Lesson Plan: Overview

Life on Two Colonial Plantations in South Carolina

A Comparative View of Drayton Hall (Charleston Co.) and Walnut Grove Plantation (Spartanburg Co.)

Grade Level: 4th

Drayton Hall Inventory List

Unit Standards

Standard 8-1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the settlement of South Carolina and the United States by Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans.

8-1.3 Summarize the history of European settlement in Carolina from the first attempts to settle at San Miguel de Gualdape, Charlesfort, San Felipe, and Albemarle Point to the time of South Carolina’s establishment as an economically important British colony, including the diverse origins of the settlers, the early government, the importance of the plantation system and slavery, and the impact of the natural environment on the development of the colony.
8-1.6 Explain how South Carolinians used natural, human, and political resources to gain economic prosperity, including trade with Barbados, rice planting, Eliza Lucas Pinckney and indigo planting, the slave trade, and the practice of mercantilism.
Social Studies Literacy Elements
K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships
O. Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts

Historical Background Notes

In 1737 John Drayton purchased property along the Ashley River, and began building Drayton Hall. Completed in 1742, the house remained in the Drayton family for seven generations, surviving earthquakes, hurricanes, the American Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and tremendous changes in 20th century lowcountry life. Today, Drayton Hall is owned and preserved by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (About Drayton Hall).

To study Drayton Hall's history is to study America's history: from plantation agriculture to post-bellum phosphate mining; from slavery to sharecropping-Drayton Hall's story is a microcosm of American history, its economic and political structures as well as its social institutions. In particular, Drayton Hall is a rich source of historical evidence for understanding lowcountry Colonial history. However, while John Drayton was a significant planter during mid to late colonial times it is important to know that the Drayton story begins during early settlement of South Carolina's lowcountry. Thomas Drayton, John's father, emigrated from Barbados to Charles Town around 1678. Initially, Thomas was a cattle rancher. Soon however, Thomas and other lowcountry planters learned they could grow and sell rice for profit. With hard work, planters and West African slaves transformed rice into a lucrative cash crop. Most significantly, West African slaves provided knowledge and technological skills, which made rice cultivation possible (Littlefield).

During early colonial settlement, Charles Town grew into an important port city. Merchants and tradesmen set up shop in town while planters grew rice and other crops out along the Ashley River and other sites. Rice sales boomed, lowcountry plantations prospered, slavery increased. While Southern cash-crop agriculture impacted world markets, planters convened in colonial assemblies to govern local matters. Early on, local assemblies were harmonious with British policy. Increasingly, however, lowcountry interests diverged from those of the British Parliament. As Charles Town prospered, lowcountry plantation agriculture nurtured a southern aristocracy and growing merchant class. Thus, planters and merchants contributed greatly to growing political structures, which ultimately rebelled from Great Britain (Meriwether).

The wealth generated by lowcountry plantations established Charles Town as one of the most prosperous port cities in the colonies. In fact, South Carolina was one of the wealthiest of the thirteen colonies. Lowcountry plantation agriculture, large in scale, drove this wealth. Indeed, Drayton Hall was but one estate amongst many Drayton-family cash crop operations throughout the Carolina lowcountry. South Carolina prosperity attracted the attention of new settlers from Europe and from other colonies. There was yet opportunity for others out on the western frontier. Of course, the 18th century western frontier included the South Carolina backcountry: that expansive wilderness but a stone's throw from the South Carolina lowcountry.

Settlement increased in the lowcountry. Significantly, great influxes of slaves changed the face of lowcountry demographics, profoundly impacting American economic and political development as well as American culture. In fear of slave revolts, and to counter the growing slave population, South Carolina's colonial assembly established backcountry townships. Townships attracted white Protestant Europeans to South Carolina. While increasing white population to offset the growing slave population, townships would also protect the lowcountry from Spanish, French, and Native American attacks from Cherokee and other nations. South Carolina's backcountry settlement included various townships, each aimed at attracting a particular ethnic group. For instance, South Carolina established townships for Germans, Welsh, and Scots-Irish immigrants (Meriwether). Of course, not all emigrants settled in townships. Royal land grants issued tracts of land to settlers throughout South Carolina.

Charles Moore was one such immigrant who settled in South Carolina's backcountry in the 1763. Charles Moore, along with his daughter Margaret, and several other families of Scots-Irish descent came from Pennsylvania to South Carolina around 1760, settling along the Tyger River. Unlike Charles Town's Ashley River, which was a major thoroughfare for trade and travel by this time, the Tyger River and the surrounding area was considered the colonial frontier. Unlike Drayton Hall, a moneymaking plantation used for cultivation of cash crops, Walnut Grove was a subsistence farm. Though many backcountry settlers like Charles Moore owned large tracts of land, they were not nearly on the same scale as lowcountry plantations. Slavery existed in the colonial backcountry, but not on the same scale as lowcountry plantation slavery. In the early 1800s cotton production increased, transforming backcountry farms into cash crop producing plantations. During colonial times, however, backcountry farms remained small compared to lowcountry plantations. As a result, political power remained in the lowcountry. Therefore, lowcountry interests prevailed in the important decisions made for the benefit of the colony.

Yet, the backcountry grew in population and backcountry planters grew in prosperity, and with greater numbers and fortunes backcountry political influence increased. In the 1760s South Carolinians fought against the Cherokees. Lawlessness and disorder prevailed in the backcountry, spawning the Regulator Movement, whereby vigilante lawmen, rather than the colonial government, established justice. The American Revolution compounded lawlessness and disorder in the backcountry as patriots fought loyalists and as Americans fought British. Battles and skirmishes ripped the backcountry asunder through conflict with British forces and through civil war. Disorder in the aftermath of war required strong and fair government from Charles Town, but political tensions grew between the lowcountry and backcountry. As Americans worked to establish a new nation, the backcountry planter class fought for representation and government that worked for South Carolina's backcountry in a political arena dominated by lowcountry interests. Ultimately, there occurred a shift in power and influence. By 1808, compromise between the lowcountry and backcountry granted better apportionment in government and succeeded in improving governmental administration: districts were established, improving parish administration; backcountry courthouses were established; and South Carolina's capital moved from Charles Town to Columbia. Today, Walnut Grove Plantation, Charles Moore's backcountry colonial farm, is owned and operated by the Spartanburg County Historical Association. The house at Walnut Grove still stands, along with several outbuildings, providing an example of colonial life in the South Carolina.

Comparing Drayton Hall with Walnut Grove is interesting in that we can begin thinking about colonial settlement and backcountry expansion. We can learn about contrasting ways of life, differing economic structures, and competing political viewpoints. For instance, while English lowcountry planters were Anglican; Scots-Irish backcountry settlers were Presbyterian. Large rice plantations grew crops for cash; backcountry farms grew crops for food. Lowcountry planters were aristocratic and conservative in many ways. While they rebelled from Great Britain, lowcountry planters later embraced a Federalist Constitution that preserved stable government. Backcountry planters had little interest in preserving a government grounded in lowcountry interests, which required all government business to be carried out in Charles Town.

In the context of this lesson a major point to be made is that lowcountry plantations were vast and expansive while backcountry farms were smaller in scale. Comparing the estate inventories of Thomas Drayton and Charles Moore illuminates the difference in scale between lowcountry and backcountry prosperity during colonial times. Inventories were made when people died, recording their possessions at the time of death. Inventories usually listed possessions by room, estimating the value of each item. Inventories included furniture, books, and farm tools. Inventories of ultra wealthy families, such as the Draytons, documented silver and other valuables. Inventories also listed slaves. Thomas Drayton's inventory not only accounts for the number of slaves in his estate and their value, but also names his slaves. Studied carefully, inventories provide insight into South Carolina's colonial economic institutions. In the case of the Drayton inventory, we can begin making personal connections, not with the institution of slavery, but with real people. This lesson introduces economic, political, and social concepts that are important in understanding colonial history and the establishment of the new nation.


Primary Sources
  Drayton, Thomas. Inventory. August 24, 1724. Volume D (1722-1724). Pages 39-42. Miscellaneous Records. Recorded Instruments. South Carolina Secretary of State. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Columbia, South Carolina. Series: S213002.
  Moore, Charles. Inventory, Page 1-2. June 1805. Spartanburg County Estate Papers. File 1337, Box 19-PK7.
  Journal of His Majesty’s Council 12 November 1765.  South Carolina Stamp Act Resolutions.   S 171002.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.
  Secondary Sources
  Measuring Worth: Purchasing Power of Money in the United States from 1774 to 2008. Internet Site accessed on 21 September 2004.
  Klein, Rachel N. Unification of a Slave State: The Rise of the Planter Class in the South Carolina Backcountry, 1760-1808. Chapel Hill. The University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
  Landrum, J.B.O. History of Spartanburg Count: Embracing an Account of Many Important Events, and Biographical Sketches of Statesmen, Divines and Other Public Men, and the Names of Many Others Worthy of Record in the History of their County. Spartanburg: The Reprint Company, Publishers, 1985, Chapter 13, pages 189-204.
  Littlefield, Daniel C. Rice and Slaves: Ethnicity and the Slave Trade in Colonial South Carolina. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981.
  Main, Gloria L."Notes and Documents: Probate Records as a Source for Early American History," The William and Mary Quarterly: Magazine of Early American History, Volume 32, Number 1 (January 1975): 89-99.
  Meriwether, Robert Lee. The Expansion of South Carolina, 1729-1765. Kingsport, TN: Southern Printers, Inc., 1940.
  Inventories Comparison Table

Lesson Plans

1. Life on Two Colonial Plantations in South Carolina introduces students to 18th century South Carolina, comparing lowcountry plantation agriculture with backcountry yeomen farming. Comparing estate inventories of Thomas Drayton and Charles Moore, students will construct sound historical interpretations of South Carolina colonial history. This lesson requires two 55-minute class periods to complete.
2. On notebook paper, have students identify the author or source of the Thomas Drayton and Charles Moore inventories.

Have students complete the Inventories Comparison Table that contrasts Drayton and Moore inventories.

a. Students should choose five row categories such as"Slaves,""Furnishings,""Farm Tools," and"Total Estate Value."

b. Calculate current dollar values for each category. See Measuring Worth website to calculate current dollar values. Putting Drayton and Moore inventory values on the same scale will help students make more accurate comparisons.

4. After reviewing the Drayton and Moore inventories, facilitate a class discussion concerning how income is derived from the products of labor. On a piece of notebook paper, have students outline points they learned during the class discussion according to the following prompts:

a. Discuss the difference between cash crop agriculture and subsistence farming.

b. Discuss the role of slavery in lowcountry and backcountry agriculture. c. Discuss the growing political tension between the lowcountry and backcountry.
5. In a one to two page paper, have students construct historical interpretations from the Drayton and Moore inventories and from class discussion outlines. In comparing estate inventories, students should recognize differences in scale, and be able to give descriptive accounts of what people owned in colonial times. Students should also be able to connect historical evidence from the primary sources to concepts of cash crop agriculture and subsistence farming. Finally, students should discuss the role of slavery in colonial South Carolina.

Teacher Reflections

I preceded the first lesson with a visit to class dressed as Rebecca Perry Drayton, fourth and final wife of John Drayton, builder of Drayton Hall. I introduced myself briefly, setting the stage for the next forty-five minutes. Along with my authentic 1802 walking dress, and upswept hairdo, the latest styles, I brought a trunk. Material culture can be a powerful classroom tool; and it proved to be just that. I began telling my story in personal narrative form; and, as I did, I shared the trunk's contents: a Betsy doll; a sandalwood fan; two pair of cotton carders; several cotton boles; raw rice; an indigo plant; my chatelaine which held the keys to the house, a small birch mirror, snippets, and a silver thimble box; an"old" dress of mine in the polonaise style; several 18th C toys; and various 18th C tools. I had them hooked. By the end of that first session, the students had developed a pleasant rapport with John's young wife. The teacher shared with me that her students loved my visit and were looking forward to my first lesson.

The first lesson I planned dealt with differentiating primary sources from secondary ones. Objectives were to have students distinguish between the two sources, assess source credibility/bias, and to use those sources to glean specific information about the Drayton and the Moore families....Thinking back on this lesson, I realized that students were putting the pieces of information from the primary sources together in order to come to some conclusion about the people they were researching.

Student Assessments

Life on Two Colonial Plantations in South Carolina Rubric

  • Lesson Rubric: Life on Two Colonial Plantations

    Examples of Students Work

  • Picture of Instructor in Costume


    Donna Croft
    Cario Middle School, South Carolina