A fascinating story about Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

About 60 Draytons lived in Barbados, mostly in St. Michael and Christ Church parishes. But in a 1996 interview the late Barbados historian Peter Campbell says he doubts that Thomas Drayton Jr. – founder of the Magnolia plantation – was among them.

Campbell, who has done exhaustive research on the Drayton family history, talks about those 17th century settlers as if he knew them personally. Thomas Drayton Jr., he says, came to the Carolina colony around the end of April 1679 and developed a large plantation. Thomas Drayton Jr. did not live in Barbados, Campbell argues.

A Thomas Drayton lived in Barbados in the 1600s, but Campbell speculates that Thomas Drayton Jr., whom he calls Thomas of Carolina, sailed from England to Barbados and purchased a ticket in Barbados for the Carolina colony. Ships sailing from England to the colony stopped at Barbados before proceeding to Carolina.

The other Thomas Drayton, whom Campbell calls Thomas of Barbados, was a shingler and perhaps a distant cousin of Thomas Drayton Jr. Thomas of Carolina sailed to the Carolina on the Mary, captained by Nicholas Lockwood. The ship's manifest listed Thomas Drayton Jr. and 12 other people.


As the story goes, in the mid-1600s, Thomas Drayton and his son Thomas Drayton Jr. left England for Barbados. But soon after they arrived, the soaring population and scarcity of land convinced the younger Drayton to seek his fortune elsewhere. He chose Carolina over the other established English colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean. Following his marriage to Ann Fox, they established the Magnolia plantation on some property Ann’s father – fellow Barbadian Stephen Fox – had acquired to miles upriver from the Charles Towne settlement.

During the mid-1800s, John Grimke Drayton began creating a series of romantic gardens on the property – in part because he believed the outdoor work would help him recover from tuberculosis, and also in order to make his wife, Julia Ewing, feel more at home after her move from Philadelphia. John introduced the first azaleas to America, and was also among the first to cultivate the Camellia Japonica outdoors. John not only eventually recovered from tuberculosis, but also planted some of the first seeds that gained the Magnolia plantation’s horticultural fame.

To pay homage to Barbados, Magnolia created The Barbados Tropical Garden, which features plants native to the island – as a tribute to Thomas and Ann Fox Drayton.