March 27 Monday. Middleton Place was a former rice plantation worked by slaves. During harvest, each man was responsible for half-acre a day, called a task. Women and young boys were called half-hands and had half-tasks. Some were called quarter-hands. The rice planted was Carolina Gold; it was shipped to other colonies, Europe and even as far as China, and it made the rice planters the richest men in North America.
Behind the plantation restaurant were the former stableyards, exhibiting the blacksmithing and weaving skills needed to make the plantation self-sufficient. Only two gravestones belonging to slaves had been found on the grounds. One belonged to a domestic servant, possiblty a butler, the other to an unlisted slave, possibly a cousin to the wagon-driver. Butler and wagon-driver were positions of some responsibility in the economy of the planation. Perhaps the planters forked out some money for the gravestones, which were then erected by the other slaves who would themselves be buried in unmarked graves.
Civilization mingled with nature in Middleton Place on three terraces. On the topmost terrace were the formal gardens, disciplined rows of azaleas, magnolias and camelias leading to the sweet marble statue of a Wood Nymph with red petals in her lap. On the middle terrace, the rice fields, cultivated in a different sense--productive, necessary, exploitative--and flooded three times before harvest, by slaves raising the water-gates. The bottom terrace was the marsh where herons and egrets picked their way through mud. And the River Ashley itself, too brackish for rice cultivation, flowing in its imperturbable manner into the Atlantic Ocean.