Lawton Stables located at 190 Greenwood Drive in prestigious Sea Pines Plantation doesn't reveal it's self to you on first glance. The sign reads pony and trail rides open 7 days a week, lessons and boarding. Well that doesn't seem particularly special or unique. But, there's quite a story behind these stables. Lawton Stables wasn't always at this location, in fact it was moved here back in 1969. But, it's beginnings go back much farther. Lawton Plantation was initially a large plantation in Braddocks Cove (the toe area of the Island). The Lawton family had come from England and were well off with both land holdings and slaves; not just here on Hilton Head Island.The government seized the plantation for back taxes. There was the main house, some out buildings, and 50 slave quarters in 1867, 2 years after the end of the bloodiest war this country has ever fought. When The Civil War was over, many slaves were left in the area. Often unable to care for themselves without the land owners and overseers. Through a commission the Port Royal Experiment began. Freed slaves were given the right to remain on the property, sometimes they lived in their previous quarters, sometimes they lived in the main houses. Depending on what was remaining after The Confederates vacated.
2 teachers, Eliza Summers and Julia Benedict from New York arrived in Hilton Head in 1867 and took up residence in the main house on Lawton Plantation. They worked hard and long hours to educated the Freed Slaves. The main house doubled as school, and a church. During the day the ladies taught the children of the Island, at night the adults when they were done working in the fields. They taught them to read, write, how to plant crops to sustain their families, how to sew and take care of their clothes. Not an easy task with the difficulties of living in the low country with snakes, mosquitoes, and rats. The teachers had to take their shoes with them to bed, to have something to throw at the rats that entered the house after nightfall, even though the house was built on stilts.Due to restrictions, a dislike and lack of respect for the man who was in charge of the commission, Eliza and Julia left Lawton Plantation after six months. But, even in that short period of time, they had made a huge difference in the lives of The Islanders. The restrictions included telling the ladies what time they had to go to bed, what time to be up, not to entertain males and other things they felt were inappropriate.
Once the Lawton family paid back taxes, they were reinstated as the owners. Their presence at the stables at the original location was maintained until 1969. In 1969, they were removed to the current location to make room for development in Sea Pines for a golf course. The golf course in Harbour Town is The Harbour Town Links Course, the location of the famous Heritage Classic so many of us have seen on TV with The Lighthouse in the background. The main house and slave quarters have long since vanished through the ravages of time.
The present day Lawton Stables offers much to locals and visitors alike. It's a full service Equestrian facility. Boarding and training for locals, weddings and birthday parties, and summer camps are some of the options. For vacationers to The Island, they can visit, ride, and shop and enjoy the beauty of the area. A complete renovation took place in 2008. There's even a free small animal farm for your enjoyment. Riding along the bike trails I passed the stable more then once in my treks. Next time, perhaps I'll stop and have a look in the gift shop that is filled to brim with horse related memorabilia.