“John Bratton, M.D. builds his Italianate plantation home in the mid 19th century.”
City Directories and History: In the mid 1850′s York County was prospering through the growth of its cotton industry as well as through improved transportation and
technology. It was at this time that John Simpson Bratton, the son of Dr. John Bratton of the Homestead House at Brattonsville, began working on his own home with his wife Harriet. Originally, called Forrest Lawn or Forrest Hall, the house took its current name from the twentieth century owner, Mr. R. Fisher Draper who purchased the house about one hundred years after its construction.
Hightower, was beautifully constructed using the architectural plans outlined in William H. Ranlett’s book, The Architect, 1851. The home had simple details with little moldings besides those found in the right parlor as well as the beautifully painted “marbling” that graced both the 1st and 2nd floor halls. This style of painted became popular in the South just prior to the Civil War and included at times faux marbling and trompe l’oeil murals. It has been suggested by numerous individuals familiar with this house that the paintings were nearly exact to those originally on the walls of the Allison Plantation near Sharon, S.C. Following the acquisition of the house by the Drapers, according to Mr. Fisher Draper, Mr. Lee Settlemyer, the Director of the Museum of York County, was hired to repair the wall painting. Later paint historian and N.C., conservator George Fore documented the faux marbling as historically intact shortly after the
acquisition of Hightower by York County. Unfortunately, this distinctive feature was painted over during the filming of The Patriot, circa 1998, during a period when no one with decorative arts knowledge was employed at Historic Brattonsville.
Construction in 1854-56 was under the supervision of local
builder, Mr. O.P. Crawford and painter Charles Frazier. It is unknown if Mr. Frazier executed the marbling of the interior halls. Never-the-less, the house was built with the best of materials and most modern designs available to the region. Using a combination of what is called timber framing, the contractor also used the modern technique of balloon framing to speed up construction. The house with its original metal roof, high central tower, imposing outbuildings of equal design all created a plantation compound of outstanding architectural merit. Interior furnishings were acquired from commercial establishments in the Northeastern states and brought to the house to embellish the Bratton’s home. Excellent pictures of the marbled walls of Hightower can be viewed in the book Plantation Heritage, by Kenneth and Blanche Marsh, 1963- pages 48-49.
The Yorkville Enquirer reported on Jan. 11, 1893 – “Mr. Robert Witherspoon and family have moved from Yorkville to their farm near Brattonsville…”
Louise and Fisher Draper, the owners of the house and massive acreage in the early 1950-1990′s began discussions with the York County Historical Commission and the Friends of Historic Brattonsville, over their desire to save the house and have it once again re-united under the umbrella of Historic Brattonsville. Shortly thereafter, at the time of Mr. Draper’s death, his will allowed a one year grace period in which to purchase the house and over 1,000 acres. A committee of local “committed’ citizens including: Hiram Hutchison, William Wells, Murray White, Barbara Kurz (Chair of the YC HC), W.B. Fairey, Sr. (Ex. Director of Historic Brattonsville), George Hampton, Rep. Mr. Herb Kirsch and members from the S.C. Dept. of Wildlife began working to raise the funds needed to acquire the Draper farm. With the help of many interested privates and public groups, including the York County Council, the property was purchased for inclusion in Historic Brattonsville. Part of the property became the Draper Wildlife Area under the management of the South Carolina Dept. of Wildlife (SCDAR) and the balance was incorporated into Historic Brattonsville, as Fisher and Louise Draper had wished.
Hightower Hall was restored with great care in 2010 and is now open to the public. Note the Walker’s 1910 map shows the house as that of Robert Witherspoon’s, a Bratton descendant.
A. M. GRIST VISITS ROBERT J. MORROW (Albert M. Grist, editor of the Yorkville Enquirer, in 1931 took his green Chevrolet over York County weekly looking for stories for his column he called “Just A. Rolling Along the Way.” The interview with Robert J. Morrow appeared December 15, 1931.) Several months ago when I first began writing these jaunting sketches my old friend Robert J. Morrow, who is a tenant farmer on the Moore lands, two miles north of Yorkville, asked me to drop in at his home some time and said that he had a number of interesting things to show me….. I was cordially welcomed by Mr. Morrow, Mrs. Morrow and by John and Fred, their sons. Mr. Morrow is a native of Chester county and was born April 15, 1853. For 15 years in his younger days he worked as a carpenter in the town of Chester. In 1880 he came to York county as foreman of the farm of the late John W. Gladden for ten years. Later he supervised the farm of the late John S. Bratton, (Hightower Hall – see image of young couple with child standing in front of Hightower. The author has been told this was the Morrow family.) Rev. Marion Dargan and John R. Logan. Then he worked a farm belonging to Ferguson & Youngblood and now has been a tenant on the Moore farm for seven years. Incidentally, Mr. Morrow is a member of the Presbyterian church, Philanthropic Lodge No 32, A. F. M., of Yorkville; he is also a Woodman of the World, a Junior O. U. A. M. and has been an Odd Fellow and Pythian, and belonged in his time to all the farmer’s organizations, including the Grange, Farmers Alliance and Farmers Union. And, too he belonged to the original Ku Klux Klan…. . . . .Mr. Morrow [brought out] a Masonic quilt—that is, it is made up in squares and in every sequence there is sewed in a correctly formed emblem or symbol of everything connected with Masonry Mr. Morrow himself cut out all the many designs from the various colors of cloth used and his sister sewed the emblems in place between the strips of cloth composing the square. It is a splendid piece of work_ Mr. Morrow has another relic that was quite popular around these diggings some 55 years ago. This is the “Red Shirt” that he wore in the Hampton campaign of 1876 when the state was redeemed from the carpetbaggers. Across the breast of the shirt, now faded, in white stitching are the figures “1876”.. .[the late J. Bolivar Scott also had one of these shirts].
…. He also has a letter written by his mother’s brother, J. C. Crenshaw, when that young man was in the Confederate army. The latter was dated at Camp Fisher, High Point, N. C., Sept. 29, 1861. Along with the letter he has a daguerreotype of the young soldier that shows him posing proudly with his musket held up across his breast. And also a bone ring that was carved by the young soldier during his leisure moments in the Confederate army. The ring is quite elaborate with carvings, carrying some decorative designs around the edges and on its square face the initials of his mother, “M. A. M.” The gruesome fact about the ring is that it is said to have been made from a bone taking from a dead Yankee soldier…..
I said that Mr. Morrow belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. But he won’t talk about that much. Certainly doesn’t give any name of his fellow Kluxers because he took an oath not to divulge the names of fellow members and he is still sticking by that oath, though taken more than 60 years ago. But he showed me a faded slip of paper on which the following was inscribed:
“Bob, come to same old meeting place—old hickory tree at the woods bridge at eight o’clock—full meeting expected. J. L. M., Thorn Branch Klan, K. K. K.” Thorn Branch Klan was the lodge that Mr. Morrow belonged to in Chester county. He told me that the Klansmen in Chester county were not so aggressive as were those in York county and were not bothered much by the soldiers that were so active hereabouts in the early seventies. He did recall the fact that at the Klan trials in Columbia one Kirkland L. Gunn, a Klansman from the McConnellsville community…. (Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
For additional information on the house and the Cultural and Heritage Museums of York County please visit the following links: Hightower Hall, Historic Brattonsville Structures, Italianate, William H. Ranlett
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