Belle Baruch became interested in forest management in 1955 after Hurricane Hazel felled many of the trees in Hobcaw's woods. In this 1957 photograph Hobcaw superintendent, Nolan Taylor, oversees selective timber harvesting. The forests of Hobcaw are a mix of hardwood and pine, including loblolly and longleaf varieties. Longleaf pine forests once dominated the eastern coastal plain of the U.S., stretching over 140,000 square miles, but they have been greatly reduced by centuries of logging and development. Nevertheless, they still play an important role in the region's ecology, providing habitat for the endangered gopher frog and red-cockaded woodpecker. The Belle W. Baruch Foundation works to maintain longleaf habitat through replanting and the use of prescribed burns. In this video the Foundation's Director George Chastain talks about the history of the Hobcaw forest.
Debordieu Beach, part of which is on Hobcaw Barony property, lies just to the north of North Inlet. In 1938 Belle Baruch built her "Grass Shack" cabana on the beach here, where she enjoyed picnics and beach parties with family and friends. During World War II the American military became alarmed by the presence of German U-boats off the east coast of the U.S., and Hobcaw Barony, with its miles of isolated beachfront, was an area of particular concern. Belle Baruch was asked by Naval Intelligence to serve as a volunteer coastal observer and she spent many nights at the Grass Shack, scanning the ocean for suspicious activity. Throughout 1942 and 1943 she made a number of sightings, one of which led to the arrest of a German spy and a letter of thanks from J. Edgar Hoover.
Hobcaw Barony's landscape includes thousands of acres of salt marsh – transitional areas between land and water that occur along the intertidal shore of estuaries. The North Inlet estuary fills Hobcaw's marshes twice daily with clean salty water from the Atlantic, providing essential habitat for young fish and shellfish. Crab, oysters, fish and shrimp are plentiful in the marsh creeks, as they were thousands of years ago when Native Americans feasted on them. The Baruchs were also very fond of seafood. In this photograph from 1937-38, Belle Baruch and Lois Massey prepare to cook crabs at the dock at Clambank Landing. The daughter of Samuel T. Massey, Hobcaw's superintendent of plumbing and electricity, Lois was Belle's secretary and house manager at Bellefield for many years.
In her will Belle Baruch established the Belle W. Baruch Foundation to make Hobcaw Barony available to researchers from all colleges and universities in South Carolina. Two research institutes have been established: Clemson University's Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, and the University of South Carolina's Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences. Created in 1969, the Marine Institute was headed from its founding until 1995 by Dr. John Vernberg. In this video Dr. Vernberg describes his first visit to Hobcaw Barony, when he and his wife toured the property with Belle Baruch's partner Ella Severin. Severin lived at Hobcaw with Belle from 1951 until Belle’s death in 1964. In Belle's will she was named a trustee of the Foundation and granted lifetime residency at Bellefield Plantation, the home Belle built at Hobcaw. Severin died in 2000 at the age of 95.
The Native American presence at Hobcaw Barony is apparent in the property's very name, said to be a Native American word meaning "between the waters." Physical evidence is readily seen in the shell middens that line the shores of Hobcaw's creeks and emerge as outcroppings in the marshes. Many other material remains have been found at Hobcaw in the form of pottery shards, blades, points, and numerous other artifacts. Yet much archaeological work remains to be done here. In this video, Buster Hatcher, Chief of the Waccamaw Indian People, who are based in nearby Aynor South Carolina, discusses the history and present-day circumstances of the Waccamaw and other Indian tribes in the region.