Dataw Plantation - Dataw Island Beaufort County South Carolina SC

Dataw Plantation – Dataw Island – Beaufort County

Dataw Plantation 2015 - Beaufort County, South Carolina
— Ruins Plantation © Gazie Nagle, 2015 —
(Do Not Use Without Written Consent)

Basic Information

  • Location – Jenkins Creek, Morgan River, St Helena Parish, Dataw Island, Beaufort County

  • Origin of name – "According to history, Dataw Island's name was derived from the legendary giant King Datha, whom the Spanish learned of from Francisco Chicora, an Indian captured in 1521. Legend tells us that he grew so big because of the magical herbs he ate. The meaning of the name Datha was thought to be Greenwood" (2).

  • Other names – Datha, Data, Dathaw, Datha Point, Datha Inlet, Westbrook (2) (4, p. 2)

  • Current status – Private, gated community

Dataw Plantation Sams House 2016 - Beaufort County, South Carolina
— Sams House, Dataw Plantation © Pete Lawrence, 2016 —
(Do Not Use Without Written Consent)


  • 1682 – Earliest known date of existence

    Caleb Westbrook, a Scotsman, established a deer skin trading post on what is today known as Dataw Island. He received a Warrant for Land on October 24 (2) (5).

  • 1693 – Westbrook was killed by a Savannah Indian.

  • 1698 or 1699 – Since Westbrook died without an heir, the Lords Proprietors then granted the island to Charles Odingsell. In this warrant, made on March 21 of 1698 or 1699, the property was referred to as Westbrook Island (5).

  • 1702 – For unknown reasons, Odingsell's claim to the island was forfeited on November 13. The first documented variety of the island's current name, Datha, was recorded in this Memorandum. (1).

    Joseph Boone received the third and final royal grant for this property on September 28, six weeks before the above mentioned Memorandum was signed. The grant specifies the entire island at 1,170 acres (5).

  • 1735 – Joseph Boone died and left the property to Anne Boone. Joseph's will also stipulated the property was to pass to his nephews Charles Boone and Thomas Boone upon Anne's death (5).

  • 1751 – Charles Boone and Thomas Boone received ownership of Dataw per the terms of their uncle's will (5).

  • 1755 – The Boones sold the 1,170 acre island, Dataw, to Anne Wigg for £3,510 (5).

  • 1759 – Thomas Wigg died leaving the property to his wife, Anne Stanyarne Reeve Wigg, nee Barnwell. It is not clear how or why Thomas willed Dataw to Anne since she was the one to purchase the property in 1755 (5).

  • 1770 – Anne passed away leaving the property to her son by a previous marriage, Lewis Reeve. Although Anne married four times, she only bore two children, Lewis and a daughter from her fourth marriage, Sarah Gibbs. Lewis would grow indigo on the island. This appears to be the first time the property was used as a plantation (1) (5).

  • 1774 – Lewis died willing Dataw to his sisters Sarah Gibbes and Ann Carson. It appears Ann either gave or sold her share to Sarah. Sarah and her husband Robert Gibbes were the next owners of record (4, p. 2) (5).

  • 1783 – William Sams purchased the island from Robert and Sarah Gibbes on May 30, 1783 for £55,000. Sams grew long-staple cotton on the island.

    There was a small tabby house on the island when Sams purchased it. It is unclear as to if Lewis Reeve or Robert Gibbes built the structure. Sams raised the roof to increase head room and also added a chimney and porches to the house. The ruins of this house can still be seen today (4, p. 2-3).

  • 1798 – William Sams died willing his wife Elizabeth use of the plantation on 'Datha Island' until her death. William's will also stipulated that the island would be then inherited by sons Berners Barnwell Sams, Lewis Reeve Sams, and Edward Hext Sams with each not able to take claim until he reached the age of 21. All boys were at least 21 when Elizabeth passed away in 1813 (5).

    Berners and Lewis bought out Edward's interest and divided the island between themselves with Lewis taking the northern half and Berners the southern section which contained the house (4, p. 3) (5).

  • 1816-1819 – Dr. Berners Barnwell Sams enlarged the house by building two separate tabby structures next to the house then connecting the buildings with an enclosed corridor (4, p. 3).

    Berners brother, Lewis, built a new home on the north end of the island, along the Morgan River (2).

  • 1855 – Berners died without a will. The courts would eventually divide his 600-acre property among his sons, James Julius Sams and Horace Hann Sams. Other family members claimed to own pieces of Berners's portion of the island, but since these transactions were not properly recorded, James and Horace ultimately became its legal owners in 1860 (5).

  • 1856 – Berners's brother Lewis passed away leaving the northern portion of Dataw Island to his sons Richard Fuller Sams and Thomas Fuller Sams. Lewis's portion of the island was referred to as Datha Point in US Tax Case documents (5).

  • 1861 – The Sams families fled due to the advancing Union Army (2).

  • 1863 – The island was confiscated for overdue federal taxes. The northern section was referred to as Datha Point and the southern section Datha Inlet at this time (5).

    Over the next several years, the federal government would sell small pieces of the island to individuals. See reference 5 for a listing of these transactions.

  • 1864 – William Irwin of New York purchased a large section of the north end of the island. He divided much of his property into ten-acre lots on which he held tenant farmer agreements (6, p. 56).

  • 1876 – An accidental fire destroyed the buildings built by the Sams family (1).

  • 1905 – Gustave Sanders reunited the island, except for five acres, when he purchased 547 acres for $500 from Amanda Ewing and Emily Winslow on February 9 and 448 acres for $1100 from Anna Irwin and Eliza Tabor. Sanders would go on to deed the Sams Family Cemetery to Robert Randolph Sams (5).

  • 1907 – Sanders sold Dataw Island, minus the 5 acres and cemetery, to Theodore Ravenel and Marian Brown for $10,000 on June 24. This same day, Ravenel and Brown also purchased the five acres from from James and George Grofut for $200 (5).

  • 1915 – Ravenel and Brown must have defaulted on a loan they took out on Dataw as on February 9, Samuel Stoney purchased the island at auction, minus the five acres and cemetery, for $4,600 (5).

  • 1917 – Stoney was able to purchase the outstanding five acres of the island at auction for $25 on December 4 (5).

  • 1926 – Samuel Stoney passed away and left Dataw to his heirs, Samuel Stoney, Jr., Augustine Stoney, Harriet Porcher Simons, and Louisa McCord Popham (5).

  • 1928 – Kate Gleason of Rochester, New York purchased 997 acres of Dataw for $15,000 from the Stoney heirs (5).

    She would have a causeway built from St. Helena Island to Polawana Island to Dataw Island to allow access by car. She also built a house on the northeast shore of the island (3, p. 61).

  • 1933 – Kate Gleason died leaving Dataw to her secretary and friend, Elizabeth Sanders. Elizabeth married Richard H. Rowland in 1936 and they called Dataw home for a short time (5).

  • 1965 – Elizabeth left the island to her sons Richard and Lawrence Rowland but instead of living on the island they leased it for farming and hunting (5).

  • 1983 – On January 14, the Rowland family sold the island to the real estate division of Alcoa South Carolina, a manufacturer of aluminum products. Alcoa would develop the island into a planned residential community (5).

  • 2007 – Dataw Island became an independent residential community managed by Dataw Island Properties (1).

Dataw Plantation Sams House 2016 - Beaufort County, South Carolina
— Sams House, Dataw Plantation © Pete Lawrence, 2016 —
(Do Not Use Without Written Consent)


  • Number of acres – 1,170 in 1702; 1,170 in 1755; 600 in the southern section and 570 in northern section in 1855; 995 in 1905; 1,000 in 1907; 1,005 in 1917; 997 in 1928 (2)

  • Primary crop – Indigo and Sea Island cotton in the 1700s, then tomatoes in the 1900s (1)

  • The Sams family cemetery remains on the island.


  • Number of slaves:
    – 84 by William Sams in 1790
    – 141 by Elizabeth Sams and 27 by Lewis Sams in 1810
    – 88 by Berners Sams in 1820
    – 131 by Berners Sams and 12 by Lewis Sams in 1830
    – 154 by Berners Sams and 140 by Lewis Sams in 1840
    – 158 by Berners Sams and 175 by Lewis Sams in 1850
    (6, p. 48)

Dataw Plantation Sams House 2016 - Beaufort County, South Carolina
— Sams House, Dataw Plantation © Pete Lawrence, 2016 —
(Do Not Use Without Written Consent)


  • Various outbuildings were built in the surrounding area in addition to the houses, the most substantial being of tabby. Among these were a church, overseer's house, slave cabins, kitchen with an eight-foot fireplace, smokehouse with unique tabby roof, dairy, fowl house, and large pigeon house.

  • There was also a small, tabby chapel located in the cemetery's southeast corner. The chapel no longer stands and it is thought that the structure, already in poor condition, was destroyed by Hurricane Gracie in 1959 (4, p. 5-6).

References & Resources

  1. History of Dataw Island: Click here

  2. Historical Chronology of Dataw Island: Click here - complied by the Dataw Historic Foundation

  3. Robert B. Cuthbert and Stephen G. Hoffius, editors, Northern Money, Southern Land: The Lowcountry Plantation Sketches of Chlotilde R. Martin (Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina Press, 2009)

  4. Dataw Island Cemetery Addendum Document held by Library of Congress - source no longer available online

  5. Chain of Title - by the Dataw Historic Foundation

  6. Historical Development of Dataw Island: Click here - complied for Alcoa from 1983-1993

  7. Historic Document Archives for Dataw Island - by the Dataw Historic Foundation

  8. Video Tour - by the Dataw Historic Foundation

  9. Dataw Island Plantation - SCIWAY's South Carolina Picture Project

Contact Information

  • Dataw Island
    100 Dataw Club Road
    Dataw Island, SC 29920

    Telephone: 843-838-8261
    Website: Click here

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