My friends Laura, Ann and I booked a tour of Hobcaw Barony on 12/10/2020. Hobcaw is located in Georgetown county, SC. I had no idea of the historical and current day significance of the property or the prominent family that owned it. I learned a lot on the tour then came home to research further. Hobcaw is a native American word that means between the waters. The property is located between a river and the Atlantic ocean. Its history goes back centuries ago when it was inhabited by native Americans. In 1718, Lord Carteret claimed it. The land exchanged hands until it was divided into 11 rice plantations that required slaves to maintain. Georgetown was a major port of entry for slaves from Barbados and West Africa. The plantation owners became the richest in the country. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, rice production declined drastically leaving behind poverty in Georgetown county.
In 1905 Bernard Baruch started to buy the rice plantations, by the time he finished, he had purchased 16,000 acres. After the original home burned down, he built a new one in 1930 that he used as a winter home for his family. The house remains in a great shape today. When we visited it was beautifully decorated for Christmas. The interior is simply grand. The view overlooking the bay is spectacular. Baruch was born in Camden, SC to a physician father and a SC native mother. When he was eleven his family moved to New York city. He completed his studies and started working on Wall Street where he became a broker and millionaire by age 30. He married an Episcopalian socialite from New York and had three children. Mr. Baruch was an adviser to seven US presidents and took on important roles after world war I and II. At Hobcaw he hosted the likes of Winston Churchill, president Roosevelt and other notable personalities where they enjoyed hunting on the expansive property.
From 1936 until 1956, Belle Baruch, Bernard’s oldest daughter purchased Hobcaw Barony from her father. Belle was an accomplished equestrian who won over 300 male dominated equestrian competitions in Europe. She was also a pilot, having received her license in 1939 as well a sailor, a hunter and a philanthropist. She built a home in Hobcaw complete with a runway for the two planes that she used to travel back and forth to New York. The tour guides explained that when Mr. Baruch bought the land, a there were freed men, women and children still living on the property with no water or electricity or plumbing. The Baruchs employed them in an effort to better their economic situation. Belle insured that African-American children who still lived there attended school. The African Americans started leaving for better opportunities in 1935 after a bridge was built across the Winyah Bay.
Belle loved the property. She created The Belle Baruch Foundation to protect it after her passing. The 16,000 acres can only be used for research and education. Clemson University and The University of South Carolina conduct research in coastal science, marine biology and forestry at Hobcaw while Francis Marion University and Coastal Carolina conduct research in cultural, historical and archeological studies.
Our tour consisted of visiting the slave quarters in Friendship village that include slave houses, a church, a dispensary. We also visited Bernard Baruch’s winter home but no pictures were allowed inside. I am looking forward for another tour to visit Belle’s home and perhaps other cultural sites on the property. The only way to visit Hobcaw is by booking a tour online, the cost is $30 per person. PBS documented the history of Hobcaw Barony. A link to their video can be found a the end of my blog.
Bernard Baruch’s Home
There is a great 30 min video put together by PBS that tells the story of Hobcaw Barony. You can find it here.