Friday, September 13, 2013

Stagville Festival a Phenomenal Success

     Visitors came from as far away as California and Utah and as close by as Durham for the Harvest Festival on Saturday, September 7th.  The purpose of the festival was to raise money for the Historic Stagville Foundation and to educate the public about slave life on the plantation, one of the largest in North Carolina prior to the Civil War.  Owned by the Bennehan-Cameron families, the Stagville Plantation consisted of several thousand acres and lay at the center of an enormous estate of 30,000 acres.  Nearly 900 slaves worked the property.
Visitors to Saturday’s event were able to see the Brennehan House, built in 1787 (impressive for its time period and built in the Georgian style), as well as Horton Cottage a two story, four room dwelling that is a rare survivor among slave quarters.  Further down the road is the Great Barn, a huge structure used mainly to store farm equipment and mules.   Standing nearly 3 stories tall and about 135 feet long, it features rare complex joinery.

Brandon Brinkley of the End of the Drive Mule Team

On hand to escort small groups to the Great Barn was the End of the Road Mule Farm of Ashboro, NC.  Brandon Brinkley and his grandfather, Ronald Hudson, helped small groups into a wagon pulled by two mules.
On the Way to the Great Barn

Colleen Minton leading discussion with Hugh Acheson and Michael Twitty

Nicole Moore begins preparations for the feast at the Stagville Historic Site

Preparations for the dinner began the night before as Neal Sexton, a field archeologist with Dovetail Cultural Resources Group in Fredericksburg, Virginia, arrived from Fayetteville to start the fires needed to cook the food.  He could be seen all day on Saturday splitting logs and tending the fire pits, resplendent in attire he sewed himself (handmade trousers, vest, and shirt).   Another key figure in the cooking brigade was Nicole Moore, an historic interpreter from Virginia Beach.  Crowds gathered to watch her working and to hear her explain key ingredients and cooking methods.  (For more information, consult her website at

Some of Nicole Moore's offerings for the Stagville Feast

Nicole Moore and Hugh Acheson

Michael Twitty preparing the meat for the Stagville Feast

Michael makes biscuits under the watchful eye of a photographer from Garden and Gun Magazine

Prior to the dinner, Stagville Assistant Site Manager, Jeremiah Digennero, gave an overview of Horton  Cottage, a four room slave dwelling on the estate.  Banjo music played by Jason Roberson delighted the guests.  Before meal was served , everyone patiently awaited the outcome of Michael Twitty’s DNA testing.  Gina Paige, founder of African Ancestry DNA, enthralled the audience as she revealed Michael’s results.
Gina Page revealing Michael Twitty's DNA results 
 Guests agreed that this event was of historic proportions, and one organizer stated that it was the largest crowd ever assembled on the grounds.  It was indeed a day to be long remembered.


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