The sounds of tabby being slapped against lumber to construct homes, churches, and schools provide warmth in their hearts as roaring waves slap against the northeastern coast of Hilton Head Island, contrabands sing out the words to “Steal Away”…….

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus!
Steal away, steal away home, I hain't got long to stay here.

During 1861, contrabands sought refuge on Hilton Head Island.  Hilton Head Island was captured by Civil War Union troops and established it as one of their bases of operations.  Union soldiers were not sure what to do with the contrabands, so in 1862 General Ornsby allowed them to establish the town of Mitchelville.  This was apart of the Port Royal Experiment, where African Americans were given control of the land to work for wages. 

Present Day

Mitchelville still remains to be largely undeveloped and represents the last 300 acres of primarily undeveloped beach property on Hilton Head Island.  The Mitchelville Preservation Project was established in 2005 to “preserve, protect and promote the heritage of Mitchelville, America’s first post-Civil War settlement for freed slaves.” 

Make sure to visit Mitchelville when you come celebrate Gullah with us at the 2014 Gullah Celebration in February

Photos courtesy of The Mitchelville Preservation Project, visit them online at