Diary of Thomas A. Stone
Thomas A. Stone kept a diary during his ownership of Boone Hall Plantation. In it he wrote about everything from purchasing the plantation, building a new house, and planting the fields. Below are excerpts from the diary about the purchase of Boone Hall and the construction of the new house.
In this transcription abbreviations, spellings, and punctuation marks have been preserved. Line breaks also remain intact, as well as column structure. Indentations and spacing are difficult to replicate on the Web and may be distorted or omitted. [?] represents an unknown word.
The complete and original diary is located at the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston. See Boone Hall Scrapbooks, 1935-1940, call number 34/0626-628.
Alex and I first became interested in the South (apart from its beauty) when we found that pecan growing promised to be reasonably profitable. On our way home from Florida towards the end of April we stopped to buy some nuts near Savannah from a man named Heygood. (Just across the Georgia line in S.C.) Mr. Heygood proved to be the first cheerful man (from the business point of view!) that we had listened to or heard of for some seven years, so we stopped to talk with him for almost an hour. He explained his business fully to us: how his father grows the nuts in Orange County S.C., how he retails them - or most of them - on the highway, how, even in the worst years they break even, and when we left him we were convinced that if he makes 1/10 of what he claims, he must be simply crawling. And we were further convinced that if he could do it, so could we!
According to plan, we stopped in Charleston sight seeing for two or three days and talked most of the time about pecans, becoming more and more enthusiastic.
That same evening we dined with Gertie and Sydney Legendre at Medway. ....they told us that if we were interested in plantations and pecans both, the one place for us to see was Boone Hall and they gave us the name of Elliman, Huyler and Mullally, the real estate agents who would show it to us. The following morning early found us on the telephone with Elliman and at 10 o'clock we were in his office, when we also met Mullally. That day we saw three places - Boone Hall, the Penny Place and Côte Bas.
.....Huyler strongly favored Boone Hall as a purchase. (The other two members of the firm were against our buying it - Elliman because the shooting had not the same possibilities as on Cote Bas, for instance, and Mullally because he sincerely believed that it was bigger than we could handle.) Huyler, a real estate operator on a larger scale than either of the others, considered it a good buy from this point of view, without considering any other of its possibilities.
This time we remained in Charleston about ten days, Alex joining us four days after our arrival. During these ten days we did not once stop thinking about plantations: we slept with them, drove with them, ate with them, talked of nothing else and generally worked ourselves into such a state of nerves that we had to use luminol nightly. .....Alex favoured Boone Hall; I favoured Dixie. Boone Hall finally won and as I write (October 7, 1935) I am more pleased than ever that it did. We paid for it and took title on July 5th. During the summer the timber was cruised and we planted 50 acres of cow peas in Asparagus Hill Grove. Bill Beers started the plans for the house and made several trips to Maine. Cambridge Trott started on Wampancheone cottage, into which we should move this week.
Thursday October 17 (a.m. 54° Max 72°) Cloudy in the morning bright afternoon.
..... Started tearing down back of old house with four men, the Seabrooks having confined themselves to the front part entirely.
(Friday Oct. 25 con.)
Three men cleaned bricks back of the big house which is now all torn down.
Thursday November 14 (Constantly warm weather Frost predicted for Friday.)
The farm journal has suffered from an overdose of architects and contractors together with a most pleasant family invasion of Boone Hall. The contractors and the architect were disappointing; the formers' bids on the new house were all too high (69 odd thousand, 72 odd thousand 76 odd thousand) and the latter refused, with the best will in the world, to understand that his house could not be built for less. So after four days of discussion we packed them all off again. Bill Beers went back to N.Y. to figure how to reduce costs. If this proves impossible as I am persuaded it will we shall have to start at the beginning again and plan a new house.
January 4. 1936
Neglect of this journal makes it necessary to put down a summary of what has been accomplished since the last entry. ......
3. The contract for the big house has been let to the Charleston Constructors who are now proceeding apace with the demolition of the present old house.
January 27th 1936.
2. Excavation for the cellar of the Big House is about finished and they are now building the forms for the cement foundation. We had considerable discussion as to the depth of the cellar. Bill Beer's original plans put the dining room floor 5' 9" above the present ground level which would have set the house up in the air like a pimple at the end of the avenue and called for a stupendous amount of grading. (The little grading which we did around the stable cost us $450 This other would have run into thousands!) We dug test pits and found the water table at this season 9' down so we decided that we were perfectly safe in excavating about seven feet. We shall be finished getting bricks out of the kilns on Laurel Hill tomorrow. They have not been counted yet.
February 13. Thursday
They are proceeding apace with the construction of the house and poured the first concrete on February 4th. The rains, of course, held them up badly but all of the footings and about ½ the cellar walls are now in. Another 10 days should see them out of the hole in the ground if we get any kind of weather.
March 25. 1936. Wednesday.
We have been to N.Y. and returned last Thursday. While there we picked out the plumbing fixtures for the house as well as most of the finish hardware. It was quite a job and we think a well done one. [?] came up from Charleston and we had long conferences with Neatlock on the heating question, which, we settled.
January 26, 1937.
This journal has been sadly neglected for many months, but I shall try to put down as briefly as possible an outline of the events at Boone Hall since our arrival here about October 1st.
..... We arrived at Boone Hall to find everything in fine shape except Mr. Seabrook, who was in very poor health. On our arrival we moved at once into the cotton gin, where we were extremely comfortable until about the first of November, when we moved into the Big House, dodging carpenters and stepping over wet paint in order to do so. I think that if we had not moved into the Big House when we did, it would probably not have been finished yet. We literally shoved the workmen out, although not quite as fast as we would have liked to have done. About December 1st we announced to Mr. Trott our intention of having a house-warming party on December 12th, willy-nilly. Mr. Trott assured us that the house would be ready by that time, but on the morning of that day the end walls of the library were still plaster, with no panelling yet arrived from the mill. It arrived, however, about 9 o'clock, but it was not until well after 5 that we got rid of the electricians.
We had a very successful house-warming, which I am sure had much to do with the charm of the house now.