Wiggins, situated on the banks of the Chehaw River, is reached by way of Wiggins Road, a winding rural road that turns west off US 17 between Sheldon and Green Pond. Just southeast of Wiggins, the Chehaw joins the Combahee to form the St. Helena Sound.
Wiggins is home to the 12,500-acre Cheeha-Combahee Plantation, part of the ACE Basin, a vital network of conserved land between Beaufort and Charleston. ACE stands for the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers. Cheeha-Combahee is especially important within the basin as it features more waterfront acreage than any other preserved property. Today it is privately owned and used primarily for quail hunts.
In 1930, an attorney from New York, Richard S. Emmet, purchased Cheeha-Combahee. Like most Northern landowners who invested in historic rice plantations after the stock market crash of 1929, he used his forests and former fields for hunting. Emmet describes hunting the gray fox, which is native to South Carolina, as akin to traditional fox hunts in England.
As practiced at Cheeha-Combahee, the field, emitting various versions of the “rebel yell,” followed the hounds on horseback in the early dawn, through a wide variety of difficult terrain that made up for the lack of stone walls and fences to clear.
Sixty years later, in the early 1990s, a developer purchased Cheeha-Combahee Plantation, but his plans to build were stymied by financial burdens. Both Emmet and Ducks Unlimited had options to buy the property, but neither could raise roughly $10,000,000 necessary. Coy Johnston of Ducks Unlimited, one of the leaders of the ACE Basin Task Force, contacted banker Charles Lane and his brother-in-law, Weldon Schenck, to arrange a tour. Mr. Lane’s father, Hugh Lane, Sr., tagged along.
When the four arrived at the plantation house, Richard Emmet, a former owner who held one of the options on the property, was moving furniture out. Emmet told his visitors that he had only three months left on his option and was not able to find investors to allow him to exercise it. Schenck and the Lanes began contacting hunting friends and within a few weeks found six partners to purchase the property. Ducks Unlimited holds the easement, which allows no more than ten parcels to be subdivided, with no parcel smaller than six hundred acres.
Another important historic landmark in Wiggins is Field’s Point on the Combahee River, which features a boat landing owned by Colleton County. In describing Fields Point’s importance, the county says:
A small peninsula of land located on the first high ground upstream from the mouth of the Combahee River, Field’s Point has seen its share of history. One famous event occurred during the last year of the Revolutionary War. While the British were preparing to evacuate from Charleston and sent foraging parties into the lower counties to gather supplies, the American troops under General Mordecai Gist met and stopped the British at Combahee Ferry. Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, former aid to General George Washington and whose father was Henry Laurens of the Continental Congress, rushed down from Charleston to join the battle. Gist ordered Laurens to stop the British going downstream at Tar Bluff, just upstream of today’s Field’s Point. But in the early morning hours of the next day, Laurens and his men ran into a British ambush where Laurens was mortally wounded. He was taken back to Stock’s Plantation a few miles from the Point and buried in the Stock’s family cemetery.
Another important event happened during the Civil War. Field’s Point was the location of a “blockhouse” and some minor earthen fortifications, used to prevent access to the Combahee River by the Federal forces stationed at Hilton Head and Beaufort. On June 3, 1863, a crucial raid took place on the Combahee. Federal forces led by Col. James Montgomery and accompanied by Harriet Tubman raided up the river; the Federals disembarked some troops at Field’s Point to drive off the few Confederate defenders and pickets. Montgomery and Tubman continued up river to Combahee Ferry while Union troops occupied Field’s Point. After a day-long occupation the Confederates countered, riding in from Green Pond. The Union troops re-embarked on their gunboat and went back to Beaufort. The area of Field’s Point and Tar Bluff was guarded for the duration of the war by the Confederates. Today the Confederate earthworks have essentially eroded into the Combahee River. Colleton County owns the boat landing at Field’s Point but the surrounding land is part of Cheeha-Combahee Plantation (1).
The history of Wiggins is also tied to a lumber mill established in 1900 by Robert Wiggins. The mill had a succession of owners over the next quarter-century, and although it closed in 1925, some buildings from the old mill village remain.
The photo at the top of this article shows one of the sawmill’s buildings, a small storage shed that housed a four-wheeled cart that carried track workers to and from work sites (). The platform (seen in the photo’s foreground) allowed the cart to be rolled to the tracks and set it in place ().
These two photos, taken between 1935 and 1950, show the Wiggins Colored School (above) and a school in Wiggins for white children (below). Wiggins was in School District 53. They were taken as part of an effort to document South Carolina’s schools for insurance.
Reflections on Wiggins
Photographer Steven Taylor of Walterboro, who contributed the image above, says this about Wiggins: “I love to drive down the country roads and explore, finding that special place. Wiggins was something of a mystery to me.
“I remember when I was 18 driving down the road to Wiggins and never making it to the end as I turned around and headed back to SC Highway 26. Now I am 32 and felt it was time to conquer this feat. I went to the end to see what was there and this old building stood. Not sure the story behind it but I thought it had some special southern charm you can’t find any where else!”
Contributor Edward H. Phillips responded to our request for further information and shares the following: “My family lived in Wiggins back in the days of the Sawmill Village. My dad, J.B. Hickman, was the foreman there in its heyday. My grandfather, W.C. Ritter, worked there also. The building in the picture was moved to the present location from the Seaboard Airline Railroad about one mile back. There was a depot and several other buildings there.
“A Mr. Lyons and his family lived in one of the houses. He worked for the railroad. Behind the plantation house to the left is a road that goes to the Cheehaw River. Beside this road are the concrete foundations of the sawmill. The plantation has a large two-story building that was the comissary for the town. The upstairs was later used for parties, meetings, and social events. The Hickman Family Reunion was held at the boat landing on the Combahee River at Wiggins for a number of years. I lived at Green Pond until 1956, so I went to Wiggins many times to visit my grandparents.”
Wiggins: Our Resources
1. The Colletonian, Two Historic Events at Field’s Point, 2016.
2. E. Donald Wiggins, Wiggins Family Trails” in the South Carolina Lowcountry, Self Published, 2012.
Gregory D. Wiggins says
I am stunned! My father, Donald Wiggins (first name was William), would talk to me about our family background and said that there was a plantation by the name of Wiggins in which our great-great-great-grandfather was renamed Wiggins! So today, November 16, 2020, I just so happen to do a Google search looking for some family, and the city of Wiggins pops up. I’m stunned. I just thought it was a plantation out of town. Wow!
Betsy B. Arrington says
Love reading all this history. Also was wondering if anyone has any history or knowledge of the Mary’s Island Plantation, as well as the Boynton House which is now located in Donnelley WMA. Love the house and hate it is not being preserved, but would sure love to know the history.
Alonzie Wiggins says
Hello family! My name is Alonzie Wiggins, grandson of Hulbert Wiggins and Essie Mae Wiggins. Please feel free to contact me.
Tom Fetters says
I have been writing a complex history of the logging-lumber companies in Colleton County and have cataloged 46 companies that operated in the county or that had rail lines that entered the county.
Wiggins is exceptional in that some huge operators were there and passed on before a new group took over.
Robert Wiggins built the first saw mill at “Wiggins” just west of the Chehaw river about 1900. He worked out a deal with a Norfolk, Virginia outfit and formed Charleston Lumber Co. in 1903. Wiggins built a large mill along with kilns and other units to move from timber to ready-to-use lumber. I know they had three locomotives of note: #2, a Baldwin 2-4-0; #3, another Baldwin 2-4-0; and #4, a larger Baldwin 2-6-0 in 1906.
Wiggins cut the ties with Charleston Lumber in 1909 and continued as Vice President and Manager of the Wiggins facility. The South Caroliniana Library in Columbia has a Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the Charleston Lumber Co. mill.
Wiggins got a Richmond, VA company to form Westmoreland Lumber Co.in 1909. They built a second, larger mill at Wiggins and operated both. Westmoreland added a village, a hotel, two-story houses for management, and rows of bungalows for the workers. Each had running water and electricity. 50 incandescent lights illuminated Wiggins. Wiggins had daily steamboat service to and from Charleston and also to and from Savannah. The two mills could cut 200,000 feet of timber in 24 hours if needed.
As many as 18 schooners could be anchored in the Combahee River to be loaded for ports on the Atlantic Coast, in the West Indies, and in the Bahamas. The village and mills were located east of the road from Green Pond, and west of the Chehaw River.
The mills produced tongue and groove flooring, roof boards, side boards, and beaded lumber. Every board went to one of the kilns to be dried.
A steam tug would bring in the ships to the dock at Wiggins. Their railroad was 21 miles long and ran northwest to White Hall on the Atlantic Coast Line and on to Hendersonville and a bit further for the better trees located there.
The company had four locomotives and 150 logging cars. A trained nurse and a doctor lived at Wiggins and four rooms at a Savannah Hospital were reserved for emergencies.
In 1911, the company built a mill at Green Pond which used Westmoreland Lumber #6, a Baldwin 2-4-0 and Westmoreland #7, and a 2-6-0 Glover locomotive. After five years, the company sold the mills and operation to Hilton-Dodge Lumber in 1914.
Hilton-Dodge found the operation TOO BIG, and sold off the Wiggins plants to Savannah River Lumber in 1915. The company retained the Westmoreland Green Pond mill and used the two locomotives assigned there.
Savannah River Lumber operated at Wiggins from 1914 to 1924. The company bought three locomotives and a large number of ACL freight cars which were converted to logging cars. The mileage of logging lines was greater than 100 miles.
One of the Wiggins mills burned to the ground in October of 1917. None of the dry kilns or finished lumber was affected. Savannah River built a totally new mill, which was smaller but provided the same production. In 1917, the logging track was 43 miles and still ran to Hendersonville and beyond.
A new line was built northeastward from Walter’s Store on the White Hall road, directly to Green Pond. The route to Hendersonville was then abandoned and pulled up.
In 1924, Savannah River Lumber sold out to C. L. Jinks of Greenwood, SC and removed the abandoned lumber and timber at Wiggins and along the railroad and shipped it out by truck and by rail. The smaller wood was sold as pulpwood to paper mills in Savannah. Jinks left the property at Wiggins in 1925.
I am interested in getting to see ANY photos of the mills, village or log trains at Wiggins.
A drawing by Joann Davis, a local artist, shows the Wiggins mill about 1910 as a two-story structure with a raised center section for the saw mill portion. There are five smokestacks.
The photo of the building at current-day Wiggins is a former storage shed for a four-wheel work cart used by track workers to travel to work sites and return. The shed could be locked during off hours to keep the powered machine safe from pranksters. The platform just in front was used to roll the machine to the tracks and set it in place with much less effort.
The other stories of Colleton County logging are equally enchanting, and I have a chapter on the phosphate mining operations west of the Edisto River over to Horse Shoe Creek. Here workers were enticed to come south to get rich digging at the mines, but they were not told of the various fees for upkeep that took all of their earnings. New immigrants from Italy were particularly sought out because of the language barrier. Complaints reached the ears of the Governor.
The Piedmont & Northern
Palmetto Traction (Street Railways)
Logging Railroads of South Carolina
Logging Railroads of the Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains (Vol.1)
The Charleston & Hamburg Rail Road
Logging Railroads of the Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains (Vol.2)
Logging Railroads of the Blue Ridge & Smoky Mountains, (Vol. 3)
The Phosphate Companies and Mines of the South Carolina Low Country
The Beidler Santee River Cypress Lumber Company
The D. W. Alderman Alcolu Railroad
The Complete Pickens Railroad Story
The Complete Greenville Railroads to the Blue Ridge Mountains Story
Colleton County Lumbermen and Logging Railroads
Robert E. Winters, Jr. says
I would enjoy corresponding with Ms. Elizabeth Dickens, who posted comments during May of 2016. I am another who must “dig out” photographs, since I once knew Carew Rice and his brothers Fred and Robert – during the 1960s. The few Rice silhouettes I have make me recall enjoyable visits with the three, and Carew Rice at art festivals in Charleston.
Sabrina Bunton Giroux says
Sandra McCall – My grandfather, Herbert Bunton, was also from Wiggins and the son of Andrew Bunton. I believe our grandfathers were brothers. I’d love to hear any stories you have. I don’t know the family well.
Elizabeth Dickens says
My grandfather Carew Rice lived at Brick House Plantation at Wiggins for many years with his family before he died in 1971. It was built by his father James Henry Rice, author and conservationist. Carew's oldest daughter Elizabeth is still alive. She is 94 yrs old and living in England. Many of our family members are buried at Wiggins. I have heard my mother speak of both the Hickmans and the Buntons. I would love to hear from anyone who knew our family from Wiggins.
Linda Wiggins LaGarce says
Is there a connection to the Uriah Wiggins family and these Wigginses? I am working on our family geneology and would likt to know.
Jane Wiggins Ams says
Linda, I am also researching my family, Daniel and Phebe Wiggins. Their great-grandparents came from England to NY. There were three brothers – Daniel, David, and Brewster. They came to the US somewhere in the early 1700s. Are you related to these Wiggins’s?
Sandra W. McCall says
My mother, Dorothy Bunton, was raised at Wiggins. I too lived there many years and owned property there. My ex-husband and his wife still reside there. All of my grandfather’s family lived and worked there. His name was Cecil Bunton. His father was Andrew Bunton. I have pictures from the days of Carew Rice, Sr. and his brothers that I will share when I locate them.
Kenwood Elwood Price, Jr. says
My grandfather, Kenneth Elwell Price, and my grandmother, Emmie Lucy Crosby Price, lived at Wiggins Plantation for several years in the little white house on the left before you get to the main house. My grandfather was in charge of the crops raised on the plantation for feeding the cows being raised. The caretaker at that time was B. R. Smith. The owner at that time was Christian Herter who was the Secretary of State for the United States. It was later owned by a group of people. Back then, there was a big club house on the right side of the road where the owners and guests would stay.
During deer season, from August 15 through January 1st, there were hunts every week-end. The owners did not care about the deer, but you could not fool with the quail and turkey or any other birds. They had a man hired to look after the duck blinds, duck dogs, quail dogs, and horses. I spent many a days with my grandparents at Wiggins, hunting and fishing and just visiting.
If you need any more info about Wiggins, my cousin is Kenneth Baker who owns Baker’s Shrimp House. Kenneth lived with my grandparents on Wiggins for a good while. All of this took place back in the early 60s and I lost contact with the whole area since then. Great memories.
Bob Venditti says
Great photo! I've been down the road to Wiggins back in the mid-90's and came upon the same structure. The Seaboard Air Line built their rail line between Savannah and Charleston through here in the early 1900's, and the almost arrow-straight line hosted fast frequent through freight trains up to the 1967 merger with SAL rival Atlantic Coast Line. A local passenger train also served the route until Dec 31, 1952. The existing building was likely a tool shed of some sort, as I've seen a photo of an actual depot at Wiggins. Perhaps it was later used as a shelter for waiting passengers, few as they may have been, in the event the depot had been dismantled or destroyed. The rails here were abandoned soon after the merger, as trains instead used the parallel ex-ACL line through the lowcountry.
Robert Wiggins says
My father Donald Wiggins mentioned this town as part of our family heritage. My grandfather, Jack Wiggins, whom I never knew, had came from there and settled in Bulloch County, Georgia. I would like to know more as well about Wiggins, South Carolina.
My grandfather was born in Wiggins in 1924. His father, Henry Nettles, worked at the sawmill there along with several other family members. Before my great-grandparents married and moved to Wiggins, Henry would jump on the train as it passed his home in the Snider’s Crossroads section of Colleton County to get to work. Sometime in 1925/26, the sawmill moved to Bradenton, FL, and many of the workers (including my great-grandfather’s family) followed. My grandfather and his family returned to Colleton County in 1926 and settled on Hendersonville Hwy/Hwy 17, Alt., across from the Great Swamp Baptist Church where Henry Nettles ran a gas station and grocery store for many years. I love visiting Wiggins and imagining what once was. I hear it was a pretty booming place during it’s time!
Tamara Boynton Canipe says
My Dad was raised in Wiggins. He’s 86 (William Skinner Boynton, known as Billy). His father was Evander Ashton Boynton. His grandfather lived in Green Pond. The Boynton Trail at the Donnelley WMA is named after them. The old farmhouse in Green Pond is at the head of the trail. Pictures are posted on my Facebook. The family rode in lancing tournaments. Evander Ashton Boynton Jr. (my uncle) was known as the Knight of Chisolm. He was on overseer on Chisolm at one time. My Aunt Dottie (Dorothy Boynton Black) was the only female lancer. She was known as the Lady of Green Meadows. There are a lot of articles on Google. My Dad’s cousin was raised on Bennett’s Point. They raised free range cattle and rice. They also were a hunting club of sorts. My Dad tells stories of different groups that came to hunt regularly. My family had to sell and move to town because of the Depression. I’m still learning.
Jody Craven says
I enjoyed reading your post. My dad, who passed last year, often spoke of growing up on Chisolm and the Boytons. My granddad, Eugene Craven, worked for them when they owned the place.
Robert McCarty says
Tamara, I enjoyed reading about your Boynton family. Great history. I have a special letter written on November 11, 1854 by Eleanor G. Boynton Harvey to my grandmother in Texas. In our research it looks that Eleanor would have been the sister of your g,g grandfather, Thomas Evington Boynton. Eleanor’s letter is very special in that it is written on fine stationary by a young twenty year old girl. She said that most families leave the area in the winter and that there were only five families that stayed year around. Could the Wiggins have been one of those families? Do you know what Boynton family owned the Boynton house on the Donnelly WMA?
Caryn Ramsey Kapeli says
I have very fond memories of Wiggins. I am 48 now but I have pictures of me in diapers at the boat landing area … we used to go there for picnics. I remember a building there that was screened in … that’s where the food was. We would have Easter egg hunts there. I would love to go back there and travel down memory lane!
Cathy Harmon says
How did Wiggins, SC get its name? I may possibly have ancestors who lived in the area with the last name of Wiggins. Wondered if there was a connection.
Maxine Todd says
My husband, my sister-in-law, and myself explored the road to Wiggins yesterday. I have passed that road many times and have seen the sign for Wiggins and was very curious about the place. We rode to the end and saw the building in the photo. Thank you, Ann Helms, for the information on it as we were very curious. Can you share other information about the area – like the plantation house at the end of the road? We also went down Field Point Road to the public boat landing. All of the area is very beautiful. I do not think I would like to live there as it feels as if you are hundreds of miles from any civilization.
SC Picture Project says
Hi Maxine! The South Carolina Picture Project’s sister site, SouthCarolinaPlantations.com, has an entry for Chisolm Plantation, located in the Wiggins area. I am afraid though that we do not have much information on it yet. Hopefully someone out there does and will share with us!
Steven Taylor says
Farming continued to the major source of income for the people of the Colleton County. The lumber industry provided jobs for many people. The Colleton Cypress Company established a town called Colleton in the upper part of the county, which at one time boasted a population of 400. Wiggins is another example of a lumber town. Both communities had electricity, tennis courts, running water, and an ice house, unheard of luxuries for the place and time. The Wiggins depot is one of the buildings left of a once thriving lumber town of Wiggins.
Ann Helms says
That is the old Seaboard Air Line Railroad building at what was probably a “request stop,” where the train would slow enough to drop off and pick up mail bags as it passed. That is a nice picture. I hope to drive down to see it soon.