Northern Money, Southern Land: The Lowcountry Plantation Sketches of Chlotilde R. Martin
Parry, Pamela Ann, South Carolina Historical Magazine
Northern Money, Southern Land: The Lowcountry Plantation Sketches ofChlotilde R. Martin. Edited by Robert B. Cuthbert and StephenG. Hoffius. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2009. Pp. xxv, 274; $34.95, cloth.)
Once upon a time in South Carolina, affluent Yankees gobbled up romantic plantations, and the new landowners lived happily ever after in their charming second homes. Although this idyllic scenario is hyperbolic, it comes close to the emotional mood of this collection of newspaper articles, which is beautifully edited and enhanced with supplemental research. Northern Money, Southern Land pays compliment to a unique time and place and the woman who "may have been the first female full-time news reporter" in the state (p. xv) . This dual contribution makes the book invaluable to anyone interested in South Carolina history, as well as to media historians who have begun to take seriously the contributions of women to the field of journalism. Chlotilde R. Martin was a journalistic trailblazer, working for several newspapers, managing three weekly publications, and penning a weekly column entitled "Lowcountry Gossip." This book helps to shed light on her journalistic prowess.
Writing for the Charleston News and Courier, Martin produced more than fifty pieces covering nearly eighty properties in the coastal region, with most of them running in the paper from the fall of 1930 to 1 932. Her assignment was to write "a series of illustrated stories about the estates in coastal South Carolina purchased and improved by wealthy men, from the Savannah river [sic] to Georgetown" (p. xiv). These landowners were northern elites with "double addresses" (p. xiii). In other words, their primary residences were in the North, but they spent time in South Carolina. This group of seasonal residents included some of the most prestigious names in the country, from EhiPont to Vanderbilt. Martin's editor, William Watts Ball, wanted the articles to reflect his belief that the socialites' infusion of cash into South Carolina was a positive good. He also wanted to bolster the image of the coast, and he saw these articles as a means to that end.
Martin relished her assignment, writing about the plantations and their new owners as if she were creating a fairytale. She noted that many of society's ills melted in this region, and "under the spell of January sunshine slanting through brown woods, these things did not seem to matter particularly. They were not real. They were like the fire breathing dragons . . . kept away from the enchanted forest by a kind godmother with a magic wand" (p. xxiv). Her audience ate up the stories about the rich arrivals from the North and their lavish homes, with some readers quickly suggesting that the pieces be compiled into a book. …