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Sandburg site, once home to slaves, and St. John commemorate start of slavery

FLAT ROCK — Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and St. John in the Wilderness Episcopal Church will join national parks and communities across the nation to commemorate the first landing of enslaved Africans 400 years ago in English-occupied North America at Virginia’s Point Comfort, now part of Fort Monroe National Monument.


A commemorative bell ringing will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday at the church as part of a national day of remembrance, healing and reconciliation, with many communities participating in a nationwide bell ringing. Everyone across the country is encouraged to come together in solidarity to ring bells simultaneously for four minutes, one minute for each century of African American history.

The program honors the contributions of African-Americans to the history of Flat Rock. A cemetery on the grounds of St. John in the Wilderness includes the graves of enslaved persons and church history includes records of slaves attending services there. Before Carl Sandburg moved to Flat Rock in 1945, the history of the property he purchased included slaves workers and African-American laborers.

The home was originally built by Christopher Gustav Memminger, a lawyer from Charleston who served as the Secretary of Confederate Treasury during the Civil War. Memminger acquired the property in 1836 to use as a vacation home with his family escape the heat and insects of the South Carolina lowland during the summer time, the National Park Service says.

Here's more on Memminger's time in Flat Rock from the park service:

"He called the estate 'Rock Hill' due to the exposed rock faces throughout the property. By the outbreak of the Civil War, Rock Hill included the Main House, Kitchen, and two surrounding slave quarters. The 1850 census taken in Charleston indicates that Memminger had 12 slaves. The two slave residences closest to the main house likely housed cooks, maids, and butlers for the family. The 1860 Henderson County census listed six male slaves in Memminger’s possession. Memminger resigned from his post in 1864 and retreated to Rock Hill. Shielded from battle by the mountains, Flat Rock, however, did not escape the brutality of war. Memminger, his family, and his friends used the place as a hideout due to the large presence of 'Bushwhackers' and the lack of civil or military law in the area. Mansions in the area were raided, but there is no recorded account of Bushwhackers entering Rock Hill."

Sunday also marks the 103rd anniversary of the legislation that established the National Park Service. All national parks will offer free admission for the day. This includes free tours of the Sandburg Home. The parks and programs of the National Park Service connect Americans and visitors from around the world with the nation’s notable landscapes, history, and outdoor opportunities. Each of the 419 national parks tells an important part of the collective story of America.