It was a northern invasion of a different kind than the War Between the States. These railroad and steamship heads, bankers, oilmen, corporation heads invested in the large plantation lands of the south for hunt clubs. There was one woman developer – the remarkable Kate Gleason, owner of Dataw Island who became one of the largest property owners of Beaufort County.
Dataw Island’s Carolina Room is the perfect setting to hear the authors of Northern Money, Southern Land at the USCB Lunch With Author series on Wednesday, March 10, 2010. Stephen Hoffius and Robert Cuthbert have edited and compiled into a fascinating book the Lowcountry Plantation Sketches of Chlotilde Martin, which were originally printed in 1931 for the Charleston News and Courier. Hoffius and Cuthbert will be joined by Martin’s grandson, author Roger Pinckney of Daufuskie Island, who has stories of his own. Dr. Larry Rowland’s family inherited Dataw Island from Kate Gleason and may join in the day’s events.
As Martin recounted, the new owners of these coastal properties ranked among the most successful businessmen in the country and included members of the Doubleday, Du Pont, Hutton, Kress, Whitney, Guggenheim, and Vanderbilt families. Among the later owners are media magnate Ted Turner and boxer Joe Frazier. The plantation houses they bought and the homes they built are some of the most important architectural structures in the Palmetto State—although many are rarely seen by the public. In some fifty articles drawn from interviews with property owners and visits to their newly acquired lands, Martin described almost eighty estates covering some three hundred thousand acres of Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Colleton, and Berkeley counties.
Much of the property was purchased for hunting and was left undeveloped and protected; some of it remains so to this day. However, in many cases the development of that land over the last seventy-five years has been dramatic. When Martin first wrote about Hilton Head Island, she estimated that only about fifty white people resided there and on nearby Jenkins Island. She described beaches so wide and empty that private planes landed between the waves and the dunes. Other areas that were then isolated woodlands are today well-known residential communities, including Bray’s and Dataw, and Lady’s islands.
Martin’s lively sketches included stories of wealthy young playboys who brought Broadway showgirls down for decadent parties, tales of the first nudist colony in America, and exchanges with African American farmhands who wanted to travel to New York to see their employers’ primary homes, which they had been assured were piled high with gold and silver. In the process, Martin painted a fascinating landscape of a southern coastline changing hands and on the verge of dramatic redevelopment.
At the USCB Lunch With Author series on March 10, at the Dataw Island Carolina Room, all three authors will talk about their experiences with Chlotilde Martin, lead a Q & A period and sign books. Roger Pinckney’s most recent book, Reefer Moon, will be available as well at the luncheon which starts at noon. Reservations are necessary and can be made at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 843-521-4147. The all inclusive price is $42.