The Adams family emigrated from England to Virginia in the 1640s, and later migrated to coastal North Carolina in the early 1700s. Joel Adams and his uncle Richard Adams were the first of the family in lower Richland County, South Carolina, settling at Wavering Place in 1768. Before the American Revolution, Joel began acquiring land along the Congaree River in lower Richland County, ultimately establishing over 25,000 acres of plantations in the area, including Wavering Place, among others. Adams, who served as an officer in the American Revolution, was known as "Joel of All" due to his extensive landholdings. Joel's son Dr. William Weston Adams (Yale c. 1806) inherited Wavering Place and lived there until the 1830s, before moving to Alabama to take over his family's plantations there.
Joel's granddaughter Francis Tucker Hopkins built the second big house at Wavering Place in 1850, to replace the first big house that burned around that time. In 1865 she sold Wavering Place to her first cousin James Pickett Adams, an American diplomat and Confederate Major. The property descended down through the James Pickett Adams line until Dr Julian Calhoun Adams purchased the interest of over 50 Adams descendants in 1986. In 2013, Weston Adams III and Robert Adams VI acquired Wavering Place from their Uncle Julian, continuing Adams ownership dating back to 1768.
The Greek Revival big house dates to 1850. The numerous outbuildings all date from 1790 and include the brick kitchen house, the double slave cabin, the smokehouse, the plantation office, and the barn. The noted formal native plant gardens at Wavering Place were designed and hand created by Dr. Julian C. Adams. The gardens have been featured in numerous publications, including Garden and Gun magazine.
Other Adams plantation houses still extant in lower Richland County include The Millstones at Adams Pond (1770); Meeting House (1830); Belle Aire (1820); and Elm Savannah (1790). Other nearby plantation houses of Adams' related families include: the Weston family's Grovewood (1760); and the Hopkin's family's Cabin Branch (1780), Alwehav (1780), and Oldfield Plantation.
Notable Adams in South Carolina history include: Governor James Hopkins Adams (1812-1861) (Yale, c. 1831) of Live Oak Plantation, who served as South Carolina Governor from 1854 to 1856, and who also makes a notable appearance in Mary Boykin Chesnut's famed Civil War diary; and Dr. Edward Clarkson Leverett Adams (1876-1946) of Adams Pond, author of numerous books including Tales of the Congaree (UNC Press, 1927 and 1987).
For further reading on the Adams family history, see: Lower Richland Planters: Hopkins, Adams, Weston and Related Families of South Carolina, by Laura Jervey Hopkins (1976); History of Lower Richland County and its Early Planters, by Virginia G. Meynard (2010); and Robert G. O'Meally's introduction to Tales of the Congaree (UNC Press, 1987.)
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Wavering Place is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
and is available for tours and special events.