Hailing from the Catawba Nation, Historic Brattonsville Wins SC Awards
Two state honorees for their work in preserving South Carolina’s history, one for lifetime service, were named from York County.
Wenonah Haire received the Governor’s Award for Significant, Significant, and Lifetime Achievement in the Preservation of Historic Structures or Sites in the State. Historic Brattonsville won a state stewardship award for restoration work on its brick home.
Both awards and others were presented by Governor Henry McMaster at the Statehouse earlier this month.
“It behooves us, not just as a South Carolina with a great history, not just as Americans, but as people in general, to preserve those things that we can learn from, that spark our imaginations, and everything it makes us stronger,” McMaster said in an announcement from the nonprofit Preservation South Carolina.
Haire is executive director of the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project. She is a Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Officer and a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Catawba Nation. Haire grew up in the Rock Hill area and graduated from Clemson University. Haire works as a dentist.
The Catawba Cultural Preservation Project began in 1989. It is located in the historic Catawba Indian School building on the reservation near Rock Hill. Less well known than separate schools for black and white students during segregation, according to Preservation South Carolina, are state-funded schools for Native American children. The Catawba Nation is the only federally recognized tribe in the state.
Haire directs the archives, archeology and cultural programs. Also, a craft store where Catawba pottery and other items are available for purchase. Some programs focus on pottery, language, drumming, dancing, and beadwork.
“I’ve always found arts and crafts to be an outlet for stress,” Haire said in the announcement. “Native American beadwork is both very relaxing and rewarding when a piece is finally put together.”
As a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer since 1992, Haire identifies and assesses historic properties and archaeological sites of cultural or religious significance to the tribe. Included is work to avoid or minimize impact to properties if disturbed for development.
Haire consults on discovered Native American burial sites and works on environmental issues along the Catawba River. She worked with universities on a 10-year plan to identify and excavate Catawba sites and to preserve a 4,200-year-old canoe found in the Cooper River. Haire’s ongoing work includes efforts to put the historic cemetery on reserve on the National Register of Historic Places.
Underground Railroad Network Program
Historic Brattonsville is another area winner for its preservation work. His two-story brick home was built in 1843 and was purchased by the Bratton Estate in 1962. It was sold to York County Culture and Heritage Museums in 2001. Stabilization efforts began in 2013 and two years later a plan was introduced to return the Brick House to its 1871 appearance for the Reconstruction era interpretation.
A restoration phase was completed early last year and shortly after Brattonsville was accepted into the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program.
The Brick House opened to the public last fall with exhibits focusing on the Black experience in this area at the time. Earlier this year, the project led to the site becoming part of the National Park Service’s Reconstruction-era National Historic Network.
“Being recognized by state leaders and preservation professionals for managing the built heritage in our care is a true complement to our efforts,” said Joseph Mester, assistant director and curator for Historic Brattonsville. “It encourages us to continue our work to save the irreplaceable at Historic Brattonsville for present and future generations to learn the stories of the past where it happened.”
Efforts like the Brick House restoration are an integral part of what Preservation South Carolina does.
“Part of the greatness of South Carolina is in the history of our aging buildings – think historic places of worship, mills, homes,” said Bill Fitzpatrick, chairman of the board of Preservation South Carolina. . “It is imperative that we preserve these monuments, so that future generations can have a tangible connection to the past.”