Oh, God of Dust and Rainbows/ Help us to see/that without the dust the rainbow/Would not be. – Langston Hughes
This red-roofed handbuilt house on Point of Pines Road was built about 1885 by Henry Hutchinson for his bride, Rosa Swinton. Today the skeleton of this house still stands. In the spring the house is covered with flowering wisteria, and all you can see from the road now is a purple haze, the color of indigo. It is slowly being reclaimed by the earth.
According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History this is the oldest identified house on Edisto Island associated with the black community after the Civil War.
“Henry Hutchinson… according to a local tradition, built and operated the first cotton gin owned by a black on the island, from 1900 to 1920. He was born a slave in 1860″ (and was the son of James -Jim- Hutchinson), and lived in this house here until his death in 1940. “The house is a rectangular, one-and-one half story residence featuring a side gable roof with bargeboards and three gabled dormers on the front slope of the roof. The weatherboard clad house rests on a raised, brick pier foundation and has shed and gable-roofed additions at the west and north elevations. The pedimented front porch dates from a later period. Listed in the National Register May 5, 1987.”
My own neighborhood on the island, on land that was formerly Sea Side Plantation, is full of Hutchinson descendants to this day. Jim Hutchinson was one of the men they called “Kings of Edisto”. He was a spokesperson, and he helped former slaves own, and get clear title to land. It seems he was quite the hero. Having served as a Union soldier, he returned to Edisto after arranging the capture of nine Edisto planters’ sons on the Island, as Confederate spies in 1863, at the risk of his own life. It was also “widely known” according to historian Charles Spencer, that Jim Hutchison was the son of a slave mother and a white father, most likely the powerful Issac Jenkins Mikell.
As early as 1865, He held a Freedman’s Land Certificate under owner William Edings at Sea Side (issued August 3, 1865). And from the National Register, “In 1870, a mass meeting of blacks on Edisto, chaired by James Hutchinson produced a letter addressed to Governor Robert K. Scott, asking him or someone to purchase a 900 acres plantation on the island to be divided among the freedman. He purchased a large tract of land in the fall of the year 1874, land that had been the Clark Plantation, also called “Shell House,” a parcel of 404.26 acres. The land that was the former Clark plantation was subdivided about 1878 among his children and other freedmen”.
In the end, Jim Hutchinson was killed. “He was leading the colored people too much… he helped the poor people. It was a white man from Wadmalaw. And it must be they followed mercy in this case instead of justice, for they never did anything with the murderer. But the people have clear title to their lands, and Jim’s work has endured.” – from poet and sage Nick Lindsay’s book, And I’m Glad, an Oral History of Edisto Island.
Stories endure, too. And there is something about the beauty of the place, now, just like it is.