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home : good life : lifestyles October 20, 2014

The Story of Red Doe Plantation
Evander Gregg
Evander Gregg

By Carl Hill Jr.

Director, War Between The States Museum

Member of Board of Directors, Pee Dee Rifles Inc.

In present day Florence County, South Carolina, formerly Marion County, about a mile and a half south of Francis Marion University, sits a grand old home nestled among centuries old live oak trees. It sits on the eastern side of the Francis Marion Road, known in colonial times as the Georgetown and Cheraw Stagecoach Road. This area has been known as Mars Bluff since the 1700s. The name attached to the home, "Red Doe," takes us back to a time when South Carolina and 12 other colonies of England were struggling for independence from that country.

The American Patriots had been slugging it out with the British soldiers and local Tories (Loyalist) for seven years now. The British had captured Charlestown, S.C., and were headquartered there. The King's troops were concentrated in the upper and the lower sections of South Carolina. In the area around the Pee Dee River, the Patriots under the leadership of General Francis Marion were waging guerrilla warfare against the British and Tory marauders.

Andrew Hunter, one of Marion's scouts, was a prosperous farmer and miller who lived near the junction of High Hill and Black Creek, now a part of the boundary between Darlington and Florence counties. In 1782, he had an encounter with Colonel David Fanning, a ruthless Tory leader who operated in the Pee Dee River Basin of North and South Carolina. Fanning, a native of North Carolina had left that state late in the war, after being declared an outlaw by the Patriot governor. He was trying to make his way to Charlestown, where he would be safe amongst the British Army.

Fanning had created many outrages against the patriots in both colonies, and had been excluded from a truce between General Marion and the Tory Major Gainey in South Carolina. While out scouting, Hunter came upon Fanning and his followers unexpectedly, and found himself a prisoner of the cruel band.

Hunter was told that he would be hung after breakfast. While the meal was being prepared, he eluded his guards and jumped on Fanning's favorite horse. The Tory called this horse "Red Doe," from her resemblance in color to a deer. She was a rare animal, fleet, powerful, intelligent, and docile as a lamb. Hoping to save his mare, which Fanning valued highly, he shouted to his men to shoot high at the fleeing Hunter. Most of the shots went high, but the scout was wounded in the back, the bullet exiting just above the shoulder blade.

In the path to Hunter's escape on the Mars Bluff Ferry Road, was Middle Branch. This was dammed just north of the road to create Gregg's millpond. A canal crossed the road here and a bridge had been built. Just before reaching the canal, he saw the bridge was out. Fleeing for his life, with the Tories closing in on him, he gambled on the mare making this jump. It paid off, she cleared it with a single, and graceful bound.

Unable to make such a strenuous jump, Fanning's men were delayed in their pursuit. Having gained a lead, and upon reaching the Mars Bluff Ferry, the gallant mare plunged into the river and swam to the safety of the east side. Having made good his escape, Hunter paused on the bank, stood in his stirrups, and shouted defiantly to the Tories on the opposite shore, "Tell Captain Fanning the mare is mine, and he must catch Hunter before he can hang him."

The escape was a complete success. Andrew now had Fanning's horse, saddle, holsters, pistols, and papers. Having friends in the Wahee Neck section, of the Georgetown Precinct (later to become Liberty, and then Marion County), Hunter was soon nursed back to health. Fanning prized this horse so much that he made several attempts to recover her. According to Fanning's story, he went to Hunter's home after the escape and seized the Patriot's wife until he agreed to return the horse. Some authorities discount this version.

In September 1782, Fanning and a party of Tories ventured out of their safe hold in Charlestown to the Mars Bluff area. While making another effort to recapture "Red Doe," he used terror, not on Hunter, but on other patriots in that area. Robert Gregg was the recipient of this terror. He had gotten word that Fanning was coming, and as the Tory approached his home, he tried to shoot him, but his gun failed. Gregg ran for nearby Polk Swamp to hide, but failed to make his escape before being shot by some of Fanning's men. He was shot in his hip, and bloodied badly. Thinking that the wound was fatal, the Tories left him to die.He lived, but was crippled for the rest of his life.

It was said that "Red Doe" was in this area, but was removed to safety just prior to this incident. Fanning, having only a hand full of men with him, and fearing an ambush, retreated to the safety of Charlestown, Again, Fanning had failed to find his horse.

At the end of hostilities, Fanning met Andrew Hunter in Charleston. Hunter was riding Red Doe. The incensed Tory exchanged words with Hunter, and challenged him to a duel on the Citadel Green. Hunter chose the method, swords on horseback.

Having reservations about the terms, Fanning disappointed a large crowd by not showing up at the appointed time. His last frustration came when a lawsuit to recover his horse was rejected by a Darlington County Court. Like many Loyalists, Fanning finally moved to Canada, where he died in 1825. Hunter kept the prized horse as long as she lived, and when she died, the grateful Hunter buried her on a bluff on the Great Pee Dee River across which she had carried him to safety. Drayton Mayrant, a Charleston author, wrote a historical novel, "The Red Doe," based on this incident.

After the war, Hunter represented St. David's Parish (1787-88) and Darlington County (1796-97) in the South Carolina House of Representatives and served on commissions for roads, navigations, and a new courthouse and jail. He amassed eight plantations containing an aggregate of about 3,850 acres. He died in Darlington District, South Carolina in 1823.

In 1846, Evander A. Gregg built the home that we know today as "Red Doe." He was born on July 8, 1818 in the Mars Bluff area of Marion District, S.C. His parents were Captain John Gregg and Jannet Gregg. The Gregg Family had been well established in this area since colonial times. Around the time Evander built this home, he married Sophronia E. Harris, daughter of Captain William Harris. After Sophronia's death in 1849, he married Elizabeth Crane, daughter of Sydney S. Crane of Columbia, S.C.

The date this home was built is established by the following letter; Mary Marshall Hall of North Carolina, one of the Gregg's cousins, wrote to her Aunt Betsy Hall in Louisiana in May 1846, after a visit to the Hopewell section (referring to the Hopewell Presbyterian Church just a few miles south of Evanders' home), "All the family are married but Evander; all living near each other and so well-fixed. Evander is building a house."

He was a graduate of South Carolina College in 1837; ruling elder in Hopewell Church; he owned several plantations in South Carolina, and served in the Confederate States Army as Sergeant Major in Company C, 3rd South Carolina State Troops. Evander and his wife occupied their home at Mars Bluff throughout the war and sold the property to Simons Lucas, on Nov. 1, 1865. They moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina, probably to dispose of his son's plantation there. His only son by his first marriage, Henry Junius Gregg, born 1846, served in Company I, 7 th. South Carolina Cavalry during the war, and died of wounds on April 24, 1865 at a hospital in Farmville, Virginia. Evander and his family later moved to Arkansas and spent his last days in Marietta, Georgia, where he died on November 4, 1874. Lucas, unable to pay the first annual payment in January 1867, deeded it back to Evander. Evander apparently sold it to his brother Ephraim Gregg in that same year. Ephraim owned it for a short time, and sold this property to Robert L. Singletary in December 1867. Robert Legare Singletary was a Captain of Company H, 8 th. South Carolina Infantry, and President of the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. Singletary lived there for the remainder of his life, and his widow, Sarah Jane Evans Singletary, the sister of General Nathan George "Shanks" Evans, sold the house and property to Joseph Wilds Wallace in December 1912. Mr. Wallace sold the house and land to his brother-in-law, Rev. Thomas Hartwell Edwards, in January 1920. In 1928, Mr. Edwards deeded the property and house to the sons of Mr. Wallace, W. G., J. W., Jr., and M. C. Wallace. About 1934, J. W. Wallace, Jr., started calling the home " Red Doe", after hearing the story of the famous escape of Hunter on "Red Doe".

The house was restored in 1940-41, after Marion Chisholm Wallace and his wife Anne Pearce Wallace acquired it. It has changed hands within the descendents of the Gregg family for 160 years. In 2006, Mr. Robert Pearce Wilkins and family donated the house to the Pe De Rifles, Inc. a [501(c) 3]. Nonprofit Corporation. The Pe De Rifles, SCV Camp 1419 formed this corporation solely for the purpose of acquiring the property, restoring it to its original grandeur and house our War Between the States and U. S. Military Museum, which will incorporate the Revolutionary War, and all other wars that the United States has been involved in, including modern day wars. Our primary collection at this time is in the War Between the States period. We will also use it for historical re-enactmentsRE and other events.

We have had this fine old home for about one and a half years now.

So far our efforts to obtain grants to restore it has been unsuccessful, but we have grants that are still pending.

Memberships are needed to insure our success in this project.

If you can help out by joining, please do so, as this is surely a treasure that needs to be saved.

The Pee Dee Rifles Camp # 1419 was chartered on November 14th, 1983, and has since become one of the prominent camps in the 4th Brigade, South Carolina Division, Army of Northern Virginia, Sons of Confederate Veterans. We vigorously strive to carry out the Charge of our organization in the Pee Dee area to insure that "...the true history of the South is preserved for future generations".

We meet every 4th Tuesday of the month at the Pee Dee Shriners Club located at 3053 E. Crescent Dr. Florence, SC.  We invite you to come out to a meeting and consider joining our camp.

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