SOUTH CAROLINIANA LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
Addition to the John Shaw Billings Papers, 1916-1949Eleven manuscripts, 1916-1949, added to the South Caroliniana Library's holdings of the papers of John Shaw Billings (1898-1975) document his title to Redcliffe plantation in Aiken County. In 1935, Billings, a great-grandson of Redcliffe's builder Gov. James Henry Hammond, bought the property from his uncle Henry Cumming Hammond (1868-1961).
Redcliffe had been the joint inheritance of Henry and his four siblings, Julia, Katharine, Kit, and Alfred. On 31 March 1907, all five heirs had signed an agreement promising that within a year after their surviving parent died, Katharine, Kit, and Alfred would sell their portion to Julia and Henry. The Library's Hammond-Bryan-Cummings papers include a copy of this document; the new Billings accession contains the 12 April 1916 deed by which the agreement was carried out. By this deed Julia Hammond Richards and Henry C. Hammond became joint owners of Redcliffe a few weeks after their father Harry Hammond died, and afterwards Julia resided on the premises with her husband.
"Redcliffe originally cost the Hammonds $50,000," Henry later told Billings. "It is down in the deeds as 300 acres-Father said it was nearer 400. I added 2 poor acres from the Wilsons' for which I had to pay $100.00 an acre." One of the documents in the new collection-the 17 November 1925 deed-records the transaction in which Mrs. Elizabeth B. Mills Wilson conveyed 2.12 acres to Julia and Henry at a cost of $212.00. The accompanying plat shows that the tract lay between Redcliffe and the highway and bounded the Downer School to the north.
In 1934 Julia's husband died, and about that time her health may have begun to fail. On 27 November she sold her half interest in Redcliffe to Henry; then on 16 March 1935 she died, and two weeks later Henry recorded the deed. Henry was now free to negotiate with his nephew Billings, who harbored a secret ambition to own and restore the ancestral home built by his great-grandfather. As managing editor of Time magazine, Billings then resided in New York City.
Billings agreed to purchase Redcliffe for $15,000; deducting the credit for his 1/8 share of the inheritance, the cost amounted to $13,125. He intended to pay $5,625 and mortgage $7,500.
Hence the two central documents in this group are the 1 April 1935 deed and mortgage between John Shaw Billings and Henry C. Hammond. These secured the title to Redcliffe.
Later that year, Billings added three acres to the property. Additional parcels of land came his way in 1943, when a highway relocation project shifted some small tracts to the side of the road adjoining Redcliffe. Four of the items in the collection are deeds pertaining to these transactions. Finally, in 1949, uncle Henry drew up a "satisfaction" confirming that the mortgage had been paid off.
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