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Knights Hill Plantation for sale

Posted: November 18, 2010 5:16 p.m.
Updated: November 19, 2010 5:00 a.m.

If you have $9.5 million or so, you might be able to buy a nearly 2,700-acre piece of historic Kershaw County property -- and make some money as a timber producer.

Knights Hill Plantation, once owned by two of Camden’s most notable families, is for sale by AgSouth Farm Credit. The lender came to hold title on the property within the past few months, said AgSouth Regional Vice President Larry Ferguson.

According to AgSouth’s website, Knights Hill Plantation was founded in 1770 by John Chesnut. Chesnut’s grandson, James Chesnut Jr., was a U.S. senator prior to the Civil War and served as a brigadier general in the Confederate army. James Chesnut Jr.’s wife, Mary Boykin Chesnut, was the author of “A Diary from Dixie,” which won the Pulitzer Prize following its republication in 1982.

In more recent history, the property was owned in part by the Henry Savage family. Ferguson said members of the family still own surrounding properties.

A check of records at the Kershaw County Registrar of Deeds’ office shows that AgSouth acquired the property for $10 and “other good and valuable consideration as set forth in (a) … deed in lieu of foreclosure and assignment of loans agreement” from Atlantic Coast Properties Inc. of Aiken and Holmes Timber Company Inc. of Batesburg, both owned by Jerry Holmes.

The property was described in four tracts, the largest being 2,000 acres. The remaining tracts were listed as being 624.47, 61.24 and 1.06 acres in size. How Holmes and, therefore, AgSouth, came to own the property is tied to the merger of International Paper and Union Camp.

International Paper acquired the property, as part of a more than 4,600-acre acquisition, from Union Camp with the 1999 merger. The merged company then transferred the property to a new subsidiary called Sustainable Forests LLC. Eight years later, in December 2007, Sustainable Forests sold the property to FAE Holdings 398550 LLC of Louisiana for $6.8 million. On the same day as the purchase, FAE took out a $5.1 million mortgage with AgSouth to cover most of the purchase, with the first installment due on Jan. 1, 2009. In that same transaction, FAE also covered $3.1 million in loan principal to Holmes Timber Co. A year later, Holmes assumed the mortgage through an indenture warranty deed.

Prior to all of that, the land was held by private individuals through Knights Hill Plantation Inc. Among the families that contributed land to the incorporation during the 1980s were the Henry Savage family. Savage founded the Savage, Royal & Sheheen law firm. The incorporation sold the 2,000-acre plantation tract in 1997 to Timberlands of South Carolina. Timberlands, which already owned the three smaller tracts, sold them to Union Camp ahead of the IP merger.

The Knights Hill Plantation tract appears to have been part of a larger piece of property that was obtained from Elizabeth J. Savage and a number of others in 1960. The 2,530 acres listed there consisted of four major sub-tracts, including the Knights Hill, Granny’s Quarter, Flat Rock Creek and Graham Road tracts. They, in turn, were apparently made of even smaller tracts with names such as Joseph Brevard, Nelson, deLoach/Truesdell, Noble Hayes, Clyburn, Mosier, L.A. Savage and Young.

The many subdivisions make it difficult to determine how the original 1770 plantation founded by John Chesnut ended up in the hands of the Savage and other families.

Today, Knights Hill Plantation is being marketed primarily as a timber producing property.

“The property is mostly woodlands with only 250 acres of open land on a high bluff with beautiful views of the Wateree River and Lake Wateree below,” a “Property for Sale” page on AgSouth’s website stated.

According to the website, Knights Hill Plantation sports 2.6 miles of Wateree River frontage. In addition, the estimated value of the timber is $1.7 million, based on a “cruise” completed for International Paper in 2007.

“This is a rolling tract with high bluffs and 10 acres of available pond sites. The property has extensive public paved and country dirt road frontage along with an excellent interior road system creating excellent access across and throughout the tract,” the website stated.

It said 950 acres of high woodland consists of pre-merchantable planted pines ranging from 5 to 14 years in age. Another 1,249 acres of high woodland has a mix of merchantable pine and hardwood timber.

Another company, AFM Land Sales -- which could not immediately be connected to Holmes or any of the other companies that have held the land -- listed the property on Landflip.com for the $9.5 million price tag. AgSouth itself has not disclosed a selling price. In the entry, AFM said the property also has “established food plots and newly developed pasture.”

“The diverse landscape and aesthetic appeal provides unlimited use possibilities ranging from an equestrian facility to a golf course development to a commercially operated recreation/development operation,” AFM said.

The Wateree River forms the western boundary of the property, which can be accessed from either Knights Hill Road from the south or Hazelwood Drive off S.C. 97 from the north.

Ferguson said interested parties should contact him at AgSouth for more information and an appointment to view the property.

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