CLEMSON, S.C. -- A recent reunion of families with historic ties to Clemson could begin the transformation of the university’s historic homes and collections.

Nearly 100 people from families connected to Hopewell Plantation (home of Revolutionary War Gen. Andrew Pickens), Fort Hill (home of former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun and Clemson founders Thomas Green Clemson and Anna Calhoun Clemson) and Hanover House spent a weekend visiting those sites and perusing collections of period items and documents.

Hopewell is one of Clemson University’s top restoration targets. Attendees ate a barbecue lunch and toured the home of Gen. Pickens and several of his descendants, including his son the former South Carolina Gov. Andrew Jr. Several pieces from the university’s period collection were displayed, as well as a few brought by attendees. The house needs costly restoration work, including fire suppression equipment, before pieces can be on permanent display there.

Andrew Pickens Miller, former attorney general of Virginia and a speaker at the barbecue, led a campaign to restore the Richmond, Va., home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall. The landmark Marbury v. Madison decision that Marshall authored established judicial review and gave the Supreme Court the ultimate power to interpret the constitutionality of state and federal laws.

Miller already has approached Oklahoma billionaire T. Boone Pickens — a descendant of Gen. Pickens — for money to fix up Hopewell.

Before Miller could start his pitch, Pickens apparently cut him off.

“He said, ‘I know you’re thinking of trying to do something with respect to Hopewell,”’ said Miller, who came away from the meeting with a promise that Hopewell would get consideration when Pickens does his next round of charitable giving early next year.

Miller told his fellow Pickens descendants that such restoration work is necessary and doable — with help from everyone.

“They don’t have to be million-dollar donations,” Miller said. “We need to outfit the house, too. Think of what you may have in your possession that has some Pickens connection and think of giving it to Clemson in hopes that Hopewell can come alive.”

Earl Baumgardner may have just such a piece for the restored Hopewell. He and his 15-year-old twin sons, Brock and Benjamin, came to the event at Clemson from Montgomery, Ala. with a portrait of Andrew Pickens Jr. to show the other attendees. The former governor is portrayed seated, wearing his lieutenant colonel’s uniform from the War of 1812. Andrew Sr.’s sword, an honor from the Continental Congress for his Revolutionary War service — including the Battle of Cowpens, which helped break Cornwallis’s offensive in the South and drive the British to defeat at Yorktown — is depicted on Andrew Jr.’s left hip.

“I found it in my mom’s attic,” Baumgardner said of the portrait.

After his mother (a Pickens descendant through the Calhoun branch of the family that settled in Alabama) died four years ago, he rummaged through her attic. An appraisal dated a painting he found there to the 1820s, and Baumgardner was able to identify the younger Pickens as the subject.

Anyone wanting to learn more about the university’s restoration and programming plans for its historic properties can visit clemson.edu/about/history/properties.

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Information from: Anderson Independent-Mail, http://www.andersonsc.com