Located in Lee County, the Ashwood Plantation project was a government sponsored agricultural community established as a resettlement site for tenant farmers displaced by the Great Depression. In 1934 the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) acquired 7,000 acres south of Bishopville, including the 2,200 acre Ashwood Plantation of former governor Richard I. Manning. Other parcels ultimately raised the total to about 11,000 acres. A succession of state and federal agencies would oversee the project in the ensuing years, including the federal Resettlement Administration, the South Carolina Rural Resettlement Corporation, and the federal Farm Security Administration (FSA). Project directors planned to settle about two hundred families at Ashwood. After proving their mettle as renters, settlers could purchase small farms on extended credit, receive advice in agronomy and farm management, and eventually become self-sufficient yeomen.
By the late 1930s, the project had built homes for about 160 families, who rented crop land for $3.50 per acre. Woodlands and pasturage were furnished free of charge. Rental allowances were based on the number of draft animals a family owned. A tenant with one horse (or, more commonly, one mule) could rent thirty acres, while a two horse tenant might rent fifty acres. In addition to housing, the FSA built three schools, an auditorium and gymnasium, a medical facility, a shop, and a community center.
Despite the best intentions, Ashwood was dogged by problems. Many Ashwood residents and administrators lacked farming experience. Others did not demonstrate a satisfactory work ethic. Yet another problem was the size of the farms; low crop prices made the smallest units financially unsustainable. The FSA disbanded the project in 1944 and turned over the property to local administration. The lands were eventually sold and most of the surviving buildings were razed in the 1980s.
Hayes, Jack Irby. South Carolina and the New Deal. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.
Hiott, William David. “New Deal Resettlement in South Carolina.” Master’s thesis, University of South Carolina, 1986.
“Rehabilitation Project in Lee County Approved.” Columbia State, October 19, 1934, p. 2.