Robert Francis Withers Allston

37th Governor of the State of South Carolina 1856 to 1858

Date Born: April 21, 1801

Date Died: April 7, 1864

Place Born: All Saints Parish, SC

Place Buried: Prince George's Churchyard, Georgetown, SC

Residence: Georgetown District, SC

Occupation: Planter, Author, Colonel in SC Militia


West Point Military Academy: Graduated 1821

SC Surveyor General: 1823-1827

South Carolina House of Representatives: 1828-1831

SC Adjutant General: 1831-1838

South Carolina Senate: 1833-1856

Governor of South Carolina: 1856-1858

Allston authored A Memoir of the Introduction and Planting of Rice in South Carolina, Report on Public Schools, and An Essay on the Sea Coast Crops.

Allston won a silver medal (1855) and a gold medal (1856) at the Paris Exposition for the cultivation of rice


Robert Francis Withers Allston was born on April 21, 1801 at Waccamaw, All Saint's Parish, in the Georgetown District, SC, the son of Benjamin and Charlotte Anne (Allston) Allston.

After receiving a preparatory education at the Winyah Indigo Society free school (1809-1812) and at a classical school in Georgetown taught by John Waldo (1812-1817), he entered West Point Academy in 1817, and graduated 10th in his class from there in 1821 as a brevet 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd Artillery. From August 8, 1821 to February 1, 1822, he served on the coast survey under Lt. Col. Kearney, assisting the survey of the harbors of Plymouth and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and then the entrance to Mobile Bay in Alabama. He resigned on February 1, 1822 after his mother requested his help on their plantation back home.

During 1823 to 1827, he was Surveyor General of South Carolina.

In 1828, Robert Francis Withers Allston was first elected to represent the Georgetown District (aka Prince George's, Winyah Parish) in the House of Representatives of the:
- 28th General Assembly that met from 1828-1829
- 29th General Assembly that met from 1830-1831

On April 5, 1832, Robert Francis Withers Allston married Adele Theresa, daughter of William Pettigrew and Louise Guy Gilbert Pettigrew, in Charleston, SC. They had nine children, five of whom reached maturity. He engaged in rice planting on his family estate, Matanza, which he renamed to Chicora Wood, on the Pee Dee River, reclaiming the wild territory by a system of canals and embankments. He introduced more scientific methods of cultivation of rice, including the use of steam, and better varieties of seeds to improve rice production throughout the state. These results led to his medals at the Paris Expeditions of 1855 and 1856.

Through the years, Robert Francis Withers Allston increased his land holdings along the Pee Dee, Waccamaw, and Black rivers, including Nightingale Hall, Exchange, Waterford, Guendalos, Pipe Down, and Dutchford (also called Rose Banks) plantations. Furthermore, he owned property in Georgetown and summer homes in Pawley's Island and at Plantersville. In 1857, he purchased an elaborate mansion at 51 Meeting Street in Charleston, once the home of Nathaniel Russell. Towards the end of his life, he purchased the Morven Plantation in Anson County, NC. All in all, Allston owned approximately 4,000 acres of improved land and some 9,500 acres of pasture, marsh, and timber lands.

During 1831 to 1838, he served as Adjutant General of South Carolina.

In January of 1833, he was first elected in a special election to represent the Georgetown District (aka Prince George's, Winyah Parish) in the SC Senate of the:
- 30th General Assembly that met from 1832-1833
- 31st General Assembly that met from 1834-1835
- 32nd General Assembly that met from 1836-1838
- 33rd General Assembly that met from 1838-1839
- 34th General Assembly that met from 1840-1841
- 35th General Assembly that met from 1842-1843
- 36th General Assembly that met from 1844-1845
- 37th General Assembly that met from 1846-1847
- 38th General Assembly that met from 1848-1849
- 39th General Assembly that met from 1850-1851 - elected President of the Senate
- 40th General Assembly that met from 1852-1853 - elected President of the Senate
- 41st General Assembly that met from 1854-1855 - elected President of the Senate
- 42nd General Assembly that met from 1856-1857 - elected President of the Senate

In the last assembly above, the legislature elected Robert Francis Withers Allston as the next governor of South Carolina on December 9, 1856, and he had to give up his seat in the Senate and as President of the Senate. He served as governor for two years. As governor he pushed for better public education and emphasized local taxation to supplement the state's appropriations for local schools, and he also focused on the expansion of all railroads in South Carolina.

Following South Carolina's secession, he was a Confederate presidential elector and served on the Soldier's Board of Relief until his death.

He died on April 7, 1864 at his Chicora Wood Plantation near Georgetown, and is buried in Prince George's, Winyah Churchyard in Georgetown, SC.


Robert Francis Withers Allston was born in Waccamaw, SC. He graduated from West Point Military Academy in June, 1821 and was appointed a Second Lieutenant the following month, serving with the Coast Survey Corps. However, he was forced by personal circumstances to resign his commission in 1822. A planter and scientific agriculturalist by trade, he was active with the Prince Frederick Church in Plantersville, SC, was a trustee of South Carolina College from 1840 to 1864, presided over the Waccamaw Indigo Society from 1856 to 1861, and was a medal winner for rice culture at the Paris Exposition in 1855 and 1856. He also held the offices of state Surveyor General (1824 to 1828) and state Adjutant General (1831 to 1838) and was a member of both the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate prior to being elected governor. As governor, he advocated local taxation to augment state support for public education. Also during Allston’s gubernatorial term, the Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott case weakened the argument of those who were calling for immediate secession. After leaving office, Allston served as a Presidential Elector of the Confederate States in 1861 and was a member of the Soldiers' Board of Relief.

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