Hilton Head Myths & Misconceptions: Baynard poker game
Story by Richard Thomas
Baynard poker game
Another captivating urban legend of Hilton Head history is the one that states that a ne’er-do-well grandson of Captain Jack Stoney, nicknamed “Saucy Jack,” lost the family land and holdings to William Baynard in a poker game in 1845. To be sure, the Stoney heirs a couple of generations removed from their notable Patriot ancestor were far less enterprising than their grandfather had been, but that is not the way they lost the land.
The sons of Captain Jack Stoney, James and John, had worked the three family plantations after their father retired to a life of fishing and hunting. James had owned the 900-acre Otterburn Plantation since 1793, when his father began to build the family mansion of tabby at Braddocks Point Plantation, about a 1,400-acre farm at the time. Son John had returned from Savannah around 1800 to live at Braddocks Point in his own house fronting Calibogue Sound about 200 yards west of his father and mother. Together they supervised the work on the Stoney Plantation along Skull Creek.
The sons had a sea island cotton factoring (brokerage) business with offices in Charleston and Savannah, and the plantations on Hilton Head supported the family in high style until James died six years after his father in 1827. James’s share passed to his son, Dr. George Mosse Stoney. John Jr. began to founder with the load of the entire family enterprise, spending most of his time in Charleston running the factoring company. The productivity of the plantations suffered, and debt to fund operations mounted steadily.
By 1837, the Stoney family owed nearly $400,000, an astronomical sum at the time, to the Bank of Charleston, and when John died the following year, the Braddocks Point land was given to a grandson of Captain Jack, nicknamed “Saucy Jack,” presumably of the given name John. That same year, the land and the house at Braddocks Point passed into receivership with the Bank of Charleston, where it remained until William Edings Baynard decided to make Hilton Head his full-time residence. Young William had come to HHI at age 19 to manage the Spanish Wells Plantation, given to him as a gift by his uncle Ephraim, the richest man in South Carolina at the time. He had accumulated additional acreage on Hilton Head and in Kirk’s Bluff (Bluffton today) over the 25 years he managed lands here and on Edisto Island. The stately home on Braddocks Point was the most suitable living location on the Island at the time, and in 1845 Baynard purchased the house and approximately 1,200 acres of land from the Bank of Charleston for $10,000. A deed exists in the archives of the bank today, so the poker game story is clearly a colorful interpretation.
The same year he bought Braddocks Point, Baynard purchased the stately Davenport House in Savannah to provide a city getaway from the bucolic existence on Hilton Head from time to time. The following year (1846) he built the magnificent Baynard Mausoleum in the Zion Chapel of Ease Cemetery, not realizing that he would need it as a resting place only three years later. Baynard died at age 49, leaving his wife and seven children. He was interred in the mausoleum where he rested for nearly fifty years until grave robbers removed his casket around the turn of the century.