If you’ve never been to Historic Brattonsville, it’s definitely worth the trip. This unique living history farm has 800 sprawling acres with historic elements around every corner.
Historic Brattonsville shows you how a blacksmith worked with metal, how wool from the farm’s sheep is spun, and the history behind the dozens of buildings on the property. Historic Brattonsville also uses African American interpreters to tell the history of the enslaved from the Bratton Family Plantation. Between 1820 and 1840 the Bratton family dramatically increased the number of enslaved African Americans he owned. In 1820 the census shows that he had around 24 slaves, by 1840 there 112 enslaved people on the property.
On top of having a full time African American interpreter on hand to share the story of the story of the enslaved, they host two large programs each year. Unfortunately, Historic Brattonsville is currently closed to the public due to Covid-19. However, you won't have to miss their annual program, By the Sweat of Our Brows, as the program is going virtual this year.
“By the Sweat of Our Brows” is an annual award-winning program where descendants of the African American community at Brattonsville come together to commemorate their culture and heritage. This year’s program presents a series of videos featuring two historic church tours, a children’s story hour with local author Kimberly Massey, interviews and a panel discussion among descendants, and the voice of local artist and educator Carlo Dawson singing spirituals. The video series will be shared on digital platforms and premiering at noon on the second, third and fourth Saturdays in September.
September 12- “By the Sweat of Our Brows” video series opens on Sept. 12 with the traditional “Calling of Names” – a reading of the 1865 Freedmen’s List, and then focuses on two historic churches in the area. Descendants Margaret Parson-Willins and Wali Cathcart lead a tour of Mount Zion Baptist Church, which was founded in 1863 by the area’s enslaved community; and visit the cemetery where their ancestors were laid to rest.
September 19- A children’s book will be read aloud by local author Kimberly Massey on Sept. 19. Her recently published book, “Sowing Seeds with Brother Wali” illustrates the story of Wali Cathcart, a descendant actively engaged in the programming at Historic Brattonsville. Cathcart, also interviewed in this segment, discusses his career as a professional ballplayer in the Negro League, his commitment to the Carroll School and life as a farmer.
September 26- For the final video on Sept. 26, descendant Margaret Parson-Willins talks about her experience in the Civil Rights Movement and her career as a Black business owner. This finale also presents a panel discussion among descendants
When and how to view:
“By the Sweat of Our Brows” video series can be viewed on Historic Brattonsville’s Facebook page and on Culture & Heritage Museums’ YouTube channel on Sept. 12, 19 and 26 at noon.
The stories of the enslaved on the Bratton family plantation also play a huge role in the American Revolution for the Backcountry. Watt, a young enslaved man is said to play an integral in the “Battle of Huck’s Defeat” in 1780. While British Captain Christian Huck had the Bratton farm under his control, it’s said that Watt escaped to warn Patriot Colonel Bratton of Huck’s whereabouts, giving Bratton the upper hand and the element of surprise to defat Huck. The “Battle of Huck’s Defeat” is marked on Historic Brattonsville’s property along with a headstone for Watt. A replica of the headstone sits at Historic Brattonsville for visitors to see. The stone reads “Sacred to the memory of WATT Who died Dec. 1837 During the War he served his master Col. W. Bratton Faithfully and his child WIth the same fidelty Until his death.”
To read a full history of the African Americans on the Bratton Plantation, click here.