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A SHORT HISTORY OF LIBERTY  HILL

The Beginning

Liberty Hill has had many owners, but Paul and Harriet Trescott of Charleston, SC, were the first blacks to own the 112 acres. Paul was the son of a slave and a slave-master and this accounts, perhaps, for his being able to read and write and his right to purchase land during the Antebellum period. Although Paul was literate and Harriet could not read or write, there are documents that list Harriet as an owner of two slaves. Thus, the Trescotts were well-to-do and highly respected in some circles of Charleston's free-black society. The Trescotts died in the late 1800's, but the family line still continues in Charleston. Viola Trescott Carroway, the great-granddaughter of Paul and Harriet, resides with her husband James at 10 Henrietta Street. 

In May of 1871, Ismael Grant, Aaron Middleton, and William and Plenty Lecque purchased Liberty Hill from the Trescott's for $900.00 at 7% interest and donated one acre for the establishment of St. Peter's A.M.E. Church, the oldest A.M.E. Church in North Charleston. The total debt was $1, 150.00. They were farmers by trade and their main crops were corn, potatoes, cabbage, peas and collard green. However, it is doubtful they sold enough crops to pay a debt of $1, 150.00. Possibly, they sold their labor as carpenters or brick masons; they may have cut and sold lumber since Liberty Hill was a thickly wooded area; they may have also worked in a sawmill or sold meat caught from hunting. A number of possibilities exist to account for their earnings during the period of 1865 to 1771 when they made the purchase. 

As freedmen, as former slaves were called, the Liberty Hill Four were not rich by the standards of the time, but neither were they in deep poverty. they were able to gain a measure of success in their ventures despite the failures of Reconstruction. Tax records for 1873 describe the group's taxable property as being $815.00. They were able to pay the state tax of $9.78, county tax of $4.08, highway tax $1.47, district school tax $0.82 and poll tax of $4.00. They also had accumulated two horses valued at $125.00, four cows or oxen at $50.00, one carriage at $2000 and three buildings between $300.00 and $500.00. 

In April of 1875, Grant became the sole owner of Liberty Hill. Middleton and the Lecques sold their interest to him for $675.00, and one can only surmise as to why: they were in dire need of funds; taxes were getting higher, and they were not receiving a profit from the land; the task of cultivation was too great a responsibility; or they borrowed money from Grant and allowed him to keep their share as collateral. Two months later, however, Grant sold or returned several acres to Middleton and the Lecques. He also sold three acres to peter Brown, five acres to Brown Johnson, and 35 acres to Cato Silcox. The average sale per acre was $10.00. By 1878, Grant had sold the majority of Liberty Hill and kept only 16 1/4 acres for himself. Apparently, he had made a name for himself and was well-known throughout the "North Area" 

Although Grant had acquired more propetrty than Middleton and the Lecques, they were just as industrious as he and in sme areas of material wealth exceeded him. In 1876, MIddleton's total value of taxable property was estimated at $125.00 and had a total of 11 acres, four of which was used for farming. William Lecque's estimation was $165 to include of cattle worth $30.00, one mule, $40.00 one pleasure carriage, two dogs $10.00 and 10 acres of land. Plenty Lecque's taxable property was valued at $145 to include one horse worth $40.00, cattle $20.00, one mule and a dog and furniture $10.00. 

The Liberty Hill Four acquired as many acres as affordable for they know the value of "de land," the value of 40 acres and a mule. The constant cry of Frederick Douglass for land, a possession slaves could not own, had taken powerful root in the psyche of the post-war blacks in the South. And, as freedmen, it was the basis of self-sufficiency, clout and respectability. One must consider their initiative and desire for success to have acquired 112 acres of land only six years after the legalization of emancipation. Furthermore, they were forerunners of Booker T. Washington's philosopy of "Pull yourself up by your own bootstrap" and produced a community that is considered one of the oldest, black communities in North Charleston. 

The Trescotts were the first black owners of Liberty Hill but are not considered the Founding Fathers. Residents today know nothing about them; they did not try to cultivate Liberty Hill to the degree of the Freedmen; and they did not leave a legacy of their posterity. Thus, Liberty Hillians consider Grant, Middleton and the Lecques as the true founders. The Liberty Hill Four took an interest in the land; and it became their home and the home of their descendants, particularly the descendants of Grant and the Lecques. 

It is of great significance that the Liberty Hill Four formed the first business "co-op" on Liberty Hill and founded a community that still exists. It is interest to not how they acquired so much with so little to build a community and why the Liberty Hillians of today are doing so little with so much. One day, perhaps, traditional families, as well as newcomers to Liberty Hill, will garner the insight and fortitude of the Founding Fathers and make Liberty Hill what it ought to be. 

H.E. DARBY

JUNE 1993

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