Graham-Rouse-Phillips-Williamson House | Horry County, South Carolina | c. 1890
This incredible structure has been home to 4 different families over the years who farmed the large property where it’s located. Today, it sits on 175+ acres, but at one point, this home was at the center of a tract of land that spanned more than 3,000 acres. And while it’s empty today, its clear that this house has the potential to be one of the most remarkable homes in the state if someone steps up to save her.
Located in the Upper Coastal region of South Carolina, the original land grant for this property dates back to the very early days of the Carolina colony. In 1739, King George II granted more than 3,000 acres here on the Mitchell Swamp to Thomas Waring. In 1766, Waring sold the land to John Graham, an immigrant from Scotland.
John ‘The Immigrant’ Graham
Born about 1710, John Graham began his life in Argyle Scotland but on June 15, 1733, he and his wife, Mary Johnston Graham, boarded the ship ‘The Georgia Pink’ headed for the new world with 2 sons and a daughter. They arrived in Savannah on August 29, 1733, as one of the first families to help settle the new 13th colony. Named for King George of Great Britain, the colony served as a military barrier between the Carolinas and Spanish Florida, and included the land between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers and westward.
But things weren’t smooth in the new world. Polluted drinking water in the river led to disease and many settlers didn’t make it through this initial period. Some of those who succumbed were both of Graham’s sons, who died in Savannah just a few months after they arrived. Other issues began to mount as settlers opposed regulations in the new colony that restricted the import of strong liquor, owning slaves, and their ability to self-govern. In 1734, John came to square off with the trustees when he was designated “a riotous fellow” and fined for keeping his hat on in court. Five years later in 1739, John and Mary packed up and moved to South Carolina.
The Grahams in South Carolina
It’s unclear where John and Mary were from 1739-1765, but in 1766, he re-appears in the records when he buys 3,000+ acres from Thomas Waring in Horry County (pronounced O-Ree). Descendants have maintained the original seal that was used when John received the land grant. Ten years later in 1768 or 1776, John acquired an additional 500 acres adjacent to his original grant, creating one of the largest plantations in this region during the era.
Sometime before 1780, John died and his land passes down to his sons, John and William. Over the following century, the property continued to be passed down through the Graham line which grew larger and larger. In 1888, the farm is deeded to John Quincy Graham, great-great-grandson of John Graham from Scotland.
The House of Eight Gables
Between 1888 and 1890, John Quincy Graham built this unique home that is known as the House of Eight Gables. Built completely of cypress, the Victorian-style home is just over 5,000 square feet. Chimneys two stories high cap both sides of the building, providing fireplaces in 6 of the 10 interior rooms with intricately designed mantels, specific to each hearth. The home has a porch on the front and back and features decorative scrollwork that was milled nearby. Unique for this area, the House of Eight Gables stands out amongst the more modest structures of the Pee Dee River region. The large, two-story barn on the property is equally impressive for its kind, although it was built in the early 1900s by a later family.
A Long Chain of Ownership
The following decades would bring three new families who would come to call this place home. Initially, John Quincy Graham sold it to his sister, Sallie Graham Horne, and her husband, Marshall Horne in 1896. Sallie and Marshall would raise 5 children in this home, 4 of whom were born within these walls. In 1906, the home was sold to William and Helen Rouse who would make their home here with a large family until 1927. Times were difficult for farmers during this era and unfortunately, the farm was sold at auction. The next owner was John Phillips and then his son, Glettie Phillips, who owned it from 1943-2004. According to one local, this was the last time that the house was regularly lived in, although its new owners lived nearby and did what they could to look after it.
In 2021, the house and surrounding farm were sold. And although I’m not sure of the intentions of its new owner, I hope they’ll honor the long connection that the house and land have to the history of South Carolina.
The Old Graham Place: No Longer Standing
Before the House of Eight Gables, the Graham Family and all of its members likely lived in many homes. But at the center of the expansive plantation where they settled, William Bellamy Graham built his original plantation home on newly cleared land. Over time, the family’s land holdings grew to span 6,000 acres, and in the antebellum years, a farm of this size would’ve relied almost entirely upon the labor of enslaved people to keep it going. So William also had a collection of structures erected to house the people he enslaved and according to one family story, this collection of buildings was enough to resemble a small town.
‘Uncle’ Steve Floyd
One man who spent most of his life enslaved here was known as ‘Uncle’ Steve Floyd. After William Bellamy Graham tragically drowned in the bay in 1846, his widow Jane Conner Graham had 17 children and 6,000 acres to look after. Uncle Steve helped recover her husband William’s body and return it for burial. From then on, Steve kept a close watch on Jane, looking out for her daily care and serving as a constant companion. In the years leading up to the Civil War, he helped her to run the massive plantation, making overseeing decisions and business affairs. When she passed away in 1862, Uncle Steve insisted on digging the grave for her burial himself and he stood at her graveside during the ceremony at the Old Graham Plantation Cemetery.
At the close of the war, Sherman’s troops reportedly burned the original Old Graham Plantation house, as well as the village of buildings that had served as shelters for the enslaved. Uncle Steve would live out the rest of his days here as a freeman, passing away at 110+ years old and thought of as a beloved member of the Graham Family.
The original Old Graham Plantation house is gone and I couldn’t find photos of it, but I was able to find some images of another Graham Family house that stood until a fire took it in 1967.
Beulah Holly Henderson, a family descendant described what the William Bellamy Graham II house (pictured above) looked like from her visit in 1939:
“The home of William Bellamy Graham (II) was made of cypress lumber, a large two-story house with a chimney at each end of the house and a front and back porch. The house is very old, though in good condition, and one of his descendants [the John Hobson Horne family] still lives there. From the front porch, we entered a large living room with a fireplace. On the left side of the room is a stairway to the second floor. A door from the living room on the left entered the bedroom of William…and Jane…where their 17 children were born. This bedroom also has a fireplace and hat shelf. Leaving the living room we entered a wide hall, with a small bedroom on each side. At the end of the hall is a large dining room, a breezeway, then a kitchen. [There] are two large bedrooms [upstairs] with a fireplace in each room. The house was put together with pegs… and was ceiled with a wide lumber ceiling. The kitchen had a fireplace, where the cooking was done….In the yard was a large sugar maple, also a Mosley tree, and a cedar tree. Descendants lived in this house until it was destroyed by fire in October of 1967.”
The Old Graham Plantation Cemetery
The original Graham plantation is long gone but the cemetery still stands to remind us. Thought to be the second-oldest burial ground in the state, this cemetery has 12 marked graves, but an unknown amount of burials. One report mentioned that there might be as many as 200 burials here, however, a 2008 report found only 7 unmarked graves. At least two of which are believed to be the graves of John Graham and his wife Mary Johnston, the original immigrants who brought the Grahams to the New World.