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The Barber Family

Submitted by: Harriet Barber House

As descendants of Sam and Harriet Barber, our efforts to preserve the historic legacy of the Harriet Barber House really began during the South Carolina Bicentennial year. One of our neighbors, the late Carlton McCracken urged our father, the late Ulysses Barber, to submit the application for the South Carolina State Register of Historic Places. In September of 1981, the Barber House received recognition from the South Carolina Bicentennial Committee's Historic Homes and Buildings Landmark Program. It is an example of a significant visual, architectural, and cultural landmark illustrating the historical development distinctive to Richland County. The Barber Family has kept possession of this property since 1872.

It was noted that our great-grandparents, Sam and Harriet Barber, who were slaves, were given the opportunity to purchase 42.5 acres of land from the South Carolina Land Commission in 1872.


They were given seven years to pay for the land. Many other families were able to acquire land in the area through this program; however, many lost their land for various reasons. Our great-grandparents initially built a log cabin on the property which later burned down. In 1882, they built a two-room house which is still standing today. That is one of the reasons why the house is on the National Register of Historic Places. After the death of Sam and Harriet, their youngest son, our grandfather, John Barber and his wife Mamie Holly Barber, inherited the house and raised 11 children. As the family grew, rooms were added during the early 1920's. After our grandparent's death our father, Ulysses Barber and our mother, Ann Portee Barber, and Celestine Barber Daniels, the oldest daughter of John and Mamie were entrusted to be the caretakers of the property. After the death of our father, we, Marie Barber Adams, Carrie Barber White, Mary Barber Kirkland, and Jean Barber Grant were entrusted to care for the property.


Many financial obstacles needed to be overcome in order to restore the home, our Barber family's legacy. In 1999, the first efforts were started to restore the house. The South Carolina Department of Archives and History offered an $11,650 grant from the State Historic Preservation Department Development Grant Fund for the stabilization and weatherization of the Harriet Barber House. We received our next grant from the Richland County Conservation Commission in 2006 when they created grants for historic preservation. In addition, we received funding for three years from the South Carolina Conservation Commission, and we received $40,000 from Senator Darrell Jackson and the South Carolina State Legislature to complete the restoration. Our work to restore the Harriet Barber House was then able to begin.


Mr. Herbert Decosta of Charleston, South Carolina, an expert in the field of historic preservation work, met with our sister Marie Barber Adams, to discuss ways to have the house restored. He recommended Mr. Johnny Martin of Columbia to head the restoration of the house. He and his crew removed all of the sheet rock from the walls and ceilings and paneling that was added later. He stressed the importance of having visitors see the original whitewashed walls and some newspaper that was plastered on the walls to cover the cracks.


Visitors could also see that new floors had to be installed to replace the rotten wood caused by leaks in the roof. Some of the interior walls were damaged as well and had to be replaced. There were several pieces of furniture that needed to be refurbished including a large wardrobe that Sam and Harriet brought with them when they first moved to the property. Someone painted it black. Mr. Martin stripped it and improved the appearance of it. We also have documents dating to the 1800's. One important one dated 1879 shows Harriet making the last payment on the property because Sam had passed away. We are told that that is why the house is called the Harriet Barber House. There is another document dated 1878 which shows us that money was apparently short and the family had to offer a black ox for payment for the property. This suggests to us that the family was prepared to keep the land free and clear by any means necessary so that it could be passed down for future generations.


The restoration of the Harriet Barber House was completed in 2009. We have made one room a meeting room for our non-profit organization, a half bathroom, and storage room. It was the vision of our father Ulysses Barber to have the house open to the community where family reunions, festivals, visiting schools and various other activities that could be held there.


Throughout the years we have partnered and worked diligently with South East Community Rural Outreach {SERCO) and the Congaree National Park to allow our community and visitors throughout the nation and the world to enjoy the rich history of the Barber Family.

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