Bringing History to Life: Prince George Parish Plantation Tours Lee Jones & Anne Hartis

By Leslie Moore

Bringing History to Life: Prince George Parish Plantation Tours Lee Jones &  Anne Hartis

Early in 1947, plans for the first Plantation Tours were being finalized by the women of Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church. For $1.50, tour goers departed the church’s Parish House at 3 pm on Friday, April 11th to walk the grounds of nine different Georgetown County plantations set on the Black and Pee Dee Rivers. This year’s co-chair, Lee Jones, said, “The women took some of the guests around in their cars during that first tour, due to the shortage of automobiles after WWII.” The founding committee raised $321, used for church repairs, and it was decided to continue the event the following year. In 1948, the tour was expanded to two days, set the last weekend in March and ran 9 am-5 pm both days. By 1950, guests could purchase box lunches prepared by the women of the church. (Think homemade pimento cheese and turkey salad sandwiches served with a generous slab of homemade pound cake!)

Today, 68 years later, the Plantation Tours are an annual tradition for hundreds in our area and the only opportunity to see the grounds and interiors of some of Georgetown County’s most beautiful plantations and town homes. This year, 32 sites are on tour – 17 on Friday, March 27th and 15 on Saturday, March 28th. Some were on the first tour in 1947, a testament to the love our community has for this wonderful event.

Putting the tours together is an enormous amount of work and requires dozens of volunteers, from the 15 committee members to docents for each home. Each year a chair is appointed, and last year’s chair serves as co-chair. Anne Hartis and her co-chair, Lee Jones, sat down with Sasee to talk about the tours and even gave us a sneak peak at a couple of this year’s tour sites.

Georgetown resident, Anne Hartis, is an interior designer with 30 years of furniture and design experience. Originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Anne did not begin her career as a designer. “I majored in math in college and my graduate degree is in counseling,” she began with a laugh. “I taught school at a military academy near High Point, North Carolina, and then I went to work as Director of Admissions for another school. When I lost my job, one of the school’s board members encouraged me to go to work in the furniture industry and helped me get a job.” Anne had been helping friends “fix” their homes for years, and her creative spark thrived in her new position. “I learned so much and was able to work with internationally known designers from all over the world.”

Anne, then a single mom with one daughter, Kristen, moved to our area in 1989, two weeks before Hurricane Hugo. She eventually bought a house from Centex Homes and by chance met the area manager, Bill Hartis. Sparks flew, and the two were married in 1998. The newlyweds worked together renovating homes for resale until the building boom collapsed. At the time, Anne and Bill attended church in Murrells Inlet, but had recently moved from Pawleys Island to an older home on Front Street in Georgetown, planning to rebuild their business. In the wee hours of the morning, not long after the couple had settled into their new home, an electrical malfunction caused the house to catch fire. Anne and Bill barely made it out alive and lost everything in a matter of minutes, including their beloved dog trapped in the sun room where the fire started.

“A friend of mine went to the priest’s office at Prince George and asked him to come over to help,” Anne began with tears in her eyes. “We had just lost everything and were completely devastated. He gathered us in a circle in the front yard and had prayer. The entire community rallied around us – I was overwhelmed with gratitude.” Anne and Bill soon joined Prince George. “This church felt like home from the minute we walked in the door.”

Today, Anne is firmly planted in Georgetown. Her work schedule allows time for volunteering, playing tennis, enjoying her rescued pets and, of course, spending lots of time with her three grandchildren, Nixon, Beleu and Knoles. When she was asked to chair this year’s Plantation Tours, she jumped at the chance to give back to the community and church she loves.

Lee Jones, a teacher at Prince George Preschool, and her husband Lee (yes, you read that correctly) are both Carolina natives – she’s from the North state and he’s from the South. Affectionately known as “She Lee” and “He Lee,” the couple met through a friend when She Lee was a sophomore at Converse College, and He Lee was attending the Citadel. She transferred to the College of Charleston for her junior year and the couple married after graduation. They stayed in Charleston for He Lee to complete medical school and then spent three years in the Air Force.

“We came to the area in 1990 when Lee joined a local medical practice and settled in Pawleys Island,” Lee began. “Another doctor’s wife brought me to church here, and I knew immediately this is where I belonged. We’ve been active members ever since.”

The two Lees have two children, Tripp and Anne. While the children were growing up, Lee worked with the church to plan a preschool, and when the school opened in 1997, she took the job teaching the 4 year olds. Both children are now married, and Lee has one grandson, Maxwell. “I spent six weeks with my son and his wife in their home in Denver, Colorado, after Maxwell was born. They are both in the medical field and needed to go right back to work, so I was able to help. I really didn’t want to come home! Anne and her husband live in Monterey, California, so now I travel quite a bit!”

Lee became involved with the Plantation Tours soon after joining the church, when she was asked to sell tickets. “This committee has become a generational thing; the older ones pass down the knowledge to the younger ones. We’ve come a long way – we now have our own website and again this year, an Oyster Roast and Pig Pickin’ on Friday night.”

As we walked through the elegantly furnished Charlotte Ann Allston House, circa 1815-16, Lee and Anne shared a little information about this incredibly ornate home. It had deteriorated almost beyond repair when Mr. and Mrs. Steve Rothrock bought the property and did an extensive renovation of this “Folk Style” Victorian home. The original house had many additions and changes between 1899 and 1908, changing it from a modest early 19th century home to the Victorian style favored at the turn of the 20th century.

We were also able to visit the beautiful Rosemont Plantation, owned by the Right Reverend and Mrs. C. FitzSimmons Allison. Rosemont was a part of the original Georgetown tract granted by the Lords Proprietors to the Perrie family, but changed hands several times before being bought around 1825 by Benjamin Alston for his grandson, Joseph Benjamin Pyatt. When Pyatt married, he had his home built on the plantation while away on his honeymoon. That same year, the plantation produced 570,000 pounds of rice. The original house burned in 1894, and the family moved into their Georgetown town house. Mrs. Allison, the great, great granddaughter of Benjamin Alston, and her husband, built their home overlooking the old rice fields, in 1991. This incredible house is filled with beautiful antiques and mementoes of the couple’s extensive travels, but still manages to feel homey and comfortable.

Our last stop was at the church itself, one of the few original church buildings in South Carolina dating to the colonial period that is still in use today. The Parish of Prince George, Winyah, was formed in 1721 and the original church was about 12 miles north of Georgetown. The Parish split, and a new church was built in 1747. The sanctuary retains its original box pews. Lee told us a little about these interesting pieces of history. “Originally the pews were bought by the family who used them, and they designed the seating arrangement inside the pew,” said Lee. “Of course, there was no heat, and families brought charcoal heaters to church in the winter.” During the tours, the church will be open to the public and will host an art show and a display of the church’s extensive antique silver collection.

“This is a labor of love,” said Lee. “We love seeing all the smiling faces every year – even though there was nearly 6 inches of rain on the Saturday tour last year, people still came.”

Prince George Parish’s 68th Annual Plantation Tours will be held on March 27th and 28th. Box lunches are available, and a tea will be held both afternoons. The Oyster Roast & Pig Pickin’ will be held on Friday evening at the Boat Shed in Georgetown. For tickets or more information, call 843-545-8291 or visit www.princegeorgeplantationtours.com.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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One Response to “Bringing History to Life: Prince George Parish Plantation Tours Lee Jones & Anne Hartis”

  1. I’m a Georgetownian. Welcome to Georgetown, South Carolina. I write a blog under the name of Cranky Old Hag which has several articles I’ve written about members of our community here in Georgetown under “Meet Georgetown.” I’ve also added a photo album of the town on my site. Included in the photo album are pictures of Prince George Winyah Episcopal Church. Please enjoy your visit to our beautiful and historical town.

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