Henry Middleton is born at The Oaks plantation near Goose Creek, SC. The second son of Arthur and Sarah Middleton, Henry’s early life is largely unknown.
The historic preservation work and interpretation of history at Middleton Place focuses on major contributions of the Middleton family as well as the enslaved Africans and African Americans who lived and worked here. The stories are a microcosm of United States history. From the early Colonial period through the Revolution, the early Republic, the Civil War era and beyond, they made a mark on the land, the colony, state and nation.Plan Your Visit
Henry Middleton is born at The Oaks plantation near Goose Creek, SC. The second son of Arthur and Sarah Middleton, Henry’s early life is largely unknown.
Henry married Mary Williams (1721-1761), the only daughter and heiress of John Williams, a wealthy landowner. Mary’s dowry included his house and the land that was to become Middleton Place. It was in that same year that Henry began to plan and build his grand garden.
Henry and Mary’s first child, Arthur is born. Mary would bear Henry six more children who would survive to adulthood.
Flankers were built on the north and south sides of the main house to meet the needs of Henry’s growing family. The North Flanker housed a library, collected art works and a music room. The South Flanker, which survived and today serves as a House Museum, was built as plantation offices and gentlemen’s guest quarters.
Henry’s wife, Mary Williams, died and was buried in the gardens at the site of the present Middleton Place Tomb.
Mary Izard Middleton, wife of Arthur, gives birth in London to their first child, Henry, named after his grandfather
The first Henry Middleton, long active in South Carolina political circles, is elected the second President of the First Continental Congress.
Arthur is elected to succeed his father as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress. In that capacity he was one of four South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Famed French botanist André Michaux brought Arthur Middleton the first Camellia Japonica to be planted in America. Originally situated in the four corners of the Parterre, one of the plants survives to this day.
Williams Middleton is born to Henry and Mary Helen Hering Middleton. He would inherit Middleton Place upon his father’s death in 1846.
Henry Middleton is appointed as America’s Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia by President James Monroe. He would serve in that capacity in St. Petersburg for the entire decade of the 1820s. His son, Williams, was his personal secretary from 1827-1830.
An upper level was added to the Spring House (originally built in the early 18th century). The room was soon being used as a chapel and Sunday school for slave children.
Williams Middleton built the Mill and dammed up the Mill Pond as part of an expansion of the Gardens that also included the introduction of azaleas, roses and tea olives.
Williams Middleton signs the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession, helping to dissolve the Union his grandfather and great-grandfather helped to build.
Just two months prior to the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, the House, outbuildings and Gardens were put to the torch by Union troops.
The South Flanker, the least damaged of the residential complex, was restored and enlarged to serve as the Middleton family’s primary residence. New housing built for freedmen was also added at this time, including present-day Eliza’s House.
Charleston’s Great Earthquake brought down the gutted walls of the main house and North Flanker and severely damaged the Gardens.
J.J. Pringle Smith, a direct descendant of the first Henry Middleton, inherits Middleton Place from his childless cousin Elizabeth Middleton, who owned the plantation following the death of her father, Williams Middleton in 1883.
J.J. and his wife, Heningham, move to Middleton Place and begin restoration of the Gardens.
A Guesthouse (the present day Restaurant), the Plantation Stableyards and the Rice Mill Pond Bridge were constructed.
The Garden Club of America awards its highest honor, the Bulkley Medal, to Middleton Place and declared it to be the most important and interesting garden in America.
The Stableyards opened as a living outdoor museum of African American history and culture.
Middleton Place is designated a National Historic Landmark.
After serving as a Middleton family residence until the year prior, the South Flanker opened as a house museum under the aegis of the Middleton Place Foundation, which was established in 1974.
The entire National Historic Landmark is given to the Middleton Place Foundation, which was established in 1974.
The Inn at Middleton Place is opened to guests and, in 1987, received the American Institute of Architects highest award.
Celebrating African-American heritage, Eliza’s House, a freedmen’s dwelling built in 1870, is opened to the public.
Demonstration rice field planted with Carolina Gold Rice.
Beyond the Fields, Slavery at Middleton Place permanent exhibit opened in Eliza’s House.
Through meticulous research of history, architecture, and horticulture and continuous digging into agriculture and archeology, art, artifacts, and journals, we keep alive the spirits, lessons, and stories of Middleton Place. American stories. Black stories. White stories. Essential, life‑changing human stories.
Upon his first wife Mary Williams’ death, Henry Middleton was left without a companion to help with his many estates and, more importantly, no mother for his six young children. Susannah, the youngest, had turned one year old just days before her mother’s death. This dilemma was resolved the following year when Henry married Maria Henrietta Bull (1721-1772), the daughter of the former Lieutenant Governor William Bull and Mary Quintyne. Maria Henrietta was a suitable wife for the widower Henry, having served as hostess for her father. She also assumed the role of the only mother the three youngest Middleton daughters would know.
On March 1, 1772, after ten years of marriage, Maria Henrietta Bull Middleton passed away at the age of forty-nine and was buried at what is now known as Old St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Charleston County, just a few miles downriver from Middleton Place. She was much loved and respected, as evidenced in August 1772, when her stepson Arthur named his first daughter Maria Henrietta in her honor.
Henry Middleton remained an unmarried widower for four years after his 2nd wife Maria Henrietta’s death, but in January 1776, he became the fourth husband of Lady Mary Mackenzie Clarke Drayton Ainslie. Lady Mary was born in Scotland, the daughter of George Mackenzie, third Earl of Cromartie. She came to Charleston in 1757 as the second wife of Thomas Drayton of Magnolia plantation. Drayton soon died and she married John Ainslie, another wealthy Low Country planter, who died in 1774. Harriott Pinckney Horry, Lady Mary’s goddaughter, described her as “not handsome but elegant, very clever and shrewd, a staunch friend and a capital woman of business.” Her marriage to Henry Middleton spanned the turbulent years of the American Revolution and the death of his daughter Sarah Pinckney. Lady Mary again found herself a widow when Henry Middleton died on June 13, 1784. Two years later she journeyed to Scotland to secure her portion of her late father’s estate. She died at sea on the return voyage to Charleston in 1788.
Annette Mayes was born at Middleton Place about 1846, her life spanning the days of slavery, Reconstruction, and first third of the 20th century. Her name first appears on Middleton Place slave lists in 1853, where she is listed with her father July (who took the surname Wright upon emancipation), mother Dye, and sister Molly.
Annette remained with the Middleton family after emancipation and traveled with them as a cook until the South Flanker was rebuilt and could be occupied. In about 1870, Susan Middleton wrote to her husband Williams, “There are only two rooms in the outbuilding at Brown’s [Hotel, Summerville]. Annette is established in one and the other is for the kitchen.”
According to the 1880 Federal Census, by that time Annette was married to Smart May and had five children – Wesley, Ezekiel, Israel, and twins Smart and Charles. The family lived on Middleton property, occupying a small tenant farmer house on Ashley River Road for a number of years. By 1900 Annette was a widow who continued to work at Middleton Place.
Much of what is known about Annette comes from stories told by those who knew her. According to her great-granddaughter Ruth Saunders Phillips, Annette held disdain for the Yankees, whom she blamed for all the strife at Middleton Place without realizing a great war had erupted. She had lived and worked at Middleton Place and therefore thought of herself as “high class.” She had been a slave but never thought of herself in that way. She merely had a job to do: feed the Middletons.
Beginning in 1925 “Miz Annette” taught her successor, Mary Sheppard, how to prepare meals for the 20th century owners of Middleton Place, Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Pringle Smith. By this time eighty-year-old Annette had become very territorial about her kitchen. Mary recalled that she considered her a young upstart and intruder, making it clear that Mary was not to touch “her” pots and pans. For a long time she made sure that as soon as she had finished cooking one meal, immediate preparations were started for the next, effectively keeping Mary away from “her” stove.
In 1926 Annette was photographed for a National Geographic Magazine article on Middleton Place. In the article she is shown checking stoneware crocks in the spring house. And, she kept on going. On November 5, 1931, the Smith’s daughter Josephine wrote her mother, “Remember me to all the servants please — Annette is a wonder!”
No records exist detailing when Annette retired from Middleton Place. She passed away at the home of her son Ezekiel on May 2, 1940.
Mary Leas Washington Sheppard was a woman who made a significant impact on Middleton Place in the twentieth century. She was born in Charleston on October 15, 1906, and at age seventeen went to work as a cook for Judge Henry Augustus Middleton Smith and his wife Emma Rutledge (both Middleton descendants) in their house at 26 Meeting Street.
The household also included the Smith’s son J.J. Pringle Smith, his wife Heningham, and their young daughter Josephine. A few years later, Pringle Smith inherited Middleton Place from his cousin Elizabeth (Lillie) Middleton Heyward, but the family only occupied it part of the year. Following Judge Smith’s death, Pringle and his family began to spend more time at Middleton Place in 1925, and took Mary with them to the country.
Mary was supposed to assist and understudy Annette Mays, the elderly cook who was born enslaved and had been at Middleton Place since antebellum days, but, according to Mary, Annette considered her a “young upstart and intruder.” Despite Annette, Mary established herself as an accomplished cook. She was interested in trying new methods and new recipes and worked with “Miss Henny” to improve or invent special dishes, several of which were later featured in magazines and cookbooks. However, a menu of typical Low Country dishes was always popular, especially with the many guests who came to Middleton Place from other parts of the country.
One of the most illustrious visitors to tour the Gardens and join Mrs. Smith for tea was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Not only did Mary prepare the light repast but she also served the ladies. The First Lady complimented her on the benne cookies and asked how she made them. “I tried to tell her,” Mary later remembered, “but you just can’t tell a person exactly how you make something…because I never measured things… and it’s kind of hard to judge heat when you’re cooking on a wood stove.”
Soon after she came to Middleton Place, Mary met and married fellow employee Thomas Sheppard. They resided in a house Mr. Smith built for them near the stableyards. Thomas died in 1946, and Mary’s only son, St. Julian Brown, died in 1989. Mary, however, cared for five generations of her own family and equally as many of Judge Smith’s family.
A vital link to the plantation’s early twentieth-century history, Mary Sheppard died on May 11, 1994, in the place she lived for sixty-eight years, her house in the Stableyards at Middleton Place.
“Young” Moro was born at Middleton Place around 1820. He began his enslavement with Governor Henry Middleton and continued with Henry’s son Williams. Around 1840 he married Rachel, a laundress, and together the couple was the parents of twelve children: Betsey, Ann, Jane, Rosa, Daniel, Castle, Moro, Celia, Parker, Moses, Rebecca, and Mary.
As is the case for most of the enslaved, any records or stories that have survived were written by their owners. Such is the case with Moro, a trusted butler. He demonstrated his regard for both Williams and Middleton Place many times. As rumors persisted that Union soldiers were preparing to burn the estate in 1865, Moro helped Williams hide and bury many family treasures, including the Benjamin West portrait of Arthur Middleton and his family, the portrait of Czar Nicholas, the Wood Nymph statue, and the Cerrachi bust of Washington. And, when Williams departed to the up country, Moro was left in charge of the property. According to multiple sources, Moro paid dearly for this responsibility. He was betrayed by other slaves and tortured by the invaders until he revealed where many of the valuable items were hidden. In June 1865, Williams wrote to his sister Eliza in Philadelphia, “I regret to say that Moro’s fidelity will avail me but little… all that he had saved for me at M. Place had been discovered & brought to Charleston & sold there.”
Moro continued to serve Williams and his family for some time following emancipation, both in town and at Middleton Place. Immediately after the war, Williams encouraged him to stay in Charleston and try to salvage what he could, rather than join the Middletons who had sought refuge in Darlington, South Carolina. By the time the family returned, Moro had saved enough furniture to help restore their lodgings a #1 Meeting Street.
Over the next two years, in addition to working in Charleston, Moro made several trips to Middleton Place to recover objects that they had hidden. In March 1867, Williams wrote to Eliza, “Moro has just returned from a fortnight’s visit to M. Place. To my great delight he has sorted out from concealed places some half dozen of my pictures.” His regard for the Middletons was again displayed when he referred to the art as “our pictures.”
In freedom, Moro took the surname Brewer. The family later came to live at 10 Limehouse Street in Charleston. He continued to work as a house servant and his wife Rachel as a laundress. Little is known of the children. In 1865, Union General Hatch sent one of the boys north when he withdrew from Charleston. In 1871, eleven year old Parker opened an account with the Freedman’s Bank, listing 1Meeting Street (the Middleton’s house) as his address. He also stated that Daniel was living in Aiken. In 1880, Rebecca became an apprentice to a dressmaker in Charleston. The most information available is for Castle, who became the pastor of a church in Sanford, Florida, and died there in 1935.
Rachel Brewer died in Charleston in 1887 and Moro in 1890.
In January 1741, Henry Middleton married Mary Baker Williams. Mary was the only surviving child and heiress of John Williams, a wealthy landowner, member of the House of Commons and a Justice of the Peace, and Mary Baker, whose family owned a number of plantations on the Ashley River. According to the St. George Parish Register, Mary Williams was baptized on August 7, 1721.
Henry and Mary were wed in Charleston. Included in Mary’s dowry of 2,248 acres was the three-story house on a bluff overlooking the Ashley River that Henry determined should be the family seat – the couple named it Middleton Place. Over the next twenty years of their marriage, Mary bore Henry twelve children, with only seven living to adulthood.
Sadly, Mary did not live to see her children reach adulthood nor grow old with her grandchildren. On January 9, 1761, at the age of forty, Mary Williams Middleton died and was buried at Middleton Place.
4Williams Middleton was the fifth son of Mary Helen Hering and Governor Henry Middleton. Born in 1809 on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, Williams attended school in England and then Paris when his parents and two older sisters went to Russia in 1820. He later joined his parents in St. Petersburg where he served as his father’s secretary in the U.S. legation. After his family’s return to the United States, he actively assisted his father in managing the Combahee River plantations, as well as Middleton Place. Upon his father’s death in 1846, Williams inherited Middleton Place and pursued the family’s interest in rice culture, carried out agricultural experiments, and further enhanced the Gardens with the introduction of azaleas (Azalea indica).
Along with his brothers John and Edward, Williams was named co-executor of his father’s estate. In addition to managing Middleton Place and other family properties, he was also responsible for seeing that his siblings’ interests, as outlined in their father’s will, were appropriately managed.
Although their late father had been a prominent member of the Union Party and younger brother Edward was a life-long United States Navy officer, in 1860 Williams and older brother John signed South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession that removed the state from the Union, leading to the Civil War.
Over-age for active military duty in the Civil War, Williams vigorously helped with the home front efforts, filling sandbags, providing supplies, and furnishing barbed wire for defense. He also contributed financially to the cause through the purchase of Confederate bonds. As Union troops advanced on South Carolina, he hid family valuables, including the Benjamin West painting of his grandparents and father and the Wood Nymph statue. Only days after the fall of Charleston, a detachment of the 56th New York Regiment occupied Middleton Place. On February 22, 1865, the Main House and flanker buildings were ransacked and burned, the ground strewn with books, paintings and other family treasures.
Williams was left nearly penniless at the close of the war because of his financial contributions to the Confederacy, loss of income from crops, emancipation of his enslaved workers, and destruction and seizure of property. He signed the Oath of Loyalty in 1865 and was eventually able to reclaim the family plantations and his Charleston house at #1 Meeting Street. With financial help from his sister, Eliza Middleton Fisher of Philadelphia, and with a small income from phosphate mining, timber and lumber sales, he managed to retain possession of Middleton Place. He repaired the South Flanker sufficiently to make it the post-civil war family home.
Williams Middleton married Susan Pringle Smith on January 11, 1849. The couple had two children, Elizabeth (Lilly), 1849-1915, and Henry (Hal) 1851-1932. Williams died in Greenville, SC, in 1883 and was interred in the family tomb at Middleton Place.
On Williams’ death, Middleton Place passed to his widow Susan, who made the necessary repairs to the south flanker after the earthquake of 1886. When she died in early 1900, their daughter Lilly inherited Middleton Place, though she never lived there as an adult. Lilly spent some time each year at Middleton Place overseeing improvements to the property and died, childless, in 1915. Her will stipulated the property was to go to her young cousin, the Charleston lawyer, John Julius Pringle Smith, a Middleton descendant through both Arthur, the Signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his sister, Henrietta.
Mary Izard was born July 31, 1747, the daughter of Col. Walter and Elizabeth Gibbes Izard. Both of her parents died by the time she was twelve years old and she was raised by family members. On August 19, 1764, Mary married Arthur Middleton, who had returned to Charleston from Cambridge University and become the master of Middleton Place.
The couple’s travel adventures began on May 24, 1768, when they embarked on an extended trip to Europe. During the journey the couple’s first child, Henry, was born in London. The young family sat for the monumental painting by Benjamin West before returning to Charleston in September 1771. When Arthur was elected to the Continental Congress in 1776, Mary and their three children accompanied him to Philadelphia.
Mary was left with tremendous responsibilities during the Revolutionary War, as Arthur remained busy and was away from the family for extended periods of time. In early 1779 she was forced to flee Middleton Place with the children when British marauders spread a path of destruction across the Low Country and the family was living in their Charleston house when the British laid siege to the city the following year.
The year 1780 was an emotionally trying year for Mary. Arthur refused to sign the loyalty oath to the king when Charleston surrendered to the British in May; on October 1, her brother John died at Cedar Grove; and finally, on November 15, General Cornwallis issued a proclamation confiscating Arthur’s estates, with the exception of property in Charleston, and took him into custody. Ten days later he joined the exiled patriots held in St. Augustine, Florida. That same day Mary gave birth to child number six. She also faced the challenge of having herself exempted from banishment to Philadelphia as the wife of a rebel and to have Middleton Place released from confiscation. Succeeding in this, she moved the children back to the Ashley River. There Mary remained, the mistress of Middleton Place and guardian of her children.
The stress of her responsibilities paid a toll on Mary’s health. In June 1782, the doctor reported to General Nathaniel Greene, whose American troops would soon occupy neighboring plantations, that Mrs. Middleton was “very seriously ill” and he couldn’t “rightly understand her complaint.” Hugh Rutledge (Edward’s brother) said that it was “an inflammation of the brain” and that “she has been subject to it.”
Mary seems to have recovered by mid-July, but again faced tragedy in September when her neighbor, friend, and sister-in-law Isabella died. While the loss was difficult for Mary, it had a profound effect on her future. Upon Isabella’s death, all of the Izard property passed to Mary. Although, as a married woman, the land legally belonged to her husband, they were now the owners of Cedar Grove on the Ashley River, plantations on the Combahee River, and other properties.
Life at Middleton Place reached a degree of normalcy following Arthur’s return in November 1782, but everything changed dramatically on January 1, 1787, when Arthur died suddenly. Thirty-nine-year-old Mary was left with eight children, ages sixteen months to sixteen years, and pregnant with her ninth. This unnamed son was born on June 12, 1787 and died ten days later. Because Arthur died intestate, South Carolina inheritance laws allowed Mary one-third of her husband’s estate by dowry rights. She selected Cedar Grove, Hobonny, and Old Combahee plantations as her inheritance.
Mary elected not to remarry, but instead remained single and managed her plantations. Her primary role, however, was matriarch and fierce protector of her family. In June 1814 Mary Izard Middleton suffered a stroke from which she never recovered, dying on July 12. She was survived by five of her children and thirty-nine grandchildren.
Mary Helen Hering was born in Jamaica to Philadelphia-native Mary Inglis and British Army Captain Julines Hering on July 16, 1774. Captain Hering owned sugar plantations on the island, but he moved the family to Clifton, his estate in Gloucester, when Mary was a small child. He had originally wanted to raise Mary and her siblings in Philadelphia, but with the outbreak of hostilities in the colonies, Capt. Hering decided that England would be a safer place.
When Henry Middleton, the eldest son of Arthur and Mary Izard Middleton, entered Mary Helen’s life in 1793, she was living with her mother at Bath, England. Friends described her as lively and charming, intelligent, loved, and admired. Mary Helen and Henry were married on November 13, 1794.
The couple remained in England and France until 1799. When they moved to Charleston, accompanied by their three young sons, they were welcomed warmly by Henry’s mother and sisters. Adjusting to life in South Carolina, however, was not always easy for Mary. Her first impressions of Middleton Place were that, although situated in a beautiful location, the house was rundown and dirty. And she never adjusted to the Low Country heat. Consequently, the family spent the warmest months elsewhere, such as Newport, Rhode Island; Flat Rock, North Carolina; and at Whitehall, their house in Greenville, South Carolina.
Mary was a popular addition to Charleston society and a great asset to her husband’s political career. Her social skills made her an excellent hostess, while she provided a stable support system at home. But, she was also tough. Over twenty-one years, she gave birth to fourteen children, with four dying during infancy. A dedicated mother, Mary personally saw to her children’s upbringing and education, encouraging each one to pursue their own interests and goals.
Henry’s political career sent the family across the state, to Washington D.C., and finally to St. Petersburg, Russia. Mary’s social, entertaining and diplomatic skills contributed to Henry’s 1820 appointment as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia. Life in St. Petersburg was filled with political and social engagements. However, there was still the fear of disease and unsanitary conditions in Russia, which led Henry and Mary to leave their four youngest children in England with her brother Oliver. Mary worried a great deal about her little ones, but she would not see them again for seven years. In January, 1827, twenty-three year old daughter Eleanor, who had accompanied her parents to St. Petersburg, fell mortally ill and died. The devastated parents sent for their younger children, who remained with them until the family’s return to Middleton Place in 1830.
Again Mary and her entire family had to readapt – this time to life in rural South Carolina. Financial problems quickly ensued. The family had heavily overextended in Russia. Additionally, the downward price of rice, poor harvests, and the general economic depression that later struck the nation (Panic of 1837) further contributed. As a result, Henry spent a great deal of time supervising the Combahee River plantations and conducting business in Charleston.
“Solitude and loneliness” were words Mary used in her letters to describe her life after their return from Russia. With Henry away so often, she and adult daughter Catherine were often the only family members at Middleton Place. Tragedy struck again in June 1838, when Mary’s oldest daughter Maria Henrietta, her husband Edward Pringle, and their two children, were killed aboard the steamship Pulaski when a boiler explosion sank the ship.
Henry Middleton died on June 14, 1846. Following her husband’s death, Mary Helen Hering Middleton moved to Philadelphia to be near her daughter Eliza. She passed away at the age of seventy-eight on May 24, 1850, and is buried in Philadelphia.
Henry Middleton, the second son of Arthur Middleton and Sarah Amory, was born near Goose Creek on the original land grant received by his grandfather Edward, who emigrated from England via Barbados. When his father died in 1737, twenty-year-old Henry inherited his home place, The Oaks in St. James Parish, and another 1600 acres of land on the Cooper River.
Four years later, Henry married the heiress Mary Williams. Her dowry and inheritance included a three-story brick house perfectly situated on a high bluff over the Ashley River and the surrounding five hundred acres. The couple established the family seat there, known ever since as Middleton Place, and, over the ensuing years, they developed the formal Gardens. In 1755, Henry further complemented the garden design and improved the indoor living spaces at Middleton Place by adding two dependencies, or flankers, on either side of the main house.
Like his father before him, Henry became an influential political leader in the colony. He served as Speaker of the Commons, Commissioner for Indian Affairs and a member of the Royal Governor’s Council until he resigned his seat in 1770 to become a leader of the opposition to British policy. He was chosen to represent South Carolina in the First Continental Congress and on October 20, 1774, was elected its second President. He was also elected as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress and once again was elected as its president, but declined to serve due to poor health. Despite this, he lent money for the revolutionary effort and sat on the Council of Safety, the Legislative Council, and the South Carolina Senate. Although he served the colony with honor and dedication, Henry’s conservative stance and concern for his family led him to accept the actuality of a British victory in South Carolina, and he was among those who sought protection under the Crown in 1780. He then retired in semi-exile to The Oaks in Goose Creek, distressed by the fate of his sons and sons-in-law.
Family was always at the heart of Henry Middleton’s actions, but often this heart was broken. He and his wife Mary Williams had twelve children, but only seven survived to adulthood. Mary died in 1761, and Henry married Maria Henrietta Bull the following year. After Maria’s death in 1772, he married Lady Mary Mackenzie, who survived him.
Henry Middleton was among the wealthiest landowners in South Carolina with more than 50,000 acres and at least 800 slaves. After the death of his wife Mary Williams, he lived at The Oaks until his death in 1784.
Henry and Mary Williams Middleton’s children surviving to adulthood were:
Henry Middleton, rice planter, politician and diplomat, was born in London, September 28, 1770, the son of Mary Izard and Arthur Middleton. As a young man, he traveled extensively in England and on the European continent before embarking on a political career as South Carolina Governor, U.S. Congressman and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. Petersburg.
Although well taught at home by tutors, the Revolution and his father’s early death in 1787 prevented his attending a university. Nevertheless, he was carefully groomed to take up the responsibility for public service inherent to his family. His uncles Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Edward Rutledge sent him north in 1790 to obtain “a thorough Knowledge of . . . his own country,” as they wrote in letters of introduction to Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Traveling to Europe later, Henry was in post-revolutionary Paris at the time of the controversial XYZ affair that strained relations between the France and the United States. Pinckney, was one of the American diplomats who left France after refusing to give a bribe to the French Foreign Minister.
In 1794 he married Mary Helen Hering, daughter of a British Army Captain, in England. On returning to South Carolina with his wife and three young sons, he took up the management of his family’s properties. An avid horticulturalist, Henry Middleton enlarged his grandfather’s gardens. He was a friend of André Michaux, the famous French botanist who introduced many exotic plants to America. Michaux visited Middleton Place, bringing with him the first camellias to be planted in an American garden. The Library in the Middleton Place House contains Thomas Walter’s Flora Caroliniana (1788) with Middleton’s notation, “NB: This was Michaux’s copy.”
He soon began a long career in politics, being elected to the State House of Representatives in 1802. His career went on to include tenure as State Senator, Governor of South Carolina, and member of the U.S. House of Representatives. During James Monroe’s tour of the South in 1819, Middleton hosted the President at Middleton Place.
Henry’s public life continued in early 1820 when President Monroe appointed him Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Russia. Fluent in French, the diplomatic language of the time, and familiar with Europe as well as knowledgeable about national affairs, he was well suited for the assignment. Henry Middleton, his wife, and several of their ten children left for Russia anticipating the normal stay of two or three years. Instead they stayed ten, during which time Middleton proved himself to be an adroit and able diplomat.
Returning home in 1830, Henry was diligent in managing the rice plantations that were the source of the family’s income. Henry Middleton died on June 14, 1846, in Charleston, where he was accorded a public funeral with military honors before being taken to Middleton Place for burial.
Henry Middleton’s children surviving to adulthood were:
Arthur Middleton was born at Middleton Place on June 26, 1742, the first-born child of Henry and Mary Williams Middleton. At the age of twelve he was sent to school in England, accompanying his Uncle William and his family when the latter emigrated there. He attended Harrow, Westminster School, Trinity College at Cambridge before being admitted to Middle Temple to study law.
Twenty-one year old Arthur returned to South Carolina on December 24, 1763, almost three years after his mother’s death. As eldest son, he inherited such of his mother’s property as had not been directly deeded to his father. This inheritance included Middleton Place, which became his residence on his marriage to Mary Izard the following year. The couple sailed for Europe in May 1768, not returning until September 1771. Their first child, Henry, was born in London in 1770 and their family portrait was painted by Benjamin West. Benjamin West was an important American artist who became the court painter of King George III. Arthur’s father Henry and brother Thomas also commissioned portraits of themselves by West. Visit the Gibbes Museum of Art in downtown Charleston to see a portrait of Thomas by Benjamin West.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Arthur became increasingly active in political life upon his return to South Carolina. Despite many years in England, his political temperament was colored by loyalty first to South Carolina, secondly to America, and to England, not at all. Arthur served as a member of the First and Second Provincial Congresses in South Carolina, was appointed to the Council of Safety and the committee to prepare a new state constitution. He also helped design the state seal.
When his father declined a third term as delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776, Arthur was elected in his stead and was actively involved in all aspects of its activities. A week after his thirty-fourth birthday (June 26, 1776), he voted on the crucial question of independence from Great Britain and, along with his brother-in-law Edward Rutledge and the other South Carolina delegates, later signed the Declaration of Independence. He gave up his seat in Congress at the end of 1777 and returned to Charleston.
When British forces approached Charleston in 1780, Arthur Middleton joined in the defense of the city. After the city fell, he was arrested and taken to the British garrison at St. Augustine, Florida. A year later he regained his freedom during a prisoner exchange in Philadelphia, where he remained in service in Congress until November 1782. He then returned to his family and Middleton Place after a two-year absence.
After the British retreat, Arthur devoted himself to the management of his several properties, including inheritances from his father and Izard lands inherited by his wife. Arthur died at Middleton Place on January 1, 1787 at the age of forty-five.
Arthur Middleton was survived by eight children:
As part of Middleton Place’s mission to share the stories of the enslaved people who made a way of life and an economic empire possible, the Middleton Place Foundation conducted a 10-year research project to reveal the names and stories of the more than 2,800 enslaved people owned by the Middleton family from 1738 to 1865. A permanent exhibit in Eliza’s House, a book, and documentary film explore the lives, families, and contributions of some seven generations of enslaved people.
The Beyond the Fields tour introduces visitors to the institution of slavery and the lives lived by enslaved Africans and African Americans – both slave and free - who labored at Middleton Place and other plantations throughout the South. It explores their personal and family lives, their faith, their leisure activities and the extraordinary cultural contributions they and their descendants made, and continue to make, to modern day America. Their story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.Explore Eliza's House