Project Title: South Carolina State Parks Habitat Management (FFS #R4FA)
State: South Carolina
Initial Project Description: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS, the Service) will use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) funds to restore portions of the longleaf pine forests at the Hampton Plantation State Historic Site in South Carolina.
The Service awarded a $139,000 contract to the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism to evaluate the Hampton Plantation State Historic State. The Service’s ultimate goal is to restore the longleaf pine forest, without disturbing the historical content at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site. The site includes an African-American cemetery that is still being used for burials and what may be long-forgotten slave quarters. “We’re trying to balance the site’s cultural and natural resources,” said Valerie Carter-Stone, Resource Management Biologist for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.
Historians believe that the Santee Delta’s Hampton Plantation dates back to the mid-1700s, with enlargements and additions taking place through the end of the 18th century. The property is significant because it is one of the few surviving 18th century rice plantations open to the public. In addition to the historic mansion, the plantation includes many of the elements necessary for understanding low country plantations, such as remnant rice fields, work areas, archaeological sites and landscapes. George Washington visited the plantation in 1791, and at its peak as a plantation before the Civil War, it was home to as many as 340 slaves. The house passed through several well-known South Carolina families as they inter-married, including the Horry, Pinckney, and Rutledge families. Archibald Rutledge, former Poet Laureate of South Carolina, sold the plantation to the state in 1971 and it is now open to the public.
Before the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism can begin the reforestation work, it must plan the project in a way that will not disturb any of the historical record. There are two areas of concern: the African-American cemetery and the possible former slave quarters. Archibald Rutledge mentions the cemetery several times in stories set at Hampton. “He calls it ‘the old slave cemetery,’ and describes it as ‘ancient,’” said Al Hester, Historic Sites Coordinator. “We know it goes back to the 1890s, but it may even go back to the 1700s.” The cemetery is not part of the Hampton site, but no one knows where its actual boundaries are, and it may spill over into Hampton territory.
The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Archaeologist, David Jones, will use ground-penetrating radar to determine where the oldest graves are and make sure none are disturbed by the work.
In addition to the cemetery, an 1809 map of the site shows several buildings that historians believe were slave quarters, located in an area that is now forest. The forest is too thick for much to be visible to the naked eye, but there are very old bricks scattered around from long-gone buildings. Jones plans to do archaeological excavations on the site to determine if there are former slave quarters there. “If they are there, then it could become a full-scale excavation,” said Jones, “and it would guide the types of reforestation techniques used.” Once the tests are complete, work can begin on restoring the longleaf pine forest. That will consist mainly of removing hardwood trees, privet and wisteria and doing prescribed fires. The result will be a forest more like the one that grew in place at Hampton Plantation more than a century ago, with rare longleaf pines above and wildflowers below.
October 2011 Project Update: The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, alongside the South Carolina Forestry Commission and private contractors, completed the Recovery Act portion of the restoration project of the longleaf pine forests at the Hampton Plantation State Historic Site in July 2011. South Carolina State Parks completed the final herbicide treatment in September 2011 with non-Recovery Act funds.
During the project, archaeological work uncovered several historic houses on the property. The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism protected these properties during forest restoration activities. One of the historic sites uncovered, believed to be slave quarters or an overseer’s residence, is eligible for the National Register. The South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism uncovered part of the brick foundation, including the chimney box. Excavators will try to uncover the remaining foundation.
According to Wildlife Biologist, Jason Ayers, “This project restored native maritime forest and longleaf pine habitat. At Hunting Island, [the Department of Parks completed prescribed burns in] maritime forests dominated by live oaks, palmettos, wax myrtles, and pines. This work reduced the accumulation of forest fuels, which significantly helps to prevent catastrophic wildfires at a popular state park. In addition, important habitat was enhanced for a variety of wildlife species such as neotropical songbird migrants, including the painted bunting. The prescribed burning at Givhans Ferry and Hampton Plantation State Park helped to restore components of the longleaf pine ecosystem. This burning plus the mulching work at Hampton Plantation State Park also directly benefitted many wildlife species, including the federally-endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.”
Originally posted 11/13/2009
Page Completed 10/13/2011