12 Oct 2008
Last month, Ben Aiken and his family (wife, 2 sons, daughter in law and newborn grandson) came to visit us. Ben is the oldest son of Ben Aiken, Sr. who used to work for John Sturgeon here from the 1940's till the late 1960's. Ben Sr and his wife Gladys and their children lived in a house that Mr. Sturgeon had built for them over on the south side of Rose Hill - where the golf course is now.
Ben Jr. is Rufus Aiken's oldest brother, so his memories of those days were a little more detailed. While Rufus (who visited us a year ago) remembered Rose Hill as more of a playground, Ben's memories were those of an older child and teenager - of chores and responsibility. He could name every tractor and mower that was on property and details of all the Sturgeon's cars and other things that would be of interest to a teenage boy. His very first memory of Rose Hill was at age 6 when he would help his father by walking in front of the mowers to gather up pine cones. Not too many years later, he was operating those mowers along with all the hired men. He remembered Jim Ellington (or Jimmy as they called him) coming to stay and working with them on the grounds. He also remembered the hired man "B John" or " Big John" Campbell, who was so very big that they all made sure to call him MR. Campbell. And there was a Jeff Gibbons and a Freddie Bush who used to help harvest hay and oysters in winter.
(Ben's father, Ben Aiken, Sr. (holding dog) is pictured in photo on right)
Although most of his memories related to work, there were leisure times, too, when he would be allowed to go hunting or fishing with his father and Mr. Sturgeon. He remembered the first time he saw an alligator come out into salt water. It was swimming over to inspect their boat and scared him so badly that he dropped their entire bucket of shrimp bate over the side. His best story was a day when all the men were down by the pond (Mirror lake) removing tree stumps. He said that in those days they just used dynamite. There was a particularly large stump down there that had to go - so they tried a stick, but it didn't work. So they tried two, and again with no luck. Then another and yet another. Finally they just gave up and decided to go ahead and use the whole box. Well, it worked, alright. He said that monster shot up into the air like a rocket heading straight towards the house, going through the roof and landing right in Mrs. Sturgeon's bathroom. Oh, the things this house has seen over the years...
Ben remembered details about Mr. Sturgeon's guns kept down at the barn and days spent with his father cleaning them. He remembered the summer garden (squash, corn and okra), the winter garden (carrots, sprouts and asparagus), the 40-acre field of hay and the duck pond off to the left of the plantation entrance. He talked about Mr. Sturgeon's passion for hunting most of all and what an influential man he had been in this area at the time and how incredibly kind Mrs. Sturgeon was to all the children. He shared more details about the maids (Charlotte Brown and Rena Johnson) and the cook (Lucille Alston) and what had happened to these ladies in the years after they worked here. And he remembered seeing Mr. Sturgeon for the last time in the late 1960s over at a little store in Bluffton.
When Ben walked into the gentlemen's room he stopped, closed his eyes and said," Now let me go on back a bit." His family walked along with him, quietly hanging on his every word. The views out the window, although still beautiful, have changed significantly, of course. The old fields and pastures and forest have given way to luxury homes with manicured lawns. The old oyster shell entrance road is paved now, of course, and everywhere he looked along this drive to the old house was evidence of the 21st century and Rose Hill's newest and most exciting of lifetimes. In fact, there are so many additional roads now that he was afraid he might not be able to find where the old beach house had been down by the river, but was going to take a look anyway. He also wanted to go over to the golf course and see if he could perhaps recognize the trees that used to surround his family's old house there. I hope he found what he was looking for. Maybe you saw Ben and his family driving around that day? He was just looking for his past.
Another Rose Hill homecoming -
Ben Aiken Jr. who lived and worked here with his family from the 1940's - 1960's.
Rose Hill Plantation