Searching the Origins of Carolina Gold

Written By David Shields

Originally Published In The Rice Paper Newsletter, Fall 2009


Biologist and rice historian Richard Porcher, Professor emeritus of Biology at the Citadel, discovered in summer of 2009 the plats describing the Pineville Rice plantation of Col.Hezekiah Mayham.

Mayham, the first planter to grow Gold Seed rice in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, was one of the two planters whose name is linked by early rice historians with the introduction of Carolina Gold to the Lowcountry in the wake of the American Revolution. With the support of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, Porcher and University of Georgia graduate student Hayden Smith, plans to conduct a preliminary archaeological survey of the site to retrieve seeds and plant matter. Rice geneticist Anna McClung of the USDA has been able to extract DNA from single rice grains in the past and has indicated a willingness to perform similar analysis on whatever is extracted from Mayham’s plantation.

Securing the primordial Gold seed from Mayham’s upland rice fields would be greatly revealing for several reasons. Mayham’s rice strains would eventually serve as the founding seed from which Joshua John Ward, the greatest and most experimental of the antebellum rice planters, developed his world famous long grain version of Carolina Gold. During the brief 20-year period from 1840 to 1861 when that variety was cultivated, it commanded this highest price of any rice on the world market in Paris and London. It is an ambition of the CRG Foundation to genetically recreate the long Gold variety in the next decade.