Fort Hill Exhibit Displays

Entry Hall

Fort Hill Entry Hall Descriptive Brochure
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    The Lower Cherokee Town of Esseneca was built on both sides of the Keowee River, now Lake Hartwell. In 1775, naturalist William Bartram described the village and its size in detail, including “the number of inhabitants is now estimated at about five hundred, and they are able to muster about one hundred warriors.”

    After the Revolutionary War, the former South Carolina Cherokee lands were being developed, and the first Hopewell-Keowee Church opened in 1791. Rev. James McElhenney of Johns Island served as the Presbyterian minister from 1803-1812, living in a four-room house known as Clergy Hall in the summers and fall. At this time, only 12 white men owned more enslaved persons than McElhenney did in the Pendleton District.

    In 1810, 25 enslaved African Americans lived with Rev. McElhenney, his wife, Susannah Wilkinson, and their family at Clergy Hall. Prior to her marriage to McElhenney in 1800, Susannah had already inherited enslaved persons from her father’s and first husband’s estates, including Juda, “Little Bella,” Coelia and their children, Hannah, “Cook Bella,” Murriah, Willoughby and “old Dyla.”

    After Rev. McElhenney’s death, Floride Bonneau Colhoun, the widow of U.S. Sen. John Ewing Colhoun Sr., took ownership of the 600-acre property known as Clergy Hall. Previously, Colhoun had built a neighboring plantation known as Keowee Heights, and, in 1800, there were 103 enslaved African Americans forced to labor there. At his death in 1802, the enslaved communities at Keowee Heights and Colhoun’s other plantations were divided between his widow and surviving children, including his 10-year-old daughter Floride, the future wife of John C. Calhoun.

    When Calhoun became vice president of the United States in 1825, Clergy Hall transitioned into a 14-room dwelling house on the 19th-century plantation. Based on Census records, in 1830, there were 37 enslaved persons at Fort Hill, and, by 1840, there were 69 enslaved persons there. The summer after Calhoun’s death in 1850, there were 75 enslaved persons.

    Image 1: Early Sketch of Clergy Hall
    Image 2: 1810 US Census records with Rev. James McElhenney highlighted
    Image 3: Fort Hill plantation topographical map
    Image 4: John Ewing Colhoun Sr.’s will

Master Bedroom: Panel 1

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    The wall to your right was once the exterior wall of Clergy Hall, including the doorway, which would have led from Clergy Hall’s indoor kitchen to a back porch. This has undergone several enlargements as it changed its purpose from a family room to the bedroom of John C. Calhoun and his wife, Floride.

    The room beyond it was also enlarged more than once, serving as a children’s room and later the bedroom for the Calhoun’s youngest daughter, Martha Cornelia. Due to an accident at the age of 12, she had mobility issues, preventing her from joining her siblings upstairs: Andrew Pickens (A.P.), Anna Maria, Patrick, James Edward and William Lowndes. The Calhouns lost three young daughters: Floride Pure, Jane and Elizabeth.

    In the fall of 1817, Hector was the enslaved driver who drove the Calhoun family’s carriage from Clergy Hall to Washington, D.C., when Calhoun became secretary of war. Throughout Calhoun’s political career, Floride and the children continued to travel between Washington, D.C., and Fort Hill, with a one-way trip taking about four weeks. When traveling, the family took a six-month supply of everything they needed. After the incident known as the Petticoat Affair, Floride made Fort Hill her permanent home in 1831. The following year, Calhoun resigned as President Andrew Jackson’s vice president.

    During Calhoun’s absence at Fort Hill, hired white overseers, like Fredericks, Green Stevens and Aaron Boggs, managed Fort Hill plantation. Personal correspondence revealed that the enslaved African Americans actively resisted enslavement; however, the specific actions of resistance were rarely documented nor told from the perspective of the enslaved community.

    In 1865, Jane, Louisa (Billy’s wife), Louisa (Edward’s wife), Ella (11 years old), Alick and Stephney were enslaved domestic workers. Previously, in 1851, Stephney, who was described as a 13-year-old, “bright, Mulatto” boy on a bill of sale, was sold by Floride to her son A.P., sending Stephney to Alabama. Many enslaved African Americans were moved between Fort Hill and A.P.’s Alabama plantations, Tulip Hill and Cuba.

    Image 1: Photograph inside the children’s room
    Image 2: 1851 Bill of Sale

Master Bedroom: Panel 2

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    Floride Colhoun, born on February 15, 1792, at Rice Hope Plantation in Berkeley County, was born into a large slave-holding family. Her father, John Ewing Colhoun Sr., was an attorney and politician.

    Her mother, Floride Bonneau, was of French Huguenot descent, and the Bonneau family made its vast wealth from the expertise and labor of enslaved Africans on rice plantations. This wealth helped support and promote the political careers of John Ewing Colhoun Sr. and, later, John C. Calhoun, who inherited Fort Hill plantation from his mother-in-law in 1836. Calhoun served as a U.S. representative, secretary of war, interim secretary of the navy, vice president, senator and secretary of state. He served the longest, nonconsecutively, as senator, known as one of the Great Triumvirate with Henry Clay, of Kentucky, and Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts.

    When John Ewing Colhoun Sr. died in 1802, his daughter Floride, then the age of 10, owned enslaved persons. As a child, Floride inherited one-fifth of the enslaved persons owned by her father, including Rose (identified in the will as “Mulatto Rose,” possibly to distinguish her from another person named Rose) and Bina. Rose may be the same woman who had previously been owned by Patrick Calhoun, the father of John C. Calhoun. John Ewing Colhoun Sr. had been the executor of Patrick’s estate, and he likely gained ownership of many of the enslaved persons from Patrick’s Abbeville District plantation.

    Polydore and his wife, Mennemin, according to family lore, were said to be first-generation enslaved persons from Africa; Mennemin, according to the New York newspaper reporter, was 112 years old in 1849. We learned from estate documents that Bina, Tom and Billy were Polydore’s children. The extended Calhouns and Clemsons owned several plantations in South Carolina. Many of Polydore and Mennemin’s descendants were separated and sent to work on them.

    Image 1: Rice Hope Plantation
    Image 2: Patrick Calhoun
    Image 3: Patrick Calhoun’s probate records
    Image 4: John E. Colhoun Sr.

Side Hallway: Panel 1

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    Following A.P. Calhoun’s May 5, 1836, marriage to his second wife, Margaret Green, he soon began purchasing land in Marengo County, Alabama. Personal correspondence reveals that A.P. would provide the management, and his father, John C. Calhoun, would provide the enslaved persons and needed equipment for a working cotton plantation. The enslaved persons at Fort Hill were not only rotated between South Carolina and Alabama but also sent to Calhoun’s O’Bar mine in Dahlonega, Georgia, or to any other place deemed necessary by the Calhoun and Clemson families.

    In Alabama, enslaved persons were tasked with clearing the land, planting, and harvesting the cotton fields purchased by A.P., which was only possible with funds from Thomas Green Clemson and John C. Calhoun. Later, when Thomas Clemson purchased Cane Brake plantation from Arthur Simkins in Saluda, South Carolina, he purchased William, an enslaved carpenter and cabinet maker who owned his own tools, to build the Clemson family’s dwelling house.

    A.P. began increasing his land holdings in Marengo County and expanded his Tulip Hill plantation to include Cuba plantation by purchasing 840 acres from Edwin A. Glover. After moving back to Fort Hill in 1854, A.P. purchased 420 more acres for Cuba plantation from W.H. Tayloe, land previously known as “Adventure.” Although A.P. was provided enslaved persons from Fort Hill, personal correspondence reveals that he claimed he did not always have enough enslaved persons to harvest the cotton fields.

    In 1840, there were 86 enslaved persons listed as being “owned” by A.P. in Marengo County. By 1850, the enslaved community in Marengo County grew to 116 enslaved persons. After A.P. moved his family to Fort Hill, he still had an enslaved community of 100 persons listed under his name in Marengo County. After owning Tulip Hill plantation for 20 years, A.P. sold both enslaved persons and other property to Goetlib Breightling.

    Image 1: Marengo County, 1840 U.S. Census records with A.P. Calhoun’s name highlighted
    Image 2: Marengo County, 1850 U.S. Census records with A.P. Calhoun’s name highlighted
    Image 3: Marengo County, 1860 U.S. Census records with A.P. Calhoun’s name highlighted

Side Hallway: Panel 2Side Hallway Panel 2

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    In 1854, Floride Calhoun, with her daughter, Cornelia, moved to MiCasa in Pendleton from Fort Hill after entering into a business deal with her son A.P., who was purchasing 50 enslaved persons and Fort Hill.

    Of those enslaved at Fort Hill, personal correspondence and other records reveal few family units, like Sawney Sr. and his wife, Tiller, as well as Moses, his wife Gargar, and their young children. In the summer of 1847, in a letter to Anna Clemson, Floride Calhoun shared the news of the birth of Gargar’s twins. Floride Calhoun added that Gargar was Daniel’s daughter, and that her husband, Moses, was the child of Pegg. She also added that Tom, an older enslaved man, was sharing that he was the great-grandfather of the twins. In 1854, a 1-year-old boy named Tom was listed with Moses and Gargar.

    On March 19, 1865, Floride Clemson wrote in her diary that A.P. “Died last Thursday, a little after day light, after only two hour’s illness, of congestion of the heart.” The enslaved community at Fort Hill was listed as “property” on A.P.’s estate inventory, listing 139 enslaved persons. There were 127 enslaved field laborers, and there were 12 classified as either enslaved domestic workers or skilled laborers. In 1865, Nicholas was the blacksmith, Ted was the carpenter, Isaac was the gardener, Christy was the cook, Billy was the miller and Priest was the coachman.

    By September 2, 1865, there were 15 freed persons of color at Fort Hill: their names were not recorded by Floride Clemson in her entry. The earliest known Freedman’s contract signed with freed persons of color at Fort Hill was signed between Harriet, Jim, Peter, and Abb and A. P. Calhoun’s son, John C. Calhoun Jr. Starting in 1867, freed persons of color, including children, signed contracts with Thomas Clemson.

    Image 1: MiCasa
    Image 2: Letter from Floride to Anna Clemson about the Gargar twins
    Image 3: Freedman’s contracts

Dining Room: Panel 1

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    The skills of the enslaved domestic laborers made this room function, hosting many guests and politicians. Unfortunately, only a few names of the enslaved domestic workers were documented in family correspondence or on documents, like wills and estate inventories. The language in those documents is painful, including listing African Americans as “property.”

    Enslaved domestic workers, like Nelly, ran Fort Hill’s inner workings, caring for the needs of the family members and guests. In 1848, Nelly was purchased by Floride Calhoun. Nelly appeared in the personal correspondence of Floride Calhoun as her personal enslaved domestic laborer; in one letter, Floride Calhoun stated, “I trust her with the keys, as she has been accustomed to it all her life.”

    Nelly was also the enslaved cook at Fort Hill. In 1854, when Margaret and A.P. Calhoun moved their family to Fort Hill from Alabama. Nelly was in Florida nursing daughter-in-law Kate Putnam Calhoun’s two infants. During this transition, Floride Calhoun moved to MiCasa in Pendleton, South Carolina, likely with an unknown number of enslaved African Americans, including Jackson. At Fort Hill, Christy, as the enslaved cook, had Nelly’s “feather bed, bedstead, table and two chairs.” When she returned from Florida, Nelly was forbidden by Margaret Calhoun to return to Fort Hill.

    The enslaved domestic workers had separate quarters from the enslaved field laborers. The dwellings for enslaved domestic workers were wooden, and they were built along a row of fig trees somewhere behind the outside kitchen. At this time, we do not know how many wooden buildings there were behind Fort Hill. As of 1860, the enslaved field laborers were housed in 14 stone structures, which were about one-eighth of a mile from the dwelling house.

    Image 1: Floride as a middle-aged woman
    Image 2: Anna Clemson’s debut portrait to Belgium court
    Image 3: Letter, August 11, 1850, from Floride Calhoun to Floride Clemson

Dining Room: Panel 2

Dining Room Panel 2

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    Thomas Green Clemson left specific instructions in his will, ensuring that Fort Hill would be preserved and operated by Clemson University, open to the public, and never moved or altered. Some of the artifacts featured throughout Fort Hill were willed to remain within the home. Additionally, many of the original family portraits have returned, along with other objects.

    The large dining room table and matching 12 chairs were purchased by the Calhouns while they lived year-round in the Washington, D.C. area during Calhoun’s tenure as secretary of war. A portrait of Floride Bonneau Colhoun was on display in this room during the family’s residency. Currently, a copy is placed on the table to the left of the fireplace. Mrs. Colhoun purchased residences for the Calhouns to live in, including Oakley (now called Dumbarton Oaks) in Georgetown, outside of Washington, D.C. Mrs. Colhoun was also a frequent visitor to the Calhoun’s D.C.-area residences, helping to take care of her grandchildren.

    The large piece of furniture, along the wall to your left, is known as the Constitution Sideboard. This piece is made from the paneling of the officer’s quarters of the USS Constitution, which made a name for the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812. This sideboard was presented to John C. Calhoun, likely after his wartime service as interim secretary of navy and secretary of war. Following Thomas Clemson’s death, his only grandchild, Floride Isabella Lee of Carmel, New York selected this piece as her memento from Fort Hill’s estate. She later gave it to a Calhoun cousin, whose widow placed it up for auction after the Great Depression.

    Image 1: Thomas Green Clemson in front of Fort Hill
    Image 2: Portions of Thomas Green Clemson’s will
    Image 3: Constitution Sideboard
    Image 4: 1930’s newspaper write-up of the Constitution Sideboard
    Image 5: Granddaughter Floride Isabella Lee

Parlor: Panel 1Parlor Panel 1

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    On November 13, 1838, after a six-month courtship, Anna Maria Calhoun married Thomas Green Clemson IV in this very room. The ceremony was performed by the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s minister with a formal reception following shortly thereafter.

    In 1849, in the presence of a New York reporter, an enslaved domestic worker was married at Fort Hill to an enslaved woman from a neighboring plantation. An elder man performed the ceremony.

    Upon returning to Fort Hill in 1839, the Clemsons lived at Fort Hill as newlyweds, and their first three children were born here. Their first child, a baby girl, was born on August 13, 1839. She died three weeks later, having suffered from a fever epidemic, along with an unknown number of enslaved persons at Fort Hill. Martha Colhoun, Anna Clemson’s aunt, blamed the pond by the grist mill as the source of the epidemic. John C. Calhoun later moved his family away from Fort Hill and closed the mill; however, the enslaved community was not moved.

    This is not the only known epidemic that affected the enslaved community at Fort Hill. Starting early in 1864, there was an epidemic of a combination of whooping cough and measles. By July 17, 1865, Floride Clemson recorded in her diary that her first cousin, 3-year-old Lula Calhoun, died as well as “upward of 60 negroes at Fort Hill in a little over a year. 40 odd in 7 weeks.” By July 29, she recorded that “over 70 negroes at Fort Hill [died] in the last year; mostly children.”

    It is unknown exactly whom nor how many within the enslaved community died during the epidemics of 1839, 1864, 1865 or others. When enslaved persons passed away, they were buried upon the hill of the orchard, near the Calhoun family enclosure. There are surviving upended field stones marking graves of enslaved persons. Additionally, ground penetrating radar has located other unmarked graves that could be of enslaved persons or convict laborers who died building Clemson University.

    Image 1: Thomas Green Clemson
    Image 2: Anna Maria Calhoun
    Image 3: Family correspondence
    Image 4: Bust of Nina Clemson from her death mask

Parlor: Panel 2Parlor Panel Two

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    This room was added to the front of Fort Hill in 1827; A.P. Calhoun carved the date into the wall before the plaster dried. This room, and the dining room across the hall, displayed the family’s wealth. The reproduction French border paper reflects the source of the extended Calhoun’s family wealth, enslaved African Americans and the 19th-century cash crops, cotton and tobacco.

    In 1844, two of the Clemson’s children (to the left), John Calhoun and Floride Elizabeth, moved with their parents to Clemson’s Cane Brake plantation in Saluda. Although Thomas Clemson had purchased land from Arthur Simkins, he purchased enslaved persons from his wife’s uncle, John Ewing Colhoun Jr., whose financial troubles resulted in the forced separation of many families within Keowee Heights’ enslaved community.

    The only known family unit moved together by the Clemsons was Daphne, her husband, Bill Laurence, and children Susan and Benjamin. Bill Laurence was the only enslaved man at Cane Brake that Clemson referred to with a surname.

    A few months later, Clemson was confirmed as Charge d’ Affaires to Belgium on June 17, 1844, and the Clemson family moved to Belgium. Basil, an enslaved African American, traveled and lived with the Clemson family in Belgium. Anna Clemson described Basil as an oddity to Europeans because of his skin color. The Clemsons became staunch defenders of slavery, arguing that it provided enslaved African Americans with better lives than European waged laborers.

    This transatlantic move left the enslaved community at Cane Brake under the control of overseer Robert Humphreys and elderly neighbor John Mobley. John Mobley held “power of general superintendence” and visited each week, according to historian Ernest Lander. Later in the 1850’s, Clemson sold his enslaved community and Cane Brake plantation to Alfred Long Dearing, who moved his family to Saluda, South Carolina, from Alabama.

    Image 1: A.P. Calhoun
    Image 2: Clemson’s Leopold medal
    Image 3: Clemson’s metal plate for his calling cards
    Image 4: Anna and children
    Image 5: Letters of Anna