Cultivating the Butterfield experience
Upon my arrival to Butterfield Plantation in Allendale County, I was greeted by Lady — an old, yellow lab-mix who was sleeping on the back porch of the farmhouse. Truthfully, it wasn’t much of a greeting; she barely opened her eyes and ever-so-slightly shifted her position. Lady came with the place when Dr. Charles Campbell, a retired ophthalmologist from Winston-Salem, bought the property nearly two years ago. She has lived her entire 18 years at Butterfield.
Indeed, the old dog is a testament to the character and rich history of this beautiful, magnificent place.
Dr. Campbell’s ultimate acquisition of Butterfield is an inspiring tale of homecoming. He explains: “My great grandfather joined the wave of pre-Depression northerners who seasonally migrated to the Lowcountry to escape Yankee winters. Between 1927 and 1929, he assembled over 5,000 acres of open farmland along the Savannah River near Allendale and oversaw the design and construction of the Homeplace that stands on the property today.”
The main house was modeled after Allendale’s historic Roselawn Plantation, a short distance away. The place was christened Butterfield, in honor of the elder Campbell’s wife’s family. “For over 30 years he and his family enjoyed the temperate winter climate, abundant wildlife and natural beauty of the property and the friendly people of Allendale,” Campbell says.
Butterfield contributed to the rearing of Dr. Campbell, who recalls “as a boy being met at the train station by my grandparents for several extended Christmas vacations, assigned homework in hand, riding horses, exploring and engaging in various forms of mischief.”
E.C. Maner of Barton assumed the role of Butterfield’s manager. He raised his family in the farmhouse and oversaw the agricultural operations. Cattle, hay, row crops and a few dairy cows for personal use were raised at the expansive and bustling farm. Maner proved an integral part of Butterfield, so much so that his death was a contributing factor to the Campbells’ eventual decision to sell the plantation in 1958. Several owners subsequently enjoyed Butterfield over the years — until Dr. Charles Campbell stumbled upon its listing. He proudly declares: “Butterfield is now home to a descendant of the man who created it.”
When Dr. Campbell was preparing to purchase his old family place, he met Probate Judge Keith Smith, an Allendale native who owns Keith Smith Funeral Services and also has a background in farming. “As Dr. Campbell was doing his due diligence, we got to be friends and he would stay with me when he came down. He asked me to be a partner with him in helping restore Butterfield to its original condition,” Smith explains. Smith’s two sons Porter and Duncan also assist with consulting and guiding at Butterfield.
Smith reflects on the original contribution Butterfield provided for the surrounding community: “This place was a boon for this poor area. It provided jobs for all sorts of folks: sawmill workers, carpenters and farmworkers.” Campbell humbly acknowledges that — nearly a century later — this same community effort that enabled Butterfield’s creation has likewise facilitated its restoration: “The Butterfield upfit is a story of pride, coincidence, resourcefulness and shared vision. Without the commitment of tradesmen, neighbors, farmhands and family, our progress would have been scant indeed. As it stands, the Homeplace is nearly ready for guests and other structures are poised for refurbishment.” Additional quarters will include the Farmhouse, the Birdhouse and the River Cabin.
The Homeplace has been renovated to “accommodate 14 guests with en suite bathrooms.” The front porch lights originally served as stagecoach lamps for Butterfield Overland Mail, run by Campbell’s ancestor; a stagecoach replica is on display inside. The basement includes a gun room, the old boiler room from the days of steam heating and the “Hunt Room.”
The Hunt Room boasts massive, hand-hewn beams and a tongue-and-groove pine ceiling Keith Smith salvaged from the Cave United Methodist Church, after it was destroyed by a tornado. A round poker table in the center encourages guests to engage in a friendly game of cards after a fine day afield. An old oak icebox with glass windows now serves as a curio. Especially fitting is an antique portrait of Butterfield’s original manager, Mr. E.C. Maner, donned in hunting attire, overlooking the room from atop the mantle.
As a steward of the land, Dr. Campbell is keenly aware of conservation and is excited to share Butterfield with his guests. The 1,800 acres include “over one mile of Savannah River frontage” and “over 500 acres of wetlands with boardwalk access to 1,100-year-old cypress trees.” Butterfield is home to protected swallow-tailed kites and participates in the South Carolina Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers Safe Harbor Program.
The managed forestland for the woodpecker habitat is likewise conducive to game fowl. “Once we provide water, feed and cover, we are confident we can establish wild quail,” Smith says. His son Porter expands: “One goal of the Butterfield Experience is to have native wildlife flourish through the rolling hills and deep swamps of the property. One in particular is the bobwhite quail. Establishing the essential habitat for this species is a key part of our journey of bringing back a timeless tradition of hunting upland birds in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.” Here, wing-shooters are driven to quail hunting fields in mule-drawn wagons for an old-time hunting experience with released birds.
White-tailed deer and wild turkeys are also popular game species sportsmen can pursue at Butterfield. Duncan Smith’s son Fitz recently harvested his first deer at Butterfield, a trophy nine-point buck. Duncan reflects on his own passion for this special place: “I truly appreciate the opportunity to work with the Campbell family in creating the ‘Butterfield Experience.’ With our shared visions, this is going to be something that our two families and guests will enjoy for generations to come.”
Butterfield is a true sportsmen’s’ paradise. Anglers may wet lines in the Savannah River or try their luck at any of the numerous ponds. Shotgun enthusiasts are sure to be thrilled at the sporting clays range.
However, the Butterfield experience promises to be a memorable respite for folks of diverse interests. Visitors may enjoy birdwatching, authentic cuisine prepared at the Cook Shack and hiking, biking, or horseback riding on 17 miles of woodland trails. Very soon, Butterfield will be prepared to host groups, weddings and families. All are encouraged to take in “panoramic views of the property from the Homeplace wrap-around porch and deck or from the top of the fire tower,” as well as “cool evenings at the authentic cane syrup fire pit.” Regardless of your objective, Dr. Campbell assures: “The Butterfield experience is limited only by your imagination. Bring family, friends, social and business groups and feel the serenity of bygone life in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.”
For more information about reserving a stay or guided hunt at Butterfield Plantation, visit butterfieldplantation.com or contact Keith Smith at (803) 300-7634.
Ford Walpole lives and writes on John’s Island and is the author of many articles on the outdoors. He teaches English at James Island Charter High School and the College of Charleston and may be reached at email@example.com.