Date of Award

Fall 12-16-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Glenn Eskew

Second Advisor

Dr. Wendy Venet

Third Advisor

Richard Laub

Abstract

In 1675, Thomas Drayton Sr. undertook a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the colony of Barbados in search of land and opportunities. He did not find either in Barbados, but his eldest son, Thomas Drayton Jr. immigrated to the new colony of Carolina. Drayton Jr. accumulated a large amount of capital and invested his money in rice cultivation and the importation of slaves.

Drayton Jr. married Ann Fox, the daughter of his friend and mentor, Stephen Fox. Their marriage laid the foundation for the Drayton Dynasty in Carolina. Upon the death of Thomas Drayton Sr., his widow Ann became the executrix of his estate and legally became a “feme sole.” Ann Fox Drayton established tight kinship ties to several powerful planter families, who resided on the Ashley River. She taught her son youngest, John Drayton business skills, financial management, and agricultural methods.

John Drayton would become one of the wealthiest and powerful planters in the South Carolina Lowcountry. He would construct the most exceptional Georgian-Palladian mansion in British North America. Drayton Hall would come to signify his elevated position in the Charleston plantocracy. Drayton identified with all things English, which he reflected in matters of taste and style.

In 1784, Charles Drayton, the second son of John Drayton, assumed ownership of Drayton Hall, when he purchased the plantation from his father’s widow, Rebecca Perry Drayton. Litigation amongst the children and grandchildren over John Drayton’s will would leave him in reduced circumstances. He would redesign Drayton Hall as a “ferme ornee” or ornamental farm, which would grow provisions and livestock and cultivate rice at two outlying plantations on the peripheries of the Lowcountry. When died in 1820, Drayton Hall was his one remaining asset, which he left to his son, Charles II.

After 1820, Drayton Hall entered an eclipse. The attempts of the Draytons to cultivate rice in southern Georgia were a failure. The Civil War did not destroy Drayton Hall, but the family was penniless. Phosphate mining at Drayton Hall returned the family to prosperity. In 1973, unable to maintain Drayton Hall, the Drayton family sold it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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