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A walkway to remember
Memorial to slaves expected to open in 2010
path walking
Dan Clark and John Ryon walk a short section of the memorial walk that winds through the LeConte-Woodmanston Plantation’s Botanical Gardens. - photo by Photo by Lauren Hunsberger
Among the numerous and voluminous historic documents in her file cabinets, Mary Beth Evans has an 1860 Census showing that there were approximately three times as many slaves, 6,000, as others living in Liberty County right before the Civil War.
After learning that statistic, Evans, who is executive vice president of the LeConte-Woodmanston Foundation, said she was inspired to create a memorial walkway through the LeConte Botanical Gardens. The walk is to honor those who she said are really responsible for establishing and developing much of Liberty County.
“I thought it was natural to do it on the very grounds where they worked,” Evans said of the plantation south of Riceboro.
The walkway, currently in its beginning stages, will eventually wind through bright flowers and ancient trees, reaching more than a mile. The 6,000 feet will eventually include bricks engraved with the age and name for every slave.
“It’s not an apology. It’s an acknowledgement to their contribution, economically, culturally and to their sacrifice, to the blood, sweat and tears shed to create this 13th colony,” Evans said. “This would not have happened without them.”
Evans is inviting the community to embrace, recognize and research their history by getting involved in the project. Two of the main ways, she said, are by donating money or time.
She said a $50 donation will fund an engraved brick and $125 will fund a square yard of the walkway. There are also sponsorship donations: platinum ($20,000), silver ($15,000) and silver ($10,000).
Individuals can also show support by laying the bricks. 
The Two River’s Master Gardener’s Association has already laid 60 feet and an employee group from SNF Chemtall contributed 30 feet.
A third way to help is to help Evans research to make sure each slave is accounted for. She encourages community members to give her information and stories.
“To a degree we’re working from the 1870 Census backwards,” she said of her team’s research. “If any plantation days stories have made their way down through the generations, this would be an opportunity to bring them out.”
Because Evans said the Census and slave schedules do not include the names of the enslaved, only an age, sex and slave holder’s name, she’s encouraging locals to try to recover actual names for the bricks.
Evans hopes the walkway will be completed by 2010, the 150th anniversary of the Census that inspired the memorial.
And, after the walk is completed, the garden and the memorial will continue to grow.
“Then we’ll start to bring in more plants,” said John Ryon, who works maintenance on the historical site.
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