Crowfield and Broomhall were two 18th century Goose Creek rice plantations in Berkeley County, South Carolina. In 1987 Garrow & Associates, Inc., under my direction, conducted archaeological survey of both plantations for Westvaco. The work was underfunded and fast paced. Concurrent work at Broomhall, directed by Steven Byrne was never fully documented. After I completed the survey report, we were contracted to prepare a National Register of Historic Places nomination for Crowfield Plantation. This document was completed and submitted to Westvaco, who promptly filed it away and it was not submitted. That ended the Garrow & associates chapter of Crowfield and Broomhall research. Major portions of these two important and unique 18th century treasures were subsequently trashed by the development project.
The mantle was taken up by several other researchers, including: Robert S. Webb Associates, the Chicora Foundation, and Dargan Associates (landscape architects). Several more studies ensued. I summarized the work done in a short LAMAR Institute report, which is available online at the LAMAR Institute’s webpage:
The reports by Robert S. Webb Associates were produced in very limited quantity, despite their substance and signficiant findings. The Chicora reports on Crowfield and Broomhall plantations are OUT OF PRINT, except for one short study of the gardens at Crowfield, which I have uploaded here as a .pdf file and it is also available at this website:
The other reports by Chicora Foundation are available through Interlibrary Loan.
Ms. Barbara Orsolits, M.H.P. , whom I met in early 2008, created this webpage about Crowfield, as part of a larger study of historical landscape archaeology in the South Carolina low country:
Advances on the Internet have provided easy access to additional information on Crowfield, Broomhall, and the Goose Creek plantations. For example, Leiding’s 1921 Historic Houses of South Carolina is available from Books.google.com as a .pdf. It includes a discussion of Crowfield.
And this information about Crowfield is from an 1845 publication (Southern and Western Magazine and Review, by William Gilmore Simms, pages 283-284):
N. B. A few errors, attributable to hurried preparation for the press, occurred chiefly in the notes to our first number. In note on page 210, paragraph 7, line 1st., for “Isaac Marion, his brother, settled in Georgetown, at least as early as 1742,” read “Isaac Marion, the General’s eldest brother, married and settled in Georgetown, at least as early as 1742.” In note on p. 217, line 2d., for “Mrs. Sarah Cutler, of New-York,” read “Mrs. Sarah Cutler, of Massachusetts.” In note on p. 215, par. 2d. line, in relation to the present ownership of Crowfield, for “but now the property of Mrs. Middleton Smith,” read “but now the property of Henry A. Middleton, Esq ” We were led into this error by confounding Crowfield with Bloomfield, the adjoining plantation of Mrs. Middleton Smith. In line 34 of same note, for “Dr. Geddings’ map of Crowfield,” read “Dr. Geddings’ map of ‘The Elms.'” Crowfield was originally the property of the Hon. Arthui Middleton,* who conveyed it Nov., 11,1729, to Wm. Middleton, who, it is said, had a country-seat of the same name in England. During the revolutionary war, he sold it to Rawlins Lowndes, Provost Marshal under the colonial government, and President of the State of South-Carolina after the Declaration of Independence. After six years’ possession, Rawlins Lowndes, and Sarah, his wife, on the 16th March, 1784, conveyed it to John Middleton, whose heirs sold it to the present proprietor. It is said to be a place of great beauty, presenting numerous remains of the great labour and lavish expenditure of money, which the wealthy colonial planter bestowed on his villa or country-seat, when the law of primogeniture gave us a landed aristocracy and kind of hereditary nobility. It is no longer in cultivation ; but it is well worth the visit of the antiquarian, and of all who delight to recal the memories of the past,—and especially the grandeur and magnificence of colonial times. R. Y.
* We find on record an indenture of lease and release, dated November 10 and 11,,1729, between the Hon. Arthur Middleton, of Berkley county, and William Middleton, of the same county, by which deed the former conveyed to the latter two tracts of land in the Parish of St. James’, Goose Creek—the one containing one thousand four hundred and forty acres, (Crowfield,) bounded north and northwest on lands of Matthew Beard and Andrew Allen, south on lands of Benjamin Marion, west on lands of Mr. De La Plain, deceased, east and south-east on lands of Thomas Moore and Benjamin Gibbs: the other containing 103 acres in said parish, bounded north-west on land of Mr. De La Plain, deceased, northeast and south-east on land of John Gibbs, and south on land of Francis Guerrin. The Will of Arthur Middleton, of Berkley county, is dated June 7,1734, and proved Dec. 7, 1737, before William Bull, Governor. It mentions his wife Sarah, and his sons William, Henry and Thomas,—and devises, inter alia., half of his lot No. 199, in Charlestown, to his son William, to be divided lengthways, and the other half to his son Henry; and his brick tenement and part of his lot, bought from Andrew Allen, to his wife. The witnesses to the Will were Tim Mellichamp, Jane Mellichamp and Thomas Corbett.
Interest in the history of the Broomhall plantation continues, as noted in a recent Charleston Post and Courier news story:
Site of former Broom Hall plantation commemorated
Staff report, Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Crowfield Plantation Community Service Association manager Missey Lewis (left) stands with Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler in front of the new historical marker outside the Bloomfield subdivision.
The land that became Broom Hall was granted to Edward Middleton in 1678 and later conveyed to Benjamin and Jane Gibbs. When Benjamin died, the land was left to Jane, who later married Peter Taylor, who developed the estate until the mid-18th century. The property was later owned by the Smith family and their descendants, who rented sections to freedmen after the Civil War. The West Virginia Pulp and Paper Co. used the land to harvest pine trees in the 20th century with the property finally being developed residentially after 1980.
A historical marker noting the site of the former Broom Hall plantation was erected in Crowfield Plantation.
The marker can be seen in the small park off Westview Boulevard near the Bloomfield neighborhood.
“The Crowfield Plantation Community Service Association is proud to share in this great endeavor with (Goose Creek) Mayor (Michael) Heitzler in educating and recognizing the historical value of our great city,” association manager Missey Lewis said.
And a 1994 article from the New York Times:
A Historical Colonial Garden Is Recovered From the Rough
On a recent misty morning here in the Carolina low country, golfers teeing off at the 14th hole of the Crowfield Golf and Country Club were mindful that their golf balls could stray into an archeological dig.http://crowfieldhoa.com/cpcsa-historical.html
A team of garden archeologists, wielding root clippers, trowels, and whisk brooms between the 14th and 17th fairways, was investigating what has come to light as the earliest picturesque, or natural, landscape garden in America. Twelve miles north of Charleston, the 23-acre garden was created at Crowfield Plantation by William Middleton in 1730. The land, including the golf course, is owned by the Westvaco Corporation, the paper packaging and chemical company.
“Crowfield is clearly the oldest ornamental landscape garden we know of in this country,” said Jonathan H. Poston of the Historic Charleston Foundation, “and though now a ruin, its above-ground features are relatively intact.”
Crowfield’s extensive ponds and canals predate by 10 years the famous green, stepped terraces and butterfly lakes of Middleton Place, the nearby garden that belonged to William Middleton’s younger brother, Henry. William Middleton eventually inherited the family’s property in England and returned there in 1754.
Thereafter, Crowfield was sold to a succession of mostly absentee landlords. Crowfield’s survival, even overgrown, was partly due in this century to its inaccessibility along back logging roads cloaked by 2,850 acres of swampy timberland that Westvaco bought in 1930.
Westvaco eventually decided to build a planned community for an estimated 15,000 people around Crowfield. For the future homeowners to qualify for Federal Housing Administration financing, Westvaco was required in 1986 by the National Historic Preservation Act to make an archaeological survey of the site.
Westvaco then proposed saving 15 acres of the historic garden as the centerpiece of the golf course. Several holes on the course, which opened in December 1990, act as a natural buffer between the community and the garden. (This arrangement may be a trend; the Desert de Reiz, a 1770’s garden outside Paris, has also been preserved within a new golf course.)
The existence of a 1730 American garden in this style shows that the wealthy English in the Charleston area were in the mainstream of the British fashion in gardens, and without the time lag usually associated with colonial culture. And the style of that day was turning toward the natural over the formal and developed into the English-style landscape. (The earliest documented formal colonial garden is at Bacon’s Castle in Virginia, dating to 1680.)
Although it is not known who designed Crowfield, English landscape designers were advertising in Charleston newspapers at that time, and colonists had access to books like Stephen Switzer’s 1718 “Ichnographia Rustica” and John James’s 1712 “Theory and Practice of Gardening.”
William Middleton was 19 years old in 1729 when his father gave him the 1,500-acre plantation that was named for Crowfield Hall, the family’s English seat in Suffolk. The Middletons, who were prominent in colonial government, were part of the Charleston community that had originally been sugar planters in Barbados in the 17th century. Born in the American colony, William cultivated the rice that was called Carolina gold because of the high rate of return that made the low country planters so wealthy.
In May 1743, on a visit to Crowfield, Eliza Lucas, a young colonist who pursued an interest in local agriculture, described the garden at its height in a letter to a London friend. She wrote of the plantings, the perspectives, and the “large fish ponds properly disposed which form a fine prospect of water from the house.” This letter, the only reliable documentation of the way the garden appeared at the time, has been crucial to the restoration project.
Massive oaks draped in Spanish moss still line the old avenue to the ruins of the plantation house. The moon pond at the entrance, 200 feet in diameter, lies just before the house. The house was abandoned in the early 1800’s, and it has succumbed over the years to fire and earthquake, as well as vandalism to its handsome Flemish-bond brick work.
Some old magnolia trees are positioned behind the house near the section of the bowling green that has survived the golf course; in all, about eight acres of the original gardens were lost to development, the archaeologists’ report said. And in the middle of the wilderness area, which may have had symmetrical plantings, a 15-foot-high hill, or viewing mount, indicates that the garden’s features like the ponds and the terraces were meant to be surveyed from above. All of these features are more visible now, after Hurricane Hugo felled many trees in September 1989.
The “fish ponds” that terminate the view are more precisely a central rectangular lake, framed on three sides by long canals. “There are few, if any other, gardens in America with authentic mounts or canals,” said Rudy J. Favretti, a consultant on historic landscapes from Storrs, Conn. It is conceivable that the ornamental lake and canals were also part of a system to irrigate the rice fields.
In particular, Crowfield’s plan, which included a Roman temple, resembles such English landscapes of the late 1720’s as the water garden at Studley Royal in Yorkshire or the bowling green and serpentine walks at Claremont in Surrey.
In the most recent stage of garden archeology, conducted in April by Michael Trinkley of the Chicora Foundation, a non-profit heritage preservation organization, Westvaco acted with the advice of its consultants, Hugh and Mary Palmer Dargen, Charleston landscape architects who specialize in historic preservation.
Although the archeologists uncovered two brick foundations of garden structures, perhaps summer houses, and such artifacts commensurate with wealth as fragments of Chinese porcelain and glass goblets, the real work, as Mr. Trinkely saw it, “was to try to determine pathways and to study soil stains and topographical features that will guide in the garden’s rehabilitation and restoration.”
During this dig, the team analyzed earth berms that elevated the garden and separated it from the cultivated fields. Team members were also able to determine areas where shallow top soil indicated grassy areas rather than deeply rooted flower beds.
Current plans call for the garden to be turned over to the homeowners’ association when the houses encircling the golf course are completed. But Charles Duell, a Middleton descendant and president of Middleton Place Foundation, said he hoped that Westvaco would “donate a conservation easement on the property” to a consortium of preservation groups. This group could then control further archeological research and restoration. So far, the site has been open only to researchers.
Although Crowfield is now only a beautiful ruin with classic water features, it is evidence of how the first settlers transported high style to the New World. “It is the Mona Lisa of early American landscapes,” Mr. Poston Said.
The New York Times, Thursday, June 23, 1994