From John Drayton’s son Charles who kept invaluable records of the property until his death in 1820, to the Bowens family and countless other people of African descent who worked at Drayton Hall as slaves and later as freedmen, a multitude of individuals have shaped the site and left tangible reminders of their occupation. Through archaeology, architectural research and documentary investigations, the stories of these people and their lives at Drayton Hall are coming to light and provide new insight on life in the Lowcountry and our American past.
At Drayton Hall, we can trace the estate’s ownership line from the 18th to the 20th century. The home’s historic figures include John Drayton, who founded Drayton Hall in 1738; Dr. John Drayton, who may have saved the house from destruction during the Civil War; Rebecca Perry Drayton, who encountered German Jaegers during the Revolutionary War; and Miss Charlotta Drayton, who left a provision in her will asking her nephews not to make any major changes to the main house.
Enslaved people of African descent would have seen the house under construction, the lands being cleared, and may well have contributed to the construction of the house—from the making of the bricks to the crafting of the elegant plaster and woodwork. Ongoing research continues to shed new light on the members of Drayton Hall’s enslaved and emancipated community, many of whom are buried at the cemetery, one of the oldest in the nation still in use, that is located about 100 feet from Drayton Hall’s main drive.