings at each location will be announced as soon as they are known.
The exact air date for this episode has not yet been determined.
With its rich history, this is the eighth time that the “History Detectives” have come to South Carolina, and second time they’ve visited Charleston. Other stories have included:
- LEE'S LAST ORDERS: In the archives of a gentleman's club in Beech Island, SC (near Aiken) is what is believed to be a hand-written, signed copy of one of the most famous documents in the history of the Civil War--Confederate General Robert E. Lee's farewell address, "General Order #9," composed at Appomattox, Virginia upon the surrender of his troops in April 1865. The Beech Island Agricultural Club, a social organization formed by local plantation owners in the 1840's, has owned this copy for almost 120 years. Is this really the "original" copy of "General Order #9"?
- ALTERNATIVE SERVICE CERTIFICATES: A contributor in Aiken, SC owns a remarkable collection of wartime homefront memorabilia, including a pair of mysterious $5 certificates titled "Brethren Service Committee." The certificates are dated 1943 and state that the contribution is intended as an "alternate service to war." Certain churches and religious groups granted "conscientious objector" status during wars in the 20th century. Are these certificates evidence of one person's attempt to buy their way out of serving in World War II? “History Detectives” heads to Pennsylvania and Maryland to gain a deeper understanding of religious and moral objection to military service.
- CAROLINA MYSTERY BOOKS: A South Carolina man has a beautiful eight-volume set of Edward Gibbon's "History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" that he acquired at a local library sale in Edgefield, SC. The volumes are dated 1789 and are inscribed with the signature John Calhoun. The contributor suspects the books belonged to John C. Calhoun, the 19th-Century American political giant and intellectual architect of the Confederacy. Along with Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Henry Clay of Kentucky, Calhoun was part of The Great Triumvirate of statesmen who set the terms of debate on the most challenging issues of their time, including banking, state's rights, westward expansion, and slavery. “History Detectives” heads to South Carolina to uncover whether the books in question shaped the thinking of a politician who was nicknamed the "cast-iron man" for his staunch determination to defend the causes in which he believed.
- HIGHLANDER BADGE: While scuba diving in North Augusta, SC along the banks of the Savannah River, a Georgia man uncovered a mysterious badge. Though it is slightly corroded, the “History Detectives” are able to decipher Latin inscriptions, the imprint of a thistle, the British Crown and the number "71." Initial research reveals that a regiment within the British Army was in fact a group called the 71st Highlanders from Scotland. The “History Detectives” discover the badge could have been lost by one of the Highlanders, who were among the fiercest troops of the War. Their deployment to Georgia and South Carolina signaled the importance of the British High Command's so-called Southern Strategy. But the puzzle remains: how did the badge end up in the river? Was it during a desperate maneuver by the British to turn the tide of the war and reclaim their U.S. colonies? “History Detectives” travels to Georgia and South Carolina to find out.
- THE RED HAND FLAG: During her last active duty posting with the Army at Ft. Jackson in Columbia, SC, a Desert Storm veteran from South Carolina learned about a local, all-but-forgotten African-American infantry regiment in WWI. Years later, she purchased a worn red-white-red striped flag with a red felted hand sewn in the center and small U.S. flags sewn in the corner. Was this flag carried into battle by one of the few African-American infantry regiments that fought in WWI under the command of the French? “History Detectives” host Elyse Luray heads to Columbia to link this mysterious flag to the legacy of the Red Hand Division and its wartime triumphs.
- LIBERIA LETTER: A Lynchburg, SC, woman has a scrapbook of handwritten letters sent to her great-great-grandmother, a freed slave who lived in South Carolina. She thinks her ancestor's brother, Harvey McLeod, wrote the letters. What caught her attention were the repeated references to Liberia. In 1877, Harvey writes: "I hope you will change your mind and come to Liberia, Africa with us." Was this family part of the post-slavery exodus to Liberia? As “History Detectives” host Tukufu Zuberi tracks the path of the letters, the story pieces together a tale of slaves adapting to freedom.
- CIVIL WAR BRIDGE: Clearing some newly purchased property along the Broad River in Columbia, SC, the owner discovered evidence of an old bridge abutment. He searched the river for clues and thinks he may have pinpointed the location where Confederates burned the bridge to thwart General Sherman's attempt to cross into Columbia to continue his scorch-and-burn campaign. “History Detectives” host Elyse Luray goes to Columbia to examine the evidence and see if this discovery will redraw the maps of the Civil War.
- FACE JUG: Our Pennsylvania contributor has a startling piece of art – a ceramic jug with eyes, nose, ears and teeth bared in a grimace. In 1950 her grandfather, a plumber, was digging up land for a school in Germantown, PA, and found this peculiar piece of pottery. Our contributor suspects African Americans made this face jug during the Civil War era and wonders if it came to Philadelphia on the Underground Railroad. “History Detectives” host Gwendolyn Wright researches the site where the plumber first found this pottery, to see if there could be an Underground Railroad connection. She pays a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and heads to Edgefield, SC, to try to find out the who, what, when and where of this curious jug.
- OLD SECESSION SHAVINGS: A Hollywood, SC, antique dealer discovered a century old puzzle in a corked test tube. The tube contained what appeared to be metal filings along with a note that reads: “Old Secession was rebored at the Charleston Iron Works May 4/99 and fired by Palmetto Guard Company U.C.V. in honor of U.C.V. reunion May 10/99.” Growing up he had heard the story of a Charleston cannon that fired the shot that began the Civil War. Could these shavings come from the cannon that sounded the first volley in the fight for southern secession? This mystery takes “History Detectives” host Elyse Luray to the harbor overlooking Ft. Sumter, in Charleston, SC, the first battlefield of the Civil War.
South Carolina ETV (presenting station) is the state's public educational broadcasting network. Using television, radio and the web, SCETV's mission is to enrich lives by educating children, informing and connecting citizens, celebrating our culture and environment and instilling the joy of learning. South Carolina ETV currently presents A Chef’s Life, Expeditions, and For Your Home on public television in addition to national radio productions Song Travels, Piano Jazz, Spoleto Festival USA, and World of Opera.