The Hauntings of Fenwick Hall Plantation, John’s Island SC

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Black and white photo of the front of Fenwick Hall

The Hauntings of Fenwick Hall Plantation, John’s Island SC

 

Fenwick Hall Plantation on John’s Island is a place with quite a fascinating history. The property has been Indian raids, both sides of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and has managed to survive hurricanes in its 300-year history. A place that’s seen this much action surely has a ghost or two, right? Well, Fenwick Hall doesn’t just have ghosts, it also has a Headless Horseman, looking for his wife 300 years later. 

 

The History Fenwick Hall Plantation

From 1703-1800

John Fenwick was a transplant from Britain and arrived on John’s Island in 1703. He was appointed the Commissioner of the Indian Tract and had Indians on the island as neighbors. The first house there was a notched log cabin along the Stono River,  which he moved into with his wife Elizabeth Gibbs, daughter of the Governor.  After 1730, the log cabin was replaced with a Georgian-style plantation home. John’s son Edward Sr. not only inherited the home but also 11,000 acres of property in 1747. 

 

Edward also had horse stables and a racetrack built on the property because he bred horses. This is why the island is also known as John’s Island Stud. He was one of the founders of the South Carolina Jockey Club. He often traveled back and forth to England to find horses to add to his estate. Tensions ran high in the home between Edward Sr. was a Patriot for the Americans but his sons Edward Jr. and Thomas were staunch British Loyalists during the American Revolution. 

 

When Edward Sr. Died in 1775, the sons got control of the plantation as well as the acreage and the slaves who worked it. During the 1780 British occupation of Charleston, Sir Henry Clinton overtook Fenwick Hall to use as headquarters of the army. Thomas was a true Loyalist, but there are a few different versions of Edward Jr.’s true nature. 

 

In a harrowing tale, it was said that the Fenwicks sent out a dinner invitation to their American neighbors. Edward Jr. then sent the information on their numbers and the British surrounded them. The story claims that the Americans surrendered but only to be slaughtered. 

 

More commonly, it is explained that Edward Jr. was a double agent, feeding information to American General Nathaniel Greene in 1872. This is used to explain how after the war, he was able to keep his citizenship and ownership of Fenwick Hall while overseas in England. His brother Thomas escaped to Jamaica after the war. 

 

Fenwick Hall was sold to John Gibbes, and it’s believed he was the one who added the curious octagonal brick extension. It did throw off the Georgian symmetry but was beautifully functional in its own way. The large Adamesque-style tower was in fashion at the time and allowed for more room for entertaining extra guests. 

 

A blueprint of Fenwick Hall Plantation in 1938
A blueprint of Fenwick Hall Plantation in 1938

 

From 1803-2000

Gibbes died in 1803, and a string of owners followed all the way until the 1930s. By that time the building had been abandoned after its fields were razed in the Civil War and were looted by soldiers. The land around the home had been whittled down to a parcel of 55 acres for development and livestock. The building was in dire need of repair and restoration, and Victor and Marjorie Morawetz purchased the place to give it the elbow grease it needed. 

 

The house changed hands after that again a few times, but the most interesting change for the old plantation was in 1980. New owners came in and turned the Colonial mansion into an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center for the ultra-wealthy called the Fenwick Hall Hospital.

 

Considered more of a day spa than a real treatment center, a stay cost about $9,000 per month. The house was damaged when holes were drilled in original paneling, the kitchen had a commercial kitchen shoved into it and the fire suppression system caused more damage. A hand-painted mural in the great room from 1931 is painted over and historic doors are painted with black spray paint. 

 

In 1985 Fenwick’s land was annexed to Charleston for development and zoning. The hospital lasted until 1995, where it was costing up to $14,000 a month to stay. Only a security guard and the plantations ghosts still in the abandoned house until 2000, when the newest owners bought it and renamed it Fenwick Hall Plantation.

 

The new owners have been living and restoring the old place up to the current day. Fenwick Hall is safe for now. 

 

Now, what about the ghosts that are supposed to haunt the mansion?

 

The Legends of Fenwick Hall

 

The Secret Tunnel

 

There was a secret tunnel in the basement, but the reason for it being there is still unknown. Some stories claim that the Fenwick’s had pirate gold, and hid treasure there as it led it to the Stono River. It could have been used as an escape tunnel from the various armies that had used the house. However, the entrance to this tunnel was confirmed in the newspapers in the 1950s. It was collapsed, unfortunately. 

 

The Star-Crossed Lovers

 

The most infamous ghost story from the island is also the most tragic. Edward Sr. had a teenage daughter named Ann who, like her father, loved to ride and racehorses. He gifted her with a beautiful black stallion, who Ann came to love dearly. Her daily riding also brought her closer to the handsome Irish groom Tony who would accompany her on her rounds. After a few months, she realized she was in love and told her father she wanted to marry him. Edward Sr. was furious, stating that he wasn’t good enough for her. She and Tony eloped and were secretly married, then hid in an abandoned cabin in the marsh.

 

Unforutanyl, her father found them the next day. When Ann told him they were married, he ordered his men to tie a rope around Tony’s neck. He was hoisted up on a horse facing backward, and Edward Sr. gave Ann the riding crop. He forced her to strike the horse on its rump, hanging her own husband. 

 

She screamed his name and fainted. When she woke up in her own bed again, she began frantically searching for Tony, calling out again and again. When her mother told her what happened, Ann simply snapped. She never believed the truth about his death, and was said to have spent the rest of her life wondering the house and property, gentling calling out his name: “Tony, Tony, Tony!” She was said to have died shortly after of a broken heart.

 

Afterward, a strange vision began to appear in the marsh. A headless horseman would ride through the property on moonlit nights, suggesting that Tony was not just hung, but decapitated. Whether he’s looking for his head or his wife, he’s been seen for over 200 years. 

 

It might not all be bad, though. Some people have claimed to have seen a spectral vision of a man and a woman in white, walking hand in hand underneath the old gnarled oaks that line the drive to the plantation house. 

 

Ghostly Happenings

 

Ann’s whispers and calls for her husband are not the only things to happen inside the plantation house. There’s been reports of footsteps and ghostly apparitions. 

 

One family descendant who was staying with their aunt and uncle in Fenwick Hall described how one morning they woke up to find the living room was in shambles. All the furniture had been rearranged in the middle of the night. “The ghosties did it,” the aunt simply said. “They live here too.” 

References:

http://www.fenwickhall.com/fenwickcastlelegends.html

https://theghostdoctor.com/the-thwarted-lovers-of-fenwick-hall-plantation/

https://www.kiawahlegends.com/the-legend-of-fenwick-hall/

http://www.fenwickhall.com/fenwickshistory.html

 

Pictures Used:

https://picryl.com/media/fenwick-hall-plantation-johns-island-charleston-county-south-carolina-8

https://picryl.com/media/fenwick-hall-plantation-garden-pond-johns-island-charleston-county-south-carolina

https://picryl.com/media/fenwick-hall-plantation-northeast-of-intersection-of-river-road-and-maybank-47

 

Want to see for yourself what ghostly tales haunt Charleston? Please check us out at Charleston Terrors for ticket information and other stories of this most haunted city. 

http://charlestonterrors.com