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Ghosts of Thomas Heyward's past

First Byline: 
Kelly Champlin

To most Jasper County residents, the tomb of Thomas Heyward is "that place off Highway 462 in the Old House area with the historical marker." To them, it's just another site amongst dozens in Jasper County that, while it's historically significant, doesn't have an impact anyone's daily life.
That's where they would be wrong.
Saturday afternoon, about 25 Jasper Animal Rescue Mission supporters gathered to learn about the Heyward family and life during colonial times. The tour was organized to benefit the animal shelter, which will use the funds to help feed, house and care for the animals that they take in.
The site of Thomas Heyward's Tomb is also the site of the first home built by Daniel Heyward - Thomas' father - and his wife. The homestead site is marked now by an "open-space" park - situated not far from the graveyard, and within a short walking distance to the marshes where Heyward made some of the money that allowed him to continue his business ventures and land purchases in the area that is now Jasper County. It was known in his day as St. Luke's Parish, then later as Beaufort District, and, 100 years ago, as Jasper County.
Richard "Dick" Ellis is a direct descendent of Thomas Heyward's brother, William, and recounted some of the Heyward family history. The Heywards, he said, were originally from Little Eaton, England, and decided to come to the Colonies in 1662. The original family members in the colonies were Daniel and Thomas Heyward.
"Daniel Heyward later decided to return to England," Ellis said. "Thomas Heyward died after marrying, and his only child, a son, was sent back to England to his uncle Daniel to be educated. He was educated in England, married, had a couple of sons, and along came 1700 and they settled in Charlestown, out on the peninsula where it is today. He participated in the Yemassee Indian wars in 1715, and for that, he was granted 500 acres in Grahamville, "which is what this was then," Ellis said, gesturing around the area of Old House.
A log cabin was built where the open-space park across from Thomas Heyward's Tomb stands. Ellis said it may have just been a small cabin or lean-to at that time, but that Daniel Heyward and his wife decided to build on that original 500 acres. The home that they built became known as "Old House" - and that the property eventually became a 26,000 acre plantation.
Thomas Heyward, Jr., the son of Daniel Heyward, was born at Old House, and became a member of the Second Continental Congress. He was one of four delegates from South Carolina to sign the Declaration of Independence.
The manor house at White Hall Plantation, within a stone's throw of Old House, was built between 1771 and 1775, and stood three stories high, including the "flood floor." It was built on a "tabby" foundation, which consisted of oyster shells, bricks and mortar.
The foundations of White Hall are all that remain now. Part of the property burned in 1870 after having survived Sherman's March during the Civil War. The remainder of the house collapsed before 1964, leaving only the foundations standing.
The bricks that form the "grand entrance" are still in place, although they are overgrown with grasses. A massive black walnut tree grows next to the foundation for the ballroom.
In 1791, George Washington rode down the double avenue of oak trees and climbed the steps of that grand entrance - and it's an otherworldly experience to stand in the middle of that span of dirt and old brick and look down through the oak avenue toward the original gates to the plantation house's lane, knowing that people who were so important to our country's founding more than 200 years ago saw a very similar view of that avenue in their time.
It is strange to look at the foundations of the wing that held the kitchens, wondering what kind of food was prepared for someone like Washington, or looking at the foundation for the ballroom, wondering whether he danced with the ladies of local families the night he arrived, knowing that some of those local families still exist in Jasper County.
The property is owned by Good Hope Plantation, and is off-limits to visitors for liability and archeological reasons. Permission from the management of Good Hope must be obtained before setting foot on the property.