Botany Bay Plantation is a wildlife preserve on Edisto Island consisting of 3,363-acres under the
management of SC Department of Natural Resources. Formed in the 1930's when Dr. James Greenway combined the two previous plantations originally owned by the Townsend family, Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud, it got its name from the barrier island that was near, but not a part of the Bleak Hall property--Botany Bay Island. Some of the island's previous names were Tucker Island, Watch Island and Clark's Bay. The last owners, John and Margaret Meyer, deeded the property to the state.
Botany Bay Island was much larger in the early days of Bleak Hall Plantation--covered with an impenetrable tropical jungle of wild oaks, palmettos, and cedars just twenty yards from the shoreline. Over the years, the ocean has encroached on the land. Now, only a narrow, pristine strip of beach two miles long and lined with a sun-bleached boneyard of weatherworn dead timber remains--loved by photographers. It was separated from the large plantation by an inlet and a smaller island named "Porky," a shortened name from "Pour-quoi." While crossing the marsh to the beach, you will pass an outcropping of trees and plants called Hammock Island.
At the outset of the Civil War in 1861, by orders from the Confederate government, the steamboat "Beauregard" evacuated everyone from Edisto Island and the plantations. Both Confederate and Union troops used the cupola on Bleak Hall as a lookout. At the wars end, the plantations laid devastated. The valuable silver, china, and furniture that was left behind by the Townsends were carried away or destroyed by Freedmen and the Federals. When the Townsends returned in 1866, the house was occupied by former slaves. Shortly thereafter, it burned down. A new one was built in its place, but later torn down and a modern house was built nearby. Neither houses of Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud remain.
Like all Southern plantations legends abound. One involves a "bee hive well" called Jacob's well--a well surrounded by a wall of tabby with a steeple-shaped roof and the name "Jacobus Fecit" cut into one of its sides. In its early days, it was rumored to be a place where lovers secretly rendezvoused. It is believed a little gray man stands guard over the well to keep its waters pure and only allow the "pure in heart" drink from it.
Another story involves the plantation cemetery located at the fork in the road where you turn right to go to Bleak Hall or left to go to Sea Cloud. After leaving a clearing, you enter a narrow road surrounded by dense undergrowth and trees. Here you will feel the first wave of hot air hit the back of your neck, then again and again until you leave the area. The slaves believed this hot air to be the "Hags breath" and if you linger, she will cast a terrible spell that could even cause your death.
A third legend speaks of a Portuguese man wearing large gold earrings and a red bandanna fashioned into a turban who roams the shores of Botany Bay. Seven of his victims were discovered on the beach--all of them standing straight up in the sand.
Botany Bay Plantation is a magical place with a secluded beach unsurpassed on the Atlantic coast and located on Edisto Island not far from Edisto Beach. In fact, from Botany Bay's shell-covered beach you can see Edisto Beach to the right and Seabrook Island to the left. You can take a tour of the plantation featuring 15 points of interest by car. Keep an eye out for the Portuguese man and do not linger near the cemetery if you feel a waft of hot air on the back of your neck--Botany Bay Ecotours. Location: Botany Bay Rd., Edisto Island, SC--Map