Wednesday, January 22, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. - Near the confluence of the Black and Pee Dee River, where the push and pull of the tide out of Winyah Bay is strong, there were twenty-five rice plantations in the Plantersville district built on the backs and ingenuity of West African slaves. Mansfield Plantation, which today serves as a unique bed and breakfast, was one of the most successful of Georgetown County’s rice plantations.
Mansfield Plantation’s owners, John Rutledge Parker and his wife, Sallie Middleton Parker, who were able to re-acquire the Parker family’s plantation in 2004 after an absence of ninety-two years, decided 2013 was the year to solidify the legacy of “Mighty Mansfield.”
In late December, The Nature Conservancy purchased a bargain-sale conservation easement on the Plantation with funds from North American Wetland Conservation Act program. The project was made possible because the landowners donated over 85% of the value of the easement, a charitable gift to conservation through The Conservancy.
Mansfield Plantation was established in 1755 when recently widowed Susannah Man, a Parker family ancestor, purchased 500 acres of kings-grant land on the outskirts of the new village of Georgetown. Under her ownership, Mansfield grew to 760 acres and blossomed into one of the largest rice plantations in South Carolina.
These 760 acres and more are included in the new conservation easement and will remain much like they are today and were hundreds of years ago. The Parkers’ decision to surrender the right to subdivide and develop through the conservation easement means that the original Mansfield Plantation property will remain intact and undeveloped forever no matter who owns it.
According to John Parker, “Placing the conservation easement on Mansfield was a relatively easy decision for our family, as we all wanted it to remain as it is today for future generations.” He added, “The Nature Conservancy made the entire process seamless for us and I can’t say enough about their level of professionalism and knowledge in assisting us through some fairly complicated issues.”
John Parker came by his desire to protect the legacy of Mansfield honestly. Well over a century before conservation easements were in existence, his great-great-great Uncle John Man Taylor willed Mansfield to his sister, Anna Maria Taylor, with the stipulation that all debts and legacies be paid out of rents, income, revenues and profits of the estate and if the sale of any part of Mansfield be required, only so much be sold as unavoidable.
Protecting Nature and History
The Plantation, which is on the register of historic places, is recognized as one of the most architecturally intact rice plantations in South Carolina and to visit Mansfield Plantation today is to step back in time.
The Parker’s commitment to preserving and restoring the natural communities and cultural history of their family land is evident in details from the flowering native plants under the open longleaf pine forest to the clapboard chapel they immaculately restored as a tribute to early African-American slave culture and spirituality.
In addition to protecting many of the relics of the rice culture, the conservation easement will help protect a host of rare and threatened species including Bobwhite Quail, Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, wintering waterfowl, Wood Storks, and songbirds that thrive in the native longleaf pine forest, intact ricefield impoundments, and freshwater forested wetlands found on the property.
“It has been a tremendous privilege to partner with the Parker Family in protecting Mansfield,” says Maria Whitehead, TNC’s Project Director for Winyah Bay and Pee Dee River Basin, “This easement, which was tailored to the family’s long-term plans for the property, will provide natural habitats for wildlife, protect the scenic viewshed along the Black River, and contribute to the quality of drinking water for Georgetown residents while also protecting an invaluable piece of South Carolina’s past.”
Mansfield Plantation is imbedded in a network of public protected lands along the five rivers that feed the Winyah Bay, many of which were also part of the Georgetown’s historic rice culture.
TNC’s Sandy Island Preserve, Brookgreen Gardens, SC Department of Natural Resource’s (DNR) Dirleton Plantation at Samworth Wildlife Management Area and US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge offer historic structures, ricefield dikes and trunks, trails, rivers, and native forests to explore and experience the history and ecology of this legacy landscape.
Plan your family’s adventure to learn and play in the protected Winyah Bay and Pee Dee River Basin by visiting on TNC’s website (nature.org/southcarolina) under “Places We Protect.” Also visit Mansfield Plantation’s website (http://www.mansfieldplantation.com/index.html) for information educational opportunities such as field trips, guided tours, and other academic related inquiries.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that conserves the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit us on the Web at nature.org/southcarolina.
Mansfield Plantation is committed to providing education and experiences of the rich history of the plantation. Visit us on the web at (http://www.mansfieldplantation.com/index.html).