McLeod Plantation History on James Island

McLeod Plantation aerial

Historian Doug Bostick spoke about the McLeod Plantation at the meeting of the Town of James Island’s History and Preservation Committee on March 9, 2010 at 8:10 pm.  The meeting was held at the Town Hall Offices, located at 1238 B Camp Road, James Island,  South Carolina.  The following text was taken directly from the minutes:

There are 99 known graves on the McLeod property, and other headstones in the Woodland area, and some of the graves date back to the colonial period. There are also Native American burial sites on the property, to which some date back to 500 B.C. The grave site probably extends to Folly Road. The original property was also a steam boat landing and ferry landing.

The McLeod Plantation property shows a history of what has gone on, on the Island for a long period of time.

In 1860 the Island had 21 Cotton Plantations, 2 Churches, and 2 Commissaries. The first industry of the Island was timbering the island for buildings and ships. The industry then moved to cattle farming. Picard Way was archaeologically excavated and found where Samuel Perino’s butcher shop and home were located.  Picard Road was paved, however, and can no longer be excavated.

The McLeod Plantation property was known to have been occupied since 1685, by Morgan Morris. Perino was the subsequent owner, 3 owners after Morris. It was then passed within families through marriages. Edward Lightwood was a merchant in Charleston who owned ships and traded with Europe, and was also a slave trader. He married a Perino daughter, and acquired the property. He had to go to court because the property was under the control of his mother-in-law, and for him to gain control of the property, had to claim she was insane, and the court ruled in his favor.

It was then named Lightwood Plantation. Lightwood only had daughters, and one of the daughters married Edward Parker. The Parkers trade was indigo, and then cotton at the end of the 1700’s when cotton came to the Sea Islands. It was a successful plantation.  They sold current day McLeod Plantation, and then bought Old Towne, which is current day Charlestowne Landing.

The McLeod family is from Scotland, and started out in South Carolina on Edisto Island (correction as of new research by Charlotte Hutson Wrenn, 2016: They lived at St. Helena, Beaufort, SC).

The first McLeod of that line was not a Presbyterian pastor named Joh McLeod, but a John McLeod from Inverness, Scotland, who was a Jacobite soldier captured after the seige of Preston, Lancashire. He was transported to South Carolina on the WAKEFIELD, Master Thomas BECK. 21 April 1716. His son Eneas/Enos McLeod had a son named Robert, whose son, William Wallace McLeod, b 1820 on Edisto Island,  and according to Doug Bostick, he was a rice planter in Ravenel when the Plantation was acquired.  The legend is that the Plantation was bought for him as a wedding present by his bride’s father, Winborn Lawton. (My research says that he inherited the land on Edisto, around Ravenel, from his older brother, John McLeod, who inherited it from his father Robert, who either bought it or inherited it from his father Aeneas McLeod, who inherited lands in Prince Williams Parish from his mother, Margaret Johnston McLeod Tobias.)  It is known that he purchased the Ft. Johnson Estates for McLeod’s half brother, Josiah McLeod, as a wedding gift when he married one of Laughton’s (my note: Lawton) other daughters. William Wallace McLeod acquired the plantation in the 1851, which was then 914 acres and 779 acres of marsh. The slave cabins preceded him. They were built by Edward Lightwood around 1790, along with the laundry building, and the kitchen building. McLeod built what we know as the main house, carriage house, the barn, and the cotton gin buildings. The property also has a 4 seater privy.  William Wallace McLeod enlisted in the Charleston Light Dragoons when the War Between the States broke out. Initially his family stayed at the Plantation, his wife had already passed away by then, and the care of the Plantation and his children were left to his bachelor uncle, John McLeod. In 1862 the commanding officer of all of James Island Confederate forces signed an order that James Island had to be fully evacuated, and that every plantation owner could leave behind two slaves, one male, and one female, to take care of the property.  William Wallace McLeod chose Steven and Harriett Forrest to take care of the Plantation.

The Forrest family lived on the property until the 1980’s. The McLeod children are sent to Greenwood, South Carolina. William Wallace McLeod was wounded several times during the war, but did survive the war. After the end of the war, McLeod started his journey home.  Before the war, the McLeod’s removed all the furniture from the Plantation, and sent it to a friend’s plantation on the Ashley River. That plantation burned and all the furniture were lost.  Before McLeod left for the war, he buried all his silver and fine wine collection at the bottom of his dairy barn, but during a bad storm it was washed out and ruined. He buried all his fine china under the house, but lost it when the Plantation was occupied. He also could have buried his money on the property, but that was never recovered.

Mr. Willie, the last member of the family to live there, who also died there, was also notorious for burying money.  He would enlist the help of the young children to bury wax sealed mason jars all over the property.  He only used the younger children to bury the money because he didn’t think they would remember where the money was hidden, which they don’t.  He supposedly kept a book of all the places he hid the money, but after he died none of his relatives could find it.  There are presumably mason jars of money hidden on the property.

William Wallace McLeod on his way home from the war, caught pneumonia, and died in Monks Corner, never making it back home. The property then passed to the children, two daughters and a son.  In the will, it included slaves as property, but after the war, they no longer were, and the value of the land decreased.  1866 was when the white families came back to their plantations, but since the McLeod will was outdated, the McLeod children didn’t obtain ownership until 1879.  They drew straws to decide who got what was left of the estate.  One of the daughters drew the plantation, but she gave it to the son since he carried the McLeod name.  They divided the property which extended to the present day Lowe’s and the old MiMi’s.  The property extended from Wappoo Creek, down Fleming Road, to the movie theater then from the creek, out to the harbor.  The son who is given the house by his sister is also called Willie.

The freedmen were promised land after the war, which changed some of the boundaries of the planter’s properties.   Black ownership of property on James Island has been the majority since that time.  By 1880 James Island has the highest percentage of black land ownership in South Carolina.

Ownership of the McLeod Plantation passes to the next Willie McLeod in the early 20th century.  When boll weevils came to the lowcountry, they wiped out the cotton, and afterwards, James Island didn’t have a good cash crop. They tried dairy, truck farming, and other smaller crops.  Eventually for money, they started subdividing the properties.  The first was Riverland Terrace, and the municipal golf course, and the Country Club of Charleston.  The McLeod house’s real front entrance is where the back of the house is, and the decorative front entrance was added much later.  Mr. Willie dies a few weeks before his 105th birthday.  He lived his entire life on the plantation and his only job was agriculture.  He taught summer school one summer.  He was known as a Latin scholar, and attended but did not complete the College of Charleston.  He was the last great cotton planter in South Carolina of that generation.  His vision for the property was to see it preserved.

It is the most complete plantation complex left in the US today because it has all of the original buildings.  This includes the remaining 6 of the 23 original slave cabins, the dairy, and the cotton gin.  It has been occupied since the late 1600’s, and was occupied by only 2 families since the 1700’s.  It had Native American occupation on it as well.

Mr. Bostick believes that the archeological findings on the property would be extensive.  It is the last place left of its kind.  It was a middle class planter’s home, a Confederate Headquarters, a Union Headquarters, a Union Hospital, the Freedmen’s Bureau, and a family house.

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.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in architecture, art, Arts & Culture, beauty, Charleston South Carolina, creativity, Food, Green, Gullah, Law, Native American, South Carolina History, travel
6 comments on “McLeod Plantation History on James Island
  1. I am imagining the plantation while reading this article. It is nice to know that something like this has been posted for public knowledge. Does this plantation open for public viewing?

  2. I visited this planatation as a child (10 or 12 years) 1967 ish and discovered one of many graves- then years later -there was to be a New Fire Station, built on the land-1998 is but then the bones were discover or the very same small grave markers I spied as a child walking on the land next to the Wappoo Cut bridge-

  3. jdavis says:

    Great to know its going to be preserved. Is there any records of who lived there slaves or not? Where would I locate these records for research?

  4. […] to the public as a historic site, the 37-acre property on James Island was originally purchased by William Wallace McLeod in 1851 as a Sea Island cotton plantation. The last time Sea Island cotton was grown at the historic […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 747 other subscribers
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.

%d bloggers like this: