From the Drayton Hall Collections: Elizabeth Bull Drayton’s Mourning Pendant

by Sarah Stroud Clarke, Archaeologist & Curator of Collections

The Drayton Hall collections span centuries and generations of Drayton family members. This month we are highlighting an object that is related to the John Drayton (1715-1779) family through marriage. Pictured below is the front (left) and reverse (right) of a mourning pendant honoring Elizabeth Bull Drayton (c.1716-1751).

morning pendant duo black

Elizabeth was married to John’s older brother Thomas Drayton (c. 1708-1760). Thomas and Elizabeth were married at St. Andrews Parish on December 30th, 1730 and during the course of their 21 years of marriage had ten children, only three of whom appear to have survived to adulthood. One of their children, William Drayton (1733-1790) became a chief justice and corresponded with both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. There is yet another interesting connection between the Drayton and Bull families in that Elizabeth Bull Drayton’s younger sister, Charlotta Bull (1719-1743) became John Drayton’s second wife; a connection most likely made through Thomas and Elizabeth. John and Charlotta were married on November 14, 1741 following the death of his first wife, Sarah Cattell Drayton, who was buried at St. Andrews Parish on December 24, 1740.

This mourning pendant most likely belonged to Thomas and Elizabeth’s daughter Mary Drayton Fenwick (1734-1806), who was 17 at the time of her mother’s death. Mourning jewelry such as pendants and brooches were most often worn by women upon the death of a loved one. The front of this pendant is a black stone, possibly obsidian, painted with gold leaf the inscription: ELIZ:, DRAYTON, OB 6, NOV. 1751, AET:35, meaning Elizabeth Drayton, Died November 6, 1751 at the age of 35. According to the records of St. Andrews Parish, November 6, 1751 was the date of Elizabeth’s burial at the church. The reverse of the pendant contains a beveled piece of leaded glass covering a plait of finely woven blonde hair belonging to Elizabeth Bull Drayton. It is clear from the wear pattern of the loop at the top of the pendant that this object was well worn. Many thanks to Grahame Long, Chief Curator at the Charleston Museum, for his knowledge pertaining to mourning jewelry and assistance regarding this object.

Drayton Hall Museum Collection, NT 85.1, Measures: 7/8”x1/2”. Gift of Mr. Peter Barratt.

The Women of Drayton Hall: Ann Drayton, Rebecca Perry Drayton, and Charlotte Drayton Manigault

Drayton Hall is celebrating its legacy of remarkable women, past and present, during National Women’s History Month. Over the past three centuries, Drayton Hall has been home to generations of women who have distinguished themselves in remarkable ways. This month, we are highlighting the lives of three members of the Drayton family: Ann Drayton (c. 1680-1742), Rebecca Perry Drayton (1758-1840), and Charlotte Drayton Manigault (1781-1855). 

By Brittany Lavelle Tulla

We’re familiar with the men of Drayton Hall, but how much do we know about the women of Drayton Hall? The ones who maintained and protected Drayton Hall,  who kept the property going even during times of turbulence and chaos, and who were successful business women and entrepreneurs? Ann Drayton (c. 1680-1742), Rebecca Perry Drayton (1758-1840) and Charlotte Drayton Manigault (1781-1855) are names that deserve to be synonymous with the grandeur and strength of Drayton Hall.

Ann Drayton

Ann and Thomas, the parents of John Drayton, lived at what is today Magnolia Plantation. By 1719, Ann found herself a widowed mother of four. She chose not to remarry, and instead positioned herself within the ranks of the male planter elite with an objective to ensure a financial cushion for her young children. She served as manager of the family estate and by the time of her death in 1742, she had significantly multiplied her family’s properties, becoming one of the most successful female landholders of her time. It was Ann’s social status and financial holdings that allowed her children’s entry into the southern elite and ultimately set the foundation for her youngest son John to construct Drayton Hall. It was Ann who paid John’s outstanding property taxes, gave him twice the land his father bequeathed to him, and brokered his marriages into some of the most powerful families in the South.

Rebecca Perry Drayton

portrait scan 83

portrait 82

portrait scan 84

From l-r: Miniature portraits of Rebecca Perry Drayton and her daughters Ann Drayton (1778-1830) and Susannah Drayton (1777-1810), c. 1787. Scanned images are from the exhibit catalog Henry Benbridge (1743-1812): American Portrait Painter.

In 1775 at the age of 60, John married 17-year-old Rebecca Perry, and Drayton Hall gained its youngest, and perhaps most significant, colonial mistress. Yet four years later, at the age of 21, Rebecca found herself a widowed mother of three. She managed Drayton Hall as the British army occupied its lands, and protected and ensured the survival of the estate her husband spent his lifetime creating.

Rebecca followed in her mother-in law’s footsteps and never remarried. By 1810, she had invested in over a dozen property holdings in Charleston. She was a renegade in a man’s world, claiming real estate in every corner of the city and even secured properties for her daughters and her slaves. She transitioned from a teenage bride to a commanding entrepreneur. A widow for over 60 years, she did not require the protection of a man or the law to expand the property holdings of her branch of the Drayton family tree.

Rebecca’s stepson Charles took ownership of Drayton Hall by the 1790s, and the environment manifested by both Ann and Rebecca became the background to childhood memories for Charles’ daughter, Charlotte. At the age of 19, Charlotte married Joseph Manigault, and she moved to a new residence on the peninsula, the Joseph Manigault House (c. 1802).

Charlotte Drayton Manigault
Mrs. Joseph Manigault (Charlotte Drayton) by Edward Greene Malbone, c. 1801. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Pearl G. Manigault.

Mrs. Joseph Manigault (Charlotte Drayton) by Edward Greene Malbone, c. 1801. Image courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Pearl G. Manigault.

Charlotte used art and her appreciation for the built environment as a respite from her domestic responsibility. She created valuable watercolors and sketches of her family’s Lowcountry plantations. Today, artwork and architectural descriptions from her diary provide us with some of the most accurate documentations of her family’s estate as well as other Lowcountry residences. She also carried on the Drayton women tradition of meticulously conducting business on behalf of her husband (who died in 1843) and sons, by meeting with clients, regulating finances, and surveying downtown markets. Today, her portrait welcomes visitors into the Joseph Manigault House, and its centralized placement is a well-deserved representation of the Drayton women influence.

The lives of these women clearly attest to how a mother, a wife, and a daughter drastically strengthen the mosaic of the historic landscape and architecture of Drayton Hall and ultimately the American South. Together, they established, advanced, protected, and conserved the memory of the Drayton estate. Their legacy stands the test of time.

BVL logoBrittany Lavelle Tulla is owner and lead researcher of BVL Historic Preservation Research, a Charleston-based historic research firm dedicated to embracing and preserving historic places through researching and profiling the history that shapes them. She is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Historic Preservation and Community Planning at the College of Charleston and the national research consultant for the Charleston World Heritage Coalition. Brittany received a Master of Science degree in Historic Preservation from the College of Charleston/Clemson University joint graduate program, where she completed her thesis “The Making of a Legacy: The Drayton Women and Their Influences on the Lowcountry Landscape and Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Charleston.” Drayton Hall stole Brittany’s heart from the moment she walked on the property. Its history and landscape has been woven into every fabric of her life, and in 2013, she got married on the banks of the Ashley River at Drayton Hall.

A Tribute to Miss Sally

At the close of Women’s History Month, we would like to pay tribute to Sally Reahard, an important benefactress of Drayton Hall. Miss Sally, as she preferred to be called, passed away a decade ago, but her love and support for Drayton Hall can still be seen on the site today. The following tribute is written by Drayton Hall Executive Director George W. McDaniel, who knew and admired Miss Sally and worked with her closely.

By George W. McDaniel, Executive Director

How to characterize Miss Sally? She was her own person, to be sure. She was an original, sui generis. I think most would agree that she was astute and lively. She cut to the chase, and always presented herself well. She didn’t suffer fools or idle chit-chat. She loved to talk, but it was about things of substance, whether history, preservation, conservation, or about forks in the road and which one to take.

A young Miss Sally conveying her love for the outdoors and her joie de vivre spirit.

A young Miss Sally conveying her love for the outdoors and her joie de vivre attitude.

Miss Sally grew up in Indianapolis and went to Sweet Briar College in Virginia. In the small world that this is, she was two years behind my mother, who’d grown up in Atlanta. She remembered Mother well and sent me pictures from the Sweet Briar annual of Mother and also of herself and of my mother’s friends who’d gone to Sweet Briar. Some were classmates of Miss Sally, one, in fact, being my next door neighbor growing up in Atlanta and two others, my “aunts” by affection, one in Atlanta, the other in Augusta, Ga.

The pictures capture Miss Sally’s personality. I wish you could have known her. When I visited her, I encouraged her to visit Charleston since she had so many friends here and had done so much for the city and its museums, historic sites, and conservation organizations, but she refused. She had a number of friends here from her visits in the 1930s and had made new ones, thanks to the fact that she was a wonderful and frequent letter writer and telephone caller. She corresponded with many Charlestonians, subscribed to The Post and Courier, and even wallpapered one of her rooms with scenes from Charleston. She talked to different people and got different points of view on topics related to Drayton Hall. As a result, you had better be well grounded when you talked to her. She really liked Chris and Booie Chappell, who live here on the property, and they were constant correspondents. She also thought highly of Bob Barker and George Neil, the assistant director when I arrived, and my predecessor Letisha Galbraith. She loved our preservation mission, especially in regard to the main house, as well as our efforts to conserve the Ashley River.

Miss Sally

Her devoted and skillful attorney, Gene Wilkins, gave her excellent advice, and together they crafted a strategy for philanthropy. They thought things through, and just as she sought to invest her financial assets wisely to reap a good return, so too she sought to invest her philanthropy wisely. Gene was her right hand man, her candid and thoughtful sounding board, who was not afraid to speak his mind, which she appreciated. During her lifetime, she gave away millions of dollars to non-profits, small and large, especially in Indiana, Michigan, and South Carolina, to organizations whose work she believed in. Upon her death, she left an estate totaling c. $180 million, and she gave it all away.

As you walk around Drayton Hall, you can see things today that are a product, as a whole or in part, of her and Gene’s strategy of philanthropy—things one might take for granted. They include, but are not limited to the following:

• Drayton Hall itself (she gave the leadership private gift)
• water from North Charleston supplying our fire hydrants, the site having had no fire hydrants in the event of fire
• the replacement terne metal roof on the main house, which saved Drayton Hall during Hurricane Hugo
• stabilization of the historical paint and plaster in the main house
• the current administration building
• the Miss Sally Cottage, where the Chappells live
• the preservation department building, tractor/equipment shed, and related site work
• two sets of rip rap on the Ashley River: one at the end of the allée and the other being longer in length and upstream
• the land across the river
• the re-engineered road and parking lot with its sand/shell/gravel mixture (not just sand and gravel, as earlier, which had consistently wash boarded and rutted deeply)
• annual donations each year of c. $50-60K for general operating support
• an endowment bequest of $16M

Miss Sally and George McDaniel

As you can see, all of these things were essential. No frou-frou. When I gave a eulogy at her funeral, I talked about these essential things, and in the interests of time, chose to accent the rip rap, the pile of rocks, seemingly non-descript, but absolutely essential to the preservation of the mid-18th century garden house, one of the oldest sites of a garden house in the South, if not the nation. Each year we’d been losing about 1 foot of the soft riverbank due to erosion caused by wakes from speed boats. We’d won support from the US Corps of Engineers for the installation of rip rap, but had to have a 25% match for the total cost of $280,000. George Neil, assistant director at the time, and I presented the case, and Miss Sally stepped up and provided $70,000 for the match. What a difference she made! To get a sense of just how close the threat was to the garden house, walk out to the live oak behind it. You would have been standing above the river, for the root ball was barely supported by the earth beneath it, so deeply undercut had the riverbank become. Thanks to Miss Sally, that site, so important to garden design, social history, and horticulture, has now been preserved and exemplifies what she has done for us today and for future generations.

That’s the kind of person she was—she wanted action that made a difference to the good. So next time you get a chance, please take a walk to the garden house and out to the live oak, look down and around at the entirety of this remarkable site, and say a word of thanks to Miss Sally.