Rev. John Grimke

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Rev. John Grimke

Birthdate: (74)
Birthplace: Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Death: April 2, 1891 (74)
Summerville Dorchester County South Carolina, USA
Place of Burial: Saint John In the Wilderness Cemetery Flat Rock Henderson County North Carolina, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Smith Grimké and Sarah Daniels Grimké
Husband of Julia Grimké
Father of Julia Drayton Grimke
Brother of Thomas Grimke Drayton and Theodore Drayton Grimke

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About Rev. John Grimke

Following the American Revolution, Thomas Drayton married and fathered six children during his lifetime. He also became not just planter gentry like his father before him, but also a Justice of the Peace for the Charleston District and a member of the Charleston Library Society. Thomas outlived both his brother Glen and his half brother Charles and died in 1825 at the age of sixty-seven.

During this time, Magnolia and other Lowcountry plantations, saw a drastic decrease in the rice market and they had to diversify or whither away. Many plantations did not survive this change, but by the early 19th century, Magnolia Plantation had diversified its crops and labor and continued to survive. It was also during this time of change and growth that the gardens at Magnolia Plantation would expand and flourish.

While he had six children during his lifetime, Thomas never sired any sons. Upon his death in 1825, Thomas Drayton, great grandson of Magnolia’s first Drayton, willed the estate successively to his daughter’s sons, Thomas and John Grimké, on condition that they assume their mother’s maiden name of Drayton. Some time later, while in England preparing for the ministry, young John Grimké Drayton received word that his older brother Thomas had died on the steps of the plantation house of a gunshot wound received while riding down the oak avenue during a deer hunt. Thus, having expected to inherit little or nothing as a second son, young John found himself a wealthy plantation owner at the age of 22.

Despite the prestige and wealth inherent in ownership of Magnolia and other plantations, he resolved still to pursue his ministerial career; and in 1838 he entered the Episcopal seminary in New York. While there, he fell in love with, and married, Julia Ewing, daughter of a prominent Philadelphia attorney. Returning to Charleston with his apprehensive bride, who harbored an unreasonable fear of the slaves, he strove to complete his clerical studies while bearing the burden of managing his large estate. The pressure took its toll, and his fatigue resulted in tuberculosis. A few years later, as though by a miracle, his health returned, allowing him to enter the ministry as rector of nearby Saint Andrews Church, which had served plantation owners since 1706 and still stands just two miles down the highway towards Charleston. But until his death a half-century later, along with his ministry, Rev. Drayton continued to devote himself to the enhancement of the plantation garden, expressing his desire to a fellow minister in Philadelphia, " create an earthly paradise in which my dear Julia may forever forget Philadelphia and her desire to return there."

In tune with the changes he had seen taking place in English gardening away from the very formal design earlier borrowed from the French, John Grimké Drayton moved towards greater emphasis on embellishing the soft natural beauty of the site. More than anyone else he can be credited with the internationally acclaimed informal beauty of the garden today. He introduced the first azaleas to America, and he was among the first to utilize Camellia Japonica in an outdoor setting. A great deal of Magnolia’s horticultural fame today is based on the large and varied collection of varieties of these two species—not the abundant and lovely Southern Magnolia for which the plantation just happened to have been named.

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Rev. John Grimke's Timeline

May 1, 1816
Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Age 31
April 2, 1891
Age 74
Summerville Dorchester County South Carolina, USA
Saint John In the Wilderness Cemetery Flat Rock Henderson County North Carolina, USA