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July 22, 2004     The Columbia Star
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July 22, 2004

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1H-JULY 22. 2004 Travel THE COLUMB,A S This etching in the British Archives is from the log of a ship captain in 1793. It shows a slave cara- van making its way to the coast. The slaves were purchased in the interior of West Africa by cara- van merchants, usually Arabs, and brought to the coast where they were sold to the local chiefs who, in turn, sold them to the European and American slave traders. In 1998, I visited Farenya, a village in Guinea, West Africa, with my good friend Dr. Jim Fisher. We were guests of Dr. Naby Camara, a native of the village who owned a medical clinic in Conakry, the capital city. During the required palaver (meeting with the elders) we were told the village was founded by an American who married the daughter of a major chief. He went back to America twice, the second time he did not return. I was intrigued and asked for more of the story. The chief said the American, Capt. Louis Lightburn, and his wife, Niara Bely, turned Farenya into a very suc- cessful slave trading cen- ter. They had five chil- dren. After Capt. Light- burn disappeared, Niara Bely became a queen and her second son, Stiles, a chief. For many years they controlled all trading on the Rio Pongo. Stiles signed the agreement in 1866 that gave France control over the Rio Pongo area. The chief recognized my interest and asked, "Would you find out what happened to Capt. Lightburn and come back and tell us?" Being polite and naive, I answered, "Sure. Ill be glad to." That was six years ago. The research to answer the chief's ques- tion led me from the SC Archives to Charleston, Savannah, Bermuda, Nassau, and back to Guinea three times. I am still chasing Capt. Lightburn, the illusive founder of Farenya. The story is intriguing and has become a center piece in the history of the slave trade during the years between the American Revolution and the American Civil War. The epic begins with Joseph Lightburn (Light- bourn, Lightbourne) of Bermuda who had 18 chil- dren by two wives. His sixth child, Samuel, a slave trader, settled in Savannah and became a respected merchant. Mary, his seventh child, moved to Charleston and married Thomas Bennett, the mayor of Charleston. Benjamin, his eighth child, a slave trader, set up his operations in the Bahamas. Joseph's 11th child, Travel The African Slave Tra,il Part One: The Lightbum Mystery ..... , n, , ,, ..... , This drawing in the British Archives from the pri- vate journal of a British explorer in 1813 depicts a palaver (long business discussion) between the Arab caravan driver and the African chief. After the business deal was completed, the visi- tors were treated to a grand festival of singing and dancing. Francis Stiles, also a slave trader, settled in Charleston. His first wife and child are buried in St. Philips Churchyard. His second wife, Elizabeth Bailey Seabrook, entitled him to property on Wadmalaw Island where he established a prosper- ous rice plantation. The founder of Farenya, Joseph's 16th child, was actually named Stiles Edward Lightburn not Louis as he was known in Guinea. The fact that he married Elizabeth Bailey Gomez, Niara Bely's official name, made the research difficult. For months, I thought the two men, Francis Stiles and Stiles Edward, were one. Both appeared in the records as Stiles and both were married to women named Elizabeth Bailey. For a while there I really had a history-shattering story. Stiles Lightburn and Elizabeth Bailey, the daughter of an African chief, ran a slave trading operation in Guinea and a rice plantation in Charleston. The mystery was solved when I discov-. ered the Seabrook connec- tion. The Lightburns were a part of the triangular trade that shipped molasses and rum from America to Europe, guns and textiles from Europe to Africa, and slaves and rice from Africa to America. They capitalized on the fact that slaves from the Rio Pongo were experts in rice cultivation. It was these slaves who brought the expertise of This drawing in the British ArchiVeS naval officer in 1863 shows a slaVer tured by the gunboats of the HMS England abolished the slave trade in took it upon themselves to capture and free the slaves in Sierra Leone colony in West Africa. rice planting to the Low County of SC. It was on the brains and backs of these slaves that the rice planters of SC became the wealthiest people in America. It was Capt. Stiles Lightburn, married to an African princess in Farenya, who supplied slaves to his brothers in America. The connection between Farenya and Charleston is clear. And it is based on rice and slaves. The Lightburns were involved in the eco- nomic, political, and social development of coastal SC and GA...but by the out- break of the Civil War they were gone. What happened to Capt. Lightburn? He did indeed visit Charleston in 1823 on a ship which had rescued the and taken Farenya. ] permission the mulatto fellow slave the Rio CharlestOn' succeeded know. CharlestOrl to settle his Francis'S vanished in the Maybe on his waY Maybe not. remains (Next week: tragic State of the art luggage transportation The next morning we met in the hotel lobby at roughly the agreed upon time of eight. The Russians run on their own time schedule, which we Americans simply referred to as "late." We bid the Hotel Nasledie, another large, anonymous (rather ugly) Soviet building that had no distinguishing charac- teristics other than some unimpressive woodwork and a plaque on the front stating it was, in fact, a hotel, and set off for the Kiev train station. "The train ride is only about six hours and don't worry, we will eat several times," Yelena said, as we all struggled down the narrow walk- ways leading to our com- partments. Eating is a focal point of the Russian culture and this train ride was no exception. Subst- antial meals were laid out for us twice in the dining car. When some of us with smaller appetites declined a second meal, the train chef became offended and felt it was a judgment of his culinary skills. Following the first meal we divided the com- partments into "talking" and "non-talking." "Russians can be very supePstitious people, espe- cially in the villages," Yelena said as she addressed the "talking" compartment. "For exam- ple, you should never whistle. The people believe this opens the channel to the dead land." Yelena explained that Russian Orthodoxy was a combination of the sacred and the pagan. When Russia adopted Christianity it retained some of its pagan roots and traditions. "Instead of heaven, earth, and hell, there are only the lands of the living and the dead," she said. There was an endless list of things to be avoided, such as, a woman should never sit on a cold stone floor because it ruins fer- tility, and a young girl should not sit at the cor- ner of the dinner table because that means she will never get married. Before we could con- tinue the conversation we had reached our destina- tion and it was time to face something potentially scarier than opening the door to the dead land, fit- ting six people in a car meant for five. We were greeted at the Bryansk train station by two smiling cab drivers and their impossibly small Russian cars. The cramped conditions did not phase our Russian count- er-parts. Personal space is not a familiar concept to them. In fact, the word for "privacy" does not even exist in the Russian lan- guage. I decided to ignore the loss of feeling in my knees and focus on the beautiful scenery. We came upon some large "dachas" that seemed more in keep- ing with an upper-class American suburb than the Russian countryside. A dacha is basically a coun- try getaway. Our driver was quick to point out that the homes were owned by the "new Russians," or those people who rose to great wealth after the fall of the Soviet Union, many through questionable means. ."Now look at these dachas," our driver said and pointed to his left. "Those are for the work- ers." Less than a mile down the road from the mansions were small Tyutchev estate Fyodor shed-like structures encir: cled by wooden fences. These were testaments to to our the changing times and a joked. widening economic gap. in the Were these country- are side inequalities a sign of a return to the lord/serf a high system? Perhaps. We the caught our first glimpse of had only what it was like to live like a wealthy 19th centu- an odd ry lord as we rounded the and the corner and pulled up to side was the gates of the Tyutchev the estate, our accommoda- while the tions for the stay in r Ovstug. In stark contrast to the dreary Soviet build- abstraCt ings and modest stores around the corner stood a were peach-colored mansion guarded by double gates. Stretching beyond the for yet gates was a lovely walk- way bordered by trees and arrival. benches and lit with street work lamps. Our host was the lived. famous 19th century Russian diplomat and poet Our own