John Joyner bought the property in 1785. His grandson, John Joyner Smith, (1790-1872), inherited the property upon his grandfather’s death in 1796.
Smith grew Sea Island cotton on the seven hundred acres of land at Old Fort Plantation. In 1850, Smith harvested sixty-five bags of Sea Island cotton using the labor of 130 slaves.
During the Civil War, Old Fort Plantation was confiscated by the US Federal government. In 1862, the 1st South Carolina Volunteers, a unit of former slaves and freedmen under the command of Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson were stationed at Smith’s Old Fort Plantation. The Union forces referred to the camp of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers as Camp Saxton.
Naval Hospital, Beaufort was opened in 1949 on 127 acres of land. Historically, the site was formerly the John Joiner Smith Plantation which included Camp Saxton, a Civil War Garrison and Fort Frederick, both recognized as National Historical sites. The earliest federally authorized black unit to fight for the Union, the First South Carolina Volunteers, was camped at this site. On January 1, 1863, General Rufus Saxton assembled a large populace for one of the earliest readings of the Emancipation Proclamation. An annual reenactment of the reading is held at the Camp Saxton site, along with a Civil War encampment both of which are enjoyed by members of our staff and the local community.
Fort Frederick was built by the English in 1735 to protect Beaufort from the Native Americans in the area and the Spaniards to the south. Today, the remains of its walls stand within the Naval Hospital compound as a duly designated historical monument. During the Civil War, the site became a Garrison named Camp Shaw. The present hospital replaced the Naval Hospital, Parris Island which was open from 1891 through 1 May 1949. Naval Hospital, Beaufort was commissioned on 29 April 1949, and the first patient was admitted on 5 May 1949.