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Library of Congress

Est. 1863


Edgerly was a post Civil War African American community that came into of existence during the Union Occupation of Beaufort and the surrounding sea islands.

Edgerly was purchased by slaves in the 1863 Direct Tax Sale for a group of slaves belonging to Tabernacle Baptist Church.  It is said they went to Solomon Peck, missionary and at the time pastor of their church and asked him to purchase the land that many of them already lived and worked on...their reasoning?  Their master had a hard heart and they knew he would not believe that the Yankees would sell his land.  History records that the Right Reverend said yes.  Edgerly grew up and was called numerous names throughout its almost 80 year existence.  Edgerly was located three miles northwest from the city of Beaufort.  Family names include:  Kelson, Binyard, Singleton, Washington, Green, Fields, Robinson and Brown.The slavs who lived there were pastors, professionals, farmers, fishermen, phosphate miners, railroad porters and Civil War veterans.  Edgerly would see two teachers, Martha Ann Wight and Elizabeth Hyde Botume.  It's leading "elder" was a man by the name of Old Prince Riley.    The government bought Edgerly Hill from its inhabitants in around the 1940s buffered by what is now Gray's Hill and Burton the tiny community had its own church, its own school and in its later years it had a baseball team. Joenathan Washington was the pitcher for the Edgerly Hill's baseball team and Peter Green, was said to have been its preacher.  He was believed to the brother of Elizabeth Singleton, my third great grandmother who was the daughter of Tabernacle Baptist Church founder, Cornelius Singleton.  Now, the 6,900 acres once owned by the descendants of slaves is a military installation.  Edgerly is near/bordered Clarendon Plantation, Bull Plantation and Deveaux plantation known as being in the vicinity of Laurel Bay and modern-day Gray's Hilll.  

Abandoned Shack in Beaufort, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs 


M. A. Wight.
March 22, 1864

2nd Annual Report New England Freedmen Relief



Natick, Mass., March 22, 1864.
Mr. C. C. Leigh.
Dear Sir. — Having had a few days rest among home friends, I sit down to fulfil the promise made to you to give some 
account of the Edgerly Plantation on Port Royal Island) upon which I have resided, as teacher, for the last
seventeen months. I could relate much that would be interesting connected with the place, during the spring and 
summer of 1862, when I spent a few weeks there; but I wish more particularly to speak of the last year, during
which time the people have been working for themselves. Last March (1863) the plantation, containing about 800 acres, 
was sold, and bought for them by the Rev. Dr. Peck, at the request of the people of Edgerly and those of the adjoining " 
Red House " plantation. They raised what money they could, (about $500), and the Doctor generously advanced the 
rest, which was repaid as soon as they received what was due them from Government. If I remember rightly, the cost of 
the place was $710.

The people of the Red House plantation continued to work the crops they had planted for Government, cultivating what 
they could of their own. Owing to the indefatigable labors of Mr. Hitchcock, their superintendent, their portion of the 
purchased land was surveyed and divided among them. After gathering the crops last fall, they commenced building on 
their own lands. When I came away, ten or twelve houses were finished, or nearly so, and the comfort and taste visible 
in their construction speak unmistakably of their thrift and forethought, and also indicates that their superintendent has 
labored among them with a view to their improvement and welfare, and not merely for his own interest. To one who has 
seen the dark dirty huts most of them have burrowed in, these new cabins, raised from the ground, with sashes, 
whitewashed inside and out, present a striking and pleasing contrast.

On Edgerly the purchasers comprised thirteen or fourteen families; the able bodied men being in the army or service of 
the quartermaster, so that the labor has devolved largely upon the females. I believe I am correct in saying that
there were seven men, too old or feeble to become soldiers; ten women, including two house-servants, able to work but 
little in the field; twelve boys and girls over eight years of age, (three of these being about fifteen) : besides these, there
were three men employed as wood-choppers for the Government, who worked some in their gardens at the close of 
their day's labor.

As soon as the first streak pi daylight was visible, all were astir and on their way to the field. The children came to school 
at the ringing of the bell, but returned to the field as soon as dismissed. About eleven o'clock they generally came back 
to their houses for food and rest, returning by two, and working, when there was most to be done, until the approach of 
darkness rendered it impossible to continue longer.

They had early vegetables of all kinds to eat and sell; large numbers of melons in their season; potatoes, corn, and rice 
enough to furnish them with food during the ensuing year. Besides this, they raised upward of 1,200 pounds of
ginned cotton of the best quality. All this was done with the aid of a mule part of the time, the greater part being done 
with the hoe. They had no superintendent or overseer, one of their own number being called a foreman, having 
oversight only of what was owned in common. They worked their crops separately.

Now they have purchased two or three horses, carts, ploughs, &c, and will be able to plant much more cotton this year 
than last. I think, too, they are getting rid of much of their prejudice against cotton planting. At first, many refused to 
plant what they could not eat, but now begin to see the profit arising from the culture of cotton.

Francis, the foreman, is a man of more than usual intelligence and industry. As a mark of the latter, let me relate a little 
anecdote that pleased me much. Francis was employed to furnish our wood. One morning, just as the sun was rising, I 
saw him with a load by the door which he had brought from the woods that morning. " Good morning, Francis," I said. " 
You are up before the sun this time." He looked up and courteously returned my salutation, resuming his work, merely 
saying: "I got a heap more work than the sun, Miss Martha."

They live peaceably with each other.; are quiet and orderly, and I cannot understand why they should not be considered 
as worthy of respect and esteem as if their complexions were fairer. I do respect them, and have a strong regard for 
many of them, who have proved my kindest friends when I have been sick, and at all times showed themselves 
extremely considerate of my comfort.

Our school comprises the children and youth of the two places of which I have spoken, and of three other plantations. 
Their progress has surprised me, but I must defer a relation of it, till I have more time to do them justice.

Yours truly, M. A. Wight.

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