Friday, May 07, 2010

Exploring the Forest

For the past couple of weeks I have been emailing back and forth with Patrick, who found me through my Flickr account. He added me as a contact on Flickr and when I got the email notification I checked out his photo sets. It was almost like looking at my own photos! I sent him an email and told him that we must have been following each other around since we have been to most of the same places! That's what started our correspondence.

Both Patrick and I share a love of photographing all the incredible historic places around the Lowcountry. We exchanged stories about the North vs. the South (he is from Massachusetts) and talked about potential places to scope out for photo excursions.

Patrick told me about this place near Bonneau Ferry in the Francis Marion National Forest called Richmond Plantation. I had never heard of it so I did a Google search and saw some photos. Why had I never heard of this incredible place before? Apparently, the Girl Scouts own the plantation now and the property is private.

While doing more research about the plantation I found out that the property is actually in trouble and in desperate need of funding to renovate some of the buildings. There is a group called Friends of Richmond Plantation who are doing things here to help save the buildings from being demolished. When I heard this I had a mild panic about getting out there to take photos before all of this happens. From what I saw online, it didn't seem like the Girl Scouts have been very proactive in raising money to help save their own camp!

Partick told me that he had made several phone calls to the main Girl Scout office in North Charleston to inquire about getting permission to access the property and no one ever answered. Since Robin was going on a motorcycle run on Sunday, I asked Patrick if he wanted to ride out to the forest to check things out. He told me that there were some other sites nearby to check out.

Robin wasn't exactly thrilled that I was going on a photo shoot with a total stranger so I arranged for Patrick to show up just before Robin left for her motorcycle ride so she could meet him. She wanted me to go with her on the ride, but I am so scared of motorcycles! She asked Teresa if she wanted to go in my place, which was more than fine with me!

We headed out to Bonneau Ferry and Patrick pulled out his makeshift map of the forest which was hand drawn, which I found amusing. We found Richmond Plantation with no problem and headed toward the gate. While we were driving up to the gate a car was coming out. We stopped and chatted with the gentleman and asked if it would be possible to go on the property to take photos. He said that they were getting ready to leave and he wasn't sure if "she" would let us. He took out his cell phone and called someone who apparently was still on the property.

After a couple of minutes we saw the woman's car coming up to the gate. The man turned around and drove inside the gate and met the woman who, after a couple of minutes, drove out the gate and stopped at our car. We asked her if we could go on the property to take some photos and she asked "For what purpose?" and we said for our own personal use. She asked if we were Girl Scouts and I said "I used to be!" To this, she was not amused. She said that she had a "very important" ceremony that she had to attend (a pinning ceremony - the man told us!) and that she just couldn't let us walk around the property because she would be liable for anything that may happen. We really tried to talk her into it, but she wasn't budging. In fact, she was pretty rude about it. She gave us a Girl Scout brochure and told us to call her and she "might" be able to meet us one day.

After the man and woman pulled away we thought about going in anyway, but were afraid that they would send someone out to check if we went in. We gave up (for that day, anyway) and decided to move along.

We drove around the forest and it was so amazing! I can't believe I have never gone out to that section before! The first place we stopped was Comingtee Plantation, which used to be owned by the very prominent Ball family of South Carolina. The only thing that remained of the plantation were the ruins of the main house and the rice mill.

Comingtee Plantation House

Comingtee Plantation Rice Mill

The land around the plantation was full of high weeds and tall grass and the ENTIRE time I was on snake lookout. It was hot outside so I knew that our "friends" were out and about and I was wearing shorts and sandals! Speaking of hot, I had another of my "flash sweating" episodes during our visit to Comingtee. Ugh. I am so over those!

After Comingtee, we drove around the forest and thankfully we were in my Jeep! The roads were also filled with tall grass and lots of large holes in the ground! There were many roads that had signs saying they were closed to motorized vehicles, but at times you really didn't have a choice but to go down them. I was so amazed that people lived so far out in the middle of this huge forest... then again, I suppose everywhere at that time was a big forest!

We continued our drive and saw some wild turkeys running around. I have never seen wild turkeys!! I wish I could have had time to grab my camera! Who knew that turkeys ran so fast?!

The forest was filled with some really beautiful places! I can't wait to go back!

Remember! A fed gator is a dead gator!

I love visiting places like this. As always, I imagine what life must have been like back when the plantation was alive with activity. How did they live? What did they do for leisure? How did they treat their slaves? I own the book "Slaves in the Family" by Edward Ball, but it's in Ohio with all of my belongings. Visiting Comingtee has renewed my interest in the Ball family so I really need to get another copy of that book since I have yet to read it.

My next mission is to pursue getting access to Richmond Plantation and also get a really good map of Francis Marion National Forest. There's so much to explore! Maybe though, I'll wait until winter when the snakes are in hiding and my "flash sweating" has subsided!

Another thing I am interested in finding is the "ghost tree" of Comingtee Plantation. How cool is that? Again, another winter trek in the woods for me for that one! I promise I won't touch the tree like I did with that dumb grave in Indiana!! We all know what happened after I did that!

Thanks to Patrick for showing me these awesome places!!

After I published this post I started flipping through the online book Recollections of the Ball family of South Carolina and the Comingtee Plantations that I linked to above and found these awesome photos of what Comingtee used to look like! I searched and searched the internet for photos of the plantation and couldn't find any before! How exciting!!

Circa 1904



Clytie said...

This post so totally makes me want to go exploring!!! What an awesome plantation - your pictures are outstanding! I'm so glad you found someone with the same interests as you in finding these wonderful historical places and sharing them with others!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pamela,

I have been in the area several times. The Cooper River is rich in history and beauty. I never stopped reading about it. Faint traces in the landscape get a lot more clearer then and more a reason to return and enjoy!
Love your phot's from the ponds

Robert Hofman, Haarlem, Neteherlands