TwHP Lessons

When Rice Was King

[Cover photo] Main House, Chicora Wood
(E. Kirby-Smith)

During the summer months, Rice crops waved over fields of thousands of acres in extent, and upon a surface so level and unbroken, that in casting one's eye up and down the river, there was not for miles, an intervening object to obstruct the sight.¹

These rice fields in Georgetown County, South Carolina lie abandoned now, covered over with wild grasses that provide feasts for thousands of birds and, near the shoreline, a haven for a few remaining river alligators. The rice fields were carved out of tidal swamps along coastal rivers by slaves brought to South Carolina from the West Indies and West Africa. With primitive tools, the slaves cleared the low-lying land of huge cypress and gum trees, and built canals, dikes, and trunks (small floodgates) that allowed the flooding and draining of fields with the high and low tides. From the 18th century to the Civil War, slaves planted, tended, and harvested the crops that made plantation owners wealthy and Georgetown County, South Carolina, the second largest rice producer in the world.

¹(G.S.S., "Sketches of the Santee River," The American Monthly Magazine, October 1836.)


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Georgetown County, S.C.
 2. Chicora Wood Plantation and surroundings

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. Rice Cultivation in Georgetown County
 2. Robert F.W. Allston and Chicora
 Wood Plantation

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Main house, Chicora Wood
 2. Kitchen, Chicora Wood
 3. Slave cabin, Keithfield Plantation
 4. Rice mill and rice mill chimney,
 Chicora Wood

 5. Mansfield Plantation

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Laying Out a Plantation
 2. Interviewing Plantation Residents
 3. Researching Your Community's
 Economic Origins

 4. Researching the Contribution of
 Different Cultures

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This lesson is based on the Georgetown County Rice Plantations and Chicora Wood Plantation, two of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.




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