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Archdale Hall

Legend Says Ghosts Arose On Dreadful Night Of Quake

By Isabella G. Leland

In 1680 and 1682 Richard Baker was granted land on the north bank of the Ashley River, in the Province of Carolina, by the Lords Proprietors. He paid a penny an acre, quit rent, for a total of 5,017 acres.

Today on the wall of the house of his lineal descendant, Glen Drayton Grimke of 3 Legare St., is a yellowed deed, beginning, “William, Earl of Craven, Pallantine, with the rest of the Lords and absolute proprietors of Carolina, grant unto Richard Baker,” and sealed impressively with the red seal of the Lords Proprietors.

HIS PLANTATION, Archdale Hall, is 14 miles from Charleston on the Old Dorchester Road. Here Richard Baker lived with his wife Elizabeth and their family. Her death is recorded in the Carolina Gazette of Aug. 17, 1734, at the age of 104. She died the same day as the birth of her great-great-grandchild, having lived in England 27 years, Barbadoes, 23, and Carolina, 54.

Where the name of the property came from is unknown, but in a book of the Archdale family in England is the record of the marriage of Richard Baker and Sarah Archdale in 1618. Possibly it was their son, Richard, who called his seat on the Ashley River after his mother, Sarah Archdale, so many miles across the ocean.

Another family story is that John Archdale, colonial governor of the Province of Carolina in 1694 was a warm friend and kinsman of Richard Baker, but the plantation was named before his arrival in the province.

Richard was a member of the Assembly, as well as Assistant Judge in 1692. He was among the Royalists who fled to Barbadoes during the Civil War in England and became wealthy planters there. The Bakers kept their love of the Stuarts and handed down for many generations the old Jacobite songs and stories.

APPROACH TO THE HALL was from the old Dorchester Road through pine woods, ending in a double avenue line of live oaks leading from the entrance gate to the lawn before the house. To the left was the family burial ground, within sight of the residence in case of Indian attack.

All that is known of the original structure is that it had a brick courtyard in front. For many years this could be traced on the lawn after the second house was built in 1710 by William Baker. It faced north, consisting of two stories and attic on a high basement. At the rear was an open piazza, flagged with red tiles, and a flight of brick steps led into an old world garden with formal beds of shrubs and flowers from England. Years later an aspodel, immortal flower of the Elysian Fields, was found there. A bronze sun-dial, beautifully engraved, stood in the center of a broad garden walk leading down to the Indigo Dam, a large fish pond. Beyond and in line with that in front of the house, was another double avenue of live oaks leading to the river, and the open brick porch at the landing.

THE WALLS OF THE HOUSE were battered, like a fortress, three feet thick at the base, tapering to about ten inches at the top. Built of Flemish bond, all the headers were glazed brick. Four pilasters were on the front, with ornamentation cut into the brickwork, and the pieces so closely fitted together the intersections could hardly be seen. A massive flight of brick steps led from the lawn to the main entrance, over which was a terra cotta cherub extending its wings over a shield.

The front door opened into a large room called the hall, with high narrow mantelpiece and tremendous fireplace. A fireback of wrought iron represented Mercy holding a child with an olive branch. The sides were lined with pink and black Dutch tiles showing a sailor’s departure and homecoming, laden with gifts for his lady, who waits with dress outstretched to receive them. Over the mantel was elaborate stucco work of baskets, dentils, and flowers. The Coat of Arms of Queen Anne was over the doorway to the main hall with its beautiful black oak staircase.

In the drawing room was a closet with a gilded shell at the top. The shelves were rounded out here and there to hold rare bowls, plates, and cups of East India china. Four deep-set windows were hung with damask curtains of blue and silver. A spinnet stood between two of the windows. On the walls were 16 English prints in dark oak frames of views of Rome, Palmyra, and Baalbec.

The dining room had a secret closet known as the well. In 1778, when a party of Revolutionary marauders visited the plantation, they discovered all of the family silver here. The fireplace in this room was lined with blue and white Dutch tiles, picturing scenes from the Bible. Mrs. James Snowden, the former Laura Baker, of 54 King St., has three of them, including a dragon-like whale in the act of swallowing Jonah and Joseph being put in the pit.

On the walls hung hunting prints and portraits by Jeremiah Theus. These latter included portraits of Richard Baker, Mary Bohun his wife, Richard Bohun Baker and his wife, and her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Barnard Elliott.

In one of the basement rooms was a still, with an enormous container where early Baker housewives made distillations of mint, dandelion, lemon and other extracts for medicinal and culinary purposes.

In 1723 Richard, William’s son, had married Mary Bohun, granddaughter of Edmund Bohun, first Chief Justice of Carolina. The latter returned to take possession of his Suffolk estates in 1701 when his father died. Because of a condition in Edmund’s will, the Baker family took the name Bohun Baker to ensure the entail of the property in England (not however, inheriting).

Their grandson Richard, who died in 1837, was vice-president of the South Carolina Society of the Cincinnati, and last officer of those who fought at Fort Sullivan. He had enlisted at 18 in the company of his uncle, Col. Barnard Elliott. He was buried with military honors, his body taken on his sloop up the Ashley River to the family graveyard at Archdale Hall.

IN 1886 THE PROPERTY was owned by his great-nephew, Dr. Richard Bohun Baker, who, a childless widower, was alone and ill in bed when the great earthquake came. The entire south wall and three corners of the hall were knocked out. Dr. Baker managed to get out in the lawn where he sat the remainder of the night alone under the great live oak of the avenue, facing the shaking house. As he told his niece later, the moon was surrounded with an unearthly mist that cast a peculiar light around the old house. There was a strange smell of sulfur in the air—and as the old man sat there, alone, in the awful night, he seemed to hear strange sounds, and glimpse shadows of his long-departed ancestors rising from the family plot to linger round the ruin of their former home.

At dawn he found his horse and drove to Charleston. Because, however, of the destruction in the city, and because the hall was so far away, he found it impossible to find workmen to repair the old house. Before he could do so, rains following the quake made the roof collapse. Dr Baker then built a small house near the ruins of his old home, and lived there until his death in 1901. He was the last Richard Bohun Baker, one of the seventh generation of Bakers of Archdale Hall. The property is now owned by his great-nephew, Mr. Grimke.