The Hutchinson House on Edisto Island

Oh, God of Dust and Rainbows/ Help us to see/that without the dust the rainbow/Would not be. – Langston Hughes

Built by Henry Hutchinson, 1885

This red-roofed handbuilt house on Point of Pines Road was built about 1885 by Henry Hutchinson for his bride, Rosa Swinton. Today the skeleton of this house still stands. In the spring the house is covered with flowering wisteria, and all you can see from the road now is a purple haze, the color of indigo. It is slowly being reclaimed by the earth.

Purple Wysteria Blanket

According to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History this is the oldest identified house on Edisto Island associated with the black community after the Civil War.

“Henry Hutchinson… according to a local tradition, built and operated the first cotton gin owned by a black on the island, from 1900 to 1920. He was born a slave in 1860″ (and was the son of James -Jim- Hutchinson), and lived in this house here until his death in 1940. “The house is a rectangular, one-and-one half story residence featuring a side gable roof with bargeboards and three gabled dormers on the front slope of the roof. The weatherboard clad house rests on a raised, brick pier foundation and has shed and gable-roofed additions at the west and north elevations. The pedimented front porch dates from a later period. Listed in the National Register May 5, 1987.”

My own neighborhood on the island, on land that was formerly Sea Side Plantation, is full of Hutchinson descendants to this day. Jim Hutchinson was one of the men they called “Kings of Edisto”. He was a spokesperson, and he helped former slaves own, and get clear title to land. It seems he was quite the hero. Having served as a Union soldier, he returned to Edisto after arranging the capture of nine Edisto planters’ sons on the Island, as Confederate spies in 1863, at the risk of his own life. It was also “widely known” according to historian Charles Spencer, that Jim Hutchison was the son of a slave mother and a white father, most likely the powerful Issac Jenkins Mikell.

As early as 1865, He held a Freedman’s Land Certificate under owner William Edings at Sea Side (issued August 3, 1865). And from the National Register, “In 1870, a mass meeting of blacks on Edisto, chaired by James Hutchinson produced a letter addressed to Governor Robert K. Scott, asking him or someone to purchase a 900 acres plantation on the island to be divided among the freedman. He purchased a large tract of land in the fall of the year 1874, land that had been the Clark Plantation, also called “Shell House,” a parcel of 404.26 acres. The land that was the former Clark plantation was subdivided about 1878 among his children and other freedmen”.

In the end, Jim Hutchinson was killed. “He was leading the colored people too much… he helped the poor people. It was a white man from Wadmalaw. And it must be they followed mercy in this case instead of justice, for they never did anything with the murderer. But the people have clear title to their lands, and Jim’s work has endured.” – from poet and sage Nick Lindsay’s book, And I’m Glad, an Oral History of Edisto Island.

Stories endure, too. And there is something about the beauty of the place, now, just like it is.

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I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in architecture, art, Arts & Culture, beauty, creativity, Gullah, Law, South Carolina History, travel
22 comments on “The Hutchinson House on Edisto Island
  1. Roy Coker says:

    It is a shame that this house is not being preserved. From the photos, it looks as if it still could be brought back to life. Did you take the photos?

  2. I did take the photographs, Roy. The family has just been resistant, from what I understand, not trusting those who have offered, I suppose. These pictures were taken in ’07 and ’09 I think. I will go out to visit soon to see how it is now. Thank you so much for the visit. Are you related to Mike Coker?

    • Hello,
      I am the descendent of the old hutchinson family! in preserving the house we must first understand that the land had been divided. So locating all the family and their ties to the land, so the restoration can take affect was merely the minor hold up! It is and has been a passion and desire of ours to cultivate this authentic part of history! In saying that, It has been a 5-10 year long mission of ours to restore this house. I must say that we are making great progress. In this year alone the Hutchinson family alongside The Edisto Island Museum hosted a clean up day earlier this year on Clark. The turn out was amazing and that was just the beginning! This month (Sept-Oct 2012) Professor Henry Gates from PBS chose to cover the story of Myrtle Hutchinson and The Old Hutchison house for his documentary series on African Americans in the South airing in 2013. Within the next year or 2 the house will be restored and i am very grateful to be apart of this legacy, as i am the great granddaughter of Myrtle Hutchinson, who is herself, the great granddaughter of Henry Hutchison.

      Thanks for taking interest in my family’s history!

      Carmen

  3. pinkney says:

    I tried to reach the agent who had a sign out on this house, but never could get anyone to return a call. Mikell descendents can be difficult about old family home places. Can’t say more than that; it’s just a fact. There are many of us who would contribute in some way to the restoration of this house, but it appears it ain’t gonna’ happen.

    • Dear Pinkney! Thanks for being interested. Was there a “For Sale” sign in front of the house? When was that? I will drive out there today. When I wrote this piece, I realized that descendants of Henry, and Jim Hutchinson, are my cousins, too. Wow.

  4. Deborah Robinson says:

    This is absolutely a shame! My great-great grandfather is one of the freedmen that acquired land (10 acres) in Clark or “Shell House”. The land is still in the family. Charlotte, you may know my cousin who lives on Clark Road. I’m still holding out hope that something meaningful can be done with the house.

  5. Jim says:

    Outstanding photo and description of the Hutchinson house, Charlotte! Attempts to preserve the house in the past have been rebuffed by the owners, but maybe it is time for another try. I’ll send a link to your story to the Edisto Island Historic Preservation Society in hopes that the interest you have generated will help revive the project.

    • Jim, thank you.
      Wouldn’t it be wonderful to stir up some interest again in saving this house? I have one of these photos on my Flickr account and I had a comment from a direct descendant, who I have emailed. As I wrote this I realized that they are most likely my cousins, the descendants of Jim and Henry Hutchinson, as I descend from Issac Jenkins MIkell’s ancestor of Edisto, Ephraim Mikell. How about that? Thank you so much for your interest, Jim. I am very interested in helping in any way I can.
      Cheers, Charlotte

  6. Debra Seabrook Smalls says:

    I had not seen this house in many years. As a little girl I visited and played here. It would be wonderful to see it restored. I can still Cousins Sissy and Mabel voices…

    • Debra! Thank you SO much for finding me and your comment here. I would love to hear more stories about the house, and even about the Edisto you remember. When was the last time you were here? I live on Edingsville Beach Road and collect Hutchinson stories from over here, as all my neighbors are Hutchinson descendants! They call the area Legare, pronounced not, LaGree like in Charleston, but LEEgree. Best Wishes, Charlotte

  7. [...] Henry Hutchinson of Edisto Island South Carolina, the proud owner of the huge Clark Plantation, was one of those Black Kings. Hutchinson’s holdings included extensive farmlands, a cotton gin, horses, cattle herds, a sausage factory, town houses and other valuable properties, but his most prized possession was a newly constructed two-story home that he presented to his bride Rosa Hutchinson as a wedding gift. [...]

  8. [...] number of personal experiences over the last few years have prompted my interest in researching the Old Hutchinson house and its ties to the African American Sea Island Gullah Geechee culture on Edisto Island, but time [...]

  9. [...] questions concerned the old Hutchinson House and its preservation as a historic entity on Edisto Island. People wanted to know when the old [...]

  10. Kelly Johnson says:

    I am the great-great granddaughter of James Hutchinson, my father has pictures of Henry and Rosa, their children, James Henry Jr, Lula, Mabel, John, Arthur and Sissy. My aunt and uncle made a visit to Edisto, SC and hope that this house can be preserved for further generations. If was listed in the National register, what is the problem? Isn’t it special grant money for such projects.

    • Hi Kelly! Great to hear from you. I believe it has been the hesitation of the current owners. But lately there seems to be more support and connection to and by both the Edisto Island Historical Museum and the family. Sure would love to see the pictures you have! It is a wonderful, important house. Thanks so much for writing.

      • Kelly Johnson says:

        Hi Charlotte! That is great news, I just recently started tracking my family history and my father shared this information with me. I hope this house can be saved considering Charleston and Savannah are famous for their pre-civil war architecture.

    • I would surely like to meet you Kelly Johnson.

      Carmen

  11. [...] number of personal experiences over the last few years have prompted my interest in researching the Old Hutchinson house and its ties to the African American Sea Island Gullah Geechee culture. As the great granddaughter [...]

  12. [...] Henry Hutchinson of Edisto Island South Carolina became the proud owner of the huge Clark Plantation after the death of his father Jim Hutchinson.   Henry went on to become known as a Black Kings with personal holdings that included extensive farmlands, a cotton gin, horses, carriages, cattle herds, a sausage factory, a number of town houses and other valuable properties. Nevertheless, his most prized possession was a newly constructed two-story home that he presented to his new bride Rosa Hutchinson as a wedding gift. [...]

  13. Jean Spencer says:

    I drove by yesterday and the vegetation seems to be taking over again. More than anything, the place needs a new roof right away. I hope money and will can be found to accomplish this. With the taking of the slave cabin by the Smithsonian, Edisto’s African American heritage is disappearing fast.

    • Hi Jean! Luckily the Smithsonian will preserve the Point of Pines slave cabin which otherwise would be lost. We are SO fortunate for their care of it. Plus the history of it will be told broadly, which means it will be honored. Regarding The Hutchinson House, why don’t you write a letter to those with the funds, The History Museum on Edisto Island, or better yet, the National Trust for Historic Preservation/Charleston office?

  14. […] As you know, monthly we choose a photo that left an impression on us.  Mine this month is the Hutchinson House on Edisto Island. […]

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What’s this?

Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

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