Wavering Place Plantation
A classic South Carolina antebellum wedding setting, a family home, and stories from the past.
By Warren Hughes
Joel Adams I, the 18th century Lower Richland planter who founded Wavering Place Plantation soon after arriving from Virginia in 1768, was a highly esteemed regional leader who served with Francis Marion. He was also affectionately known as a gracious and courtly host who enjoyed entertaining family and neighbors alike.
“No family was more esteemed for their patriotism, culture, charm of manners, and hospitality,” noted David Duncan Wallace in his Biographical History of South Carolina.
Old Joel also proved himself to be a tireless romantic in the determined pursuit of his future bride who grew up on a neighboring plantation. According to family legend, “His courtship of Grace Weston was long and persistent,” noted Laura Hopkins Jervey in Lower Richland planters: Hopkins, Adams, Weston, and related families of South Carolina. “So many times did she refuse him that he resolved never again to ask her to marry him. Nevertheless, one day while riding, his horse from habit turned in to the Weston home, and Joel decided to try once more.”
They were married on an autumn day in 1773 and became the parents of seven children, establishing the family in whose hands Wavering Place has been for 250 years. In their time, it was known as Green Tree, one of seven plantations the wealthy planter created, with an eventual total of 25,000 acres. Today, portraits of Joel and Grace Adams still have pride of place, among a gallery of other family countenances in the library at Wavering, him in a handsome coat and her with a beribboned lace cap, dressed perhaps much like they may have been on their engagement day. When they died, they were buried in a family garden, the oldest graves in the cemetery of what became St. John’s Episcopal Churchyard, now adjacent to Wavering Place.
So, imagine the pride and satisfaction of the family patriarch and matriarch, Joel and Grace, if they could know that Wavering Place still romantically invites young couples to have their own weddings today on the exquisite grounds of the stately old home, now under the careful stewardship of their descendants and current owners, brothers Robert and Weston Adams. Managing such an imposing property is a large undertaking, and Robert, his wife, Shana, Weston and his wife, Lisa, have found a gratifying way to make it both worthwhile and satisfying by sharing it with others.
After buying the property in 2013 from their uncle, Dr. Julian C. Adams, the enterprising brothers and their talented wives were inspired to offer the expansive property as an event venue for weddings and other large gatherings. Joel and Grace would be equally pleased to know that a conservation easement protects the National Register of Historic Places property and its acreage from future development, thus preserving it for posterity.
A sense of conservation and preservation is ingrained in the brothers. As a former chair of the S.C. Conservation Bank Board and past Congaree Land Trust member, attorney Weston Adams was astutely knowledgeable about tax and other incentives for establishing conservation easements, but he also knew other revenue would be needed for continued maintenance and improvements. As a regional company senior vice president, brother Robert lends his own business acumen to the enterprise.
When their Uncle Julian bought Wavering from other Adams family heirs in 1986, he made significant enhancements to the property, especially in his devoted and expert restoration of gardens and surrounding acreage, an achievement for which he has been widely recognized.
Yet, the new owners knew other improvements were in order in the development of an enchanting event venue, including award-winning building restoration and heating and air-conditioning.
For couples who prefer a church setting for the actual ceremony, Shana Adams points outs that St. John’s Episcopal Church next door to Wavering is a beautiful location. The property is also offered for photography sessions with its perfect, timeless backdrop.
Now, on a fall day, Wavering shines in its antebellum glory. The original handsome house on the property was destroyed by fire, a common hazard in early plantation days. Present day Wavering Place, constructed in 1850, is an imposing two-story Greek revival mansion with piazzas on both levels supported by six massive Doric columns. The property was spared from destruction by Sherman’s troops when an officer discovered he had attended medical school with a nearby relative, thus preserving Wavering and several other area homes.
Lisa Boykin Adams, an artist and designer, who has worked on several projects across the country, has a passion for southern culture and historic preservation. She brought her unique taste and talent to the residence by reworking Uncle Julian's style that came with the house. The library, a jewel of the striking interior, has original sycamore wainscoting that has been loving restored. The handsome room is accented with an eclectic blend of taxidermy, antiques and other treasured items from Wavering’s past. Among the other ancestral portraits is that of Governor James Hopkins Adams, who led the Palmetto State in the 1850s.
The Adams are especially pleased with their restoration of a circa-1790 brick plantation kitchen house, now used for brides on their wedding day or by guests as overnight accommodations. In 2015, the Historic Columbia Foundation recognized the renovation with its adaptive use award. There are also plans to restore other outbuildings, all with beguiling potential. As for the family favorites at the much beloved property, Lisa said, “I love the library, especially at night. Thanks to Uncle Julian's eclectic taste, it has such a rich, almost European ‘salon’ feel mixed with the right amount of southern charm.” An adjacent “groom’s room” provides space for the male wedding party to enjoy a beverage and exchange yarns before the appointed hour.
As for the kitchen house, Lisa noted, “We wanted to maintain the rustic quality and to honor its original construction and purpose while providing an updated environment for today's use. Although a later addition, I love the bird footprints that appeared in the concrete process.”
Since Wavering is a private residence open only for reserved events. Historic Columbia periodically holds tours of the property with such an event scheduled for the spring.
“We are honored to share our history and when you book an event at Wavering, you not only experience a piece of history, you become a part of our history,” says Shana Adams.
Email Shana at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wavering Place Plantation in Lower Richland County has been the scene of many memorable occasions, not the least was a first-time meeting this past summer of biracial cousins in the Adams family.
Robert Adams, who owns the plantation with his brother, Weston, invited Nkrumah Steward of Canton, Mich. and his family to join him and his wife, Shana, to acknowledge their kinship: cousins by blood and now friends by choice.
Steward says the “family reunion” was set in motion when he read that “Four generations of my grandmothers - Tenah, Sarah, Louisa and Octavia - were on an Adams family plantation when they were emancipated in 1865 by General Sherman’s troops. I learned that Louisa was the daughter of plantation owner Joel Robert Adams from the 2011 book, Almost Forgotten, by my distant cousin, Brenda Clarkson Turpeau of Atlanta.”
“I actually didn’t know Robert (Adams) was related to me until he called me and told me we were cousins,” he added. “He had read my Facebook post and saw how I had established how my great-great-great grandmother, Louisa, was the daughter of Joel Robert Adams, an ancestral uncle of his.” Steward’s great-grandfather, James Henry, was a son of Octavia, Louisa’s daughter.
“Initially I just wanted to see Wavering Place because four generations of my family had lived, worked and died there and on other Adams family plantations. But after talking to Robert on the phone I felt he was genuine and sincere in his wish to meet me and my family. I accepted his invitation to come to Wavering Place the next time I was in South Carolina, which just happened to be this past summer.” Steward, a computer technical analyst, said he and his wife, Wendy, a high school French teacher, also wanted their sons, Henry and Elijah, to gain a knowledge of their family’s history.
Sharing his pleasure as host at the occasion, Adams said, “Our family connection was well established before our dinner together that evening and we had already begun a new friendship over the phone, but the good will and camaraderie that was apparent immediately during our visit made us all realize what easy company we were for one another.
“It was as if we had been friends for many years, which was very fitting for such a long-awaited family reunion,” added Adams, senior vice president with McGuireWoods Consulting in Columbia.
Joel Adams, the patriarch of the Adams family in South Carolina, moved from Virginia to South Carolina in 1768 where he became a wealthy planter and a leader of South Carolina Militia forces during the American Revolution.
Robert and Weston Adams are descended from Joel’s son, Robert, who was born in 1793 and died in 1850. Steward is descended from Joel’s son, James, who was born in 1776 and died in 1805. James Adams in 1805 married Sylviah Poythress Goodwyn, the daughter of another Lower Richland planter family. Through inheritance, she brought Steward’s ancestors to her husband’s plantation. Their son, Joel Robert Adams, was the father of Louisa, a great-grandmother of Steward. Octavia, Louisa’s daughter, is Steward’s great-great grandmother. Louisa’s father, Joel Robert Adams, trained to become a physician but chose not to practice, devoting his time as a planter to his extensive landholdings. Never married, he died a bachelor in 1859. Octavia was about five-years-old when Sherman’s army arrived to free her family.
Steward further outlined his ancestry through his paternal line to the present day. His great-great grandfather, George W. Henry married Octavia in 1886. Their son, James, born in 1898, was Steward’s great-grandfather. James and his wife, Josephine, had a son, called J.D., who was Steward’s grandfather. J.D. Henry moved to Detroit where he met and married Steward’s grandmother, Vivian Margaret. They had three children, including Steward’s mother, Linda, who lives in the Hopkins area today.
“I joked with Robert that initially I thought he called me to ask me not to state publically that we were related. But my preconceived notions of what a descendant of a prominent family would be like were completely unfounded. My preconceptions could not have told me what a wonderful husband, father and friend he is or how warm, welcoming and gracious his wife, Shana, is.”
Since the Stewards and Adams live practically across the country from each other, they are not likely to have the opportunity to visit often. However, they keep in regular touch through social media. “Whenever I am in South Carolina, I will reach out to them, and I hope they will do the same if they ever visit near my home,” Steward said. “The entire experience has been uplifting and heart-warming. It also makes more me more hopeful overall for more harmonious racial relations in the future,” he said.
Adams added, “Our visit with Nkrumah and his family was such a nice occasion that allowed us to get to know each other better and truly cement friendships which will endure. We can’t wait for Nkrumah and his family’s next visit.”