Wayne finishes his journey to local plantation

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 17, 2001

Scholar and author Michael Wayne’s journey to Cedar Grove Plantation began 20 years ago with the discovery of a letter describing a probe into the death of an overseer at the plantation.

Wayne was researching a book titled &uot;The Reshaping of Plantation Society&uot; when he found a letter describing an investigation into the 1857 death of Duncan Skinner. He began using it to teach Southern history to his students at the University of Toronto.

From there, Wayne obtained microfilm copies of local newspapers from the era and visited Natchez to research more letters and court records.

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And the rest, as they say, is history. One Sunday afternoon, Wayne visited Cedar Grove in Kingston to sign copies of his newly printed book about the murder.

Wayne said he has been working to complete &uot;Death of an Overseer: Reopening a Murder Investigation from the Plantation South,&uot; on and off for the last 10 years.

Skinner’s body was found in the woods in May 1857 not far from Cedar Grove. The death was ruled accidental, but soon Natchez planters said slaves had murdered Skinner on orders from carpenter John McCallin.

Wayne said his fascination with Southern history began years ago when he conducted graduate work at Yale.

&uot;I was fascinated with the irony of the South all my life,&uot; Wayne said.

&uot;While the United States is the most powerful country in the world, the South has known defeat within the United States – in the Civil War,&uot; he said. &uot;Also, the South is the most disadvantaged part of what, for the most part, is an affluent country.&uot;

Wayne said he is now working on a interpretive work on race relations.