“One of the most unique antebellum villages in the South.”
City Directories and History: The centerpiece of Historic Brattonsville remains the impressive Greek Revival home known as the Homestead House. Constructed in three or more periods, the house encompasses the history of the region’s prosperous planter class in a manner rarely found or preserved for public viewing. Originally the home had a small front porch “stoop” without the flanking wings or brick dependencies that enhance the dwelling’s architectural merit.
John S. Bratton, the son of Colonel William and Martha Bratton was educated as a M.D., and became affluent both through the production of cotton as well as the practice of medicine. An entrepreneur of the highest character, John began amassing a small kingdom at an early age. As a young married planter, he and his wife Harriet Rainey – Bratton, most likely resided in the Revolutionary cabin of his parents. By 1820 he was clearly outgrowing the house and wanted a new dwelling reflective of his community standing. Local contractor-carpenter, Mr. Henry Alexander (1772-1845) was hired to being work on what would evolve into the Homestead house in circa 1823. The builder had previously worked on many other dwellings in the area including that of Dr. J. Moore. He was paid approximately $1,500 for the construction of the home and other amounts were paid out to other local artisans who painted and plastered the dwelling. Dr. Bratton’s family moved into the Homestead and continued to not only grown in numbers but the plantation was also expanding rapidly. Brick flankers were added, a brick entertainment area “the detached dining hall”, framed wings added to either side of the home, and later the front double porches were constructed to update the dwelling.
Mrs. Bratton was left with extensive responsibilities following the death of her husband in 1843. Under her skilled management the plantation continued to thrive and many additional slave cabins, barns, store, gin house and overseers home became part of the massive farming complex. She was more than adequately assisted by her brother Samuel Rainey and sons John S. Bratton, Jr., Samuel Bratton, and James Rufus Bratton who were each old enough to want their own homes and careers. Following the Civil War, Mrs. Bratton continued living in the Homestead but certainly not in the fashion she had once enjoyed. The war had financially destroyed their lives and rebuilding Brattonsville was not in the cards. Over the following decades the Bratton family continued maintaining an interest in their ancestral homes but with limited resources, all the historic building began deteriorating. The first of these to go where log buildings and barns, the later the brick slave cabins and dependencies began to crumble as their roofs failed. By the 1950′s the entire historic district was in poor condition and even with the best efforts of both Mr. C.M. Neely and Jimmy Neely, who lived across the street, vandalism was rampant. The Neely family had long been associated with the Brattons and had farmed and cared for the Bratton properties for decades.
Dr. James Rufus Bratton of Florence, S.C., agreed to lease the Homestead House and a few acres to York County for potential restoration in the early 1970′s. This opened the window of opportunity for preservation of the Homestead under the leadership of the York County Historical Commission, who hired Joe Rainey to begin working to preserve the house and open it to the public as part of the county’s Bicentennial celebrations. He was ability assisted by a number of volunteers primarily from York, SC including the late Mrs. Jane Spratt. Under his leadership, workman from York County’s jail as well as a few hired carpenters began piecing the house together. It was during this period that the staircase was rebuilt, windows reconstructed, shutters reproduced, doors repairs, mantels repaired, and the front porch added. The Bicentennial celebration at Historic Brattonsville was a major success and the following December, the home was opened for a private thank you to volunteers and invited guests. This was the first modern Christmas Celebration at the site, a tradition which was opened to the public by the last 1970’s and has continued for over thirty years.
The Herald reported on Nov. 28, 1896 – “W. S. Creighton is sinking a tube well on the place of Mrs. Bratton at Brattonsville.” (On Dec. 2, 1896 – “Mrs. J.S. Bratton’s well at Bethesda is finished. It is 125 ft deep and gives perfect satisfaction.”)
Interested in learning more about Joseph McGill’s – Slave Cabin Project click on the link here.
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