Chicora Wood is located on Plantersville Road on the Pee Dee River, among some of the finest preserved former rice plantations of coastal South Carolina, such as Exchange, Rosebank, Arundel, and Weymouth. The property is approximately twenty minutes to historic Georgetown’s shopping, dining, and Harborwalk.
Georgetown County Airport is a county-owned public use airport just 22 miles from the plantation with a 6,005’ runway. The nearest international airport with commercial flights is Myrtle Beach International Airport, approximately one hour from Chicora Wood.
From an ecological perspective, the plantation is in the Winyah Bay Focus Area, which is the third largest estuarine drainage area on the east coast. The 525,000 acres in the lower drainage of the four main rivers make this an important wildlife region particularly for migrating and wintering waterfowl.
Plantersville Road: Today, the modest gated entrances of nearly a dozen plantations on Plantersville Road, many first deeded by the king in the early 1700’s, give a nod to an era gone by. What lies beyond those gates, past the sprawling limbs of the grand live oaks and the pink springtime show of the azaleas, is left only to the imagination for most. And the ones who have the opportunity to call these places home in modern days have displayed tremendous stewardship. Most have protected the plantations from development by donating conservation easements, ensuring that the landscape, vistas, and history are forever preserved.
Georgetown: Located between Charleston and Myrtle Beach, the historic seaport of Georgetown is South Carolina’s third oldest city and has been an official port of entry since the 1730’s. It’s a charming town with wide, heavily canopied streets and over fifty sites on the National Historic Register in Georgetown’s Historic District. Many museums, galleries, restaurants, and shops occupy the old buildings. It’s a great launching spot for ecotourism and fishing charters. This port exported more rice than any other in the world.
Georgetown is on Winyah Bay, an estuary created by the confluence of the Waccamaw River, the Sampit River, the Black River, and the Pee Dee River which originates in the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. The Winyah Bay is well-known for its unspoiled coastlines and natural beauty.
The lands on the rivers that feed into Winyah Bay have historically been some of the most coveted lands in the state. Those along the scenic Plantersville Road on the Pee Dee River were generally chosen as the home place of plantation owners who had multiple properties.
Located within the humid subtropical region of the Atlantic Seaboard, the area features a mild climate and four distinct seasons. Georgetown’s January low averages 35°F and July highs are around 91°F and average annual rainfall is about 54 inches. Snow is rare.
Chicora Wood is an irreplaceable asset to the history of the Lowcountry and is one of the finest preserved rice plantations in the state. A place so treasured, it’s no wonder that the property has rarely changed hands in the past three hundred years. In fact, there have been only three arm’s length transactions since the King’s grant to the Allston family in 1732!
By the 1850’s, Georgetown County was the western world’s top rice producer and with it came great wealth to the state and especially its landowners. By this time, Robert F.W. Allston had acquired seven total plantations amounting to approximately 13,500 acres and included Nightingale Hall, Exchange, Waterford, Guendalos, Pipe Down, Dutch Ford (aka Rose Banks), and Morven. Of all the land available to him, the beautiful Chicora Wood was favored by Allston and, as such, remained the family headquarters.
Allston served as the Governor of South Carolina from 1856-1858. He was not just a leader in politics, but also in bringing innovations in agriculture to the state. He introduced more scientific methods for cultivating rice by using steam. He brought better varieties of seeds which helped improve rice production, and ultimately won him a silver (1855) and a gold (1856) at the Paris Exposition for the cultivation of rice.
Robert Allston died in 1864, in the midst of the Civil War. With the massive loss of wealth in the south, his wife, Adele, was only able to afford to retain Chicora Wood. When she and her daughter returned to the plantation after the war, the house – from furniture to fixtures – had been plundered. Her widowed daughter, Elizabeth Waites Allston Pringle, returned to Chicora Wood to live with her mother. They recapitalized the plantation and Elizabeth successfully grew rice on Chicora Wood for about 40 more years until the industry completely went away.
Elizabeth Pringle was forced to find another source of income. Under the penname Patience Pennington, Pringle wrote weekly letters for the New York Sun, which described her life on a southern rice plantation. The collection of letters were later published in 1914 in the book, A Woman Rice Planter. Another volume, Chronicles of Chicora Wood (1922), was published posthumously, and was a memoir about her family, Civil War experiences, and memories of Reconstruction.
Pringle’s heirs sold Chicora Wood in 1926 to Duncan Cameron Waddell. It remained in his family until 1984 when the current owners, Jamie and Marcia Constance, began their period of stewardship and restoration. The Constances readily convey the joy they have experienced being a small, but instrumental part of the Chicora Wood story. Explained Jamie, “Chicora Wood is grace restored. That’s the beauty of it. We want to leave it better than we found it and extend its time so others may also enjoy it for generations to come.”