Star-News: Plantation to host Literacy Council oyster roast fundraiser

Plantation to host Literacy Council oyster roast fundraiser

By Terry Reilly, Community@StarNewsOnline.com

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 9:50 a.m.

If you are a local history buff, “Sleepy Hollow” fan or nature lover, you can get your fix while downing roasted oysters at the first annual Oyster Roast on Saturday, Nov. 8.

Historic Clarendon Plantation, located in Brunswick County at the confluence of the Brunswick and Cape Fear rivers, will host the event.

Rachel Pace, one of the plantation’s owners, came up with the idea as a way to raise money for the Cape Fear Literacy Council. Pace is chairperson for the CFLC board.

Clarendon was one of 30 rice plantations that hugged the shores of the Lower Cape Fear, growing the “Carolina Gold” rice strain back in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The hand-dug canals used to irrigate the rice fields are still clearly visible. One of those canals may have even functioned as a celestial calendar.

The canal directly behind the main house runs perpendicular to the river and aligns perfectly with the rising sun on the summer solstice.

“We’re not sure who and how that canal was dug. Given the positioning with the sun, it may have been constructed by Native Americans,” Pace said.

The plantation’s main house, built in the 1920s, is making a comeback. With a new roof and the frequent setting for the “Sleepy Hollow” television series, Pace hopes one day to turn the building and grounds into a bed and breakfast. She may also open the grounds for weddings. Last year, her daughter was married on the grounds, surrounded by 200 guests.

Unfortunately the plantation’s original manor house, built in 1834, was destroyed by a fire in 1974. But one building remains. According to a Brunswick County Planning report, it may be the oldest structure in the Carolinas.

Referred to as the “Smoke House,” the small brick building is said to have stored gun powder when erected perhaps as far back as 1666 by the first English settlers. Pace, who lived at Clarendon for three years as a young child, has asked an archeologist to investigate the site further.

Preserving the land is as important to Pace as saving remnants of the plantation’s past. In 2008, Pace and the other owners signed agreements with the N.C. Coastal Land and Water Trust Funds to protect wildlife and natural resources for 725 acres.

The property is covered by longleaf pine trees, limesink ponds, marshes and riverfront that harbors native sturgeons, American alligators, extensive birds and shellfish.

“I just love this place,” Pace said. “I am so happy that the land will be preserved through the land trust and that no one will develop it in the future.”

For “Sleepy Hollow” aficionados attending the Roast, the homesite should invoke memories of last year’s “Sanctuary” episode, when the entire Georgian brick home was encased in a creepy tangle of vines. “Sleepy Hollow” continues to use the location as it shoots it second season.

While showcasing a historic gem amidst great food and music, the Oyster Roast has a serious goal of helping to eliminate illiteracy.

“The CFLC changes lives and opens doors that lead to better health and jobs,” Pace said.

Seven years ago, Pace said she became “hooked” on getting involved with the Literacy Council when she heard the story about a woman trying to give medicine to her sick child.

“She could not do it because she could not read the prescription label,” Pace said.

On a more inspiring note, Pace recalled the reaction of one man’s learning to read.

“Not knowing how to read was like being in a dark room. Reading was like seeing the light for the first time,” he said.

For more information on the Oyster Roast and CFLC go to https://www.cfliteracy.org.

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