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The Allstons of Chicora Wood

Wealth, Honor, and Gentility in the South Carolina Lowcountry

William Kauffman Scarborough

Publication Year: 2011

William Kauffman Scarborough’s absorbing biography, The Allstons of Chicora Wood, chronicles the history of a South Carolina planter family from the opulent antebellum years through the trauma of the Civil War and postwar period. Scarborough’s examination of this extraordinarily enterprising family focuses on patriarch Robert R. F. W. Allston, his wife Adele Petigru Allston, and their daughter Elizabeth Allston Pringle Scarborough. Scarborough shows how Allston, in the four decades before the Civil War, converted a small patrimony into a Lowcountry agricultural empire of seven rice plantations, all the while earning an international reputation for the quality of his rice and his expertise. Scarborough also examines Allston’s twenty-eight-year career in the state legislature and as governor from 1856 to 1858. Upon his death in 1864, Robert Allston’s wife of thirty-two years, Adele, found herself at the head of the family. Scarborough traces how she successfully kept the family plantations afloat in the postwar years through a series of decisions that exhibited her astute business judgment and remarkable strength of character. In the next generation, one of the Allstons’ five children followed a similar path. Elizabeth “Bessie” Allston took over management of the remaining family plantations upon the death of her husband and, in order to pay off the plantation mortgages, embarked on a highly successful literary career. Bessie authored two books, the first treating her experiences as a woman rice planter and the second describing her childhood before the war. A major contribution to southern history, The Allstons of Chicora Wood provides a fascinating look at a prominent southern family that survived the traumas of war and challenges of Reconstruction.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

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pp. xi-xii

As usual, the most enjoyable aspect of this project has been the archival research. Happily, most of the primary materials on the Allstons . . .

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pp. 1-8

A number of distinguished Lowcountry families have left an indelible mark upon the political and economic history of South Carolina. One . . .

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1 THE EARLY YEARS: West Point and Return to Carolina

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pp. 9-17

Robert Francis Withers Allston was born on April 21, 1801, at Hagley plantation, a short distance below Waverly, his father’s Waccamaw River . . .

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pp. 18-31

Although Robert Allston occasionally seemed to manifest an almost casual attitude toward his contests for public office, it is clear that . . .

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pp. 32-61

However important were his contributions in the realms of politics, education, and religion, it was as a rice planter that Robert Allston achieved . . .

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4 CHURCH AND SCHOOL: Robert Allston’s Religious and Educational Contributions

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pp. 62-PS6

In addition to his role as a planter-politician, Robert Allston was also a prominent lay leader in the Protestant Episcopal Church and a strong proponent . . .

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5 POLITICS AND FAMILY: Senate President, the Nashville Convention, and Benat West Point, 1840–1855

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pp. 81-110

The decade and a half preceding his term as governor proved to be an eventful period for Robert Allston and his family. After serving continuously . . .

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pp. 111-129

In view of his narrow defeats in the gubernatorial elections of 1842 and 1844 and his long tenure as president of the State Senate, it is not surprising . . .

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7 WAR AND DEFEAT: The Deaths of James L. Petigru and Robert F. W. Allston, 1861–1865

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pp. 130-158

The guns that echoed over Charleston Harbor in April 1861 signaled the beginning of a conflict that would lead to the demise not only . . .

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8 POSTBELLUM TRAVAILS: Adele’s School, Return to Chicora Wood, Bessie as Woman Rice Planter

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pp. 159-183

The Allstons faced a dismal and foreboding future at the dawn of the postbellum era. The head of the family was gone, their slaves had been . . .

APPENDIX A: The Allston and Petigru Families

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pp. 185-187

APPENDIX B: The Allston Plantations

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pp. 188-189

APPENDIX C: The Public Career of Robert F. W. Allston

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p. 190-190


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pp. 191-196


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pp. 197-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780807138458
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807138434

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2011