Memories of the Plantation Era — Owners and Tenants
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, elected Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina in 1822, made Woodburn Historic House his summer home around 1830. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Pinckney was drawn to the life of a planter. He became a member of the Pendleton Farmers Society, the headquarters of which still stand on the historic square in downtown Pendleton.
Members of the Adger family lived at Woodburn loner than any other family. Although the family sold the property in 1908, their descendants remain involved with Woodburn to this day. They have donated numerous pieces of furniture and portraits of family members to the Pendleton Historic Foundation, a non-profit organization which owns and operates Woodburn and Ashtabula, its sister plantation house. Many of the objects on display within the house today richly relate to its past through these family connections.
Jane Edna Harris, who became a noted African-American social activist, was born on Woodburn Historic House in 1882 - not in the plantation house but in a tenant house on the property. She went on to receive training as a nurse, and eventually moved to Cincinnati, where she founded an organization called the Phillis Wheatley Association.
"In 1911, a group of Negro working women, my closest friends, met to discuss the rooming house problems and find ways and means of ameliorating the hard lot of homeless girls. Out of the prayers and nickles has grown a movement which has erected buildings for the welfare of hundreds of homeless women, and radiated the influences of fellowship." - Jane Edna Harris Hunter, A Nickel and a Prayer
In her autobiography, A Nickel and a Prayer, published in 1940, Jane Edna Harris Hunter describes her life at Woodburn Historic House.
"The house in which we lived was a two-room, frame dwelling...in the garden patch mother tended the tomatoes; in the fields below, father drove his plow through long rows of corn, cotton, and molasses cane." - Jane Edna Harris Hunter, A Nickel and a Prayer
Memories of the Plantation Era
Built around 1828, Woodburn Historic House reveals many eras of South Carolina history. Originally a summer home for the Lowcountry elite, it was later a model stock farm with high-bred horses and cattle, and then became a tenant farm. Today it contains a rich collection of furnishings that are original to the house or belonged to family members. Distinguished residents of the plantation include South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and African-American nurse and social activist Jane Edna Harris Hunter.
A Model Stock Farm
Major Augustus T. Smythe, who was a trustee of Clemson College for a number of years, took ownership of Woodburn in 1881. At the time, most Upcountry farms grew cotton. Smythe's enterprise foreshadowed the agriculture future of the region, where the livestock farms and diverse crops of today have supplanted the cotton farms of the past.
A Summer Get-Away
In the early 1800s, many Lowcountry plantation owners left the summer heat and threat of malaria for the cooler climate of the foothills. This expensive home was designated to take advantage of this alluring climate. Design features of the home including high ceilings, cross ventilation, and wide columned piazzas on both stories at the front and rear. Lowcountry planter Charles Cotesworth Pinckney made Woodburn his summer home around 1830. In 1852 Woodburn was acquired by Dr. John Bailey Adger. The house remained in the ownership of Adger family members for over 50 years.
Decline and Renewal
Woodburn passed from Smythe to a series of owners who attempted to farm its land and maintain its buildings. The Great Depression and declining viability of agriculture in the early 20th century made this difficult. In the 1950s, the U.S. government gave the property to Clemson College. In 1966 Clemson college deeded Woodburn to the Pendleton Historic Foundation, which took on the formidable job of restoring the property.
Since the 1960s, Woodburn Historic House has been restored, refurnished, and revived. Its preservation is mainly due to the efforts of volunteers. Today, Woodburn stands as a testament to many eras of South Carolina's agricultural past, and to the local residents who have recognized its historic value.
Buildings on site include the plantation house, the reconstruction carriage house, and the Moorhead Cabin, representing the frontier period of the region.