While growing rice was not an event that started in the 19th century it was an important part of the economic culture of South Carolina. The tidbit below comes from a "Census of the city of Charleston, South Carolina" ©1849. The following tidbit gives some details about the various kinds of rice, where it was grown, etc.
This subject, as well as the Cotton crops, demands more extension than the statement of exports for the lew years embraced in the foregoing tables. Fortunately, through the previous researches of another, the exports of Rice, from a very early period, have been collected and preserved, which will be found in the succeeding pages.
From " Drayton's View of South Carolina" we quote, " Rice, was first planted in South Carolina about the year 1688: when by chance a little of it, of a small unprofitable kind, was introduced into the State."
From "Ramsay's History of South Carolina" we learn, that the cultivation of Rice was first commenced in South Carolina in 1694. A vessel from Madagascar, in distress, put into Charleston harbor, the Captain of which had some previous acquaintance with Landgrave Thomas Smith, to whom he gave a small parcel of Rough Rice, which was in the cook's bag on board ; this, Mr. Smith planted in a moist spot in his garden, (now Longitude Lane, in the City of Charleston) the proceeds he distributed among his friends, and in a few years after Rice became one of the staple productions of the Colony.
In " Carroll's Historical Collections of South Carolina" it is stated, that a Brigantine, from Madagascar, put into the Colony, and gave some seed Rice to Mr. Woodward, which, in a few years, was dispersed through the Colony. It is also further stated " that Mr. Du Bois, Treasurer of the East India Company, difi send to that country, (Carolina) a small bag of seed Rice some short time after." These events occurred about the year 1700.
That Rice, soon after this period, was an' article of export from Carolina, we learn from a pamphlet reprinted in Carroll's Historical Collections of South Carolina, and originally published in London in 1707 by John Archdale, late Governor of Carolina, in which he says, " 17 Ships this year," (probably several years prior to the printing of the pamphlet) " came ladened from the Carolinas with Rice, Skins, Pitch, Tar, &c., in the Virginia fleet."
The following early exports of Rice, which we republish as having an appropriate place in the Statistics of Charleston, were collected by the Hon. R. F. W. Allston in his valuable " Memoir of the introduction and cultivation of Rice in South Carolina," published in 1843, from the following sources: From a statement published by Gov. Glen, in his " Description of South Carolina," 1761.
The gold-seed rice, justly famous for the quality and large yield of the grain, stands, in the estimation of the market, among the first rices in the world. Along the Atlantic coast it has practically superseded the white rice introduced aud generally cultivated in the earlier periods of the industry. The two varieties of gold-seed appear to differ little except that one variety has a slightly larger grain than the other. White rice is valued for its <"arly maturity. The accompanying table illustrates the difference between the grains of gold-seed rice aud white rice:
A large proportion of the rice grown in South Carolina and Georgia is produced on tidal deltas. A body of land along some river and sufficiently remote from the sea to be free from salt water is selected with reference to the possibility of flooding it from the river at high tide aud of draining it at low tide.
Canals and levees.—A canal is excavated on the outer rim of this tract, completely inclosing the field. The excavated dirt is thrown upon the outer bank. ' The canal must be of sufficient capacity for irrigation and drainage, aud must also furnish dirt to make a levee which will provide perfect protection against the encroachments of the river at all seasons. The tract is then cut up by smaller canals into fields of 10 to 12 acres, making small levees on the border of each field. The fields are subdivided by ditches into strips 20 or 30 feet wide for cultivation. The entire tract is usually nearly level, but if there should be any inequality care must be taken that the surface of each subfield be level. The main canal is 10 to 30 feet wide and about 4 feet deep, and connects with the river by flood gates. Through these canals boats of considerable tonnage have ready access to the entire circuit of the tract, while smaller boats can pass along the subcanals to the several fields. The subcanals are usually from 6 to 10 feet in width and should be nearly as deep as the main canal.
Drainage.—Perfect drainage is one of the most important considerations in rice farming, because upon it depends the proper condition of the soil for planting. It may appear unimportant that a water plant like rice should have aerated and finely pulverized soil for the seed bed, but such is the case. Thorough cultivation seems to be as beneficial to rice as to wheat. Complete and rapid drainage at harvest always insures the saving of the crop under the best conditions and reduces the expense of the harvest. On 500 acres of such land, well prepared, there should be 65 to 80 miles of ditches, canals, aud embankment
If there are logs, stumps, or stones in the field they must be removed. When practicable the rice lands are flooded from the river and find drainage by a canal or subsidiary stream that enters the river at a lower level. The embankment must be sufficient to protect the rice against either freshets or salt water. Freshets are injurious to growing rice, not only because of the volume of water but by reason of the temperature. A great body of water descending rapidly from the mountains to the sea is several degrees colder than water under the ordinary flow. Any large amount of this cold water admitted to the field, not only retards the growth but is a positive injury to the crop. In periods of continued drought the salt water of the sea frequently ascends the river a considerable distance. Slightly brackish water is not injurious to rice, but salt water is destructive.
Some excellent marshes are found in South Carolina and Georgia upon what may relatively be termed high land. These are in most cases easily drained and in many instances can be irrigated from some convenient stream. The objection planters have found to such tracts is that the water supply is unreliable and not uniform in temperature. In case of drought the supply may be insufficient; in case of freshets the water is too cold. To obviate these objections reservoirs are sometimes constructed, but are expensive, owing to loss by the evaporation from such a large exposed surface. However, where all the conditions are favorable, it costs less to improve these upland marshes than the delta lands and the results are fairly remunerative.
SOURCE: Bulletin ©1891