Digging deeper into history of Colleton’s black citizens
by The Press and Standard | February 1, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: January 29, 2019 at 4:14 pm
Elizabeth Laney is always digging deeper — deeper into the history of her hometown.
Laney will share the fruits of her labors in a pair of Feb. 6 programs held as part of the Black History Month observance by the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market.
History is Laney’s profession and passion. Professionally, she is park interpreter at the Redcliff Plantation State Historic Site in Beach Island. Her passion drives her Facebook page: Walterboro, S.C.-History Notes on Facebook-facebook.com/wborohistorynotes/
Laney became interested in researching Walterboro’s forgotten black Union veterans after discovering Daniel Sanderson’s tombstone while exploring Live Oak Cemetery in 2010.
Sanderson became the Walterboro postmaster in 1873 and a town councilman in 1877, after having spent the first 18 years of his life enslaved on a North Carolina plantation.
After serving three years in Company K of the 35th U.S. Colored Infantry, Sanderson was promoted to corporal and received a commendation in his service record that he was “a very good man.” (The 35th U.S. Colored Infantry was made up of slaves from along the North Carolina coast. Its members were sent to South Carolina and Florida during the Civil War and then Reconstruction.)
He spent more than a decade as a civil servant in Walterboro. He passed away in 1894 and was buried in the colored section of Live Oak Cemetery beneath a soldier’s tombstone.
“He was one of the town’s most important African-American figures in the late 19th century, but has been largely ignored in the town histories,”Laney said.
Since digging into Sanderson’s history, Laney documented the lives of at least nine members of the 35th U.S. Colored Troops who settled in Walterboro following the Civil War, as well as numerous other 19th century African-American families and civil servants.
The first program on Feb. 9 will be a tour of Live Oak Cemetery, exploring the grave sites of Union veterans buried in Walterboro, as well as the grave sites of some of Walterboro’s earliest known black leaders and civil servants.
The tour will visit the grave sites of Daniel Sanderson and David King, both veterans of the U.S. Colored Troops; the grave site of James Grace, a captain of the famed 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; and the gravesite of William Driffle, a former South Carolina congressman and one of Walterboro’s earliest black town councilmen.
Laney’s second presentation, held at the Colleton Museum and Farmers Market, will talk about the Union veterans who were brought to Walterboro in war, but settled in peace to become backbones of the local community.
Laney is a native of Walterboro, graduated from Walterboro High School in 1999 and received a bachelor of science degree in anthropology and a bachelor of arts degree in history from Appalachian State University in 2002.
After graduating, Laney held a number of part-time positions at Drayton Hall Plantation and Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site in Charleston.
She next served as the education administrator for the Colleton Museum and wrote and developed the museum’s popular “Shaking the Jug: The Tuskegee Airmen at Walterboro Army Air Field,” as well as the historical panels for the Walterboro Army Air Field Memorial Park.