A fascinating story about Middleton Place Plantation
In 1678 Edward Middleton emigrated from Barbados to the Carolina colony, where he was appointed as a proprietary deputy and an associate justice. Having been a widower for an extended period, Middleton married Sarah Fowell in 1680. The following year, Sarah gave birth to their only child, Arthur, who served as governor of South Carolina from 1725 – 1730.
Arthur Middleton’s son, Henry, was born in the colony at The Oaks, the family’s plantation in St. James Goose Creek Parish. When Arthur Middleton died in 1737, Henry inherited land in England, Barbados and South Carolina. In 1741 Henry married Mary Williams, whose dowry included the plantation property that would become Middleton Place.
During the years prior to the American Revolution, Henry Middleton expanded his land holdings, and eventually became one of South Carolina’s wealthiest planters. He also served as a president of the Continental Congress but resigned before the Declaration of Independence was signed. His son, Arthur Middleton (born June 1742), signed the document.
During the siege of Charleston, British troops ransacked Middleton Place and captured and imprisoned Arthur Middleton. Arthur was released in 1781, and two years later the surrender terms removing British troops from the Southern colonies was signed at Middleton.
The plantation suffered more destruction during the American Civil War, as Union troops burned the main house, north flanker and part of the south flanker. The soldiers also killed and ate five water buffalo that had been imported to the plantation from Constantinople for use in the rice fields. The remaining six water buffalo were stolen, only to turn up later in Central Park Zoo.
The Middleton family made a modest recovery following the war, allowing them to make minor repairs to the plantation; however, the walls of the main house and north flanker were toppled by an earthquake in 1886. The house and gardens lay in disrepair until the early 1900s, when John Julius Pringle Smith (great- great- great- grandson of Henry Middleton) began replanting and reworking the gardens, eventually earning recognition as a historic landmark and boasting “the most interesting and important garden in the United States.”