Photo by Rob Kaufman: From left: Bill Green, Mary Lawyer Green, Rosalind Trotter, Mike Major, Louise Lawyer McCluney, George McCluney, Samantha Mendoza, Uriel Mendoza, Veronica Lawyer Ferguson and May Lawyer. Very few details are known about the personal stories and the often heroic lives of the original residents of Mitchelville. The story of the Lawyer family is important because it is a story of survival, and fearless determination to succeed against all odds.It provides us with new and valuable insights into Hilton Head Island’s past. This is a story about a proud and courageous American family that dates all of the way back to Mitchellville’s heyday in the mid-19th century.

The story begins with Edward “Ned” Lawyer Sr., born into slavery in 1841 on Edisto Island. Around 1863, when he was in his early 20s, it is believed that he escaped from his owners and eventually made his way to Hilton Head. At the time, Hilton Head had become a haven for newly freed slaves because the Union Army was encamped here. The army chose Hilton Head because of its strategic location, and several military operations throughout the South were launched from Hilton Head. Lawyer was among roughly 10,000 slaves who risked their lives escaping from areas all over the South to get to Hilton Head, where they would be protected and permitted to begin their lives as free men and women, as well as to join the military.

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