Historic Structures

Stoney-Baynard House, Hilton Head Island South Carolina

Date added: June 9, 2016 Categories: South Carolina House Plantations & Farms

Before the American Revolution, land on which the Stoney-Baynard House stands was owned by John Bayley. Bayley's estate was confiscated by the State of South Carolina and sold at auction in 1782, at which time John Mark Verdier, a well-known merchant of Beaufort, and Thomas Fergusson purchased portions of the property. These parcels were later restored (ca.1794) to Benjamin Bayley. Subsequently, the site passed to members of the Stoney family but exactly when and under what circumstances cannot be determined. It is probable that two brothers, John and James Stoney, who were both merchants of Charleston, gained control of the property near the beginning of the nineteenth century in a speculative venture involving acquisition of cotton lands on Hilton Head Island.

Exactly when the tabby house was erected is unrecorded. Style and proportion suggest construction near the height of the Beaufort District's first cotton boom around 1800 to 1815 either by the Stoney brothers or possibly by their father, John Stoney, Sr. It is said, moreover, that the senior Stoney owned the property near the tum of the eighteenth century. Archaeological investigation supports a late eighteenth- or early nineteenth-century date; ceramic analysis indicates domestic activity was at its peak on the site between 1800 and 1810.

James Stoney probably occupied the house down to February of 1827 when a newspaper account reported that he died "at his late residence on Hilton Head Island, St. Luke's Parish."

The first known graphic representation of the dwelling and its surroundings is given by a federal hydrographic chart dated to 1838. This shows two clusters of buildings. One incorporated the main house and what was perhaps a smaller service building or flanker. The second building group was located some distance away to the northeast and included a slave settlement which, if accurately portrayed, comprised twenty-three separate dwellings arranged in two parallel rows, Assuming an average of four inhabitants per dwelling, this settlement accommodated around ninety-two individuals. Between the slave "street" and shoreline of Calibogue Sound stood another larger structure of unknown function.

While only a few local planters (less than ten percent) owned as many slaves, John Stoney was forced by the bankruptcy of certain business associates to borrow $400,000 from the Bank of Charleston in 1837. This debt, and others subsequently contracted, remained unpaid at the time of his death in November of 1838. Subsequent litigation by creditors forced the sale of his estates. The Bank of Charleston acquired the house under discussion and its surrounding lands in 1842. Three years later (1845) the same tract was sold, this time to William E. Baynard who acquired "all that plantation tract or piece of land on Hilton Head Island said to contain twelve hundred acres more or less" bounded north by land belonging to Henry Bond, east by the Atlantic Ocean, and south west by "Calibogue" or Tybee Sound. Baynard died four years later, the tract then passing to his son Ephraim.

The U.S. Coastal and Geodesic Survey chart Sea coast of South Carolina from the mouth of the Savannah River to May River, dated 1859-60 documents the plantation layout as it appeared under Ephraim Baynard. Since 1838 there had been changes, although little or no development had taken place around the main house which still stood with its flanking outbuilding isolated from the plantation's principal slave settlement. But the latter settlement had diminished in size and presumably in population, now comprising ten structures arranged irregularly in two discontinuous yet still parallel rows. Southwest of the slave row, seven additional structures appear, but their larger size and scattered distribution suggesting a group of barns, storage sheds or other agricultural buildings.

After falling into Union hands following the Battle of Port Royal on 9 November 1861. the Stoney-Baynard tract was sold by the U.S. Direct Tax Commission for unpaid taxes totaling $80 plus penalties in 1863. Advertisements for the sale call the plantation "Braddock's Point'', noting that it was "said to be or owned by Baynard and formerly by John Stoney." Valued at $4 ,000, the tract "bounded N and NE by Lawton Place, SE and S by the Atlantic Ocean; W and NW by Calibogue Sound" was somewhat smaller than it had been in 1842, containing 1,000 rather than 1,200 acres. Bought in at auction by the United States (for $845) Braddock's Point was redeemed, except for a 45-acre tract reserved for the construction of a lighthouse, by the heirs of William E. Baynard in August of 1875.

If the tabby house still stood at this time in anything approaching habitable condition is uncertain. On neighboring islands, such as Daufuskie and Spring Island, plantation structures were systematically looted during the Civil War for the sake of their materials and any valuables which may have been left behind by former owners. Given its elevated and conspicuous position, the Stoney-Baynard house cannot have escaped the attention of parties of foraging soldiers. However, rather than destroying it, there is evidence that at least one group was quartered in the main residence during June of 1864. Other Union men camped nearby, reoccupying or even refashioning outbuildings located to the northeast. Destruction could have come in 1867, when a fire swept through what was perhaps an already despoiled and-dilapidated structure.

After 1893, Braddock's Point was sub-divided and lost its former identity as the result of sales and amalgamation with adjacent properties. These passed to the Hilton Head company in 1950 and later to Sea Pines Plantation which ultimately (date uncertain) set aside land around the Stoney-Baynard house for recreational purposes.