Digital Resources Portal
Welcome to the Virtual Somerset Place! Use this page to access virtual content related to the site. These resources are perfect for educators, students, or anyone wishing to explore Somerset Place from the comfort of home.
Welcome to Somerset Place!
Somerset Place was once one of the largest plantations in antebellum North Carolina, where over 861 enslaved persons lived and worked throughout its 80-year history. Today, the former plantation is a representative state historic site where visitors learn about the lives of the enslaved and free persons who lived and worked here. In this series, we provide an overview of the plantation's history and inhabitants.
A unique inventory compiled in 1843 listed 285 enslaved persons living in 26 dwellings at Somerset Place. In this series, we discuss the households documented in this primary source, including family histories, genealogy, and personal stories, to understand more about the lives of the enslaved community.
As an active plantation, Somerset Place once comprised over 50 buildings, most of which no longer remain. In this series, we venture around the former plantation to discuss those lost structures and the people who lived and/or worked in them.
The Pettigrew family owned three plantations adjacent to Somerset Place, two of which are no longer standing. In this miniseries, we explore the history of Bonarva and Magnolia plantations to learn about their connections to Somerset Place, including the land, buildings, enslaved communities, and enslavers.
The overseers were hired white employees who supervised the forced labor of the enslaved community at Somerset Place. These men also carried out the punishment and reward system, issued food rations, and monitored movement. It was through the overseers that enslaved persons felt the authority, power, and control of the Collins family. In this miniseries, we discuss the history of the overseers at Somerset Place, including who they were, where they lived, and what they did.
There were many restoration projects and archaeological excavations at Somerset Place in the 20th and 21st centuries. Each venture contributed to the site's evolution from modern-day plantation into a historic site. Furthermore, these physical transformations coincided with people's changing beliefs about Somerset's history and function as a public space.
Somerset Place is home to many artifacts from the antebellum era and reproduction items. In this series, we highlight objects throughout the site to gain an understanding of how enslaved and free people lived and worked on this plantation.
Every video usually involves multiple takes as we (inevitably) make mistakes during the filming process, so we have compiled some of the outtakes for your enjoyment.
Somerset Place offers a comprehensive and realistic view of 19th-century life on a large North Carolina plantation. Originally, this unusual plantation included almost 110,000 acres of densely vegetated swampland bordering Scuppernong Lake (Present-day Lake Phelps) in present-day Washington County. From 1785 – 1865, over 861 enslaved persons converted thousands of acres into high yielding fields of rice, corn, oats, wheat, beans, peas, and flax. Meanwhile, enslaved and free millwrights operated sophisticated sawmills that turned out thousands of feet of lumber. By 1860, Somerset Place was one of the Upper South's largest plantations.
The Kora is a West African harp fashioned from a gourd, wood, and cowhide. It was invented by the Mandinka people, specifically the jali families, and is used to tell the history of their culture through song. The jali families are the keepers of the oral tradition for the Mandinka people, referred to as the “custodians of society” they are the only people who can speak up against kings. This installment of Singing on the Land features Teli Shabu, who like the Kora was also born in West Africa – specifically Liberia. He too carries these oral traditions through his musicianship as an educator and performer. He plays a song that loosely translates from the Malinkan language to “Everything In Its Time.” With the waters of Scuppernong Lake (now Lake Phelps) gently lapping the background, this pensive tune lets the listener reflect on the title’s meaning.
Dressed as a US Army surgeon from the Civil War era, Mr. Chris Grimes discusses medical advance in military medicine from the early colonial period to the Civil War. How were techniques similar? How were they different? And how much did medicine advance before the modern era?
Somerset Place State Historic Site Manager Karen Hayes discusses the medical care received by the enslaved community at Somerset Place Plantation during the antebellum era. Ms. Hayes delivers her remarks from inside the site's reconstructed plantation hospital.