Hobcaw Barony is a former plantation located in Georgetown, South Carolina. Famous for growing rice, Hobcaw Barony used slave labor to harvest the crops. Many of the slave villages are still standing and show a vibrant history of what slave life was like on plantations. The site is now the Belle W. Baruch Foundation which focuses on wildlife conservation and research.
name “Hobcaw Barony” came from the Native American Waccamaw name for “between
the waters,” which is “hobcaw.” “Barony” came from the fact that the land was a
barony, or a land grant, in 1718. The Waccamaw became the first Native Americans to encounter Europeans in 1521. Many Waccamaw members were taken back
to Spain by explorers Francisco Gordillo and Pedro de Quejo. Spanish settlers
were the first to begin colonizing the land that became Hobcaw Barony. Many
later returned to Spain.
The land was originally surveyed in 1711 and was officially
given the name Hobcaw Barony. In 1718, John Carteret (also known as Lord
Carteret) was given 12,000 acres on Hobcaw Point by King George I of England.
Between the years of 1766 and 1767, the land was surveyed and sold in smaller
sections that were turned into roughly a dozen individually owned rice plantations.
These rice plantations were very important to the economy and were maintained by slave labor. Most of Georgetown’s rice came from these plantations between the
time of the American Revolution and the American Civil War.
Slaves were the main source of labor on Hobcaw Barony. The
slaves originally came from Barbados and later South Africa. Georgetown, South
Carolina was a major point of entry by 1736 for slaves coming to the United
States. During the mid-19th century in Waccamaw River, rice
plantations on average had 100 slaves per 1,000 acres. In 1850, the Georgetown
area of South Carolina was the world’s second largest rice producer. Almost 85%
of the area’s population was black. After the 13th Amendment was
passed, many former slaves and their families continued to live at Hobcaw
Barony. Hobcaw Barony continued to produce rice by paying the former slaves low
wages, letting them subsidence farm, and granting employee housing. Many of the
former slave villages were still occupied by African American rice producers after World War II.
became a major exporter of rice after the Civil War, leading to South Carolina’s
rice exports decreasing. The land gradually became unused over time. Between the years of 1905 and 1907, the land was bought by
Bernard M. Baruch. He bought all 16,000 acres in three purchases to use the land as
a winter hunting retreat for himself and his family. While rice was not produced on
the land anymore, the water tracts remained on the site, making the land
suitable for hunting waterfowl. In 1935, Bernard M. Baruch’s daughter, Belle
Baruch, expressed interest in purchasing the land from her father. In that
year Bernard M. Baruch began selling parts of Hobcaw Barony to Belle
Baruch. By 1956, Belle Baruch fully owned Hobcaw Barony.
When Belle Baruch died in 1964, she had in her will that
Hobcaw Barony would be turned into the Belle W. Baruch Foundation. This
foundation specialized in the preservation and research of nature and the
ecosystem of South Carolina. On November 2, 1994, Hobcaw Barony became part of
the National Register of Historic Places. It contains more than 37 historic
buildings from the 18th through 20th centuries.
Today, the Belle W. Baruch Foundation and the North
Inlet-Winyah Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve operate Hobcaw Barony. The
University of South Carolina operates the Baruch Institute for Marine &
Coastal Sciences on Hobcaw Barony. Likewise, Clemson University operates the
Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology & Forest Science. Both the
University of South Carolina and Clemson University participate in scientific
research at Hobcaw Barony.