Today was a full and rewarding day.
We started with an early morning ride to Magnolia Plantation – the oldest plantation and a centerpiece of Charleston history. It has been in the same Drayton family for 13 generations.
In a snapshot, the Draytons came over from the West Indies in the 1700s, bringing with them slaves who had a wealth of knowledge growing sugarcane and cotton. They experimented with a few crops and decided on rice. Rice was the basis of the wealth in Charleston up until the late 19th Century. Draytons were one of the wealthiest families and leaders of society. They owned 48 slaves who lived in a total of seven cabins.
Then came the war. They backed the wrong side. General Sherman burnt the plantation and house to the ground. The house that now stands was built after 1865 and extensions have been added. The Drayton family still own it and all its belongings, but no longer live there.
With the financial and economic effects of the Civil War, the Draytons were land rich but cash poor. They sold off a large portion of their plantation.
The rice paddies were turned into swamps, beautiful gardens were replanted and enhanced with grottos, mazes and sculptures. It was then open to a public willing to see how southern genteel people lived.
Now stately Magnolia Plantation is a magnificent working plantation which supports animal welfare, conservation, education and historic preservation groups. Oh and it also has lots of wildlife, notably alligators, who think they own the place!
We toured the gardens and grounds on foot and also by road train with a very informative guide.
After a short film, we were also shown the home. What a way to live! The house hosted many famous people: the Gershwins, Orson Wells, Roosevelts… And now the Rutherfords!
Next, we sailed to Fort Sumter, right to the place where the Civil War began. A-mazing!
The park ranger eloquently painted the history from the making of the man-made island (slave labour); to the building of the fort (slave-made bricks, some with their fingerprints embedded – and some slaves from Magnolia Plantation were used); to the British being repelled by it in the wake of the Revolutionary War of 1812.
The shots fired in 1861 signaled the start of the American Civil War. It was last used in the Second World War.
Now it is a memorial. Well worth the visit.
And to top the day off, I was able to do all the laundry. Happy heart.
Such is Life!