26 Jan 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008 9:43 AM
Subject: Rufus Aiken Visit
I woke up early this morning and decided to write....
A few of the residents mentioned recently that they missed my history posts - so here goes.. sorry that it is so long!
A few weeks ago a man called to inquire about my tours. He said that he saw my tv commercial and was just curious about how much history I tell on these tours. I told him that I tell the history going back to the 1700's when this was a land grant etc. etc. He wanted to know if I ever include any "newer" history - the time of the Sturgeons he said. I explained that I am still learning about the Sturgeons, but feel they are just as important as all the rest of the Rose Hill history - after all the Sturgeons called this home for over 30 years. He explained who he was and ask if he could come by to see "the old mansion" sometime. He stopped by just this past week and I can tell you it was a real treat!
Mr. Rufas Aiken is a 50 year old black man who lives in nearby Ridgeland. His family is from there originally, and this is where his father was living when he took a job with Mr. Sturgeon's cinder black mfg business that was in Ridgeland over a half century ago. BTW - our carriage house and our kitchen wing are made of cinder block from this company. Anyway, Mr Sturgeon soon hired Rufus' daddy (just like we have Ben Johnson) to help with the property and be an all around handyman.
Rufus told me that Mr. Sturgeon built his family a little cinder block house over across the highway where the golf course is now. Rufus Aiken was born in that house and lived there with his parents and several sisters and brothers. In fact our Ben " Shack" Johnson went to school with the Aiken children and they recognized one another immediately. It was nice to see two old time Bluffton residents meeting again after so many years. Rufus was filled with memories of this house and Rose Hill plantation in general. They were all childhood memories and so wonderful that he would share them with me. He remembered fishing in our "Mirror Lake" and running through this yard and climbing trees and how incredibly tall the doors seemed to him at the time. He remembered that Mr. Sturgeon had a large gun room down at the barn with quite a collection of hunting rifles that his daddy would clean. The Sturgeons also raised cocker spaniels and would keep the puppies in the room that is now my laundry and later they would be kept in a kennel that was here in this yard.
He remembered lots of things that would stand out in memory to a little child - such as the storage closet the Sturgeons had just behind the stairs that was full of cokes and drinks of all kinds and a parrot that was kept in a cage just inside the back door. His memories were full of cute and funny things like this - vignettes into a very different Bluffton that has now mostly passed into the past. All of these "My South" moments sounded so similar to my own - of growing up in that small town idyllic South that no longer seems to exist or at least seems so much harder to find these days. Now that the old Pig is closing, I think about how it is just one more thing of that lifestyle or lifetime ending. Sorry - didn't mean to be so maudlin here, but I guess I'm just that way... :-)
Most of all he remembered how nice the Sturgeons had been to his family - especially Mrs. Sturgeon who would load all the children into her big green car and drive them into town to the little country store and tell them to run in and pick out whatever they wanted - cokes and candy and etc. And he remembered when that nice lady died and how they held the funeral here in this house. So many memories. I am looking forward to his next visit and hoping he will bring his brothers and sisters too. They were older and have even more memories of the Rose Hill Plantation that existed before all of us.
So remember the next time you are driving through the south side gates of Rose Hill or when you play your first round of golf again or when you are out enjoying your yard and all the beauty that this community offers - know that this was once Rufus Aiken's home and playground and where all his best childhood memories took place. Rose Hill is a special place for so many people - full of lifetimes and history and memories. Don't forget.
Rose Hill Plantation House
To return to History - Part IV .....