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Waccamaw Neck mourns death of local historian

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Alberta Quattlebaum, photo

Alberta Quattlebaum

Alberta Lachicotte Quattlebaum, a Waccamaw Neck historian who died on Dec. 30 at age 89, will be remembered for her passion for preserving the past, a unique sense of humor and a gentle spirit.

Funeral services were held on Jan. 4 at All Saints Church in Pawleys Island. Quatllebaum is survived by her daughter, Rebecca Blanton of Charleston; two grandchildren, Wilson C. Blanton and Morgan E. Blanton; and a brother, Arthur Herbert “Doc” Lachicotte Jr. of Pawleys Island.

"Miss Alberta was a true Southern lady who didn't have any airs about her," said Trudy Bazemore, assistant director of the Georgetown County Library. "She literally wrote the book on the history of rice plantations in Georgetown County."

Referring to Quattlebaum's book "Georgetown Rice Plantations," Bazemore said it was very thoroughly researched.

"As long as I can remember, we have used that book as a valuable resource," Bazemore said. "She had a love and passion for Georgetown County and the Waccamaw Neck. She lived in the place she loved."

Quattlebaum also wrote a book titled "Rebel Senator: A Biography of the South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond," published in 1967.

Born in 1928 in Sumter, Quattlebaum grew up on Waverly Plantation in Georgetown County and spent summers at the family cottage on Pawleys Island. Her family ran the rice mill at Waverly Plantation, operated a small dairy, and sold oysters and crabs to visitors of Pawleys Island. Her father established the original Pawleys Island Hammock Shop in the 1930s.

Quattlebaum graduated from Winyah High School in Georgetown and earned a bachelor’s degree from Winthrop College and a master’s degree in teaching from The Citadel. She worked as a reporter for Charleston’s News and Courier and The Lancaster News.

Quattlebaum was a member of the South Carolina Historical Society, the Georgetown County Historical Society, All Saints Waccamaw Episcopal Church in Pawleys Island and the Senior Scholars of Georgetown County Library. For 20 years she served on the editorial board of South Carolina Historical Magazine, the quarterly publication of the South Carolina Historical Society.

She was a member of the board of directors for the Georgetown Rice Museum and was a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of South Carolina. Quattlebaum was awarded the honorary degree Doctor of Public Service from Coastal Carolina University during the May 1998 commencement ceremony.

Doc Lachicotte said he and his sister, who was two years his junior, spent many days as children helping with family chores. Their aunts, Isabelle and Alberta Lachicotte, ran a dairy farm on the property and rented several beach cottages to visitors.

"We used to deliver milk and argue about who would carry the milk," he remembered fondly. "We also used to go through seafood, heading shrimp and picking crabs."

In later years, he and his sister helped make rope hammocks at their father's business.

"I knitted the body of the hammock and she tied them together," Lachicotte said.

Bazemore said in recent years Quattlebaum was very generous to allow her home at the former Waverly Plantation to be part of the Prince George Plantation Tours, one of South Carolina's oldest and most prestigious historic home tours, each year in March. Janet Owens Williams was a regular docent at Quattlebaum's home for the tour.

"Waverly Plantation was such an important part of the rice production of Georgetown County," Williams said. "It was the only one that had what was considered a modern mill. Many plantations had to ship rice to that mill for processing."

She recalled that Quattlebaum would return to the house toward the end of the tour and talk with people.

"She would tell them things that the docents didn't know about the plantation," Williams said. "Miss Alberta was always willing to stay there a little late and she wouldn’t turn anyone away."

Quattlebaum's second cousin, Wendy Belser, who is the director of philanthropy and membership at Brookgreen Gardens, spent much of the past seven years with her.

"She had a great sense of humor and a very interesting way of looking at the world," Belser said. "She was really a fascinating person and everywhere we went, people would come up to her and ask her to share stories."

Belser said Quattlebaum and her late husband, Jesse, renovated the Waverly Plantation property, repositioning the house overlooking the Waccamaw River.

"She was very pleased they were able to invest in renovating the historic property," Belser said. "Right up until the end, she went out walking for about a half hour every day."

Memorials in Quattlebaum's honor may be made to: Brookgreen Gardens, 1931 Brookgreen Drive, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576; or The Rice Museum, 633 Front St., Georgetown, SC 29440.

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Clayton Stairs/South Strand News

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