About 1 1/2 hours from Columbia, about 5 miles from the Savannah River, is Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site. Located in Beech Island, it was the home of James Henry Hammond (1797-1864), former Governor and U.S. Senator during the antebellum period. Hammond is perhaps best known for a speech he made in the Senate where he uttered the phrase,"cotton is king."
The house was built between 1855-1859 and was home to 4 generations of the Hammond family. The last, John Shaw Billings (1898-1975) was the managing editor of Time and Life Magazines. He used Redcliffe as his vacation and retirement home. On his death. He deeded the property to the State of South Carolina on 1973. On his death, it became a State Historic Site.
Redcliffe, as plantations go, was very small, only 400 acres and was used primarily for agricultural experimentation. It was one of four plantations owned by the Hammonds that totaled 14000 acres.
Today Redcliffe tells the story not only of the Hammonds but the enslaved and free workers who lived on the property from the 1850s into the 1980s. In addition to the plantation house, there are two slave quarters (one open to the public) and a stable. Both have exhibits on their use. The slave quarters have letters written by a cook, Mamie Jackson, in the 1950s to the Billings in New York City.
Guided tours are offered at 1 and 3 p.m. Thursday-Monday. Tours cost $5 for age 16 & up, $3 for S.C. Seniors and $4 for youth 6-15. Tours are free to S.C. Park Passport Plus holders. A visitor center is now open,
The site is located at 181 Redcliffe Rd in Beech Island. A word to the GPS dependent. If you're coming from Columbia, GPS will tell you to get off I-20 at exit 6(I-520). Park officials warn that this is a roundabout route. Go to Exit 1 (North Augusta) and follow GPS directions from there. Redcliffe is about 15 miles from I-20.
Redcliffe is a very pleasant summer day's outing and a chance to learn about the plantation culture in South Carolina.
If you would like to receive email updates when new articles are posted, please click the "subscribe" button at the top of the page.
f you enjoyed this article, please check my Examiner page here.