Parkers work hard to leave Mansfield Plantation near Georgetown a little better than when they brought it back into the family

  • Friday, January 24, 2014

Thomas Namey/Namey Design Studios The front door at Mansfield Plantation welcomes visitors to the main house.


John and Sallie Parker aren't in the discount store business, but they recently sold their development rights to Mansfield Plantation, almost like a blue light special.

The Nature Conservancy and the Parkers agreed in late December to establish a conservation easement on 820 acres that protects land along a mile of the Black River.

The price paid for the development rights was only about 15 percent of the value. The rest was a significant gift to TNC.

The property will also help in the reestablishment of longleaf pine forest, preserve habitat for a variety of endanged species and other wildlife, and protect an intact slave village on the property.

Along with all of those advantages, the Parkers will protect their own family heritage and that of many of the people who have lived and worked the land for almost 300 years.

John Green received a 500-acre grant of land along the Black River. In subsequent years, that and other land he acquired was developed into portions of Windsor, Wedgefield, Beneventum and Peru/Cumbee. The core 500 acres was sold at Green's death into 1750 to James Coachman. Just six years later, he sold the 500-acre tract of land to Susannah LaRoach Man, widow of Dr. John Man.

The land remained in the family until it was sold in 1912.

Susannah Man is a direct ancestor of John Rutledge Parker. He and his wife Sallie Middleton Parker bought Mansfield Plantation in 2004.

The conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy covers 31 pages that are on file in the Register of Deeds office for Georgetown County.

One of the provisions allows the family to create a small family cemetery on the property, if they choose.

The couple's lineage covers much of the history of South Carolina.

Not many people are aware, but South Carolina had one President.

John Rutledge was active in Colonial, Revolutionary, South Carolina and national political life. Besides being President of South Carolina, he was also governor, a state and U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Chief Justice, and helped draft the United States Constitution.

He was great-great-great-great-grandfather to John Rutledge Parker.

Archibald Rutledge, the late poet-laureate of South Carolina, grew up at Hampton Plantation near McClellanville.

Sallie Middleton Parker is a descendant of the Middletons who also played large roles in forming the state and nation. Arthur Middleton served in the Continental Congress and signed the Declaration of Independence.

With those forbears and the merging of their two families in a blended marriage, John and Sallie Parker had three children each. They have 10 grandchildren and one more on the way.

The 760 acres that make up Mansfield Plantation, plus a later acquisition, will remain in their family. But the conservation easement keeps the land from being developed into housing, or being turned into a large commercial establishment.

Over the past decade, the Parkers have commuted from their home in Asheville, N.C. to Georgetown for many weekends.

Their Georgetown property is the site of the well-known Mansfield bed and breakfast.

If you've seen The Patriot or The Notebook, you've seen at least a portion of Mansfield Plantation. Mel Gibson was a sort of historical fiction blend of Francis Marion and other Revolutionary War heroes.

With a smile in his voice, Parker said there are no current movie projects planned but there have been some inquiries. They've put their toes in the water, so to speak.

Parker talked with the Georgetown Times about the couple's conservation easement from his office at Skyland Automotive Group in Asheville.

He grew up in Lake City, which is where his grandfather moved after selling Mansfield in 1912. He was a cotton broker who traveled throughout the eastern part of South Carolina and into North Carolina. John Parker remembered coming to Mansfield as a kid and into his teen years.

He and Sallie were on a boat outing on the Black River about 10 years ago when they came upon the river view and dock of Mansfield. They tied up at the dock, came onto the grounds and he remembered the property from his teen years.

Shortly thereafter they learned Mansfield was for sale and bought it to once again connect the land and the family.

Just a few years ago, Heather Templeton did a video segment of “Windshield America” about two men who shared a love of the land at Mansfield and the last name.

John Parker is white and a descendant of the former owners of Mansfield.

Dwight Parker is black and is a descendant of slaves who worked the plantation in the days before the War Between the States.

The men got in contact, and Templeton talked with both on the plantation grounds.

Since that time, John Parker and Dwight Parker — not related to one another except by a love for Mansfield — have worked together to learn more about the place that has meant so much to both their families and to the heritage of the people who lived and worked on the land.

The history and the heritage of Mansfield will be protected forever through the conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy.

Remarking on that history, Jill Santopietro said “Mansfield Plantation, with its many dependencies is a significant example of the rice production complex in Georgetown County including the only known surviving winnowing house.”

The plantation house and grounds are on the National Register of Historic Places. While the land will remain private property, the conservation easement ensures it will be protected.

The Georgetown Times will have more about the protection of the lands, the wildlife and more in an upcoming issue.

For John Parker, a man whose family roots are firmly planted in the soil along the Black River, he and his wife say “We love living in Georgetown. It feels like home.

“We want to do things to keep Mansfield like it is. And when we pass on, maybe it will be a little better.”

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