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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Levi Jordan Plantation Preservation Celebration

By Amanda McVay, Site Educator

In March, Levi Jordan Plantation State Historic Site hosted a Preservation Celebration, held in conjunction with the annual Brazoria Heritage Festival. Transportation to the site was provided for festival attendees, and the Texas Historical Commission (THC) received recognition from the Brazoria Heritage Foundation for preservation work on the plantation house. The celebration offered a chance for community residents and stakeholders to get an up-close look at the recently completed foundation stabilization and exterior restoration of the house. Several of the project partners were in attendance.

Before restoration
Before restoration
After restoration
After restoration
Guests to the Preservation Celebration were treated to a musical performance by the Brazosport Choral Union, under the direction of Rodney Mason, just prior to the ceremony. Speakers at the ceremony included THC Executive Director Mark Wolfe, State Rep. Dennis Bonnen, Precinct 4 Brazoria County Commissioner Larry Stanley, and Levi Jordan descendant Ginny McNeil Raska, who transcribed and edited The Uncompromising Diary of Sallie McNeill 1858-1867 (this diary provides a compelling view of 19th-century Southern society from the perspective of Sallie McNeill, Levi Jordan’s granddaughter). You can read Raska's full speech here. Elder Roland K. Hendricks of Mt. Zion Church in Brazoria offered an invocation to the crowd of 125 attendees.

Brazosport Choral Union
State Rep. Dennis Bonnen speaking
Levi Jordan descendant Ginny McNeil Raska speaking
Following the ceremony, guests were treated to tours of the site by Site Manager Bryan McAuley and of the slave quarters area by University of Houston’s Dr. Ken Brown. Dr. Brown supervised the archeological field work conducted at the Levi Jordan Plantation in the 1980s and 1990s. This archeological investigation produced significant information and artifacts that offer unique insight into the African American experience in 19th century Texas.

Dr. Ken Brown giving a tour of the slave quarters area
This carved shell cameo was one of thousands of artifacts found at Levi Jordan Plantation that offer unique insight into the lives of African Americans in 19th century Texas.
The sankofa is a West African tribal symbol (seen added to the spoon handle) that acknowledges the importance of looking to the past for guidance in everyday life.
Throughout the day, more than 200 guests visited the site and were encouraged to leave their fingerprints on a community thumbprint tree, drawn by Maintenance Technician Dusty Fritts to reflect the large oak trees at Levi Jordan Plantation. The art piece was meant to show how community participation and support can lead to impressive collective results. In addition, during the restoration of the house, contractors discovered many fingerprints embedded into the plantation bricks from the chimneys; these fingerprints are a lasting mark of the enslaved workers that built this house more than 150 years ago.

Community tree thumbprints
Slave-made brick with thumbprint
The event was co-sponsored by the Levi Jordan Plantation Historical Society with staff assistance from nearby Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site. Numerous volunteers, community supporters, and Austin-based THC staff also helped make this a successful celebration. The Levi Jordan Plantation Historical Society sponsored refreshments for guests, including cookies featuring images of the house and a sankofa, an image from West African cultures that encourages valuing the past. A sankofa was discovered by the University of Houston archeological team affixed to a spoon.

Complimentary commemorative buttons featuring images of the house, sankofa, and cameo—one of the amazing artifacts recovered from the quarters excavation—were available to guests as a memento of the special day.

Levi Jordan descendants
Brazoria Heritage Foundation award
Preservation project team
Event buttons for attendees
Special thanks to Confederate Reunion Grounds for their support and loaned resources! Levi Jordan Plantation State Historic Site is located in Brazoria, in the Texas Independence Trail Region.

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