History: Woodburn

From Generation to Generation

Both Woodburn and Ashtabula Plantations were owned by several different individuals throughout history before the Pendleton Historic Foundation acquired them in the 1960’s. Many of these families were extremely influential in South Carolina during their time. Read about the family members, dates, and how the houses were passed down.



  • Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1789-1865) was the son of General Thomas Pinckney who served during the American Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, was elected Governor of SC and US Congressman for SC and appointmeted minister of Great Britain, Spain, and France. Although educated as a lawyer, Charles “Cotesworth” Pinckney preferred the life of a planter and managed his father’s plantation as “El Dorado” as well as his own plantation at Woodburn. He became Lt. Gov. of SC in 1832 during the nullification controversy but returned to private life after armed conflict was avoided through controversial compromise which reduced the tariff on foreign products. He dedicated his life to converting slaves to Christianity and was a leader in the movement to create an organized system of religious instructions for slaves.
  • David S. Taylor
  • John Bailey Adger who also largely resided in Charleston, purchased Woodburn from David Taylor shortly after he had acquired it. He was a prominent Presbyterian Minister and spent a large part of his life as a missionary in Asia, particularly Smyrna and Constantinople.
  • Joseph E. Adger was the brother of John B. Adger. He purchased Woodburn in 1858.
  • Augustine T. Smythe was the nephew of Joseph and John Adger who purchased Woodburn in 1881 to create a livestock farm where he could raise race horses and purebred cattle. He also raised cows and sheep on the land as well. As a South Carolina lawyer, he was elected to the State Legislature three times and was involved at Clemson College as a trustee.
  • William Frederick Calhoun Owen purchased Woodburn from Smythe in 1911 for $20,000. At 8.45 acres total, he paid around $2300 per acre for the entire estate. Owen lived at Woodburn for 19 years until the Great Depression struck the United States. He was then forced to foreclose on his mortgage and the South Carolina State Bank of Greenville took possession of the property and all of its rights.
  • South Carolina State Bank of Greenville only held Woodburn for around three months, from June until August of 1930, until they found someone to purchase the property.>
  • John Frank The bank had split the estate into two parts, now totaling around 6.05 acres of land. Frank purchased it for $5,000 and turned it into Woodburn Farms, Inc. on August 15, 1930.
  • U.S. Government through Resettlement Administration bought the property from John Frank after the Great Depression through the Resettlement Administration Act, which was passed as a post-Depression act to help struggling farmers cope with the local economy.
  • Clemson College In the early 1950’s, Woodburn Plantation, along with other historical sites in South Carolina, were leased by the U.S. government to Clemson College.>
  • Pendleton Historic Foundation In 1966, Clemson College (now deemed Clemson University) gave Woodburn Plantation to the Pendleton Historic Foundation so that they could restore the house to its previous condition and open it to the public. Woodburn is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

An Important Resident of Woodburn

Jane Edna Hunter was born in a tenant house to a sharecropper at Woodburn Plantation on December 13, 1882. She acquired the last name of Hunter from a marriage to a much older man lasting only a short period of time. In 1905, Jane graduated from Hampton Institute in Virginia as a trained nurse. After graduating, she moved to Cleveland where she held many different nursing jobs that allowed her to mingle with some of the most important historical figures of the day, including the Rockefeller family. After remember her own troubles as a new arrival in the city, she founded the Working Girls Association in 1911, which would become a boarding house for unmarried African American women. Later in that year, the name was changed to the Phillis Wheatley Association. The PWA, as it was called, grew in strength and numbers, and it was largely focused on providing adequate housing and activities for the female African American community of Cleveland. Hunter served as the executive secretary until 1948, and after retirement, began started the Phillis Wheatley Foundation, a scholarship for African American high school graduates. Hunter passed in 1971, but today her memoirs can be read in her historical autobiography “A Nickel and A Prayer”.  A replica of Hunter’s family cabin is located at Woodburn as part of a tour of the house and grounds.

Ashtabula: Special Collections;
Clemson University Libraries, Clemson, South Carolina
Woodburn: Special Collections;
Clemson University Libraries, Clemson, South Carolina