Charleston national, originally stratton place plantation news

The golf course and residential community called Charleston National is located in North Mount Pleasant almost exactly 10 miles from the harbor. It fronts the broad marshes of Copahee Sound and, in the distance beyond, the barrier islands of Isle of Palms and Dewees Island. This is not only one of the loveliest residential communities, but the golf course has preserved much of the natural environment, it is historic and dates to the time of the Sewee Indians.

The Sewee called this area “Boowatt,” the meaning unknown except that, linguistically, the use of the word ‘boo’ usually denoted some sort of relationship with water. Here, the main watercourse is Porcher’s Creek (that’s pronounced Por-Shay for newcomers to the area), and one of the few deep-water tidal creeks on the Mount Pleasant seaside.

The creek took the Porcher name when the land came into their ownership in the 1890s. The plantation itself was known as Stratton Place.

In the distant past, perhaps for thousands of years, this creek with its marshes and broad salt flats was very much a part of the Sewee Indian culture. They surely had a village here, perhaps more than one, especially during the summers when they migrated from their inland winter living areas to take advantage of the fish and shellfish found in such bounty along the coast.

The late historian Anne King Gregorie, who grew up at adjoining Oakland Plantation, began collecting Sewee Indian pottery here when she was a child. This direct connection with things past helped spark her love of history. She was not only the first to write about the Sewee, but the first historian to write a comprehensive history of Christ Church Parish, the name used in colonial times for the broad area we now call Mount Pleasant.

When Charleston National was begun back in the 1980s, it was largely unchanged from the 1920s when Anne King Gregorie was a youngster marveling over Sewee pottery chards. In fact, historic maps and plats show that the geographic features have changed little over the centuries. The creek still winds in from the marsh following almost the same twists and turns the Sewee knew when they were here. The area has retained much of its original integrity and wildlife abounds, with flocks of ibis, herons, egrets and wood storks mingling with the occasional fox and small herds of deer who live in the marsh hummocks alongside the creek. Osprey nest here yearly.

Bell’s name shows up in the historical records when explorer John Lawson stopped at “Bell’s Island” in Dec. 1699-1700, as he started his explorations of the new land called Carolina. Lawson and his party were in long canoes, traversing the old Inland Passage behind the barrier islands. They spent the night on the island, hosted by one of Bell’s servants who lived alone on the island as a caretaker of Bell’s livestock. His dwelling was a crude, lean-to affair made of palmetto fronds that was “open to the heavens” on one side and to clouds of mosquitoes on the other.

Bell eventually purchased lands on the Santee River at the place the Indians called Hopsewee, selling both his mainland plantation and island to English colonist, Roger Player. Player also owned other tracts in the upper part of the parish along the Wando River, but this seaside tract was the main plantation for his family and descendants for a century.

Player was not alone. By the early 1700s, other settlers — the White, Whilden, Webb, Legare, Murrell, Bennett, Givens, Dearsley, Joy, Barton, Beniston, Bollough, Hamlin, Capers, Hartman, Huggins, Severance and Whiteside families – began carving out small plantations throughout this upper portion of the parish. These were not grand plantations but small farms of around 200-300 acres where they grew sustenance crops like corn, wheat and other grains.

The main industry in these beginning years was ranching – raising livestock, particularly cows, hogs, and sheep. This was big business in those early years. Providing meat to the Caribbean Islands was a profitable occupation. Likewise, the skins and leather made from same was a major export to England and parts of Europe. An unusually high number of the original Christ Church Parish settlers listed their occupation as cordwainer, i.e., a shoemaker who makes new shoes from new leather. Early wills and estate appraisals also show that many owned looms and were making wool from the sheep they raised.

In 1807, after a century on the land, the Player family sold the plantation to Edward Mortimer. Since he was married Martha Player, in a way the land was still in the family. Mortimer held the land until 1813, when it was sold to Daniel Legare, whose lands bounded the property to the west (today part of Park West and Carolina Park). Again, the land remained somewhat in the family through various marriages between the Legare and Player families.

The land next went in 1818 to Richard Tillia Morrison (who, not surprisingly, was married to Elizabeth Toomer Legare) and who also owned neighboring Oakland Plantation. Morrison owned the land for 18 years before it was sold back to the Legare family who, in 1838 sold the tract to Robert M. Venning, who only a year later sold to Thomas Hall Jervey. The Jervey family owned the land until 1896. After a very brief ownership by Joseph T. Dill, it came under the ownership of Philip G. Porcher, Sr. of Oakland Plantation and then to his son, Philip G. Porcher, Jr. At some point in this history it became known as Stratton Place and remained in the Porcher and allied Gregorie and Leland families until Charleston National was developed. Even today, portions of the property are still in Porcher family hands.

One wonders where Roger Player’s original plantation dwelling might have been located. My own supposition is that it was probably on high ground somewhat inland from the creek but overlooking it, so to have access to both the view and the cooling offshore breezes – perhaps in about the same area where the present Charleston National clubhouse stands today. A later house was erected in the 19th Century, the ruins excavated by archaeologists in 2000. This dwelling and outbuildings were built near today’s Stratton Place Rd. where it meets Hwy. 17. It was closer to the original Georgetown Rd., also known as the King’s Hwy., which ran pretty much along the same route as the frontage road we know today as Morgan’s Point Rd.