Travel back to another era at Mansfield Plantation in South Carolina’s Lowcountry
Down here IN THE South, land is about families. It was that way from the beginning. As Scarlett’s daddy explained it to her: Clark Gable might come and go, but Tara is forever. And John Parker of Mansfield Plantation is another case in point—only a true-to-life one.
Since childhood, John Parker had his eye on a single property, a large tract of land that had belonged to his ancestors for centuries but fell out of the family in 1912 when it passed into the hands of wealthy Northern duck hunters. This is a familiar story. In this Lowcountry section of South Carolina, it’s close to being the rule. What’s unusual is that ninety years later, Parker was able to buy Mansfield Plantation back and hence accept both the pleasure and considerable responsibility of being a modern-day custodian.
Mansfield is a former rice plantation located just north of Georgetown, South Carolina, with about seven hundred acres of manicured uplands and three hundred acres of black-water rice fields, both crossed by miles of nature trails. A forest of soaring longleaf pines borders the entry road on both sides, giving way to a live-oak avenue flanked by slave cabins, leading to a handsomely restored 1815 plantation house and guest house. All of this operates as nature preserve and bed-and-breakfast. And as a family home.
When I first visited Mansfield, I spotted someone moving across a nearby field with a metal detector. His name was Hal McGirt, a retired telephone lineman who often comes here searching for artifacts. And finds them. When asked for results, he opened his palm. He’d just found a small button inscribed “U.S.A. Continental Army, 1777.” Some of his most intricate finds are from uniforms, both Revolutionary and Civil War. “The men were quite the dandies,” Hal explained. “Probably put the women to shame.”
Both John and wife Sallie are descended from signers of the Declaration of Independence—and John from a signer of an Ordinance of Secession that led to the Civil War. John Parker is a thoroughly successful modern businessman, but gentle in manner. His petite wife has an engaging energy, the yin for her husband’s yang. Her mother was the famed wildlife painter Sallie Middleton, whose prints adorn the guests’ bedrooms. So she’s called Sallie Middleton, Jr. It doesn’t get any more Southern than that.