RICE HOPE PLANTATION SOUTH CAROLINA
Some of the most interesting and influential men in the history of South Carolina have been owners of Rice Hope Plantation. Colonial statesmen, inventors and businessmen have all felt an affinity for the pristine land that composes this serenely beautiful section of the Santee Delta.
The land composing Rice Hope was originally owned by Thomas Lynch who had emigrated from Ireland to South Carolina with his parents in 1670’s, thus making the Lynches one of the founding families of South Carolina.
Thomas Lynch Senior owned over ten thousand acres, which he acquired in various parcels. The track that composes that present day Rice Hope was probably acquired from the brother of Thomas Lynch’s second wife, Sabina Vanderhorst. Thomas purchased 390 acres from William Vanderhorst in 1756.
Thomas Senior’s land was passed down to his only son, Thomas Lynch II and ultimately to his grandson Thomas Lynch III. Thomas II and III are the famous father and son genealogical unit who were South Carolina’s delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia and as such they were designated signers of The Declaration of Independence. Only Thomas Lynch III actually signed, because his father had a stroke and died before he was able to append his signature.
By various marriages, divisions and absorptions with neighboring plantations, Rice Hope then became the property of Francis Kinloch, who had inherited almost nineteen thousand acres from his father James Kinloch. During his student years studying abroad, Francis had become a close friend of Henry Laurens. Because he was descended from minor Scottish nobility, Kinloch served as a member of the British House of Commons, as a representative of Berkeley and Craven Counties. Kinloch was an astute businessman and became a highly successful rice and indigo planter.
Like the Lynch family, Kinloch never used Rice Hope as his primary residence, but Kinloch’s probate inventory indicates that there was a small sparsely furnished building on the site at the time of his death in 1767. This ‘house’ appears to have been more of a working plantation office, yet Huger family tradition maintains the Lafayette was entertained at Rice Hope in 1777 as he traveled from the Huger home back to Charleston.
Kinlock’s estate passed to two of his younger sons, Francis Junior and Cleland Kinloch. Rice Hope was then sold to an English merchant named George Lockney and his working partner Edward Crook in South Carolina. Lockney died in England, leaving a legacy to George Crook’s heirs, one of whom was his daughter, Mary Crook who had married Johnathan Lucas, a millwright from Cumberland, England. Shorty after the American Revolution, Johnathan Lucas purchased part of Rice Hope Plantation for 26,000 pounds sterling.
Johnathan Lucas apparently never lived at Rice Hope, but used the plantation as a laboratory for his experiments to improve rice milling. Lucas utilized water mills driven by the tides and his son, Johnathan Lucas Junior designed and improved his father’s work using steam driven machinery that greatly accelerated the complicated process of hulling rice. Due to the Lucas’ inventions, South Carolina became the center of America’s rice milling industry. Two millstones are now incorporated in the walkways at Rice Hope as reminders of the plantation’s heyday in rice production.
Rice Hope was transferred to Johnathan Lucas Junior’s son, Simons Lucas, who continued to run the rice plantation successfully, yet seemed to share little of his father’s or grandfather’s engineering interests. Because of the care he lavished on the property, Simons Lucas is believed to have built the exsisting house circa 1836, after a fire destroyed the original building on the property. Simons planted willow trees, roses, camellias, and added the beautiful ornamental pond. It is known that he also maintained a greenhouse on the property.
Simons Lucas great-granddaughter married Frederick Wentworth Ford and Ford acquired Rice Hope and ran it as a successful rice producing plantation until 1908 when a rare flood tide destroyed most of the rice fields along the Santee Delta. After unsuccessfully trying to restore the rice fields, Ford sold Rice Hope to New York banker William Beach in 1926 as a hunting preserve.
Beach acquired partners and eventually re-assembled much of the land that had been part of the original parcel composing Rice Hope. Beach significantly remodeled both entrances to the plantation house built by Simons Lucas. The ‘new front’ of Rice Hope reflected the transition between arriving at the plantation via road, by motorcar, versus the traditional approach via the river, by boat. Beach also added electricity and embellished the house architecturally, using Federal-style woodwork and mantles salvaged from houses in peninsular Charleston that had been demolished during The Depression.
In the mid-nineteen-fifties, Rice Hope was acquired by Williams Furniture Corporation of Sumter, South Carolina, then sold to a group of investors who re-sold the plantation to the present owners in 1982. Rice Hope has come full circle and is currently composed of 392 acres, planted to attract waterfowl and provide a wildlife habitat for a wide variety of animals. This gem of the South Carolina Lowcountry is now carefully protected by a group of six businessmen for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.
Rice Hope partners Billy Ingram, Lee Jones, John Nichols, Mark Stucky, Ged Tiller and Craig Wardlaw.