Thorntree

Thorntree, the plantation home of James Witherspoon (1700-1768) was built in 1749 in Williamsburgh Township, South Carolina about six miles south of the King's Tree.

 

The Williamsburgh Historical Society relocated this early architectural structure within the city limits of Kingstree during the 1970's in order to provide police and fire protection. The dwelling was completely re- stored by the society to preserve it for future generations.

Thorntree, the plantation home of James Witherspoon (1700-1768) was built in 1749 in Williamsburgh Township, South Carolina about six miles south of the King's Tree. The Williamsburgh Historical Society relocated this early architectural structure within the city limits of Kingstree during the 1970's in order to provide police and fire protection. The dwelling was completely re- stored by the society to preserve it for future generations.

 

Mr. Meyric Rogers, Esquire, nationally known museum curator, says the following concerning Thorntree: "… in architectural structure it is a RARITY...built on the English style with a great hall and memory work cornices and mantels.  This house is in first state condition and needs few minor repairs. It is amazing that the majority of the pine interior has even escaped paint and it will be an irreplaceable loss if this dwelling is not preserved for posterity … for probably there is not another house of its type, unless along the James River in Virginia.

As of 1730, sixty years after the settlement of Charles Town, the Province of South Carolina consisted of a thin strip of land along the coast from Georgetown to Beaufort. In order to extend the settled areas and to increase the white population, Governor Robert Johnson, one of the most able of the colonial governors, devised the township plan whereby North Europeans were enticed by bounties and generous land grants to migrate to South Carolina.  The most successful of Johnson's eleven townships was Williamsburgh, which was developed in the 1730's by Scotch-Irish who came directly from Northern Ireland. Cattle raising, the planting of hemp, flax, indigo, and corn were among some of the prosperous industries of the early settlement period of this township. In making grants of land, the King had reserved for his own use all the white pine trees. An explorer of the King, possibly searching for a settlement, discovered the majestic white pine, for which the town was named- the King's Tree, growing on the east bank of the Wee Nee, the name given by the Indians of this section to Black River.

James Witherspoon, the builder of Thorntree, immigrated to Carolina in 1734, landing at Charles Town with many relatives and friends, who came over on the "Good Intent."  His land grant of three hundred acres on Black River was certified on Jan. 11, 1735. James Witherspoon, the son of John and Janet Witherspoon, was born at Knockbracken, County Down, Ireland in 1700. The Witherspoon family is directly descended from Robert Bruce, the great Scotch King, and John Knox, the Scotch Reformer. The famous Rev. John Witherspoon, D.D. of Princeton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was a grandson of the Rev. James Witherspoon, which made him a nephew of Janet and John Witherspoon (1670-1737), the progenitor of the Williamsburgh Witherspoons.

 

In 1725, James Witherspoon married Elizabeth McQuoid, and the following children lived to maturity: Robert, John, Ann, James, and Gavin. In 1780, Robert Witherspoon, their son, recorded the early records of the family and related families in what is known today as the "Witherspoon Family Chronicles."  

 

 

 

 

 

The "Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate of James Witherspoon", dated January 20, 1769, indicates that he was a man of considerable means during his day. His "Parcel of Books" was appraised at sixty-three pounds.

 

James Witherspoon was buried in what is known today as the Witherspoon family cemetery on Thorntree creek about one mile from his home. Many of the graves in this cemetery are marked with large stones which were native to Williamsburgh.  The inscriptions of these stones are now obliterated.  There are eight stones of a different type which still bear the inscriptions. One of these is the marker of Robert Witherspoon, who wrote the "Witherspoon Family Chronicle."

Thorntree later became the home of Gavin Witherspoon, the son of James and Elizabeth Witherspoon. During the Revolution, Tarleton with one hundred British dragoons, and a large number of Tories under Col. Elias Ball, encamped at the plantation (Thorntree) of Gavin Witherspoon, south of the lower bridge on Black River, early in August, 1780.  Gavin married first, Esther Jane Witherspoon, his first cousin, and second, Ann Witherspoon, also his cousin.  Of the sixteen children of these two unions, only eight lived to maturity.

 

The "Will of Gavin Witherspoon," dated January 30, 1816, and re- corded deeds, indicate the following as heirs of his estate: Samuel Witherspoon, his son of Greene Co. Alabama; Elizabeth W. Montgomery, his daughter of Williamsburgh District; Thomas Reese Witherspoon, his son of Sumter District; Thomas Sydenham Witherspoon, his grandson of Greene Co., Alabama; Mary Ann W. Reese, his daughter of Anderson District; also, Dr. James Minto Witherspoon and Robert Franklin Witherspoon, his grandsons of Tuscaloosa and Greene Counties, Ala. Deeds recorded in Williamsburg County Court House disclose that all of the above heirs sold their part of the Thorntree Plantation, containing eight hundred acres, to John A. Gordon of Williamsburgh District.

 

 

The following is chronicled concerning James Witherspoon's arrival to Williamsburgh Township: " . . . it was the 1st of Feb. (1735) when we came to the Bluff.  My mother and us children were still in expectation that we were coming to an agreeable place, but when we arrived and saw nothing but a wilderness and instead of a fine timbered house, nothing but a very mean dirt house, our spirits quite sunk … Father had heard that up the river swamp was the King's Tree ...I remember that amongst the first thing my father brought from the boat was his gun, which was one of Queen Ann's muskets...The family lived at the Bluff until March, 1749, my father moved his family to Thorntree...he died in November of 1768."

 

The will of James Witherspoon, dated September 13, 1768, reveals the following: "I will and bequeath to Elizabeth my dearly beloved wife, a convenient room in my dwelling house…"