Reuniting with family was one of the first concerns of African slaves who escaped to Hilton Head Island. Slavery split up families. Owners could sell family members for profit or punishment. On Hilton Head Island, and places where freedom seekers gathered, relatives found each other. Immediate and extended families moved into Mitchelville and began creating a community in 1862. Adults walked to their jobs in the town or at nearby forts. Children went to school and shared what they learned with their parents. Elders helped by watching children and tending gardens. Mitchelville families dreamed and worked for a better future.
Less than a month after the Battle of Port Royal a reporter for the New York Times on Hilton Head Island wrote: They are constantly arriving ,families together, in dug-outs from the islands on Broad River bringing all their household effects, and finding shelter at the plantation on the island we occupy.
The San Francisco Bulletin, January 18, 1862 on Hilton Head Island: A man named David, from Savannah...arms firmly clasped around the neck of a colored woman, she was clasping him just as firmly, a little boy of about eight...hanging on both. David had found his wife Lucinda, and his boy, Frank, who had been sold away from him, and from which he had not seen in eight long
(left) Woman and child at Drayton Plantation on Hilton Head Island, near Mitchelville, c.1865. Photo courtesy of The Boston Athenaeum.
(top right) An 1861 engraving shows blacks escaping from slavery to the Union fort at Hilton Head. Image courtesy of http://www.sciway.net/hist/chicora/mitchelville-1html
(bottom right) Mitchelville about 1865, showing different kinds of houses and how the freedmen used this yard area for different activities. Image courtesy of http://www.sciway.net/hist/chicora/mitchelville-1html