“Mechanic Eli Killian was not only a house contractor but also owned a tile factory. He was also an antebellum sash – door manufacturer in Columbia, S.C.”
City Directories and History: Mount Hope is significant as a relatively intact example of nineteenth century
vernacular architecture in Fairfield County and for its association with Dr. John Peyre Thomas, a prominent physician and amateur scientist. Dr.Thomas reportedly ordered the construction of Mount Hope in 1836 for $1,025 by a Mr. Killian, along with the construction of a kiln for making brick and tiles for the basement floor. Thomas graduated from South Carolina College, completed a medical degree in New York, and obtained one of the earliest medical licenses in South Carolina. His “Diary of Weather and Occurrences” provided one of the earliest meteorological chronicles for interior South Carolina. Mount Hope is a one-and-one-half story, weather boarded, frame residence on a raised basement. Three pedimented dormers with nine-over-nine windows pierce each slope of the gabled roof. Front and rear elevations have porches supported by 8-foot high masonry piers. The front porch features flush wall boards with a chair rail, a plain balustrade, pilasters, and six cedar columns. The rear elevation features two shed rooms which flank the porch, which has been screened. Side elevations display twin double-shouldered chimneys laid in Flemish bond. Outbuildings include a ca. 1850 frame smokehouse and a ca. 1875 tenant house. Listed in the National Register December 6, 1984. [Courtesy of the S.C. Dept. of Archives and History]
The owner of Mount Hope, Dr. Thomas came to Fairfield county in circa 1835, seeking a healthy climate for his family after the deaths in the low-country of two of his children and his wife. The following year, Dr. Thomas married his wife’s younger sister and fathered eighteen children. He died at Mount Hope on January 1, 1859. Thirteen of his eighteen children are buried at St. Stephen’s along with their father. At the end of the Civil War as Union troops were approaching Ridgeway, Colonel John Peyre Thomas, who had grown up in Ridgeway was in the area with cadets from the Arsenal Academy in Columbia, where he served as Superintendent. He is said to have visited his mother at Mount Hope and shortly thereafter she wrote in her diary, “Monday (Feb. 20), as we are hearing explosions and cannonading from Columbia, and we would listen in the yard and garden…” [Fairfield Sketchbook]
Mount Hope has been beautifully restored and maintained by the current owner. It is a truly magnificent piece of architecture having been constructed under the watchful eyes of Columbia contractor, Eli Killian. Killian was not only a house contractor but also had a tile factory and sash and door manufacturing business in Columbia, South Carolina. It is reported that he was paid $1,025. for the construction of Mount Hope, and it is likely that most of the materials came from his workshop and kilns in Richland County, South Carolina. The census lists Killian in both the 1850 and 1860 census as a very prosperous business man who often associated with carpenters, Philip Killian and Henry Y. Frazier. His shops were turning out both doors, windows and other architectural parts needed for buildings. These men are documented to have worked in Richland, Sumter and Fairfield counties building significant plantation homes as well as the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC, in 1845. The 1850 census states Eli Killian was age 38, married to Julia age 33 and within his household were Philip Killian age 24, a mechanic, as well as Levi Killian age 17, a carpenter. It also list Henry Y. Frazier another 23 year old carpenter as residing within his household. With a net worth of $7,780., Mr. Eli Killian was clearly a well healed contractor based in Columbia, S.C.
Click on Early Classical Revival for additional architectural data.
“At Mount Hope Scipio was an indispensable member of the family as companion of Charles’s grandfather. Grandfather Charles Edward Thomas served in the Army of Tennessee, C.S.A. Scipio accompanied him as his body servant and is credited with saving his life by getting the wounded soldier to a hospital in Atlanta. After the war Scipio continued as a revered member of the Thomas household. The present Charles writes, “Since Grandfather was ‘The Major’ to Scipio and I was named for him I became ‘Little Major.’ “Another name and person I liked and loved was Scipio’s wife, Queen Victoria. Although we called her ‘Vic,’ to Scipio she was always ‘Queen.’ They had a daughter who cooked for Mother and Father named Plumey. I cannot recall the origin of that name, but Plumey married Caesar, one of the most powerful men I ever knew, he lifted 500-pound bales of cotton on his back like lesser men lifted 50-pound bags of flour or sugar.”
Information from: Names in South Carolina by C.H. Neuffer, Published by the S.C. Dept. of English, USC
Click on the Sketchbook Article > link to find additional data – A Fairfield County Sketchbook, by J.S. Bolick, 2000 (Courtesy of the FCHS)
“Mount Hope Plantation, located about three miles from Ridgeway, just off the Winnsboro Road, was the home of Dr. John Peyre Thomas, who migrated to Fairfield County in 1836 from the Low Country.
The Thomas family had long been established on the Santee River. Thomas Hasell Thomas, father of John Peyre, resided at Betaw Plantation, St. Stephen Parish, Craven County. Dr. John Peyre’s plantation was Buckpond in St. John Parish, Berkeley; it was from here that he had moved to Fairfield County because of the continual epidemics of malaria.
The name Mount Hope has two possible origins. One is that it was so called because it provided a mountain of hope to those who were seeking a more healthful climate. The other, suggested by Miss Eleanor Walter Thomas, granddaughter of Dr. John Peyre, is that it was given this designation because of her grandfather’s admiration for the Indian Kin.
John Peyre Thomas, the builder of Mt. Hope, was of distinguished English – Huguenot ancestry. His great-great grandfather was the Rev. Samuel Thomas of St. James, Goose Creek, the first missionary sent to South Carolina (1702) by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. His mother was Ann Walter, daughter of Thomas Walter, the botanist, author of g Philip, Sachem of the Wampanoag Indians, whose chief town, on the eastern shore of Narragansett Bay, was called Mt. Hope. It was near here that Philip met his death on August 12, 1676, during the conflict known as King Philip’s War. Flora Caroliniana (1781), written entirely in Latin and composed, as the author says, “The construction of Mt. Hope was begun in 1838 and completed in 1840. The house resembles the architectural pattern of the Low Country plantation seats, having the characteristic cool, spacious ground-floor rooms below the level of the two main floors, and the wide front piazza on the first main floor, running the full length of the house.”
In earlier days there was a wonderful garden with many unusual plants, trees, and shrubs, enclosed by a handsome hedge of boxwood. Miss Katherine Theus Obear, in her Through the Years in Winnsboro, speaks of this beautiful garden and also of a weather vane in the form of a large fish, which she always looked for when she neared Mt. Hope.
In the Ante-Bellum era Mt. Hope was a classic example of the gracious living of the Low Country transplanted to the more rigorous environment of Upper South Carolina. However, after the passing of the years, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was established at Ridgeway; children were bom and grew up at Mt. Hope, Valencia, and neighboring plantations; sons and daughters married here, and this land became as sacred to them as the old parishes of St. Stephen and St. John had been to their forebears. g of Mt. Hope, there occurred a small exodus of planter families from the lower part of the state to Fairfield County. The Palmers, the Davises, the Gaillards, and the DuBose were among these. For many years the old ties with the Anglican Parishes along the Santee were still felt. One of the interesting stories of Mt. Hope passed down in the Thomas family tells of old Maum Chloe, who used to proudly boast: “The first piggin of water I ever carried was outa de Santee River.”
(Much of the information for this sketch was obtained from Miss Eleanor Walter Thomas, Walter Couturier Thomas, and Bishop Albert Sidney Thomas, granddaughter and grandsons of Dr. John Peyre Thomas.)
Also: Dr. Thomas died here in 1859, the father of eighteen children. His descendants still own the plantation house and much of the original land, including the adjoining Kennedy-Craig plantation with its old graveyards where slaves of the two plantations are buried along with early Kennedys and Craigs. After the Confederate War two of Dr. Thomas’ daughters, Miss Henrietta Eleanor Thomas and Miss Emily Walter Thomas, conducted the Mount Hope School in the ground floor rooms of the house for twenty years until the state’s public schools were reopened. Many of the local youths received their entire education here, and others went to colleges and universities throughout the country from the Mount Hope School.
Information from: Names in South Carolina by C.H. Neuffer, Published by the S.C. Dept. of English, USC
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