South Carolina's Mansfield Plantation is a testament to the power of conservation to protect not just nature, but also important links to our past. A former rice plantation worked by slaves for more than a century, today the nearly 1,000-acre property is a spectacular combination of upland pine forests and wetlands. Owners John and Sallie Parker and The Nature Conservancy have partnered on a conservation easement that will protect all of Mansfield Plantation's natural and historic features in perpetuity.
John Parker stands in front of a portrait of Dr. Francis Simons Parker, his great-great-grandfather. Parker's ancestors owned the former rice plantation from the early 18th century until 1912.
John and Sallie Parker on the grounds of Mansfield Plantation. John Parker purchased the historic property in 2004 and the couple now operates it as a bed and breakfast for enthusiasts of nature and American history.
After turning off Highway 701, visitors travel nearly two miles along a gravel road carved through pine forest before reaching these brick columns that form the entrance to Mansfield Plantation.
The upland forests of Mansfield Plantation are dominated by mixed pine, including slash and longleaf. Restoration efforts have thinned shrubs and invasive grasses from the understory.
Bo, an English Springer Spaniel, watches ducks on Mansfield’s Rice Pond, a diked field which was cleared of invasive grasses and permanently flooded by the Parkers in 2007 to create habitat for waterfowl, fish and alligators.
Mansfield Plantation’s wetlands are fed by the slow-moving waters of the 151-mile Black River, which sustained rice farming and other regional agriculture for centuries.
Spanish moss-draped live oaks frame the Wash House, one of Mansfield’s former slave cabins. Like other historic buildings on the property, the Wash House is being carefully restored.
A black swallowtail butterfly busies itself in the innkeeper’s garden, where herbs are grown to spice up dishes served to the property’s Bed & Breakfast visitors.
The property’s original chapel is under restoration. Wire cables are used to secure the frame during repairs. The new roof is built from treated pine shingles laid over pine and cedar gables and rafters.
A row of live oaks lines the banks of the Rice Pond, where the land forms a small peninsula that offers panoramic views of the water and the array of life it supports.
A green tree frog (Hylidae cinerea) climbs the branch of a fallen live oak. Mansfield Plantation’s wetlands and forests are a haven for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife.
In the winnowing barn, rice grains were separated from hulls and chaff. The whole rice was shaken in a basket to rub away the chaff and then dropped through the hole in the floor. The chaff blew away as the grains fell.