Bratton Descendants Unite to Tell Their Story at “By the Sweat of Our Brows”

August 27, 2015

African American Descendants of the Bratton Family Unite to Tell Their Story at this Year’s “By the Sweat of Our Brows”

McCONNELLS, SC- “By the Sweat of Our Brows” is a one day event at Historic Brattonsville that tells the story of the plantation’s enslaved from colonial times through the Reconstruction. The program’s narrative includes both scholarly research and the collective memories of descendants of Bratton slaves.  This year “By the Sweat of Our Brows” will feature African American descendants of the Bratton family who will be on site in person to share their stories.

Referred to as the “Seven Sacred Families of Brattonsville,” the surnames of the families are: Bratton, Crawford, Feaster/Femster, Lowry, Moore, Smith, and Thompson.

Wali Cathcart is a Bratton descendant who has been actively involved in the “By the Sweat of Our Brows” program since 2005. Cathcart believes that “the uniqueness of what we are doing at Brattonsville is prototypical of all black families and can serve as a model for them.”

Meeting the descendants of the “Seven Sacred Families of Brattonsville” will be the tour de force at 2015’s “By the Sweat of Our Brows.” Throughout the day, the descendants will share their family stories and showcase artifacts that have been passed down from generation to generation.

"I am extremely excited about this year's “By the Sweat of Our Brows” because I have the opportunity to pass on what history I know about my ancestors who were slaves on the Brattonsville Plantation.  As a descendant of those slaves and also as a participant in the civil rights movement who spent jail time, I am very passionate about keeping alive the African American legacy - especially as it relates to my ancestors and their lives on the plantation of Historic  Brattonsville." - Margaret Crawford Parson-Willins

At noon in Historic Brattonsville’s Orientation Room, Dr. Lisa Bratton will present her current research as a Bratton descendant titled – “Straight Outta Brattonsville: Amazing Facts about Enslavement that You Won’t Read in History Books.” 

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., in addition to having the family representatives on site, Historic Brattonsville will be bustling with an array of activities that portray what life was like for the enslaved on the Carolina plantation. Historic cooking over open hearths will be demonstrated in the kitchens and the antebellum homes will be open for guided tours. Outdoors, historically dressed interpreters will be making bricks out of mud from the creek. Children can make rag dolls and play African-American folk games. Ham biscuits, sweet potato pies and other baked goods along with ice tea and lemonade will be available for purchase.

At 3 p.m. guests and descendants of the “Seven Sacred Families of Brattonsville” will unite in front of the Homestead. The Stars of Zion, a gospel choir from Rock Hill, SC, will make a joyful noise. Nationally acclaimed poet Glenis Redmond will honor the voices from the past and beckon the voices of today.  “By the Sweat of Our Brows” will culminate with the descendants ‘calling of the names’ from the 1865 “Freedmen’s List.” 


“By the Sweat of Our Brows” takes place on Sept.12 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

LOCATION: Historic Brattonsville, 1444 Brattonsville Road, McConnells, SC 29726 (803)684-2327

ADMISSION: Adults $6, Seniors $5, Youth $3, CHM members & ages 3 and under FREE




1. Historically dressed interpreters make bricks out of clay during last year’s event.

2. Celeste Sherer, Historic Brattonsville staff member, prepares a meal in the slave cabin.

3. Key family members, Dr. Lisa Bratton, Wali Cathcart, and Margaret Parson-Willins together at 2013’s “By the Sweat of Our Brow.”

4. African American Bratton descendants and program volunteers were honored during a luncheon sponsored by Culture and Heritage Museums on July 16, 2016 at Brattonsville’s Hightower Hall. The following images were taken during the luncheon:

•       Miss Kitty Wilson-Evans shares her gift of storytelling with the family descendants, CHM staff, and volunteers.

•       Dr. Bertha Maxwell Roddey, whose pioneering contributions on African studies have brought her national recognition, was instrumental in bringing the family together and forging the framework for “By the Sweat of Our Brows.” Dr. Roddey embraces a warm moment with Drina Bratton Small. Mrs. Small is a Bratton descendant who is married to Drink Small,  a noted South Carolina blues player  and recipient of a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship. 

•       Wali Cathcart is a Bratton descendant who has been active in the African American programing at Brattonsville since 2005. Cathcart played professional baseball in 1959-60 with a national Negro league. For over eleven years, Cathcart, an advocate of organic farming, has been involved in the children’s farming project- “Learning History by Living It” at York County’s Carroll School.

AWARD WINNING PROJECT: The South Carolina African American Heritage Commission recognizes “By the Sweat of Our Brows” as a project that significantly and dramatically influences in a permanent way the preservation and interpretation of African American history and culture in SC. The South Carolina African American Heritage Commission’s Project Award was presented to York County’s Culture and Heritage Museums on behalf of “By the Sweat of Our Brows” at the South Carolina Archives & History Center in Columbia on March 28, 2014.


Records show that in 1843 the Bratton plantation was home to 139 enslaved individuals. One hundred sixty-three years later, their descendants came together to help Historic Brattonsville honor, celebrate, and record their ancestors’ legacies.

Historic Brattonsville’s African American programs are an essential part of telling the story of the Carolina Piedmont. The elements of African American culture are demonstrated in Brattonsville’s living history programs through agriculture, cooking, visual arts, storytelling, and music.

ABOUT HISTORIC BRATTONSVILLE: Historic Brattonsville features over thirty colonial and antebellum structures, including two house museums. The plantation spreads over 800-acres and includes farmed land with heritage breed animals, a Revolutionary War battlefield site with interpretive trail, and a nature preserve with miles of walking trails. Seasonal events, reenactments, and living history programs interpret life in the Carolina Backcountry from the 1750s to the 1850s.

GENERAL HOURS of OPERATION: Tues – Sat:  10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday: 1 a.m.  – 5 p.m.; Closed on Mondays.

Culture & Heritage Museums is a family of museums in York County, SC, which includes Historic Brattonsville, Main Street Children’s Museum, McCelvey Center, and Museum of York County. The mission of the Culture and Heritage Museums is to communicate and preserve the natural and cultural histories of the Carolina Piedmont, inspiring a lifetime of learning.