Susan Clemson Richardson and the String Around her Wrist
Susan Clemson Richardson was born into slavery at Fort Hill around 1828. Both her mother, Daphne, and her father, Bill Lawrence, were enslaved by the Calhouns. Her mother worked in the Fort Hill Plantation House as a wet nurse to her enslaver’s first three children. Her brother, Benjamin, was also enslaved on the plantation. Once Susan was old enough, John C. Calhoun and Floride Calhoun presented Susan as a gift to their daughter, Anna Maria Calhoun Clemson. Susan was to work as her personal maid. So, like her mother, she spent a lot of time around the Clemson's and their children in the Fort Hill Plantation House. Susan Clemson Richardson’s story is better documented than many of the other enslaved persons who worked at Fort Hill during this time due to the personal nature of her work for the Clemson family and the written accounts of her memories from enslavement.
While enslaved at Fort Hill, Susan would tend to Anna Maria’s every need. Her duties even extended into the night. While Anna Maria and her husband slept peacefully in their large, walnut bed, Susan slept in the much smaller, adjacent northwest bedroom with a string tied around her wrist. This string connected to the bedside of Anna Maria so that she could pull the string, awakening Susan, to perform any tasks she may need during the night.
Around 1844, Susan and her family were moved by the Clemson’s to Canebrake Plantation in Saluda, SC and were later sold to Alfred Long Dearing. Here, Susan married Bill Richardson, who was likely enslaved at a neighboring plantation, and they had six children together. In 1910, Susan passed away at the age of 82 while living with one of her sons in Aiken, SC.