Badwell Cemetery in McCormick is the resting place of the Petigru family. The Petigrus (also spelled Pettigrew) were Huguenots, and their patriarch was the Reverend Jean Louis Gibert, leader of the nearby Huguenot settlement, New Bordeaux (no longer extant). Gibert established Badwell Plantation in the mid-to-late eighteenth century and is interred within this cemetery.
Gibert’s grandson, James Louis Petigru, inherited the plantation and took great pains to improve the property, including planting a mile-long avenue of oaks leading to the plantation home. He is said to have named each tree for a friend. The trees have since been cleared. Petigru, a Willington Academy graduate, lawyer, and vocal anti-secessionist, was a notable South Carolinian. He served as state Attorney General, opposed slavery, and is famous for his quote, “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.”
Petigru is also the namesake of the James L. Petigru Public Interest Law Society at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Despite Petigru’s history at Badwell, he is buried within the churchyard of St. Michael’s in Charleston, the city where he lived and practiced law after being admitted to the bar in 1812. As Petigru lived out his adult life in Charleston, his widowed sister, Jane, managed the plantation in McCormick.
James Petigru’s sister, Adele, married Robert Francis Withers Allston, who served as governor of South Carolina from 1854 through 1858. Their daughter, Louise Gibert Allston, is also interred at Badwell Cemetery. Petigru’s niece, Mary North, married the nephew of Governor Allston, Joseph Blythe Allston, who eventually became the owner of Badwell Plantation. Joseph Blythe Allston’s grave marker is seen above.
A few headstones stand outside the walls of the family cemetery, such as the marker in the above photo. The memorial to “Daddy Tom” marks the resting place of a Badwell slave. Other markers can be found within the surrounding wooded area; in the mid-twentieth century, several graves were moved from Augusta, Georgia – just across the Savannah River – to this site by the Poteet Funeral Home prior to a damming project by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The moving of the graves spared them from being submerged.
The gate to the cemetery, seen in the top photo, is now painted black. However, it once depicted a cast-iron image of the grim reaper, circa 1860, which was stolen and later recovered. In the 1970s the property was acquired by the Sumter National Forest, which now maintains the site. The United States Forest Service along with local historical organizations and private citizens have been working together since 2009 to restore and maintain the historic cemetery. Rust has been removed, the stone wall has been repaired, and many broken marble grave markers have been reassembled. Future plans include replacing the grim reaper with the original or a replica. An urban legend claims that a troll haunts the stone wall of the cemetery.