Boynton House sits abandoned and forlorn in a remote corner of the Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, part of the ACE Basin. It was once the main house for a vast rice plantation. Now the wooden filigree is falling apart, and bat guano fills several of the rooms. On this particular trip, we also found out that it is cursed.
Normally we do a paddling trip the second Saturday of each month with the Lowcountry Unfiltered group. This time we decided to do something different. One of our members, Rob Dewig, has a new job with the Colleton County Museum. We wanted to check out his new digs. We also planned to do a bit of bike riding in the ACE Basin.
I got up far too early on Saturday morning and drove on down to the Lowcountry. Five other hearty souls joined me at the main kiosk for Donelley. It sounded like a disciples convention – Thomas (me), Matthew, James, John, James, and a young guy whose name starts out C-h-r-i-s-t. (Christian, Jimmy’s son). Yeah, we were in for trouble of Biblical proportions.
We drove on into the WMA down to the old Boynton House. The parking area there serves as a great base of operations, with trails heading out in multiple directions across the old rice fields and through the woods. We unloaded the bikes and got ready for adventure.
Every time I’ve been down here I’ve always paused to admire the old house and take a few photos. Framed by live oaks and Spanish moss, it embodies Southern Gothic charm.
I’ve never been inside because of the “Keep Out” signs posted everywhere. This time we walked completely around the house and didn’t see any signs to that effect. Taking their absence as an invitation to enter, and buoyed by guys as crazy as I am, we headed up the back steps and into the kitchen.
“Haint Blue” paint covered the ceilings and the walls. The interior of the house was in bad repair, with bits falling off here and there. Certain parts of the floor looked very unsteady, and there were piles of bat guano in one room. From the fixtures it was hard to tell how old the house was. There were some modern electrical fixtures, but the rest of the house looked quite old.
We left the sadness of the abandoned house and headed on out onto the trail. We first rode out onto the dikes that run between the rice fields. Wading birds, including wood storks, were out enjoying the beautiful day.
Birds weren’t the only critters enjoying the warm sunshine. Alligators were out in abundance. We saw a few small ones along the edges of the path, and one monster stretched across one of the dikes.
We returned to the main path and continued on across the rice fields. When we reached the edge of the woods the first of the disasters struck. Matt had peddled ahead and was getting turned around to take a photo of us leaving the rice fields when he lost control of his bike. He took a tumble.
Fortunately, he was OK, and his bike seemed OK, so we continued on. Not far into the woods, however, he stopped suddenly and Jimmy went crashing into the back of him. Disaster number two. Matt’s chain had come loose, and with that last collision the derailleur was now broken. Jimmy’s bike was OK, but Matt’s was toast. He was dead in the water.
John had ridden on ahead, thinking we would catch up. However, we decided to walk back to the vehicles with Matt. We made our way back down to the dikes and started across the rice fields.
Eventually John realized that we weren’t going to catch up with us, and turned back to find us. He caught up with us at the cross-dike where we had seen the huge gator earlier. We decided to walk back out to check on the big boy (the gator, not John.) Sometime during that period, first Christian, then John fell off of their bikes. There was no damage, but this was getting to be epidemic.
Back out on the dike, it seemed that the big gator’s friends had also joined the party. We were starting to get nervous, with the territorial splashing going on all around us Given our current track record, we could just see another big gator cutting off our retreat. We weren’t sure if we would have to live up to our Biblical names and try walking on water or not. It wasn’t necessary. The gators kept to themselves and we made it back to the bikes.
Fortunately, we made it back safely and were soon back on the Boynton House side of the rice fields. We left the bikes by the trail and wandered into the woods behind the house. Here we found a cypress swamp and an old duck blind.
It almost made me wish we’d brought kayaks instead of bikes – paddled instead of peddled. I’d not been back to this swamp, and I realized that this would be a great place to come this spring to look for warblers.
We got back to the vehicles without further incident. Our modified plan was now to drive around to the old lodge at the Billy Fields home. The ponds there are known to have LOTS of alligators and birds, all viewable from a safe distance. We paused briefly at the old Fields Cemetery…
…then continued on to the pond. There, an island full of gators did not disappoint.
At this point, the fourth disaster hit. I came down with symptoms of a migraine. The visual aura was making driving difficult, and I was worried. There was no pain or nausea yet, which meant I had time to get some medicine in me. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my migraine stuff. I downed three aspirin first, waited a bit, then chased it with two Advil that John provided. I took one more photo of birds while the others explored a bit. I rested and tried to let the medicine do its job.
Matt offered to drive, but I figured that as long as I could, I would drive. Being able to predict the twists and turns would help stave off nausea. Plus, the medicine was working. We decided to continue on, ostensibly heading back to the main road so we could find lunch. John took the lead in his truck, and we promptly got lost. Disaster number five.
At one point John was driving like a madman on the dirt roads. It was time for lunch, and he wanted out of the WMA. We did eventually find our way back to a familiar road, but we found a pond with more birds and gators.
In a way, Matt’s accident turned out for the best. We covered much more territory than we would have otherwise. We blamed the disasters on the old Boynton House, though. Entering the old place had violated some taboo, and we paid the price. I don’t know what spirits or haints we disturbed, but if I know this group, we won’t let this defeat us. We will be back.
44 thoughts on “The Curse of Boynton House”
What great trip! Sorry I missed it.
We would have had to change your name, though. It’s not quite Biblical enough.
My Dad grew up in that house. His name is William Skinner Boynton. He will be 86 in April. I visited the house in August and took pictures. My Dad, grandfather, uncle and aunt rode in lancing tournaments. They rode in tournaments in Charleston (The Azalea Festival) , Orangeburg and Beaufort to name a few. my grandad even rode in a tournament with the reins in his mouth because his arm was broken. My Dad says he could do it because the horse he rode was awesome. His name was the Knight of Cheeha. My Aunt Dottiemwas known as the Lady of Green Meadows. She was one of the few that rode. My Dad, Bill, was known as Billy then. You can an article in which they interviewed My grandmother about how plantation life had changed in the News and Courier Nov 1, 1942 archive.
I also meant to add that I am fairly sure Ms. Presley is wrong. My Dad even has an oil painting of the house. My Grandfather was Evander Ashton Boynton. My uncle was Evander Ashton Boynton Jr. my cousin is Evander Ashton Boynton III He is a pathologist in Lakeland , Fla. I have several cousins still living in Colleton County. one of which is Theresa Boynton McCleod (Terri). she knows a lot of history on the house.
Used to be a thing called “training wheels” you could bolt to the rear tire – just a suggestion. 🙂
Hey, I didn’t fall!
Hello. I read your entry with great interest. The Boynton House belonged to Vannn Boynton, my great uncle. In 1999 I took my mother to this site and was amazed as she told me stories of visiting here as a child. Her father and Vann’s brother, William Boynton, lived and farmed Hutcchinson island. She would come by boat to Bennets Point and would be met by her Uncle Vann.Your pictures capture the beauty of this home. The house was in disrepair when we were last there and we were afraid to go in. She described gas lights,the fireplace in the front room. Apparently their was no electricity until the 1940’s. Vann Boynton loved animals and had lots of cats. He also never owned a car! He traveled around this area on horseback! I REALLY enjoyed the pictures and your adventures that day. Thank you so much for sharing.
Sincerely, Jean Boynton Hartzog Presley
Jean – thank you so much for the background on the house! This place fascinates me every time I visit, and I’ve always wanted to know its story. I would love to know more about its history.
I can tell you a little more, but not much. The house was built in the early 1900’s by Vann and area laborers.I think the long porch area was added later.I know that when my mother was growing up, there was no electricity. In order to get to Charleston, they had to catch a train at Airy Hall, which is on the Bennetts Point Road. Vann was somewhat of a loner,was married, but never had children. I don’t know who the house passed to at his death or how it became a part of the ACE Basin. He loved the outdoors and this area. My grandfather,William, his older brother farmed Hutchinson Island for their sister Catherine (Kate) and gained ownership of it in a settlement over disputed payment for his work! Vann also visited Huthchinson Island and enjoyed the solitude of the island. My grandparents, William and Alma Boynton and mother lived on Hutchison Island until around 1930. They then moved to Green Pond which is just a few miles from the Boynton House you photographed.( Boynton house in Green Pond burned in the 1940’s, but the store my grandfather ran is still there!) I came across your entry as I was searching for more Boynton family information. This is an old family with few descedents. The parents of Vann were Thomas E and Sarah Boynton. Thoams was born 1830. Vann was born in the 1870’s. My grandfather, William DuBose Boynton was born in 1863 and didn’t marry until he was over 50! My mother was born in 1918 and died in 2011. She was an only child as am I. Vann had 2 sisters and 2 brothers and to my knowledge the girls did not marry and the other brother had only 1 or 2 children. This house and the store in Green Pond is about all that remains of this family. I do not know where Vann is buried. I’m curious if any of the tombstones you photographed were of Boyntons? Thanks so much for your interest. I love this area too!
Jean, I don’t know if you’ve visited the find-a-grave site. After your first comment I started doing my own search, now that I had a few names. This page…
…has lots of the names listed, including your grandfather’s. I haven’t photographed any of the headstones of your family, but I’ll certainly be looking for the Boynton name next time I’m down that way.
From my search I began to wonder if “Vann” was a nickname for “Evander”, which appears several times in the Boynton family. Those names are listed on the RootsWeb page here…
However, the dates don’t match what you’ve described above, so I’m not sure they are the right ones.
Yes, Van was/is a nickname for Evander. Mr. Van was my great grandfather-Stephen Evander Boynton. Most of the Boyntons are buried in Hendersonville SC, although my father and grandfather are buried in Live Oak Cemetery in Walterboro SC.
Hi, I have not been on this site for a while and have just read your post. Could we talk more about this? My grandparents are buried at Stokes in Hendersonville. I do not know the names of my great grandparents and would love to know more about them.
What store did in Green Pond did your grandfather run?? I am quite curious as I purchased an old store and house in Green Pond, and I am very interested in knowing its history.
Thanks in advance,
Jean is my Dad’s cousin. A friend of the family contacted me via wikitree and posted some info about Jean’s family! Enjoy!!!!
I have a framed sketch from 1941 that features your father (I believe) and several of your ancestors. I would love for you to see it.
I remember your grandparents quite well from when I was growing up in Walterboro in the late 40’s and early fifties. Your grandfather and my father were great friends. (If I remember correctly, “Miss Alma”s maiden name was Smetzer, and she had a sister who married a Barnwell from Edisto Island.)
Along with my parents, I attended your Grandfather Boynton’s funeral. It had been raining continuously for several days, and the cemetery was ankle-deep in muddy water, and the gravesite was completely full of water. I remember one of the pallbearers saying “If we set Mr. Boynton down in this mess, he’s liable to think he’s back on Hutchison Island!”
Uncle Van Boynton’s full name was Stephen Evander Boynton. He is buried (along with his wife, Lillie White Boynton) at Black Creek Baptist Church Cemetery, near the Hendersonville Community in Colleton County.(I remember Uncle Van (whose wife was a distant relative of mine)quite well, as he lived a very long time, and I was ten years old when he died in 1947.
I am so glad that you shared this information with me. I never knew my grandfather and from what I understand, he was close to 50 years old when he married my grandmother. You are correct, she was Alma Melchers Smetzer before her marriage and her sister Earline did marry a Barnwell from Edisto Island. I recently went to Black Creek Cemetery, Hendersonville,Stokes Cemetery and Green Pond. The only building left in Green Pond is the store. Both houses that my grandparents lived in and the school are gone. There is s monument at the site of the school recognizing Lois Keels Williams years of service. I was fortunate to know her as well. Do you still live in the area? It is so beautiful and will always be a part of me. Thank you again for sharing your memories. I would love to hear more.
I was pleased to hear from you. Many year ago, my Grandfather Stokes, who practiced medicine in Walterboro, owned Bowles, Ash and Beet Islands, all of which are adjacent to Hutchinson Island. There was a very modest house on Bowles Island, but Ash and Beet Islands were uninhabited, and may have been partially underwater at high tide. (My grandfather and my father raised Whiteface Hereford cattle on Bowles Island.)
To my everlasting regret, I haven’t lived in the Lowcountry since I graduated from Wofford in 1959. (My wife and I have been living in Tennessee since 1980, but I love the Lowcountry, and am convinced that anyplace that doesn’t have live oak trees, palmettos and Spanish moss is unfit for human habitation.) Here is something you would probably enjoy: There is a wonderful short (7 minute) video of Airy Hall Plantation on YouTube (just google “Airy Hall Plantation-YouTube”) The people who owned Airy Hall back in the Forties and Fifties hosted many equestrian events there, and I’m thinking that they may have even had a racetrack (I know that there was one somewhere around Green Pond, but I don’t remember the exact location.)
My mother grew up in Hendersonville, and her parents, grandparents, and two of her sisters are buried at Stokes Cemetery. I also have many relatives buried at Black Creek Cemetery, and at the Salkehatchie Presbyterian Cemetery, between Hendersonville and Yemassee, and at the Jonesville Cemetery, off U.S Highway 21, not far from Black Creek.
The reason that I’m familiar with your Grandmother Boynton’s family is because Earline Smetzer Barnwell’s grand-daughter, Harriet King, is married to my oldest and dearest friend. Do you happen to know Harriet and her husband?
I do not know them, but have heard of them from my mother. Once she left the area she did not have a lot of contact with her cousins. I think Harriet is one of the family members that visited my grandmother as well as another cousin, Liz Jenkins Young.
I’ve read all of these posts with great interest. I remember “Little” Ashton and his wife attended my wedding in 1979. I’ve never been sure of their exact relation, but I know my mother was so happy that they were there.
I wonder if this is the Lonnie Stokes I knew as a friend in Walterboro in the 50’s ?
I purchased the old store in Green Pond from Miss Alma, and I was wondering what information you have of it. Maybe some old photographs? I would really like to restore the old building and any history would be fantastic.
Well, actually, they caught the train at Wiggins. Also, Mr Van did indeed marry. His son, Evander Ashton Sr, was my grandfather. He had another son, but he never married. Aunt Maggie May lived in Hendersonville.
Absolutely fascinating read…thanks for the contribution (blogging). Question: What information do you have of Billy Fields?
I will ask my Dad about Billy Fields He told me a few things but I didn’t write them down
It’s been great fun watching this exchange of information. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the discussion!
I want to thank you for posting the original story. I grew up hearing stories and seeing an oil painting of the Boynton House in all it’s glory hanging in my parents house. I have learned so much about my family and my roots because of your post. I have also connected with Jean and Lonnie. You have blessed me with this while my Dad is still alive.
I have a pic of my Dad in a stroller in front of the house but I don’t know how to post it. I would love for you all to see it.
Tamara, if you can post it to a photo sharing site, you can link to it in the comments. If not, I’d be happy to post it for you. Just let me know, and I’ll send you a way to get it online.
I have posted several pics of happenings at the Boynton House in it’s hey day:
http://imgur.com/a/ghVSZ I am not very good at this!
I have many wonderful memories of my grandparents (your grandparents) living there. I still remember the layout of the rooms. We also have home movies (taken by Daddy). I see all the wonderful azaleas are gone. And the camellias.
Jennifer, are any of those videos in digital format? Would you be willing to share them? I’d love to see the house in its original condition.
No, the movies are not in digital form. We have family photographs taken back them, though. Also of Billy Fields-mainly working with cattle.
BTW, the horse my grandfather (Evander Ashton Boynton) is riding in the lancing tournament was a quarter horse mare from the King Ranch in Texas named Mrs. Jiggs.
Sorry- Tamara-you great grandparents! excuse my typo!
Jennifer , Daddy said Mr.Jiggs was so awesome Granddaddy almost didn’t have to hold the reins. PM me Little Sara’s number I would love to give that to Daddy for his 89th in April. Just got a CD from the Library of Congress with our great uncles Steven D and Moses M Boynton in their Confederate uniforms.
I found that online. I’d love to have a printed copy. I think Stephen died during the war. Have you read the book Arab? Written by Prioleau Henderson and touches on the Boyntonss
Will PM-check your email-is it still the same?
My grandfather was Stephen Moses Boynton, a nephew of the two brothers. He had a copy of “Autobiography of Arab.” My great-grandparents are buried at the Black Creek church.
I am currently re-reading the book. I got it on Amazon. It tells of Stephen and Moses and their father. Not primary figures but describes Stephen’s mortal wounds. Their pic is in the library of Congress.
I am re-reading. You can get the book on Amazon.
I bought a copy at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia a few years ago. I believe Stephen Boynton died in combat at Williamsburg, Va., and I think Moses Boynton became ill and died on one of the sea islands while he was a soldier
I’ll have to ask about Moses. So interesting!!!!
We are working on getting the films preserved!! Sara is all in!
Hello to all, I am from upstate SC and have been hunting Donnelley WMA, since 2001. I have often wondered about the history of these properties, Botany Bay, Bear Island and others. Reading the story, reminded me of all the good times I’ve had hunting with my son and friends while enjoying what this land has to offer. Donnelley has been my favorite place to hunt for many years but reading the comments and learning more about the people and history, I will look closer for what it offers. Thanks for your contribution.
Hi all, thanks for the great comments. As a resident of Green Pond and the President of the Colleton Co. Historical Society I would really love to hear from any of you as to more of the history of the land and people.
You can reach me directly at email@example.com
I’m also looking for any plats, deeds and photographs of not only the Boynton house but the entire surrounding area.