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The Gassaway Family c. 1790 – 1825
Around 1790, Thomas Lofton built a two-story brick house on the Ashtabula land. The Gassaway family owned the land and operated it as a tavern on the stage road from Pendleton to Pickensville and Greenville.
The Gibbes Family 1825 – 1837
In 1828, Lewis Ladson Gibbes built the large clapboard house that is now known as Ashtabula. Both he and his wife, Maria Drayton, died before the house was completed. The completed house was occupied by their children, Lewis Reeves Gibbes and Charles Drayton Gibbes.
Dr. Oze R. Broyles 1837 – 1851
In 1837, the Gibbes’ home, advertised as “the most beautiful farm in the up-country,” was sold to Dr. O.R. Broyles, an agriculturalist and inventor. Dr. Broyles lived in Ashtabula with his wife Sarah Ann Taliaferro, the daughter of wealthy Virginian Zacharias Taliaferro. In 1845, the world record for rice production was set at Ashtabula, at a level of 110 bushels/acre, with each bushel weighing 43.75 pounds.
James T. Latta 1851 – 1861
James T. Latta of Yorkville bought the Ashtabula house from Dr. O. R. Broyles in 1850. He and his wife, Angela Wetherell, moved to the South in hopes of improving his poor health with a milder climate than that of the Northeast. During his ownership, he enlarged the house its current size. He also brought one of the earliest herds of Hereford cattle to the United States and bred them on the plantation. Mrs. Angela Latta entertained many friends in the Ashtabula house, and was regarded as a beautiful, dignified, hospitable woman. As his health failed, Mr. Latta found he could not continue to maintain the plantation and sold it to a wealthy Charlestonian. He and his family moved to a smaller home in Pendleton, where he lived until his death in 1865.
Robert Adger 1861 – 1865
Mr. Adger purchased Ashtabula from the Latta family for his daughter, Clarissa, and her new husband, O. A. Bowen. In 1865, O. A. Bowen purchased the Rivoli Plantation from Robert Adger, and Ashtabula was given to Robert Adger’s other daughter, Sarah, and her husband.
William Dalton Warren 1865 – 1880
After the Bowens left Ashtabula for the Rivoli plantation, he reassumed ownership of the plantation before giving it to his daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, and her husband, William Dalton Warren. Mr. Warren continued raising cattle on the farm, donating beef to the Confederacy. When the Confederacy fell in the Civil War, Warren restored the plantation by retaining former slaves as tenant farmers and becoming a respected planter. With the help of J.C. Stribling, he established Ashtabula as the first Jersy Cattle farm in South Carolina. In 1878, tragedy struck the Warren family when Sarah Warren died. Her sister moved to Ashtabula to help William Warren care for his two young children until he sold the plantation to Francis J. Pelzer.
Francis J. Pelzer 1880 – 1889
Francis Pelzer was a Charleston cotton merchant and old family friend of the Adger family. Mr. Pelzer moved to the upstate in the late 1870s to establish a textile mill, an eventually founded the town of Pelzer for his employees around the four factories he built as part of his textile business. Mr. Pelzer bought Ashtabula from William Warren in 1880, and it served as his weekend residence to entertain family and friends. Though he rarely visited the house, with J.C. Stribling he continued raising Jersey cattle for the dairy farm started by William Warren.
John Linley 1889 – 1920
Mr. Linley was the last residential owner of Ashtabula. He was the real estate developer who laid out the street plan for North Anderson. Like Mr. Pelzer, Linley rarely visited Ashtabula, but he continued running the Jersey cattle farm and began cultivating corn and cotton on the land. Several Linley relatives lived in Ashtabula during the twenty-nine years Linley owned the plantation.
Roger Inglesby 1920 – 1940
Roger Inglesby was a Charleston native. He bought the plantation from John Linley in 1920, but not much is known about him or his history.
Frederick W. Symmes 1940 – 1957
Mr. Symmes, a great philanthropist and industrialist, was the final private owner of Ashtabula. He never lived in Ashtabula, but rather purchased it to preserve the house, as he believed it was an important piece of Pendleton’s history. Mr. Symmes took great pleasure in philanthropy and built many buildings for public use, including the Pretty Place chapel at Camp Greenville and the original Greenville County Library. Mr. Symmes owned the plantation until his death in 1957, upon which his family sold the plantation to Mead Paper.
Mead Paper Company 1957 – 1961
The company purchased the farm from the Symmes family upon the death of Frederick Symmes. They developed the land as a tree farm to produce pulpwood; the entire plantation was planted with pine trees. The home was used as a retreat location for company executives until 1961, when Mead decided they no longer had use for the house. When the Pendleton Historic Foundation was created to save the Woodburn house from an uncertain future, Mead donated Ashtabula and ten surrounding acres to the foundation so they could preserve the house as well.
Pendleton Historic Foundation 1961 – Present
PHF began restoring the house in 1961 with a donation from the Bowen Foundation of Macon, Georgia. The Foundation’s aim was to restore the house to its original state; luckily, the house had been well maintained over the years and was in remarkable condition, considering its age. The restoration of the house is funded entirely through private donations and memberships, and descendants of past owners have contributed greatly. The Foundation owns and operates the two largest Upstate plantations in South Carolina, with the houses being open for tours April through October. They host educational programs for schools as well as living history tours.
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney 1830 – 1852
Charles Pinckney studied law at Harvard University. When he graduated from college, he managed his father’s rice plantation on the Santee River. He also became a trustee at South Carolina College and Charleston College. Charles Pinckney built Woodburn in 1830, naming it after a Robert Burns poem.
David S. Taylor 1852 – 1853
David S. Taylor and his wife, Lucy Hannah Taliaferro, bought the house from the Pinckneys in 1852, but they only lived in the house for a year before selling it to Rev. John Bailey Adger.
Reverend John Bailey Adger 1853 – 1859
Rev. John B. Adger was a Charlestonian minister of the Presbyterian church. Rev. Adger was very dedicated to his work. With the help of Dr. John Girardeau, he formed the Zion Presbyterian Church, and he served as the chairman of the Columbia Theological Seminary from 1856 until 1874. His nephew, Augustine Smythe, eventually purchased Woodburn as a summer retreat. Late in his life, he wrote a book titled, “My Life and Times,” which is still in print today.
Joseph Ellison Adger 1859 – 1881
Joseph Adger purchased the Woodburn from his brother, Rev. John B. Adger, in 1859. He enlarged the property to over 1,000 acres and held many slaves. His family provided the Civil War soldiers with a safe haven; the Adgers opened their doors to injured soldiers of the confederacy, caring for them until they could return to battle.
Augustine Thomas Smythe 1881 – 1911
Charlestonian and Confederate soldier Augustine Smythe bought Woodburn from his uncle, Joseph Adger, in 1881, and the estate served as a summer retreat for his family. He went to school at South Carolina College, where he earned a degree to practice law; he was a director or solicitor for many large companies during his life. He was a trustee at South Carolina College from 1880-1896 and a trustee at Clemson Agricultural College from 1904-1906. Smythe was a member of many clubs, including the Order of Freemasons, Charleston Club, and DKE fraternity. He also dabbled in politics, serving as a senator in the state’s congress until 1892.
William Frederick Owen Calhoun 1911 – 1930
William Frederick Owen Calhoun lived at Woodburn for nearly two decades when the Great Depression struck America. Owen did not have the funds to keep the house, and it was seized by the S.C. State Bank of Greenville.
John Frank 1930 – 1938
The S.C. State Bank of Greenville maintained ownership of Woodburn’s property for three months, during which they split the land into two portions. John Frank bought one half of the plantation for $5,000 and incorporated the land as Woodburn Farms, Inc.
U.S. Government 1938 – 1954
Because of the Great Depression, Woodburn’s owners could not make enough money from living off the land to pay their taxes. As a result, the U.S. government purchased 300 farms, including Woodburn, through the Resettlement Administration. The Resettlement Administration was created as a part of FDR’s New Deal and sought to relocate struggling families to federally-planned communities.
Clemson University 1954 – 1966
In 1954, the government leased thousands of acres of land, including Woodburn, to Clemson College.
Pendleton Historic Foundation 1966 – Present
Clemson University gave Woodburn and 6.26 acres of land to the Foundation for Historical Restoration in the Pendleton Area (later known as the Pendleton Historic Foundation). The Foundation then began the job of restoring Woodburn, which had been subject to neglect and vandalism. The Woodburn house was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 6, 1971.