We visited Rose Hill Historic Site on the first day of 2022 for a guided tour of the house and a short 1.5 mile hike of the grounds leading to the Tyger River.
The plantation house was built by secession governor William Henry Gist in 1832. William Gist was the illegitimate son of Francis Gist. At age 12, he inherited the Union County acreage along with twenty slaves when his father died. His uncle took him under his wing and legally gave him the Gist name. William lived at Rose Hill with his family. He became a SC House representative, then a state senator then the governor of South Carolina 1858-1860. Gist was one of the signers of the 1860 Ordinance of Secession.
William Gist grew his property into a large cotton plantation and had owned 178 slaves by the start of the Civil war. Most of the previously enslaved left the plantation in 1865. Those who stayed farmed the land under labor contracts with Gist who had returned to Rose Hill by then. 17 families lived on and farmed the property by 1868. Gists’ two sons Richard and David were leaders in the Klu Klux Klan. Union County was the scene of much violence in the reconstruction period. Gist died in 1870 at Rose Hill. Following the death of his wife, tenants occupied the mansion.
The US Forest Service bought land in Union County including Rose Hill. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted The Sumter National Forest where cotton plantations used to be. In 1942 the mansion and 44 acres were acquired by the Daughters of the American Revolution who enlisted Clyde Franks to restore it. Rose Hill became a SC state park in 1960.
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