Middleton Place
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Middleton Place

Williams Middleton, 1809-1883

williams-middleton.jpgWilliams Middleton was in Russia with his father and served as his secretary. Inheriting Middleton Place in 1846, he pursued the family's interest in rice culture, carried out agricultural experiments and further enhanced the Gardens with the introduction of azaleas (Azalea indica).

Although their late father had been a prominent member of the Union Party and a younger brother was a life-long United States Navy officer, in 1860 Williams and an older brother signed South Carolina's Ordinance of Secession that removed the state from the Union, leading to the Civil War. Only days after the fall of Charleston, in 1865 a detachment of the 56th New York Regiment occupied Middleton Place. On February 22nd, the Main House and flanking buildings were ransacked and burned, the ground strewn with books, paintings and other family treasures. At the close of the war, with financial help from his sister, Eliza Middleton Fisher of Philadelphia, and with a small income from phosphate mining, timber and lumber sales, Williams managed to hold on to the family plantation. He was able to repair the South Flanker sufficiently to make it the post-civil war family home.

Williams Middleton and his wife, Susan Pringle Smith, had two children, Elizabeth (Lilly, 1849-1915) and Henry (Hal, 1851-1932). Williams died in 1883. In 1886, an earthquake leveled what remained of the Main House and the North Flanker, while the restored South Flanker survived. Upon the death of her mother in 1900, Lilly inherited Middleton Place and though living in the upper part of the state, spent time at the plantation each year, doing what she could to maintain the property. Lilly died in 1915; her will stipulated that Middleton Place was to go to her young cousin, Charleston lawyer J. J. Pringle Smith, whose father and mother were both Middleton descendants. In 1925, he and his wife Heningham moved into the South Flanker, making it their winter home for succeeding decades.

For Middleton Place Foundation history, click here.

Middleton Place