News from the Homestead
June 2021

During the summer months we invite you to enjoy the many programs, events, and recreational and educational opportunities happening at Homestead National Historical Park. Friday, June 25th through Sunday, June 27th we will be hosting our annual Homestead Days. Our Summer Campfire series kicks off on July 4th at 7:00 p.m., with more campfires every Saturday at 7:00, and a Kids in Parks Program every Saturday at 10:00 a.m, beginning July 10th.

We look forward to seeing you at Homestead National Historical Park this summer.


Mark Engler, Superintendent
Homestead Days - June 25th through June 27th
Homestead Days 2021 is coming soon! We invite you to Homestead National Historical Park on Friday, June 25, 2021 through Sunday, June 27, 2021. This year’s stage presentations will feature performers and presenters whose art and knowledge can find some of its roots in the Homestead Act. The event will take place on the outdoor stage behind the Education Center.
Friday, June 25
10 a.m.                      Miss V, Children's Performance
2 p.m.                         Miss V, Family Friendly Musical Performance                   
Miss V offers a musical program for children using classical and homemade instruments. V provides an overview of the instrument’s historic origins and leads the group in lively tunes.
Saturday, June 26
12:00  p.m.               Ceili at the Crossroads, Irish Dance Company
1:00 p.m.                  D. Joshua Taylor, speaker-cohost of PBS’s Genealogy Roadshow
2:00 p.m.                    Mariachi Zapata, Mariachi Music
3:00 p.m.                    Homestead Harmonizes, A Capella Choir
Ceili at the Crossroads is a professional Irish dance company located in the heart of Kansas City that seeks to promote the joy of Irish dancing to the community. D. Joshua Taylor is a nationally known and recognized speaker and author on genealogy and family history and has been a featured genealogist on Who Do You Think You Are? with Sarah Jessica Parker, Kelly Clarkson, Ashley Judd, Reba McEntire, and Rob Lowe. Taylor can also be seen taking America through their past as a host on the popular PBS series Genealogy Roadshow.

Mariachi Zapata is an Omaha Nebraska based band that plays traditional mariachi music. The Homestead Harmonizers are a men’s barbershop chorus whose members range in age from 14 to 80 plus years old. The melodic tones and precision in their music has led them to many state and national honors, including singing the National Anthem at a Chicago Cubs baseball game!

Sunday, June 27
1:00 p.m.                Oklahoma Fancy Dancers, Native American Indian Dance Troupe
2:00 p.m.                    D. Joshua Taylor , speaker-cohost of PBS’s Genealogy Roadshow
3:00 p.m.                    Joan Wells, Trick Roper
4:00 p.m. Kenny Janak Orchestra
The Oklahoma Fancy Dancers are a group of powwow champions that come together to form a professional and highly acclaimed Native American dance troupe. All the dancers are enrolled tribal members, most of whom are full blood, representing various tribes. The award-winning dance regalia worn by each dancer is brilliantly colorful, traditional, and representative of the dancer's tribe and dance performed.

Joan Wells is a native Nebraskan and holds a B.A. in Physical Education from the University of Nebraska-Kearney with additional course work in Adult Education and Sports Studies. Joan has toured with her trick roping and western music for the National School Assemblies Agency of Hollywood, CA and won the title as Women’s World Champion Trick Roper at the Will Rogers Trick Roping Contest in Claremore, OK. In 1989 she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Ft. Worth. Joan continues to perform for western theme events, conventions, schools, stage shows, and wild west show re-enactments.

“The Homestead Act plays a significant role in the National Story as well as many Americans’ personal stories. Our stage series will explore different topics and art forms that can find some of its roots in the Homestead Act Of 1862,” stated Superintendent Mark Engler.
This event series will be outside and socially distanced. Each individual performance is dependent on weather conditions. This years festivities are limited to the stage series. 
Celebrating LGBTQ+ Homesteaders
June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) Pride Month. We recognize the incredible struggles that the LGBTQ+ community has often endured, and the many contributions that the community has made to this nation. The National Park Service manages Stonewall National Monument in New York City, a site dedicated to honoring Stonewall's role in the quest for LGBTQ civil rights.

Here at Homestead, we honor millions of people, and help tell millions of stories of those from a variety of backgrounds who faced many unique challenges, including LGBTQ homesteaders. In honor of Pride month, here's the story of Marie Equi and her partner Betsey ("Bessie") Holcomb, who were homesteaders together in Oregon.

Marie Equi was born in the historical whaling town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1872, to European immigrants John and Sarah Aque. She dropped out of New Bedford High School to work in the textile mills as a teenager, but her friend Betsey Holcomb encouraged her to leave the mill, and persuaded Marie to join her on a homestead claim in the west.

Holcomb staked a claim to 122 acres in The Dalles, Oregon, and wrote Marie to join her. The two successfully proved up on their homestead, and received the patent to the land in 1897. In fact, Marie even served as a witness on Holcomb's claim. They lived together in Oregon, and then San Francisco, for about 10 years. Equi received a medal from President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 for her assistance in the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake and fire.

Equi also had long term romantic relationships with Harriet Speckart, with whom she adopted a daughter, Mary Jr, and with Katherine O'Brennan. Equi was an activist who spent her life fighting for civil rights causes, including women's suffrage and labor reform, speaking at the 1905 National American Women's Suffrage Association in Portland alongside leading suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony, Abigail Scott Duniway, and Carrie Chapman Catt. She was arrested in 1919 under the Espionage Act, charged with sedition. She wrote to President Woodrow Wilson, maintaining that her same-sex relationships were at the root of the federal investigation against her.

Equi, like many homesteaders, was willing to challenge the status quo to ensure that the rights, liberties, and freedoms of herself, her partners, and all Americans were not violated.
Honoring Juneteenth, America's Newest Federal Holiday
You may have heard something by now about America’s newest federal holiday – Juneteenth. What exactly is Juneteenth? It commemorates June 19th, 1865 – when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas learned from arriving Union Army troops that the Civil War was over.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law years before, taking effect on January 1st, 1863, declaring that all enslaved people in the Confederate States were legally free. But in practice, that didn’t affect everyone immediately. Texas was the furthest west state of the Confederacy, and many enslaved people in Texas were held in bondage until the end of the war, as the U.S. military presence was not able to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation there. Many African Americans throughout the South self-emancipated, escaping chattel slavery to seek refuge with the Union Army. Often those who did so enlisted with the U.S. Army and Navy, fighting with the United States Colored Troops.

The last Confederate general surrendered in June 1865, and U.S. General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas on June 19th, 1865 to share the news that the war was over, and that enslaved African Americans throughout the state were free – news of the proclamation had been slow to spread, often being suppressed by enslavers.

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. constitution was ratified in December 1865, officially ending slavery throughout the United States. The 14th Amendment was ratified in July of 1868, granting citizenship to African Americans. Upon gaining citizenship, African Americans were eligible to claim land under the Homestead Act of 1862, and under the Southern Homestead Act of 1866. To learn more about Black Homesteading in America, and our ongoing Black Homesteader Project, check out this link:

Juneteenth is one of the oldest known celebrations of the abolition of slavery, and while it started as a Texas-specific commemoration of that moment of freedom at Galveston, the celebration has grown and grown in the years since the Civil War. On June 18th, the President signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, commemorating this important event in American history.
Traveling Exhibit Shows History of Truck Farming in Mississippi
An exhibit featuring historical photographs documenting the early days of truck farming in Mississippi will be on display at Homestead National Historical Park from July 2nd to August 30th. “Through the Lens: Copiah County Truck Farming” showcases the work of Luther M. Hamilton (1869-1944), a native of Crystal Springs. Hamilton’s striking photographs of early 1900s truck farming capture workers in cabbage and tomato fields, trucks lined up to unload at a train depot, and scenes of downtown Crystal Springs and its residents.

Did you know that under the Southern Homestead Act, land in Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida was opened up for homesteading? In Mississippi, agricultural organizations such as the Grange and the Farmers’ Alliance advocated crop diversification and modernization of farming practices to break cotton’s hold after the Civil War.

Truck farming, one effort at crop diversification, proved to be an effective alternative to cotton. Beginning in Copiah County in 1874, farmers produced vegetables to be shipped by train to commercial markets in cities. Other communities across Mississippi soon followed Copiah County’s lead as truck farming became a viable agricultural practice.

At the turn of the century, photographer Luther M. Hamilton documented the changes truck farming brought to his community of Crystal Springs. Hamilton photographed trucks filled with produce waiting to be unloaded onto waiting trains, workers in tomato and cabbage fields, and many other scenes of people earning a living from the soil – without King Cotton. These photographs, now in the collection of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, provide a unique look at a changing community and a new direction for Mississippi agriculture.

“Through the Lens: Copiah County Truck Farming:” was produced by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. For more information about this or other traveling exhibits from MDAH, call 601-576-6997.
Meet Kristian Enbysk, LHIP Archives Intern
My name is Kristian Enbysk and I am the Archives Intern this summer. I am grateful for the extraordinary opportunity to learn, participate, and represent my community. A little about myself – I’m 22 and from Tom Bean, Texas, a small rural town about an hour north of Dallas. I am currently a first-generation student and junior at the University of North Texas studying History with a minor in Mexican American Studies. I have always been interested in history (as the saying goes, “history is made every day and we are living history”) because I find the field important to understanding ourselves as a species throughout time. More specifically, uncovering and preserving cultures and historical moments we can look back on and learn from. 

I am sponsored through Latino Heritage Internship Program (LHIP) with Environment for the Americas, a non-profit conservation group based in Colorado. LHIP provide internship opportunities to young adults in diverse professional fields in the National Park Service. The program helps raise awareness of our national parks and historic sites, their accessibility, and the need for the Latino community’s involvement in their preservation and in meaningful and relevant science-based internships. 

The projects I am in the process of completing are working with Homestead’s Museum Tech, Amy Neumann, on organizing and creating finding aids for the park’s many oral history projects. Also, gaining experience in visitor services and researching on Latino homesteaders. During my first week, I assisted with the Annual Fiddle Festival by capturing fiddlers test their skills in competition. Recently I have completed the Dempster Oral History Project finding aid with interviews conducted by previous LHIP interns. 

In my free time I enjoy reading, hiking, golfing, and learning about quirky historical moments.
All-Staff Training at Homestead

Every summer, the entire staff here at Homestead National Historical Park engages in a comprehensive all-staff training week. The Administrative Division, Maintenance Division, and Ranger Division gathered together from June 8th through June 10th to go over all of the many important knowledge and skills needed to keep the park running in tip-top shape.

The training kicked off on Wednesday, June 9th. Park Superintendent Mark Engler welcomed staff, emphasizing the significance and mission of the park. Staff then learned about the history of the Homestead Act and how to research Homestead Records with park Historian, Jon Fairchild. Supervisory Ranger Amy Genke led discussion on visitor services and interpretation. Kayla Walbridge, our park's Eastern National concessions site manager, provided an overview of the history of the organization, and the services it provides - operating museum stores at more than 170 NPS sites in 33 states. If you're a fan of the National Park passport program - you have Eastern National to thank!

Education Specialist Eric VanVleet gave a demonstration of the park's important education program and distance learning services. Training for the day closed with Park Guide Jessica Korgie and Museum Tech Amy Neumann getting staff up to speed on the important work done on the Black Homesteader project recently, and Park Ranger Amber Kirkendall highlighting our program and event schedule, and the Volunteers-in-Parks program. We also received a slate of virtual training sessions from the Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, courtesy of of Deborah Alvarado, Michael Groomer, and LaVonne Rosenthal, as well as Mary Beth McClure.

On Day Two of the training, we heard from Don Ferneding, President of the Friends of Homestead, then Administrative Officer Brandy Steelman and Administrative Support Assistant Sara Meece provided an overview on all things Admin, before Natural Resource Specialist Jesse Bolli gave a presentation on natural resources of the park along with a guided prairie walk. Museum Tech Amy Neumann finished off the day with a Museum and Collections overview.

I.T. Specialist Brandon Clark kicked off Day 3 with important safety information, including on Homestead's tornado shelters, safety supplies, and vehicle safety. Facilities Manager Travis Allen led a session on Lockout/Tagout protocol, PPE, and recycling. We ended the day, and our week of training, with a visit from our friends at Rock Creek Station State Historical Park, when their site Superintendent, Jeff Barger led a session.

Here at Homestead National Historical Park, we take our training very seriously, knowing that everything we can do to improve our operations and safety help us serve you better.
Preserving and Protecting Cultural Resources
As a unit of the National Park Service, staff here at Homestead National Historical Park are responsible for preserving and protecting America's natural and cultural resources at the park. Our mission is to keep these resources unimpaired for the enjoyment of this generation, and for future generations. If they are degraded or lost, so is the parks' reason for being - once they're gone, they cannot be recovered.

Cultural resource management involves research, planning, and stewardship of cultural landscapes, historic structures, archeology, museum collections, and ethnographic resources. A cultural landscape is a place in a park significant to American history, and date to a certain historic time period. Ours is of course, the Freeman homestead, dating to the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, many of the historic structures dating to when Daniel Freeman homesteaded the land are no longer present.

That's where archeology comes in. Archeology is a crucial aspect of cultural resources at many parks, and Homestead is no different. It helps interpret and tell stories for aspects of history that either weren't recorded, or the record has been lost to time. Archeology helps us identify resources, and how to help manage and protect them for future generations to enjoy. There have been numerous archeological projects at the park, including a 1948 excavation of Daniel Freeman's homestead structures, which revealed the Freeman cabin, Suiter Cabin, and Freeman brick house.

Did you know that Homestead National Historical Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Some of our historic structures include the Palmer-Epard cabin, built in 1867 by homesteader George Washington Palmer. Another important historic structure here at the park is the Freeman School, built in 1872, and at the time of its closing was one of the oldest continuously used one-room schools in Nebraska.

One of the most interesting historic structures at the park is the Osage Orange hedgerow. That's right - these trees are a historic structure too! It's uncommon to have a living thing listed as a historic structure. Daniel Freeman planted them in the late 1870s as a natural fencing, property boundary, and windbreak marking the southern edge of his homestead.

If you've visited the Heritage Center, you've probably seen our museum, and some of our collections items. But what's on static display is just a small percentage of the total collection. We have nearly a million items in our collection! We manage more than 900,000 pages of archival documents, have thousands of historical, archeological, or biological artifacts and objects at the park. If you peek in the window to the collections room, you can see many of these objects in storage. These objects include things like photographs of farm life, advertisements for land and farm machinery, family bibles, and homestead records. There are farm implements, large and small, musical instruments, vehicles, quilts, cutlery, toys, and clothing. Anything that a homesteader needed, we have here in our collection, to help show what life was like for the millions who helped shape our country through the epic story of the Homestead Act.
Garlic Mustard Removal
Natural Resources staff and volunteers scour the woodland at Homestead National Historical Park every spring to find garlic mustard plants.

Garlic Mustard is a biennial flowering plant in the mustard family, native to Europe, and considered an invasive species here in the tallgrass prairies of Nebraska. Like immigrant homesteaders, it spread across the country in the 1800s.

It was first discovered in the park in 2010, in the woodland. Garlic mustard prefers a shaded area, often forests near flowing water - like our woodlands near Cub Creek! Each year since then park staff have conducted an annual search to locate and manually remove any plants found.

The reason the park is so concerned about garlic mustard is that it can quickly displace native vegetation - each garlic mustard plant produces thousands of seeds. The reason that garlic mustard can be so effective at invading and crowding out existing vegetation is that it is an allelopathic plant. This means that garlic mustard gives off chemicals that keep other plants from growing, thus placing garlic mustard at a competitive advantage.

One upside is that garlic mustard is a biennial plant - meaning that it has a two year life cycle. In its first year, much of the plant's energy goes to developing a root system. If you've ever seen the root display of bluestem at the Heritage Center, you understand how extensive prairie plant roots can be! In the second year of garlic mustard's lifecycle, it develops a stalk up to 3 feet tall, with white flowers at the end of the stem. At this point, we can control it by pulling and disposing of the plant. But it is an ongoing battle, as birds and other animals can continue to bring it into the park and spread it around!

If you happen to have any garlic mustard growing on your property at home, the plant, as the name suggests, is edible. If you ask Ranger Jesse nicely, perhaps he'll give you his recipe for a garlic mustard pesto.
Image of BLM Archeologist Bob King.
The Story of Neptune Robinson, Sr. and Jr. - Land in Post-Civil War South Carolina

My column this month departs from directly talking about homesteaders or homestead laws in the United States, but it is still relevant to both. It is the story of Neptune Robinson, Sr. and his son Neptune Robinson, Jr., formerly enslaved in South Carolina, and how they obtained land in South Carolina under federal authority in 1867. Their story ties into the larger federal effort in the 19th century to make more land available to benefit individual Americans.

On January 25, 1867, Neptune Robinson, Jr., bought 10 acres on “Parry’s Island,” now called Parris Island, South Carolina for $15. Around that same time, his father, Neptune Robinson, Sr. paid $20 for two similar 10-acre lots which were near or bordered his son’s purchased land. All three lots were described as in the “District of Beaufort,” (Beaufort County), South Carolina, and were near Hilton Head, South Carolina. Today, part of Parris Island is the site of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, an 8,095-acre military installation established in 1915.

The deeds for Neptune Robinson Sr.’s and Jr.’s lots were issued as sales to them under federal authority resulting from a series of laws passed by Congress starting in 1862. These acts were designed to aid former slaves who would be freed if the North won the Civil War. More laws for this purpose continued into 1866 for helping the “Freedmen.” The deeds for the Robinsons’ land on Parris Island included lengthy listings of the various laws and actions that made it possible. (More to be said on that later.)

It is significant to note that this occurred in January of 1867, which was also the first month that former slaves were given limited preference rights to file for homesteads under the Southern Homestead Act of 1866.  However, their homestead claims were restricted to just federal Public Lands (those owned by the federal government) that existed in only five of the former Confederate States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. No homesteading was possible in other former Confederate states, including South Carolina. (Earlier, I wrote a column about the Southern Homestead Act of 1866, which was a post-Civil War way that Congress tried to help newly freed slaves obtain land, but the results were mixed and largely disappointing.)

Yet the land that Neptune Robinson, Sr. and Jr. received under federal sale authority in 1867 was in South Carolina, where no Public Lands existed and where the Southern Homestead Act did not apply. So, how was this possible? To best explain this situation, we need to go back to the start of the Civil War.

After the Civil War began following the attack on Fort Sumter, parts of South Carolina were captured by Union forces beginning as early as 1862. Some of those captured lands including large plantations on the sea islands along the southern coast of South Carolina. Those had been owned for generations by wealthy landowners who used enslaved persons for their labor force. However, once an enslaver's lands fell under Union control, slavery was abolished.

Further, landowners were subject to special taxes levied by the federal government for all lands classified as being in “Insurrectionary Districts.” Subsequently, many landowners fell behind in paying taxes with their land confiscated and placed under control of the federal government. In later years, this resulted in protracted litigation from some who attempted to regain their former land holdings. None apparently succeeded in regaining seized plantation lands on Parris Island.

When enslaved African Americans along coastal South Carolina were liberated as plantation lands came under Union control, their new economic circumstances remained dire. Although free, they owned no land and had no way to make a living on their own. Some became indebted to unscrupulous former enslavers seeking to continue exploiting them.

Congress enacted legislation as early as June 7, 1862 intended to aid freedpersons in a post-war world of freedom. More laws followed including a key one passed in 1866 soon after the Civil War, which ended in the spring of 1865.

“Special Field Order No. 15” (January 16, 1865) was issued by General William Tecumseh Sherman and limited the sales of all sea-island lands in South Carolina to Blacks. The Order also reserved a strip of land 30 miles wide along the mainland from Charleston, South Carolina to St. John’s River in Florida for Blacks.

Weeks later, as the end of the Civil War was drawing closer, on March 3, 1865, the “Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands” was established in the War Department. This Bureau assumed custody of confiscated lands or property in the former Confederate States, Border States, District of Columbia, and Indian Territory.

On July 16, 1866, an additional federal law was enacted that directly led to the 1867 land purchases by Neptune Robinson, Sr. and Jr. It was a law authorizing the sale by the “U. S. Direct Tax Commissioners for the District of South Carolina” of former plantation lands on the sea-islands of South Carolina. That is what is represented by the “Head of Family Land Certificates” (as they were officially titled) issued to Neptune Robinson, Sr. and Jr. in January of 1867 for their land purchases on Parris Island.

The result of those laws and the 1863 Presidential “direction and instructions” led not only to the sale of land to Neptune Robinson, Sr. and Jr. in 1867, but also to similar sales made to thousands of other former slaves in the region. While some of their similarly purchased lots were also on Parris Island, most were in other coastal areas in the region.

Neptune Robinson, Jr. was born in the 1840s in Beaufort County, South Carolina, per his death certificate found in This certificate reported his birth year as 1840, though various federal census records suggest various other years for his birth (all agree that it was in the 1840s). Subsequently, he died January 17, 1915 on Parris Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina.

The same death certificate reported that Neptune’s parents were Neptune Robinson, Sr. and his wife Mollie. They were listed by the 1870 census as farming with their family in a separate household beside their son, Neptune Robinson, Jr. and his family. Neptune Robinson, Sr. was recorded in 1870 as “age 50” and his wife Mollie P. Robinson as “age 45.” They had three other Robinsons in their household: Chloe, age 3, Joshua age 7, and Adam age 19 (listed in that order). They all may have been children of Neptune and Mollie, or some could have been their grandchildren.

Their son, Neptune Robinson, Jr., who lived very close to his parents in 1870, was reported as age 23, with a wife Delia age 18, and 2 small children named William (age 3) and Susan (age 2).
When the Neptune Robinson, Sr. family was listed in the 1880 census, only his wife and “Chloe, age 15” lived in the family household. Subsequently, Neptune Robinson, Sr.’s death date was listed as occurring in January of 1900, a few months before the 1900 census was taken. Neither Neptune Robinson, Sr. nor his wife were listed in that census suggesting that both had died before it was made.

Returning to their son, Neptune Robinson, Jr., when the 1880 census was taken, it listed him as still farming in Beaufort County, South Carolina. He and his family were recorded as: Neptune age 39, wife Delia age 24(?), son William age 12, crippled daughter Nancy age 5, niece Susan Davis age 22, and daughter Betsy age 2.

Subsequently, the 1900 census of the same county reported Neptune Robinson, Jr. as farming in the same area. He was listed as born in February 1842 and a widower who was the head of household. Living with him was a daughter Lavenia Robinson, born October 1886, and a lodger Robert Jenksis(?), born March 1847. Both were listed as farm laborers.

In 1910, Neptune Robinson, Jr. was again reported as farming in Beaufort County, South Carolina, but was living alone. However, living nearby was a Lavinia Jones, age 33, wife of a Doctor Jones, with 3 children. In terms of her name and age, one might wonder if she were Neptune’s daughter. Yet, the death certificate of Lavenia Singleton (wife of Henry Singleton), who died March 18, 1950 at Port Royal in Beaufort County, South Carolina, listed that she was the daughter of Neptune and Delia Robinson, though “born August 27, 1898, age 52.” (Her parentage is most likely correct, but her birth year and age seem inaccurate and illustrate that even official records need to be weighed against other records found during research.)
In any case, today there may be living descendants of Neptune Robinson, Jr. from this daughter as well as from his son Harry Robinson. As to Harry, he was born August 20, 1880 (per Social Security records) just shortly after the 1880 census was taken.

One of the sons of Harry Robinson (and thus a grandson of Neptune Robinson, Jr.), was William Robinson (1915-1997) also listed in census records of 1920, 1930, and 1940 as living in Beaufort County, South Carolina. The 1940 census reported that William Robinson headed a household that included his wife, a son, and two daughters. Likely, some of them have children and grandchildren alive today.
Indeed, Family Tree postings in suggest that there are not only living descendants of the Neptune Robinson family, but some are likely still living in Beaufort County, South Carolina now.

But to take this story one step further for genealogical interest, there is suggestive evidence of the origin of the name “Robinson” for the Neptune Robinson family. The 1850 census for St. Luke’s Parrish in “Beaufort District,” South Carolina lists James T. Robinson, a 53-year-old white farmer with a wife and seven children, farming there with real estate worth $2,300. His household also included Ingram Jones, age 22, a Black laborer (apparently a free man), and Henry Dopson, age 24, a bricklayer.

However, the 1850 federal Slave census for St. Luke’s Parrish in “Beaufort District,” South Carolina reveals more about James T. Robinson. He was the owner of 7 enslaved persons. While only their ages were reported and not their names, their ages “fit” reasonably close to what would have been the approximate ages known for at least Neptune Robinson, Sr. and two of his sons, Neptune Robinson, Jr. and Adam Robinson, in 1850.

While this is not proof, it suggests the possibility that both the Neptune Robinsons (father and son) and their families could have been enslaved byf James T. Robinson and then went by the name “Robinson” when freed. Perhaps court records in Beaufort County, South Carolina involving James T. Robinson could be found that would include the names of some of his enslaved people. If so, more might be learned about this matter. (For those of you who watch the fascinating PBS show “Finding Your Roots,” created and hosted by renowned historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this type of research was done for a few of his African American guests that allowed them to gain some knowledge about their enslaved ancestors before the Civil War.)

Further, five other ex-slaves named Robinson (Cilla Robinson, Bob Dessausseu Robinson, Stacey Robinson, Charles Robinson, and Bobe Robinson) also bought lots on Parris Island, South Carolina where Neptune Robinson. Sr. and Jr. acquired land in 1867. Their five purchases were done under the same federal land sales program in the former Confederate state of South Carolina, though in different locations on Parris Island and at different times. Presently, it is unknown if any of the other Robinsons might be related to the Neptune Robinsons or if they also might have been former slaves of James T. Robinson.

To conclude, while there are many more stories yet to be told of what happened during this turbulent period in American history after the Civil War, this one about two freedpersons, Neptune Robinson, Sr. and Jr., and how they obtained federally controlled former plantation land in coastal South Carolina in 1867 is both little known and intriguing. It stands as an example of how at least a few thousands of former slaves got land under federal authority in the South without homesteading after the Civil War. And it also illustrates yet another way that land was made available by the federal government in the 19th century to benefit Americans.
Eastern National - Supporting America's National Parks
By Kayla Walbridge, Eastern National Site Manager at Homestead NHP
Eastern National is a nonprofit Cooperating Association that partners with the National Park Service. Eastern National promotes public understanding and support of America's National Parks and other public trust partners by providing quality educational experiences, products and services. Eastern National got started in 1947 in Pennsylvania at a meeting of park historians, where our two original sponsors, Herbert Kahler and Roy Appleman, were in attendance. Our founding members recognized that while high visitation sites would likely be able to support their own association, many low visitation sites would not be able to support a successful site.

Their philosophy was that parks who generate significant levels of revenue would generously share resources to sustain retail operations at smaller sites to which Eastern National would then give back a large portion of end of year revenue to our National Park Service partners. By 1949 our first two agencies opened at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Kentucky, and Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia.

We partner with more than 170 sites, operating park stores selling park-specific material and donating the proceeds to help support interpretive and educational programs. Over the years, we've enabled parks to purchase artifacts, costumes for living history demonstrations, signage and exhibits, and much more. As a non-profit organization depending on Eastern National's net operating income per year, historically, 90% has been given back into our park partners at the National Park Service. Eastern National also has a Competitive Grant Program that supports educational, scientific, historical, and interpretive activities that our park partners have been eligible to apply for annually.

Traditionally Eastern National also offers a specific dollar amount donation from our site store, at wholesale price, to our park partner to assist with interpretive services and activities within the site.

Homestead continues to maintain and even exceed projections for fiscal year 2021. In the April Edition of Eastern National's Newsletter Homestead was featured front and center in the sales update section because our site and three others have had the strongest year over year performance so far.