Written by Joseph McGill, Jr.
My stay at Goodwill Plantation marked the first time in my slave cabin project that I would stay in a cabin restored by a private donor. It was also the first of which I did not make the initial contact. Upon arrival, I was greeted at the front gate by Tom Milliken, the gentleman who coordinated my opportunity to stay on the property. Our first order of business was to meet the owner of the property, Mr. Larry Faulkenberry.
We spent the next three hours talking about the history of Goodwill Plantation and his efforts to restore the slave cabins and maintain the historical integrity of the property. He mentioned - and I saw - archival evidence of some of his personal research done about the slaves that once inhabited the plantation. He also mentioned the yearly pilgrimage to the property that has been established by a local African American church. We could have talked even more but we were reminded we had not yet toured the property.
Mr. Faulkenberry took me on a personal tour, where he mentioned that the bought the property with the intent of selling it for profit however he fell in love and decided on keeping it instead. We toured the man-made dikes that were built by slave labor and made it possible to control the flow of water necessary for growing rice inland. The highlight of the tour was the Mill House. Inside this structure were authentic operational machines that ran by a water wheel. Mr. Faulkenberry was thrilled to give me the history of each piece of machinery and I was just as thrilled to learn about them.
When we finally made it to the slave cabin it was a little darker than I had wished. Up until this point, I had been accustomed to getting to the cabin with enough light to do a thorough inspection. This inspection had to be done with a flashlight. Mr. Faulkenberry and I checked all the cracks and crevices that the flashlight allowed. As I prepared my place to sleep, I was harassed by a cockroach that I managed to kill. When I was about to drift off to sleep, I felt something crawling on my leg and discovered that it was a spider. I killed the spider and placed it right by the cockroach that I killed earlier. When I woke up about 3:00 am I discovered that both dead bugs were gone. Getting back to sleep from that point was a challenge but I managed to do so. When I woke up around 5:00 am I had the time to reflect and do some exploring of the immediate area. As day light approached I managed to take some great photographs of both of the existing slave cabins.
At 7:20 a.m. Mr. Faulkenberry showed up just as he had promised to lead me off of the property. I thanked him for his generosity. On my ride home, I continually thought about Mr. Faulkenberry. Not only did he have the means but also the willingness to restore the slave cabins on his private property, which was an unpopular decision, but the right thing to do. It is because of Mr. Faulkenberry and people like him that this element of American history will not be forgotten.
Joseph McGill, Jr. is a program officer at the Southern Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.