Cario students research Jonathon Lucas for historical marker

  • Thursday, May 9, 2013



Long ago someone predicted that Jonathan Lucas would be recognized one day for his tremendous contributions to our nation during the post-revolution era. That day has finally arrived in Mount Pleasant.

The Jonathan Lucas story is a fascinating part of southern colonial history but unfortunately it’s unknown to most. Lucas was an innovative millwright who shipwrecked on the Carolina coast in the 1780s. He designed a new rice milling process that revolutionized the industry and he lived in Mount Pleasant where he operated his mill design and construction business.

Now, 220 years after Lucas purchased more than 400 acres of prime Haddrell’s Point land with Shem Creek frontage and Charleston harbor access, two Thomas Cario Middle School teachers, 11 eighth graders and the Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission have partnered in a community service project to celebrate his story.

This is the first time that the town’s historical commission has reached out to a local school with a request to work together on a history for Mount Pleasant’s residents and visitors. It was an easy decision and one that received unanimous approval early last fall.

The historical commission’s idea was to support a group of school children in a local history research project. This fit nicely into its broad mission to interpret and promote the town’s culture and history.

In Charleston County, children are taught South Carolina history in their fifth and eighth grade school years. Partnering with a local school in a community service project makes sense and the Jonathan Lucas story is ideal for young students. A research project of this nature is more suitable to an eighth grader’s ability to do research.

Mr. Bragg, the former principal of Thomas Cario Middle School, was immediately receptive to the idea that the school’s students could impact others in a unique way for years to come. Without hesitation, he presented this idea to his eighth grade social studies teachers.

Two of those teachers welcomed the partnership idea as a fun and beneficial project for students that are passionate about history. In that spirit, Mrs. Burroughs and Mrs. Leland invited a small group of their eighth grade student-historians to create a historical marker text. Hannah Massar, Karly Fitch, Kayley Munkers, Caitlin Woodard, Grace Crawley, Samantha Connell, Sydney DeJong, Allison Barry, Eden Artidiello, Cayla Wakser and Julia Wakser met regularly last fall and this spring, oftentimes very early in the morning before classes started, to find information about Jonathan Lucas, the local economy and the role of rice mills in colonial America.

Mrs. Burroughs and Mrs. Leland went above and beyond the commission’s original concept and gave generously of their time so that their students could write an interesting and trustworthy history.

Mrs. Leland was clear that this research project was done by the students themselves: “The Jonathan Lucas historical marker project was student-driven and we only supported and guided their efforts.” In developing this history, the students relied on old newspapers, primary sources and reliable resources discovered on the internet.

After five months of research, discussions and draft-writing, in March 2013, the teachers and students presented text to the historical commission. The students’ Jonathan Lucas marker draft has undergone standard commission revisions since the school’s initial presentation.

Last week the final draft text was given to the town with the goal of a vote at the May historical commission meeting. Everybody agrees that producing a marker about an innovative business that helped shape America was a worthy venture. Mrs. Burroughs added, “Our students were able to take part in producing a marker that thousands of people will read in the future.”

Historical Commission Community History Partnership Project Contacts and Facts

Town of Mount Pleasant Historical Commission Contact:

1). Retired school teacher & former Commissioner Pam Owen Early


2). Commission Vice Chair Jose Hernandez


Town Staff Contact:

Staff secretary Kiera Reinertsen


Thomas Cario Teachers:

1). Mrs. Leland GERILYN_LELAND@charleston.k12.sc.us

2). Mrs. Burroughs JENNIFER_BURROUGHS@charleston.k12.sc.us>

Eleven Thomas Cario student-historians:

Hannah Massar, Karly Fitch, Kayley Munkers, Caitlin Woodard, Grace Crawley, Samantha Connell, Sydney DeJong, Allison Barry, Eden Artidiello, Cayla Wakser and Julia Wakser

Q. What did this eighth grade research group learn?

A. They learned how to do historical research. They also learned how to limit research/writing to a historical marker text. The students learned about how Jonathan Lucas’ rice mills contributed to the Charleston area economy. (He has been called the Eli Whitney of rice production).

Q. What was the most rewarding part of this partnership with the historical commission?

A. They learned more in depth about Jonathan Lucas. They were able to take part in producing a marker that thousands of people will read in the future.

Q. How will this community service project benefit the town’s residents and visitors? A. It teaches the community about Jonathan Lucas and the history of rice mills in Charleston

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