– By Judy Gibson Holmes –
Roy Dwight “Ike” Carpenter is the third generation of carvers and his grandchildren make the fifth generation. Ike was only three years old when his grandfather Martin Gary “Bose” Carpenter passed away. The family tradition of woodcarving began with Bose. Bose taught his son Paul Monroe Carpenter the technique and Paul taught Ike the family tradition when Ike was a child.
One of Ike’s favorite carvings of his Dad’s is the chain made totally out of one piece of wood that holds the Ford tractor. Ike still has that favorite piece of folk art. Ike also makes his woodcarvings out of one piece of wood each. He said he did not make a copy of his Dad’s Ford tractor woodwork because he wanted to keep that particular piece as a family keepsake of his Dad’s that represented the entire family and their love of the Ford tractor.
Ike has enjoyed woodcarving since he was seven years old. He is very active with his craft at age 68, Ike is a lifelong resident of Trenton. His talent has amazed audiences for generations. You will find him in Revolutionary Re-enactments and in War Between the States Re-Enactments displaying his hunt boards, spoons, carvings and so many pieces of history straight from his talented hands.
His wood pieces can be seen at the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum in Columbia and also at the State Museum.
When Ike was seven, he and his brothers were down by the train track in Trenton getting cane for cane fishing poles. Of course they had the proper knives and machetes to cut the cane with but Ike did not have a knife and much to his delight, he found a broken knife stuck in a piece of cane. He got it and took it home, this broken knife becoming his very first carving knife.
“I made a handle for the knife with popsicle sticks and carved with it as well as a seven year old could, “ Ike said.
Ike enjoys working with mahogany for his furniture designs and wood from fruit trees for his bowls and spoons and smaller items. He also loves working with peach seeds for the detailed tiny little items and he also uses walnuts for making old fashioned buttons.
Ike enjoyed the many peach seed items his grandfather Bose Carpenter left the family. He was always fascinated with the tiny little baskets and monkeys that Bose made from the seeds (“pits” as known by many). Ike particularly was interested in a tiny delicate little monkey his grandfather gave a little girl in Trenton, Edith Day (later she was Edith Dowd and much later she was Edith Padgett). Bose Carpenter gave Edith that little monkey when she was a small child, but in her later years she promised the peach seed monkey to Ike. He looked so forward to having his grandfather’s carving, as she and Ike spoke of it often. Edith passed away before she ever gave him his grandfather’s peach seed monkey and her husband Mr. Padgett did not give this wonderful little piece of history to Ike.
Mrs. Helen Clark Carpenter, Ike’s mother, has cherished the woodworking items that her husband Paul made many years ago and especially enjoys her son Ike’s carvings today. She said everyone knows Ike has the talent of his father Paul. Ike has made a lot of items just like his dad’s and many more items than his dad made. Mrs. Helen said she loves all the wooden bowls and spoons. He has made her wooden jewelry boxes out of heart pine and furnishings as well. Each item of Paul’s and Ike’s is a true treasure to Mrs. Helen. She has a family china cabinet in her living room filled with her husband’s items. Each piece has a history to it. When it comes to history everyone loves to hear Ike’s rendition of numerous South Carolina history and family history stories, told with each of his carvings. Mrs. Helen’s home is where all of Carpenter children were raised: Wayne, Buckie, Ike, Nancy and Michael. So many wonderful memories of Mr. Paul Monroe Carpenter still are so evident of his many years of living there.
“I was delighted to be the guest with Ike at the McKissick Museum’s Awards and Supper in the spring of this year. Eleven states participated and only six artists were chosen and I was so happy they chose Ike’s. He had a display of three tables and the wooden goblets and plates and spoons representing the slave’s table and the slave owner’s table. The fancier goblet and plate and spoon represented the slave owner’s table and the plain bowl and cup represented the slave’s table. In the middle was the joining of the slave and slave owner breaking bread. Ike had a very large wooden South Carolina bowl with the slave owner and slave’s hand breaking the bread together. At the leg of the table was the wooden chain broken,” Mrs. Helen said, “The museum bought the tables and settings. I am so proud of Ike and all his work.”
“Paul worked at Graniteville in the boiler room for years and on his breaks there he would have a stick of wood in his pocket and his knife and he would bring home another wooden treasure for us,” Mrs. Helen explained.
Growing up with such a loving family and the love of woodworking totally influenced Ike’s hobby into a way of life for him. Folks barely ever see him without a piece of wood or peach seed in his hand being carved into something beautiful and unique.
Ike’s grandchildren love working with him. Brittany Boatwright, Ike’s oldest grandchild, a ninth grader at Strom Thurmond High School, has many years of memories of carving with her grandfather, sometimes on camping trips and sometimes at his shop in Edgefield, Carpenter’s Carpenter Shop, and also at his home in Trenton. Brittany, since early childhood, has loved working with her grandfather’s re-enactments in the War Between the States lifestyles. She is a lover of South Carolina History.
Brittany said, “ I loved learning how to make little figurines out of peach seeds. My favorite was a tiny little basket. My grandfather makes learning woodworking a fun experience.”
Ike’s young grandson, Landon Boatwright, said, “I enjoyed him teaching me how to handle the blade to make a basket out of a peach seed. We make lots of little things. I do this by myself a lot now that I have learned how to handle the blade correctly.”
Melissa Carpenter Boatwright has wonderful memories throughout her life with woodworking with her dad, Ike. She has loved learning all about her Grandfather Paul’s word working, too. Melissa said, “I remember as a child looking in the glass cabinet at my grandma’s. My PaPa had the neatest carvings. My dad has an awesome walking stick he carved in Vietnam with a confederate soldier’s head on it. I did an apprenticeship program with my Dad in 2002; that’s when I started carving. I made a ball in a box which is harder than it looks. And I made a wooden spoon using only hand tools and it was in the museum for a year.
“My dad has made some pretty cool things throughout my life. One of my favorites is probably his wooden chains and his love spoon. I also love the South Carolina spoon that he came up with. My dad is a very talented man. He’s taught me and my children so much. He has taught both my children how to carve peach seed baskets and how to make spoons.”
Ike recently wanted to find out more information on his grandfather Bose Carpenter, so he met with Ruth Padgett, Frances Quarles, Mayor Terrence Culbreath (and me–the writer) at Johnston Town Hall. They researched the files from the early 1900s, with Ike trying to help find the information on his grandfather as Chief of Police of Johnston. Ike was so happy when he found the page that stated: “Martin Gary ‘Bose’ Carpenter was installed as Chief of Police in Johnston on June 23rd, 1913.” It went on to acknowledge that he was part of the Johnston Police Department from 1905 until 1925. After that Bose was the Chief of Police of Trenton and moved his family to Trenton from Johnston.
The confirmation of Ike’s grandfather’s tenure as Chief of Police of Johnston gave Ike the final seal of completion of the search for proof of his grandfather’s life in Johnston before starting the decades of life in Trenton. Life in Trenton has for the Carpenters been a unique blend of carpentry and woodworking in a close knit little town. As he says, “As a family of five children, we made wonderful memories growing up with our parents, in a special place like Trenton, South Carolina.”