South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXVIII
AGRICULTURE, BUSINESS, AND THE WAR OF 1812

THE REVOLUTION did not, of course, injure the self-sufficing agriculture of the back country as much as it did the coast-country system of producing staples for export. The bounty on indigo was gone. Plantations were disorganized; many fine properties were almost ruined. Coast planters on August 24, 1785, organized the South Carolina Society for Promoting and Improving Agriculture and Other Rural Concerns, which still functions as the Agricultural Society of South Carolina. In 1823 there were eleven such. In 1839 articles by Whitemarsh B. Seabrook in the Southern Ariculturist resulted in a call for all agricultural societies in South Carolina to meet in Columbia. Thus originated the State Agricultural Society. In 1840 it induced the legislature to appropriate $2,000 for a State agricultural and geological survey, and has continued its services to agriculture and other economic interests to this day.

Agricultural leadership was sadly needed. The sea island cotton planters, says Seabrook, followed the easy method of abandoning for new fields those they had exhausted except where necessity forced them to what experience proved more profitable. The large and fertile island of Edisto in 1822 contained not a plow or a scythe and only a few carts; but agriculture had greatly improved everywhere by 1843.

Colonel Thomas Shubrick's efforts in 1800 to encourage manuring were unavailing; but from 1808 the writings of John Taylor of Virginia on animal and vegetable manures became the gospel of South Carolina agriculture. John Palmer of St. Stephen's in 1808 was increasing his cotton yield fourfold by cattle manure, which he had used for ten years, and was growing wonderful corn by putting a pint of cotton seed around each hole. In 1800 and 1803 Kinsey Burden of St. Paul's derived great help from calcareous fertilizers, evidently marl, which was to remain neglected until the 1840's. Fertilizing was not systematically practiced in the State until about 1825.

Dyking the rivers out of the rich bottoms, the ordinary means of reclaiming tide-water rice lands, was occasionally practiced farther land. David R. Williams, in about 1809, completed his five-mile dyke near Society Hill, and was almost beaten for Congress because a man

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