Keitt House — Newberry, South Carolina
SC Picture Project | Newberry County | Keitt House
This old house, which sadly no longer stands, once anchored a 500-acre cotton plantation just outside of Newberry. The home was built around 1858 by Thomas Wadlington, who remained here until his death in 1882. The house then belonged to Wadlington’s sister, Caroline, and her husband, Ellison S. Keitt, who served as a Captain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Captain Keitt, known as “Colonel Keitt” by friends and neighbors, was the subject of a scandal involving identity confusion in 1877. A biracial man named Thomas Keitt, said to be the son of a former slave of the Keitt family and an unknown white father, also was known by his acquaintances by “Colonel Keitt,” though neither man had ever actually earned the title. Thomas Keitt had defeated a number of opponents for a seat in the South Carolina Legislature in 1877, including Ellison S. “Colonel” Keitt. In September of that year Thomas Keitt was arrested on charges of bigamy. Several print publications, including the New York Times, erroneously printed the subject of the arrest as Ellison S. Keitt, as both men were known as “Colonel Keitt.”
Ellison S. Keitt sued the newspaper for libel as a result, asking for $50,000 in damages. During the libel trial, Ellison S. Keitt explained that it was common for slaves or slave descendants to adopt the names of their white owners, so the existence of two men from Newberry County called “Colonel Keitt” was not as unusual as it seemed. The court ruled in favor of Ellison S. Keitt, who was awarded six cents in the case.
Ellison S. Keitt had a son, also named Thomas, who taught at Clemson University and later moved into the home and maintained the family farm. During the 1970s and 1980s, the home was rented by Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity of Newberry College. Unfortunately, the home burned on October 8, 1989.
Keitt House Info
Address: Keitt's Crossroads, Newberry, SC 29108
GPS Coordinates: 34.343631,-81.50984