An enchanting mix of gossip and history from the era when parts of the Old South met its new owners
In the early 1930s Chlotilde R. Martin of Beaufort, South Carolina, wrote a series of articles for the Charleston News and Courier documenting the social and economic transformation of the lowcountry coast as an influx of wealthy northerners began buying scores of old local plantations. Her articles combined the name-dropping chatter of the lowcountry social register with reflections on the tension between past and present in the old rice and cotton kingdoms of South Carolina. Edited by Robert B. Cuthbert and Stephen G. Hoffius, Northern Money, Southern Land collects Martin's articles and augments them with photographs and historical annotations to carry their stories forward to the present day.
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. Her tales, here updated by Cuthbert and Hoffius, will bring modern readers onto many little-known plantations in the southern part of South Carolina and provide a wealth of knowledge about the history of vexing tensions between development and conservation that remain a defining aspect of lowcountry life.
Chlotilde R. Martin (1895–1991) of Beaufort wrote extensively about South Carolina's southern coast for the Charleston News and Courier and other publications. In addition to her 1930s plantation sketches, she wrote the weekly column "Lowcountry Gossip" for more than three decades. She was the author of Sea Islands to Sand Hills, with photographer Carl Julien, and Winds of Change in Gullah Land.
Robert B. Cuthbert, a native of Summerville, attended Clemson University and graduated from the College of Charleston and. He has served on the staff of the U.S. Vegetable Lab at Charleston for more than forty years. An active member of the South Carolina Historical Society, he has an avid interest in researching the history of the South Carolina coast.
Stephen G. Hoffius is a freelance writer and editor in Charleston and the former director of publications for the South Carolina Historical Society. He is coeditor with Angela D. Mack of Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art.
"Mrs. Martin's guide to lowcountry plantations and their post-Civil War owners is three-fourths fact, one-fourth gossip, and one hundred percent fun to read. Modern day editors Cuthbert and Hoffius have done a great service to those interested in history, hunting, architecture, farming, landscaping, environmental protection, finances, nudism, showgirls, the wearing of tuxedo jackets with waders, black magic, and the gentle art of living well."—William P. Baldwin, author of The Hard to Catch Mercy and Lowcountry Plantations Today
"In the 1920s, as poverty and weather ground away at South Carolina's formerly grand plantations, Sam Stoney of Medway was known to say, 'Lord, please send us a rich Yankee.' Chlotilde Martin's engaging articles provide fascinating insight into an overlooked era of history that largely determined the shape of today's lowcountry landscape. As a native South Carolinian, I often thank the Lord for the rich Yankees who decided that their adopted land was too beautiful to despoil, and consequently helped launch one of the nation's most successful conservation movements."— Dana Beach, executive director, Coastal Conservation League
"With the publication of Northern Money, Southern Land, two of the lowcountry's most talented and diligent historians have contributed an authoritative and original book about a fast disappearing aspect of coastal history. From the 1880s to the 1950s, declining plantation lands were purchased by northern industrialists, financiers, and socialites for recreational purposes. Some of these private holdings and hunt clubs engrossed very large tracts of land and affected the lowcountry economy for the past century. Through the contemporary view of Beaufort's most prominent early-twentieth-century journalist, Chlotilde Martin (1895–1991), Hoffius and Cuthbert have presented a unique glimpse into a private world of great influence and wealth in modern South Carolina history."—Lawrence S. Rowland, professor of history emeritus, University of South Carolina, Beaufort
"Northern Money, Southern Land is a fascinating collection of contemporary stories about South Carolina plantations written by Chlotilde Martin in the 1930s and skillfully interpreted by editors Hoffius and Cuthbert. Martin described nearly eighty estates owned by wealthy northerners—some boasted opulent houses and gardens while others served as huge hunting preserves. This is the first book to explore the economic and ecological ramifications of this phenomenon for the region. Stephen Hoffius's skills as writer and editor and Robert Cuthbert's meticulous research and personal knowledge of the plantations have combined to produce a delightful volume. Maps and vintage photographs contribute to a most enjoyable and informative read."—Suzanne Cameron Linder Hurley, editor of Dearest Hugh: The Courtship Letters of Gabrielle Drake and Hugh McColl, 1900–1901
"It's a fascinating chapter, when hundreds of old Lowcountry plantations were bought by a Who's Who of America's entrepreneurial giants. Into our sea of post-Civil War poverty stepped the wealthiest of the wealthy. They loved to come down in the winter to shoot quail in golden fields where a hungry hound was more treasured than a ticker tape."—Island Packet