City Directories and History:The historic Goshen Hill plantation home (northeast of Whitmire, S.C.), of George Douglass was one of the handsome rural dwellings
that once abounded in Union County’s antebellum period. The house was constructed in circa 1832-33, using materials that were acquired locally as well as in Columbia. Judging from the number of documents related to the William Kelly Papers (private collection), it was William Kelly and his barge that most likely transported any materials from Columbia to the area. It was also Kelly, who rented three of his slaves, to the Douglass family to use in constructing the home.
“James Douglas built a two-and-one-half-story house about 1839 (inaccurate date), which he called “The Oaks.” Although a product of the Classical Revival, the treatment has lightness not unusual in that period. Instead of columns rising two stories, the double piazza has small fluted Doric columns that are superimposed, and a pediment containing a fanlight. Both first and second floor piazza entrances have delicately carved wooden keystones. A master craftsman among the slaves (is reported to have) acted as superintendent of construction.”
R&R Note: The slave referred to here, most likely, was none other than a slave artisan belonging to local bargeman, William Kelly – R&R.com Collection (Kelly Shipping Documents)
Information from: Names in South Carolina by C.H. Neuffer, Published by the S.C. Dept. of English, USC
From Mrs. Philip D. Flynn of Union regarding Pea Ridge in Union County: “I have always heard that people living in the rich Goshen Hill section of Union County spoke of land on the Ridge as being “too poor to sprout peas”—hence the name Pea Ridge, now the richest and best farming land in the county due to good farming methods including the planting of pea vines. “In the 1860’s Prof. Thaddeus C. Lowe, on a balloon flight from Ohio, landed in the Pea Ridge section and immediately was suspected of being a spy, some starting after him with pitchforks. When he gave the Masonic distress sign, Colonel I. G. McKissick befriended him.”
Information from: Names in South Carolina by C.H. Neuffer, Published by the S.C. Dept. of English, USC
R&R Notes: Take notice of how similar the Douglass’s fine home was to both Albion in Fairfield County, with the exception of the front porches, and particularly the McNeil House in Chester County. Each of these structures were contemporary to that of the Oaks. Click on the History Thread icons to enjoy!
Also see the Renwick House ruins on the attached map – known as Orange Hall. Connected to the old Jews Harp Springs link, below, to examine the excellent work at the house by stonecutter J.E. Sherman, who worked extensively throughout Union County. Author James Kibler in his Our Father’s Fields, writes: “In 1860 the master of Orange Hill also employed Sherman to carve more elaborate mantels to bring the house, (Orange Hall), into the latest fashion… Also in 1860 Sherman carved the granite base of the spring at Orange Hall 325 yards north of the house. This spring, now called the Jew’s Harp Spring, has become legendary in the area. The base stone has a carved Jew’s harp design where the water flows from the earth…..”
NOTES ON THE RENWICK FAMILY OF NEWBERRY AND UNION COUNTIES
William Renwick was born in Newberry County, SC to a distinguished family of Scots-Irish origins. An ancestor was a leading minister in the Scottish Covenanter movement, Rev. James Renwick. Born on February 15, 1662 in Dumfrieshire, Scotland, James Renwick was the son of Andrew and Elizabeth Corson Renwick. He was educated at Edinburgh University and the University of Groningen in The Netherlands. After being ordained in 1683, he became a leader of the Covenanters, a group of Scottish Presbyterians who refused to swear allegiance to the King and insisted on a purely Reformed church. The Covenanters were harshly persecuted by the forces of the King, and many were executed. Renwick led many worship meetings in secret (called Conventicles), and was the leader of the Covenanter movement for several years. He performed hundreds of baptisms and weddings for Covenanter believers who refused to submit to the established church. In May 1685, he participated in developing the Sanquhar Declaration, a major declaration of the beliefs of the Covenanter movement. He was seized by the King’s troups and placed in prison in Edinburgh, pleading guilty to three charges: refusing the King’s authority over the church, not paying taxes, and persuading his followers to attend Covenanter worship services. He was hanged on February 17, 1688 at the age of 26.
The family fled to Northern Ireland. About 1735, a grandson of Rev. James Renwick was born in County Antrim, John Renwick. He became a minister and in 1770 he led a large part of his congregation as immigrants to Newberry County, SC. Others had come as early as 1767, and later immigrants came in 1772. This colony of Associate Presbyterians settled in the fertile region between the Enoree River and the Dutch Fork area. They formed two congregations, King’s Creek and Cannon’s Creek in 1772 with Rev. John Renwick as pastor. During the early years of the churches, Rev. Renwick died in 1775, at the age of 40. The congregations had struggled with no minister for a number of years, but eventually grew into strong rural churches. With the church union of 1792, they became congregations of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP).
Rev. John Renwick, Jr. was born on December 31, 1770 at sea as his family was sailing to America. He grew up in the King’s Creek/Cannon’s Creek community. In 1789, he married Jane Wright Bothwell, who was the widow of the ARP minister Rev, David Bothwell. He was ordained as a minister in 1806. In 1809, he became pastor of the Gilder’s Creek ARP Church in Newberry County and the Warrior’s Creek church in Laurens County. He served as Moderator of the Synod, the highest office in the denomination, in 1826. He died in 1836 at the age of 66.
William W. Renwick was born to Rev. John and Jane Wright Bothwell Renwick about 1812 in the King’s Creek area of Newberry County. He received a strong classical education, graduating from South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina) in 1839. He grew up under the influence of his pastor father and within the confines of a community which was growing more wealthy during the pre-Civil War years. William W. Renwick became a planter and teacher. He married Rosannah Rogers of Orange Hall plantation in Union County in 1848, and it appears that they had at least two sons, named John, born about 1848 and James, born around 1849. Rosannah’s father, John A. Rogers, Jr. died just before her marriage to William Renwick, and the couple became the occupants of Orange Hall Plantation. Tragically, Rosannah died on January 4, 1850 when her boys were infants. Renwick was a successful planter and for some time was the founder of the Renwick Academy, which educated the sons of the rising class of successful farmers of the area in the pre-Civil War years.
The 1850 Census shows William as a Planter in Union County with real estate worth $4,000. Rosannah had died before the census was taken, and the household shows sons John, age 2 and James, age five months. The 1850 Census of Agriculture lists William Renwick with 924 acres of land, 300 of which was improved (being actively farmed). The plantation had four horses, five mules, six milk cows, two working oxen, 17 other cattle, and 40 swine. The value of his livestock was placed at $745. His crops the previous year included 35 bushels of wheat, 1,200 bushels of corn, and 100 bushels of oats.
The 1860 Census shows a household which still consisted of William Renwick and his sons John and James, both shown as about 12 years old. The address is shown as Goshen Hill, Union County. The real estate value is listed as $30,000 and the personal estate value is listed as $40,000, probably indicating a number of slaves. By 1864, shortly before emancipation, Renwick controlled 1,400 acres with 533 in cultivation. The number of slaves over age 12 was 35. The 1860 Census of Manufacturing shows that William Renwick was operating a saw mill with capital invested of $4,000. The mill ran on steam power and employed five hands. During the previous year, the mill had produced 300,000 feet of plank with a value of $4,000.
The 1870 Census showed William Renwick living at Cromers, Newberry County. In the household with him were five people unrelated to him who were natives of Prussia. Frederick and Anna Donce (Dance?) were listed as farm laborer and house keeper. Also in the household were Mikhell Niman, age 30, farm laborer, Annie Niman, age 17, and Caroline Fabrain (spelling uncertain), age 11. It is unsure if Renwick was managing the farm or owned it. He is listed as “farmer.” This shows the decline in wealth and position of many of the planters after the Civil War. Our Fathers’ Fields: A Southern Story by James Everett Kibler provides a full discussion of the fate of Orange Hall Plantation and other nearby plantation estates after the war. When William Renwick died in 1872, his sons sold off his library to secure funds to survive. James, the younger son, married Mary McCarley from Walnut Grove Plantation in Spartanburg County. Their grandson, John Renwick, was born at Orange Hall in 1918 and the Renwicks left the estate in the early 1920s. The house at Orange Hall no longer exists.
Researched and written by Paul M. Gettys for R&R.com – 2019
Dan Love, Scottish Covenanter Stories: Tales from the Killing Times, Wilson Publishing, Glasgow, Scotland, 2000.
The Centennial History of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, published by the Synod, 1905.
James Everett Kibler, Our Fathers’ Fields: A Southern Story, University of South Carolina Press, 1998.
Various U. S. Census reports.
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