Most any Saturday, you can drive about 36 miles south of Charlotte to experience a very different sense of place: Historic Brattonsville, in McConnells, S.C., is both a half-hour and 200 years away.
Only a paper or Internet trail connects most families across the generations. That’s not the case here: Authentic pre-Civil War buildings, mixed with reproductions, show the story of a prominent Upcountry Scots-Irish family, and programs and re-enactors bring the Bratton family’s story to life.
William Bratton, a son of immigrants, bought frontier land southwest of Rock Hill in the 1760s and became a man of prominence. He was called “Colonel” after service in the American Revolution that included the Battle of Huck’s Defeat – a successful skirmish in the area with a force of loyalists. Later generations prospered, and by the Civil War the Bratton plantation consisted of thousands of acres. Ownership gradually splintered over the following century.
In the 1960s, descendants and others began to reconsolidate key parcels into a historic district now owned or administered by York County Culture and Heritage Museums. Historic Brattonsville is 720 acres, holding a reproduction of a backwoods cabin, less rustic homes that followed, and the Brattons’ elaborate manor house: Hightower Hall, built in 1856.
More than 30 structures are on the grounds, some relocated from elsewhere in the area. Hightower Hall is opened for house tours on occasion; the rest, a half-mile away, can be entered and are connected by pathways. Visit them on a self-guided tour; interpreters at various buildings will provide background and answer questions.
Trails also extend through woodlands and clearings. There’s a demonstration farm with rare breeds of cattle, sheep, hogs and chickens.
All-day living history programs are held Saturdays. Some have special themes, and this Saturday is the annual “Hog Butchering Day.”
It involves a hog – already killed, but all in one piece – that will be gutted and cleaned. Yes, there is a yuck factor for some visitors, but there’s an educational point made: This is how hogs were traditionally butchered. Following an 18th-century process, the innards are removed and cleaned and set aside for use. More than 20 historically dressed interpreters will show you how sausages and bacon are made and what’s done with chitterlings. You’ll learn how lard is rendered, how soap is made and how meats are preserved. There will be cooking demonstrations.
The event is quite popular: About 500 attended last year, despite cold and rainy weather.
This being a food-oriented event in the Carolinas, barbecue will of course be sold ($4-$6) – though it’s not made on the spot: Gardener’s BBQ of York County is making it and bringing it to the historic site, along with sausage sandwiches and maybe Brunswick stew.