Traditional joggling boards find a new seat in the Lowcountry

August 20, 2010 

A joggling board sits outside the ancestral home of the Kinloch family in Scotland. Local lore claims the idea for the South’s joggling board came from manor residents in the early 1800s. Earl McMillan III of Beaufort is a Kinloch decendant and recently had a new joggling board shipped to the estate from Charleston.

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  • Essentially, it's a 16-foot-long southern pine board, hand-treated, suspended between two braces. "We sell everything from our warehouse in Charleston," said Tommy Thornhill, co-owner of Old Charleston Joggling Co. "We figured if we put in a middleman, they would cost $1,000." They cost $655. Thornhill began making joggling boards in 1959 as a hobby. He and a partner formed the Old Charleston Joggling Board Co. in 1970, which still sells 200 to 300 annually. They are shipped all over the world. "We have a lot of tourists, and they become enchanted by them," Thornhill said. Most are painted Charleston green to match doors and shutters. "The color endures in this climate," Thornhill said. Joggling board production can't be automated and requires a specific wood. "We tried cypress, but they would lose their spring," Thornhill said. He favors southern pine. "We have a buyer who hand picks it for us. You have to avoid any knots." Also, the board has to be hand-treated, because pressure treatment makes the board brittle, he said. The company's slogan? "Put a little joggle in your life." To find out more, go to www.oldcharlestonjogglingboard.com At the turn of the 19th century, there was a staple in the South that graced front porches, just as swing sets adorned backyards a few generations hence. On many plantation porches were 16-foot joggling boards suspended between two braces. One or two people sat on the board, and it bounced up and down. Their heyday was from the early 1800s to about World War II. About six years ago, Earl McMillen III, a classic-yacht restorer who splits his time between Rhode Island and Beaufort, noticed a joggling board at a plantation in Georgetown. So McMillen bought a joggling board from the Old Charleston Joggling Co. for the porch of his home in Beaufort's Point neighborhood. He read the board's history on the company's website . Cleland Kinloch of Weehaw Plantation near Georgetown built a plantation in the early 1800s in Sumter County called Acton, the site said. "The names were immediately apparent," McMillen wrote in an e-mail. "Kinloch is not a common name. My grandfather was Francis Kinloch Nelson, named after my fifth great-grandfather Francis Kinloch of Georgetown. Francis Kinloch was a member of the 2nd Continental Congress representing South Carolina. He was also wounded in the Revolutionary War in the Battle of Port Royal." Francis Kinloch was Cleland Kinloch's brother. After Cleland Kinloch's wife died, Mary Benjamin Kinloch Huger arrived to help her brother care for the household. She was obese, said Tommy Thornhill, co-owner of Old Charleston Joggling Co., and suffered from rheumatism. She wrote of her troubles to her relatives in Scotland who lived on the Gilmerton family estate. Her Scottish cousins apparently sent a model of a joggling board, suggesting she could bounce gently on it for exercise. A plantation carpenter followed the model, and the novel piece of furniture spread across the new state. But the family connection runs deeper than that. "Mary Kinloch was the sister-in-law of Daniel Huger, my wife's fifth great-grandfather," McMillen wrote. "So from our perspective, the joggling board history and the Gilmerton connection were very meaningful." His ancestors acquired Gilmerton in 1655, and it has been in the Kinloch family since. The McMillens visited the castle in May. "The house is almost exactly as it was when my eighth through 10th great-grandfathers lived there," McMillen wrote. "The paintings of those we descend directly from are still hanging on the same walls as when James Kinloch (a young son of the second Baronet) went off to South Carolina to make his way." McMillen says he has no idea if a joggling board ever was made at Gilmerton, but it has one now. He had one shipped from Charleston. The story comes full circle.

At the turn of the 19th century, there was a staple in the South that graced front porches, just as swing sets adorned backyards a few generations later.

On many plantation porches were 16-foot joggling boards suspended between two braces.

One or two people sat on the board, and it bounced up and down. Their heyday was from the early 1800s to about World War II.

About six years ago, Earl McMillen III, a classic-yacht restorer who splits his time between Rhode Island and Beaufort, noticed a joggling board at a plantation in Georgetown.

So McMillen bought a joggling board from the Old Charleston Joggling Co. for the porch of his home in Beaufort's Point neighborhood.

He read the board's history on the company's website .

Cleland Kinloch of Weehaw Plantation near Georgetown built a plantation in the early 1800s in Sumter County called Acton, the site said.

"The names were immediately apparent," McMillen wrote in an e-mail. "Kinloch is not a common name. My grandfather was Francis Kinloch Nelson, named after my fifth great-grandfather Francis Kinloch of Georgetown. Francis Kinloch was a member of the 2nd Continental Congress representing South Carolina. He was also wounded in the Revolutionary War in the Battle of Port Royal."

Francis Kinloch was Cleland Kinloch's brother.

After Cleland Kinloch's wife died, Mary Benjamin Kinloch Huger arrived to help her brother care for the household. She was obese, said Tommy Thornhill, co-owner of Old Charleston Joggling Co., and suffered from rheumatism.

She wrote of her troubles to her relatives in Scotland who lived on the Gilmerton family estate.

Her Scottish cousins apparently sent a model of a joggling board, suggesting she could bounce gently on it for exercise.

A plantation carpenter followed the model, and the novel piece of furniture spread across the new state.

But the family connection runs deeper than that.

"Mary Kinloch was the sister-in-law of Daniel Huger, my wife's fifth great-grandfather," McMillen wrote. "So from our perspective, the joggling board history and the Gilmerton connection were very meaningful."

His ancestors acquired Gilmerton in 1655, and it has been in the Kinloch family since.

The McMillens visited the castle in May.

"The house is almost exactly as it was when my eighth through 10th great-grandfathers lived there," McMillen wrote. "The paintings of those we descend directly from are still hanging on the same walls as when James Kinloch (a young son of the second Baronet) went off to South Carolina to make his way."

McMillen says he has no idea if a joggling board ever was made at Gilmerton, but it has one now. He had one shipped from Charleston.

The story comes full circle.

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