The Ark Plantation

By Greg Martin

       "The Ark Plantation" (also referred to as "Arke Plantation" and "Ark Plantation") was the home of John M. Tillman. The plantation consisted of approximately 3,200 acres of land and covered much of what is now Surfside Beach.
        There are no records in Horry County of a deed for the property into John Tillman. It is possible that the Tillman family received a royal grant for the property prior to the American Revolution. If there was a royal grant a record of this is in Charleston. If Tillman acquired the land between the revolution and 1801 a deed was likely recorded in Georgetown since what is now Horry County was during that time a part of Georgetown District. Any deed recorded there was sent to Columbia during the war between the states and destroyed by Sherman's troops when Columbia was burned.
        The first evidence of Tillman living in what is now Surfside Beach is from the Robert Mills Atlas of 1820. There is also a survey of John Tillman's plantation recorded in Horry County which is marked a resurvey of an 1838 map. This map indicates a total of 3,194 acres stretching from the Atlantic Ocean about three miles inland and with about one and one-half miles on the ocean front. This map shows the plantation house, several outbuildings and cleared f ields. The home stood until the middle part of this century.
         According to an article by John Thomas in the fall of 1982 IRQ John Tillman owned fifty-seven slaves in 1850. His main crop was sweet potatoes and he produced 3,000 bushels annually. One hundred ninety acres were used for the production of rice. John Tillman's will recorded in the Probate Court for Horry County reveals some interesting things about him. At the time Tillman's will was written in 1854 he apparently had no wife or children nor did he at his death in 1865. Mr. Tillman was apparently quite affluent since he listed gifts of money, land and slaves to his brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces in his will. When Tillman died in 1865 the War had apparently taken its toll since his personal property was valued at about $2,000.00. No value was placed on his real estate.
        The inventory of The Ark Plantation conducted in 1866 gives insight into Mr. Tillman. The inventory included two double barrel guns valued at $15. 00, a lot of chairs and tables, and a clock valued at $30.00, a crockery and two dozen silver pieces valued at $25.00, a shaving case and razors valued at $3.00, and one lot of books (old) valued at $10.00. The inventory states the house had two large rooms upstairs and two downstairs.
        After Tillman's death the family divided The Ark and eventually it was developed. It was renamed first Roaches Beach, then Floral Beach and later Surfside Beach. It has been written that the old plantation home was named The Ark because it survived the great hurricane of 1893, however, this is not true since it was referred to as "Arke Plantation" in the inventory of Tillman's estate compiled in 1867.

The Independent Republic Quarterly
Spring 1990, Pgs 11-12

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