For centuries, the region surrounding Ashley Hall Plantation has held a powerful magic over the people who have lived there.

The verdant soil and slow-moving tidal rivers of South Carolina’s Lowcountry have provided a rich bounty for those willing to live at the land’s relaxed yet unalterable pace.

The first-known Native American inhabitants of the Late Woodland period left numerous artifacts on the grounds of the plantation including a wealth of pottery, stone tools, and arrowheads. There are indications that the area surrounding the property could have once been a settlement or significant gathering place for one or more of the local prehistoric tribes.

In the early 1670s, Stephen Bull – an English settler, surveyor and diplomat – came to North America and settled just north of the newfound settlement of Charles Town. In 1676, he was granted 400 acres along the fertile banks of the Ashley River and founded one of the first plantations in South Carolina, Ashley Hall. Here, he built the house where he lived and where his children were born – a small single-story dwelling of brick and tabby (a local concrete made from the ash of burned oyster shells) that still stands today as one of the oldest surviving structures in South Carolina.

The Bull family would grow to be one of the most prominent in South Carolina and the entire Antebellum South. Their ranks included a colonial governor, lieutenant governor, the first American-born physician in the British colonies and a founder of the College of Charleston. By the late 1700s, their plantation had grown to around 1,000 acres. The family founder, Stephen, had gained a well-earned reputation as a diplomat between the British colony and Native Americans in the region – so much so, that the Etiwan tribe named him one of their chiefs. Throughout the 18th century, the Bull family and Ashley Hall continued to play a vital role in the relations between Europeans and native peoples. The plantation served as the site where the treaty that ended the Cherokee War of 1763 was signed.

In 1704, Stephen’s son, William, built a grand house that would remain the family’s residence for the next 150 years. William became the colonial governor of South Carolina and saw the colony through the tumultuous years during the Stono Rebellion and the Charles Town Fire of 1740. His son, William Bull, Jr., could be considered a true renaissance man. A European-educated doctor, he also helped bring significant educational reforms to the colony and designed the plantation’s formal gardens. The monument (circa 1797) that stands on the property today was erected in his honor by his widow.

The Civil War brought down the curtain on the Bull family’s role at Ashley Hall when its last owner, Colonel William Izard Bull, set fire to the plantation house to keep it from the advancing Union Army. But even though these first chapters have been closed for over a century now, this rich history remains and will remain an integral part of Ashley Hall Plantation.

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