The region south of the Mason-Dixon line is dotted with historic antebellum plantations, but few of them have the history of Rose Hill Plantation. Built in the 1830’s, Rose Hill Plantation was the home of William Henry Gist, the governor of South Carolina from 1858 to 1860. Gist is most famous for his leadership of the south’s secessionist movement following the election of President Lincoln, a movement that led to the Civil War.
In 1860, the plantation reached its apex, producing nearly 300 bales of cotton and over 4000 bushels of corn. These products would be floated down the adjacent Tyger River or, because the Tyger River is only navigable part of the year, transported by cart to the Broad River. The plantation survived Union General Sherman’s destructive 1864 march because the flooded Broad River made the plantation inaccessible to his army. After the war, Gist received a pardon from President Johnson, after which he returned to Rose Hill to lease the plantation to sharecroppers. Gist died in 1874, and he is buried in a cemetery plot adjacent to the plantation house.
Today Rose Hill Plantation house sits on the 44-acre state historic site that bears its name, but most of the plantation grounds lie in Sumter National Forest, which surrounds the historic site. Plantation house tours are offered at 11A, 1P, and 3P Thursday-Monday, but the plantation grounds are open during all daylight hours. For hikers, two short trails tour the grounds: the 0.6 mile nature trail loop and the 0.94 mile out-and-back Tyger River Trail. This hike combines both trails to see all the site has to see.
The town closest to Rose Hill is Union, South Carolina although Cross Keys, a dot on the map, has a little interesting history as well. According to local legend, Jefferson Davis ate his last meal there prior to his final cabinet meeting as president of the Confederate States of America.