Henderson County became a mecca for summer tourists beginning in 1827 when the first people from the low county of South Carolina began buying land from earlier settlers and local county residents, and then building summer estates, in the communities of Flat Rock and Fletcher.
Some “S.C. Low Country” People
Charles Baring II was a member of a banking family in England. He married Susan Heyward, the widow of James Heyward. James Heyward was the brother of Nathaniel Heyward, who was considered the richest man in South Carolina at his death.
Susan Baring’s maiden name most likely was Cole. Recent research indicates that her father was William Cole of England. Research also indicates that she was a “courtesan” before her marriage to James Heyward.
James Perry was a fairly prominent Whig journalist, and he had known both Susan and her sister. When asked about Susan’s various aliases, he testified that “I knew her first by the name of Susan Cole, I knew her afterwards, by her own declaration as Mrs. Wright; she then resided in a house near the New-road, and I understood she was under the protection of a person who was then a noble member of this house. It was then that she called upon me at my chambers; and afterwards, as I understood, became Mrs. Turnour; at the end of 1785 she became Mrs. Bolton; afterwards, Mrs. Edge…”
The following was written by Charles Manigault, son-in-law of Nathaniel Heyward, as told to him by Nathaniel Heyward.
“He (James Heyward) had made an improper and unfortunate marriage while spending some years in England between 1790 and 1794. He married an adventuress who styled herself the widow Edge by a man from Boston, Mass., named Cutting who represented himself to be her brother. Cutting came with the newly married pair to Charleston, still styling himself the brother of the bride, and spent the winter there. The new Mrs. Heyward was seen at a glance upon her arrival to be a woman of doubtful reputations and her husband having sense enough to see that also soon gave himself up to drinking and died in Philadelphia in 1796 after two years of marriage. By his will he left his entire property to his widow for her life and in this way the best part of Daniel Heyward’s rice plantations was suddenly transferred to an English woman who had first married a poor foolish fellow through a scandalous piece of maneuvering and afterwards exerted her influence over him in the writing of his will so that he left her a life interest in the whole of his large possessions. Upon her death all the plantations would revert to her brother-in-law, Nathaniel Heyward.
“The mourning of the widow did not last long and she was soon surrounded, while still in Philadelphia, with other suitors. The most favored of these was Charles Baring of the distinguished banking family of that name, who had recently returned from Mexico where he had been sent by the London firm to look after their interests in certain silver mines. The next thing Nathaniel Heyward heard was that Mr. and Mrs. Charles Baring would soon be his neighbors on the Combahee River.”
In 1827 the couple purchased acreage in Flat Rock and constructed the home, Mountain Lodge, the first house in Flat Rock built by Charlestonians.
The couple never had any children and “always spent their winters on the Combahee plantation where they seemed to realize that they were interlopers, for they never improved the dwelling house and saw but little company. When the writer visited the home in December 1845 after the death of Susan Baring, there was nothing visible but a little old house scarcely fit for an overseer.”
In 1831, Charles Baring purchased land on the South Edisto River in Parker’s Ferry and began his own rice plantation. He built a house, but did not live there and leased it until his death. This was called the Baring Plantation.
“It was at Flat Rock that the two entertained their friends and their hospitalities were so lavish there that those who have enjoyed them were very outspoken in their admiration. The latter however could not help feeling that the Baring house with Mrs. Baring at its head was a doubtful place for their wives and daughter to visit. It was the host though and not the hostess who was so charming for he had had from boyhood through association with the distinguished members of his family and their friends the certain opportunity of becoming an elegant gentleman. Whereas Mrs. Baring was of common origin, her father having been a butcher, and never during her long life in America was she able to assume completely the manners and deportment of a lady. She had a younger sister whom she deliberately sold to the eldest son of the then Earl of Berkeley, near whose country residence in England her father plied his calling, and when the innocent heir to the title, the fruit of that liaison, expected to step into his grandfather’s shoes the House of Lords interposed and finished by abolishing the title.” (This was when the Whig, James Perry, above, testified).
“With such a wife Mr. Baring could not venture to return to England where she was known and that was the explanation of his having been the pioneer of the low country planters in search of a summer home in the mountains of North Carolina.”
Susan Heyward Baring, who was older than her husband, died Sept. 5, 1846. After her death, Baring lost Mountain Lodge (first summer home built in Flat Rock). A year later, at the age of 73, Charles Baring II remarried to Constance Beatrice Dent and they had a son, Alexander Baring. He took his second wife to England and the two were well received by his family. He and his second wife built a new summer home in Flat Rock named Solitude (Highland Lake Inn property).
Charles Baring II died in 1865 at Flat Rock, North Carolina.
His wife and son kept the Baring plantation in South Carolina even though the house had been burned by Union troops. This plantation was also known as Sandy Point Plantation.
Mitchell King of Charleston, S.C., was born in Scotland and came to America in 1804. He was a teacher at Charleston College, became a lawyer and was appointed a judge of the Charleston City Court. He gave 50 acres of land for the town of Hendersonville. He owned property in Charleston and on the Savannah River. He built Argyle in 1830 in Flat Rock. His first wife was Susanna Campbell and his second wife was her sister Margaret whom he married in 1830. He died in 1862 and is buried in Charleston. Argyle still belongs to the King family. A son of Mitchell King, Mitchell Campbell King, was a doctor who built his home Glenroy at Kenmure about 1850. Glenroy is the site of the Kenmure Country Club. He practiced medicine in Henderson County.
Count Marie Joseph Gabriel St. Xavier de Choiseul was a French aristocrat who became consul to Charleston. In 1831 he built Saluda Cottages (in the 20th century was the Boyd estate) and later he built Chanteloup, completed in 1841. At that time the estate was called “Le Chateau.” The family lived at Chanteloup about 20 years until his wife’s death (she is buried at St. John in Wilderness), when he returned to France, leaving his daughters destitute. As a means of supporting themselves after the count abandoned them the daughters opened a school. He re-married and died in France (never returned). His son Charles designed the new town of Hendersonville (drew out streets). He was a captain of Confederate forces in Louisiana and died during the Civil War (buried at St. John). The destitute daughters never married and lived in Flat Rock until their deaths. They had to sell the estate (Chanteloup) of their father.
Henry Tudor Farmer Jr. is said to be the great-nephew of Susan Baring (see above). He was claimed to be the grandson of her older sister, Ann, whose first husband had died in England. Ann came to America when Susan was married to Heyward. Ann then married a Claiborne. “By the time Susan and Charles were married, the Claiborne household included 5 children. The oldest two, Henry and Maria Farmer, were Ann’s from a previous marriage or liaison – again, it is not entirely clear just where they did come from – and the Claibornes had three children of their own. The Claibornes clearly knew which side their bread was buttered on and named their three children accordingly: First came Susan Heyward Claiborne, then James Heyward Claiborne, and finally Richard Baring Claiborne. Henry, the oldest, was clearly Susan’s favorite: the last money that Susan advanced Claiborne was $150 to cover ‘6 months room, board, lodging, and books in Philadelphia for Henry.’”
Ann Cole Farmer Claiborne died around 1805, leaving five children, two Farmers and three Claibornes, for Susan and Charles Baring to rear. Henry T. Farmer (Sr.) wrote a famous poem and had a brief medical career. He died in 1828, leaving behind seven children. “And again, Susan took a special interest in the eldest, Henry Tudor Farmer Jr. Henry Tudor Farmer Jr. was better known in Flat Rock as Squire Farmer.”
There are others who state, including Henry Tudor Farmer Jr., that his real grandmother was Susan Baring and that her eldest sister, Ann, raised her illegitimate children (including his father, Henry T. Farmer Sr.)
Henry Tudor Farmer Jr. built and operated the Farmer’s Hotel (Woodfield Inn) and was a politician from Henderson County. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention from North Carolina in 1860. He is buried at St. John in Wilderness Episcopal Churchyard.
Christopher Gustavus Memminger was born in Germany. He was a lawyer, member of S.C. state house of representatives, delegate to South Carolina secession convention, Confederate Secretary of Treasury, and after the war a member of the S.C. state legislature. He built the Rock Hill estate, now called Connemara. In the post-war years he returned to private law practice and business investment in Charleston. He also continued his work on developing South Carolina’s public education system. After his death, his body was brought from Charleston by train to be buried at St. John in Wilderness. Smythe bought the estate in 1925 and re-named it Connemara.
The Blake Family was one of the oldest and wealthiest early families of South Carolina, tracing back to Joseph Blake who was governor of the Carolina Province 1696-1700 and owned a plantation called “Plainsfield” on the Stono River. Son Daniel was born in England. The Blake family owned slaves and property in both England and America. Two descendants, Daniel Blake and Walter Blake bought summer estates in the Fletcher area. Daniel Blake bought William Murray’s property (Murray’s Inn) in Fletcher and re-named it the Meadows. Blake managed his father’s huge estate of 610 slaves on Bonny Hall Plantation in Prince William Parish near Yemassee, but lived in Charleston and Henderson County (Fletcher). Walter Blake is listed in the History of Beaufort County as an absentee owner, not visiting for years at a time and living in Charleston. English author William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) lived in Beaufort County on Bonny Hall Plantation in Yemassee. Bonny Hall was later owned by publisher Nelson Doubleday, who resided in the large plantation house.
William Andrew Johnstone (Johnston) III built Beaumont. The name is actually Johnstone, but most references in Henderson County spell it Johnston. He was murdered during the Civil War at his home in Flat Rock. His father was William Andrew Johnstone II whose wife was a Pinckney. The Johnstone family owned the Millbrook Plantation in Georgetown, S.C. Andrew III changed the name to Annandale and in 1863 sold the rice plantation to George Trenholm who succeeded Memminger as Confederate Secretary of the Treasury. Andrew II had other sons who lived in the area: Frances Withers Johnstone (wife Simmons, moved to Louisiana) had Estherville Plantation near Georgetown (had 90 slaves in 1850 at this plantation), and Montclove along Davidson River/Dunn’s Rock in today’s Transylvania County. Robert McKewn Johnstone had an estate also in Transylvania County and later moved to Spartanburg, S.C. He had a son named Frances Withers Johnstone, born 1847 and died in Mexico City. William Johnstone, son of Andrew above, built Pleasant Hill on the Beaumont estate. This home still stands closer to Little River Road.
Edmund Molyneaux was the British consul to Savannah. In 1841 he bought Brookland. He was the former owner of Dungeness on Cumberland Island, later owned by Carnegie and originally the home of Revolutionary War Gen. Nathaniel Greene. He built a home in Savannah in 1857 on Bull Street that is now owned by the Historic Oglethorpe Club. He married Eliza Harriet Johnstone. He was born in 1791 in Liverpool, England. He died in Paris in 1864.
James Gilliam or Gillam listed several slaves in the county on the 1860 census. There was a James Gillam of Abbeville, S.C., who was a friend of Daniel Huger and wrote a famous statement about slaves and religion. He was a first cousin of John C. Calhoun. He was active in the Presbyterian Church in South Carolina.
John Gibbes Shoolbred was the son of James Shoolbred who was born in England and came to America in 1790 as a British consul. He married Mary Gibbes Middleton in 1797. She took over her family’s Kiawah Island property in 1793. They owned the western half of Kiawah Island until 1841. Shoolbred built a new plantation. The island plantations grew indigo and sea-island cotton. They also owned the Woodville Plantation in McClellanville, S.C. (now part of the Wedge Plantation owned by the University of South Carolina). Mary Middleton Shoolbred died in 1808. Shoolbred died in 1847. They are both buried on Kiawah Island. Dr. John Gibbes Shoolbred died in 1860 in Flat Rock. He put the Wedge Plantation up for sale before his death. His wife’s name was Emma Augusta.
George Alfred Trenholm and his brother, Edward, were from Charleston, S.C. George Trenholm worked for a major cotton broker, John Fraser and Company in Charleston. By 1853 he was head of the company, and by 1860 was one of the wealthiest men in the United States. He had interests in steamships, hotels, cotton, plantations, and slaves. He was also director of the Bank of Charleston and of a South Carolina railroad. When the Civil War broke out, John Fraser and Company became the Confederate government’s overseas banker and financed its own fleet of blockade runners. Trenholm was appointed Confederate Secretary of the Treasury in 1864. He is said to be the person on whom Rhett Butler of Gone with the Wind fame is based. He had a summer home, “Solitude,” in Flat Rock that was later bought by Charles Baring and his second wife (Highland Lake Inn property). His brother, Edward Trenholm, bought Mountain Lodge after the death of Susan Baring.
Richard Matthew Singleton and wife Martha Rutledge Singleton owned a plantation named Kensington in Richland County, S.C., which has been restored by the International Paper Corporation (Union Camp) and is open for tours. His family is also an old South Carolina family known for their racing horses. He died in 1854 at the age of 37 and is buried in the St. John in the Wilderness. He was at his summer home in Flat Rock when he died. The home was called “Hemlocks” and was located near Beaumont. It no longer exists. It was built in 1838. His sister Mary married George McDuffie in 1829 when he was a member of Congress. He later became governor of South Carolina. She died the following year leaving a daughter, Mary Singleton McDuffie, who married Wade Hampton in 1858.
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney descended from the famous, historical and aristocratic Pinckney family of South Carolina. His ancestor’s plantation is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site. The Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (not the Revolutionary War hero and presidential candidate) who lived in Flat Rock was an Episcopal clergyman. The Rev. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was “the nephew of the author of the immortal statement, ‘Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute,'” by C.C. Pinckney of Pinckney Island, near Hilton Head. The original “Piedmont” at Flat Rock, a two-story building with 22-inch stone walls quarried on the place, was built in 1846. It was destroyed by fire in 1949, but the restored one-story structure retains the original lines and the slave cut stone walls.
Frederick Rutledge is connected to the the Hampton Plantation (Hampton Plantation State Park) built by Daniel Horry, then owned by Daniel Huger Horry, then by Daniel and Harriett Pinckney Horry. Frederick Rutledge was the owner of the Brookland land in Henderson County. After his wife’s death in 1842, he spent some summers at the Meadows in Fletcher with a relative, Daniel Blake. Henry Middleton Rutledge, son of Frederick Rutledge, inherited the Horry plantation. He married first Anna Marie Blake. He was a colonel during the Civil War with the Confederate 25th N.C. Infantry Regiment. As a youth he visited his Blake relatives during the summers at the Meadows.