I love stories about women who made significant contributions to American history, so when I visited Walnut Grove Plantation in South Carolina. I was happy to learn about Catherine “Kate” Moore Barry, a heroine of the American Revolutionary War.
Thanks to the Spartanburg County Historical Association, Walnut Grove Plantation has been renovated, preserved and is open for tours. In addition the Manor house, there is a schoolhouse, a wheat house, and several other structures that help provide a picture of early colonial life in South Carolina.
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Details Of The Walnut Grove Plantation House
Although it looks more like a farmhouse than a plantation, it was considered a mansion in colonial times because of its large size.
Walnut Grove is one of the few houses in the country that provides a fully documented picture of life during the colonial period prior to 1830.
According to the documentation when it was listed on the National Register, the Walnut Grove house itself is considered one of the finest remaining upcountry plantation houses of the period.
The construction of the Walnut Grove Plantation house is partly influenced by rural Pennsylvania Dutch architecture because of the family’s link to Pennsylvania. The two-story structure is of unchinked logs covered with clapboards.
Touring Walnut Grove Plantation
Visitors can still see the distinctive features of late Queen Anne mantels, fielded paneling, and double-shouldered chimneys inside the house.
Two things I learned about colonial life during the tour was that they had a “keeping room” where important things like the family Bible were kept. The room made it easy to grab these things and save them in case of a fire.
The second thing I learned was about the “dinner gun” that was kept within reach. If someone saw a turkey or a deer walk by through the window, they could grab the gun and “get dinner.”
Visitors can also explore separate outbuildings on the site that include a kitchen, (built about 1777), and an academy building that doubled as a weaving room.
Yes, you read that right. The Rocky Spring Academy at Walnut Grove was established by by the owner Charles Moore, and was one of two classical schools in the county, operating from 1770-1850.
Other separate buildings reconstructed as part of the plantation complex include a well and spring house, a work shop, a smoke house, and a blacksmith shop and forge.
Incidentally, not quite shown in the photos of the house is a White Oak tree stump from a 430-year-old tree that fell in June 2001.
That means the tree began growing about 1570, nearly 100 years before the founding of South Carolina!
History of Walnut Grove Plantation SC
Located in Spartanburg County, in a little town called Roebuck, Walnut Grove Plantation was considered the “backcountry” of South Carolina during colonial times.
Now called the upstate, the area was primarily settled by Presbyterian immigrants from Ireland and Scotland in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
One of those immigrants was Charles Moore, who settled in the region in the 1750s on land granted to him by King George III.
Moore built the farmhouse between 1763 and 1765, and grew corn, wheat, tobacco, and livestock on about 3,000 acres of land.
According to Moore family tradition, the home was named Walnut Grove for the lovely grove of walnut trees planted on the grounds by their daughter Margaret Catherine ”Kate” Moore.
It must be noted that this story has been passed down through several generations, and has no historical documentation to prove it.
The Heroine Of Historic Walnut Grove Plantation
Kate Moore was the eldest daughter of 10 children that lived at Walnut Grove. She married Andrew Barry in 1767 at the age of 15 and lived about two miles away from Walnut Grove.
When the Revolutionary War broke out in 1776, Kate volunteered as a scout for patriot bands in the area, since her husband, Andrew, her brother, Thomas Moore, and several brothers-in-law were members of the patriot forces.
According to legend, it was not unusual for Kate or her slave “Uncle Cato” to mount their horses, ride to the patriots’ encampment, and warn her husband and the troops of impending danger.
In the winter of 1781, Kate acted as a voluntary scout for Daniel Morgan, by gathering patriot bands to send on to him. Her husband, Andrew, was a soldier under the command of General Pickens in the nearby Battle of Cowpens.
For her efforts to increase the number of American patriots at that important battle that was won by the Patriots, Kate Barry earned her reputation as the “Heroine of the Battle of Cowpens”.
In another story of her heroic deeds, Kate is said to have heard Tory soldiers (American soldiers who supported the British) coming across the Tyger River near her father’s house. She tied her two-year-old daughter Catherine to the bedpost and rode to her husband’s unit for help.
Having grown up in the area, Kate knew the Indian trails and shortcuts where almost no patriots lived.
In another story, the Tories came to her house and demanded information about the whereabouts of her husband and his troops. When she refused to give them this information, the Tories tied her up and whipped her three times with a leash.
Kate Barry’s warning helped to prepare the colonial forces to defeat the British governor, Cornwallis and his men and drive them north, out of the state.
I visited the Cowpens battlefield as well as King’s Mountain and Ninety-Six — all of which are fascinating Revolutionary War sites.
Wild Bill Kills Three Patriots At Walnut Grove
Even though Walnut Grove Plantation was located in the wilderness of South Carolina, it did not escape the violence of the Revolutionary War.
In the fall of 1781, Captain William, “Bloody Bill”, Cunningham and a band of his Tories attacked Walnut Grove when there were three Patriot soldiers at the plantation.
One of the soldiers was Captain Ben (John) Steadman who was confined to bed with an illness. The Tories came into the house, went upstairs and shot Steadman to death in the bedroom.
The other two Patriots tried to run away but were also shot down.
The Walnut Grove Plantation Cemetery
About 500 yards west of the main house is the Moore family cemetery.
Not only is it where Revolutionary War heroine Kate Barry and her husband are buried, but her parents are there as well.
The cemetery holds the remains of about 150 people, including the three patriots who were killed by Bloody Bill Cunningham on the plantation grounds.
Some of the sites are marked only with a small rock sticking up from the ground. Others – like Kates – are marked with a tombstone, but are unreadable due to the age.
The different kinds of stones reminds me of the Old Burial Grounds Cemetery in Beaufort, N.C.
Visiting Walnut Grove Plantation
Visitors to Walnut Grove get to see a typical plantation kitchen, as well as Rocky Spring Academy, one of the first schools in the county.
Outbuildings that are still located at Walnut Grove include the blacksmith forge, smoke house, wheat house, well house, dry cellar, barn, and reconstructed doctor’s office.
Kate Barry was an ancestor of the actress Amanda Blake (1929-1989), remembered for the role of the red-haired saloon proprietress “Miss Kitty Russell” on the television western Gunsmoke.
Blake placed a cameo-sized portrait of Barry owned by her family in the local history museum, where it still remains on display.
Courageous Kate, a book for ages 8-12 tells the story of Kate Barry Moore.
FAQ’s About Walnut Grove:
Where is Walnut Grove located?
Walnut Grove is located at 1200 Otts Shoals Rd, Roebuck, SC
What Can You See At Walnut Grove?
You can see the colonial house that was a home to Revolutionary War heroine Kate Moore Barry, as well as a number of outbuildings and the cemetery where Kate is buried.
When Is Walnut Grove Open For Tours?
Walnut Grove Plantation Hours: Walnut Grove is only open on weekends from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
How Much Does Walnut Grove SC Cost?
Admission is $10 per person aged 5 and up.
Plan Your Trip To Walnut Grove
Book a Room near Walnut Grove Plantation.
Wrap-up of Walnut Grove Plantation
Amazingly, the Walnut Grove Plantation homestead stayed in the family for several generations. A later descendant of Charles Moore named Thomas Moore Craig, deeded eight acres of the property to the Spartanburg County Foundation in a trust sponsored by the Historical Association.
Since then, further land donations have increased the site’s acreage to about 60 that will be protected for future generations.