“Charlestonians come to Chester County to help transform agriculture.”
City Directories and History: The Saye house, Oakley Hall, was originally constructed by the very distinguished Charlestonian, Mr. Wilmot S. Gibbs in circa 1825 as
his summer house to escape the heat and mosquitoes of the South Carolina lowcountry. This fine old Chester home was constructed on local materials in the same fashion most houses were constructed that is by using a local contractor, often called a mechanic in the 19th century to frame the house and provide skilled labor from the community to hew, saw and planed materials needed for the house. A home of this magnitude may have taken up to two years to construct. The brick would have been made locally as well, perhaps in the yard of the dwelling.
The Reverend J.H. Saye (Jan. 29, 1809 – Nov. 20, 1892) when called to the pastorate of Fishing Creek Presbyterian Church, purchased the Gibbs home and the property remains in 2012 in the Saye family. Mr. Saye, a highly educated and well respected member of the community had been born in Georgia and the US Federal Census states he was worth $32,935., making him one of Chester’s wealthiest individuals. It appears the house has been remodeled numerous times during both the 19th and 20th centuries. It however remains an important historic house for Chester County, SC.
From the Fishing Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery Directory, published 2004 by the Cemetery Committee – p’s 6-7
(A new minister, Rev. James Hodge Saye, was installed at Fishing Creek about 1860 and moved his family into the community. Rev. Saye possessed a loving spirit, enjoyed fellowship with the people of the church, and was well loved by them. These peaceful times of the community and church were soon interrupted by political affairs. The Civil War split the nation and soon young men of the community went off to fight the war. The northern and southern Presbyterian churches separated during the early years of this conflict. The southern churches, along with Fishing Creek, combined to form the “General Assembly of the Presbyterian Churches in the Confederate States.”
Father Saye kept diaries that recorded important events during these turbulent years. These historic documents have been preserved and copies of many are housed in the Fishing Creek Library. In these diaries, he described attitudes and happenings during this era as “excitement, confusion, and crime.” In one place he wrote: ” …Corruption seems to have seized the whole body in morals and politics. Without the grace of God, the whole country seems likely to sink in a general ruin.”
The war years were terrible for the community, but Father Saye was there to sustain those who needed him. When young men were declared dead, Father Saye was there to show love and to cry with the bereaved. By 1865 the community was devastated. Cotton plantations were no longer prosperous, railroads and transportation routes were damaged, shortages were everywhere, and life was hard. Amid all of this, Father Saye continued to serve with a loving spirit, trying to bring order out of the chaos of the times.,, He served the community faithfully through Reconstruction and the dark years that followed. After thirty years of leadership, he preached his last sermon from the pulpit at Fishing Creek on June 12, 1891. The next year he died and was buried in his family plot in Fishing Creek Cemetery. Many of his descendants still live and worship in the community today.)
*** Note that Rev. Saye’s son, Joseph H. Saye, M.D. was a prominent doctor, businessman, and politician in the Sharon, S.C.
The Herald reported of Feb. 19, 1896 – “Mrs. Saye, Sr., of Fishing Creek, was in town last Friday. She is now visiting her son, Dr. Saye of Sharon. She is wonderfully well preserved and is thinking seriously of going to Texas with Dr. Joe Saye and family.”
“Another stream of planting wealth flowed into Chester District from the low-country of South Carolina. The Izards from Charleston, who intermarried with the Greens, had plantations on the Catawba. Wilmot S. Gibbes, whose wife was a daughter of Chancellor deSaussure, built a summer home, later his principal residence, about 1825 which is still standing “W. Gibbs” on the Land’s Ford Road and “Major. Green’s” above Tivoli on the Catawba are both included (without plantation names) on the 1825 Mills map. Also appearing are “Dr. Cloud’s” near “Beckhamville P. O.” in East Chester and Degraftenreid’s on the Fishdam Road in West Chester. Dr. William Cloud owned ninety-eight slaves in 1840. By 1860 he owned one hundred and and refers to himself in his will made February 16, 1847, as ‘Wilmot S. Gibbs of Oakley Farm, Chester District.” The residence, known as Oakley Hall, and now altered, was originally a typical double-galleried (Charleston Brewton-House style) mansion with gardens, which were an up-country show place.” Information from: Names in South Carolina by C.H. Neuffer, Published by the S.C. Dept. of English, USC
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