Getting to Know Belle
Belle Wilcox Baruch was the eldest daughter of Bernard Baruch, the wealthy Wall Street mogul of finance who advised six presidents. Though much is known about Bernard, far less is known about Belle, yet her accomplishments are considerable. The list below provides merely an overview of Belle Baruch’s diverse interests and lifetime pursuits:
- Competed in sailboat races and became the first woman to win the Queen of the Bay Sailing Cup in Great South Bay, Long Island
- Competed in male-dominated European equestrian events, frequently winning
- Promoted the suffragist cause for a woman’s right to vote
- Taught Morse code to military men and women serving in WWI
- Chaired the Communications Bureau of Woodrow Wilson’s proposed League of Nations
- Earned her pilot’s license in 1939 and purchased seven airplanes between 1939 and 1947
- Released two personal airplanes to the U.S. Army Air Corps during WWII and patrolled the South Carolina coast, watching for German U-boats
- Ensured that the African-American children living on Hobcaw Barony attended school
- Donated sums of money, large and small, for others’ health care and health causes
- Managed the forests and harvested lumber, cultivated oysters in the salt marsh, planted a large Victory Garden, and oversaw the maintenance of all 33 buildings and over 90 miles of dirt roads on her Hobcaw Barony property.
Belle Baruch was adamant about safeguarding her land. Among her many ventures, she patrolled by horseback, car, truck, boat, and airplane to keep out poachers and trespassers. Nearing her death at age 65, she established a foundation to protect and maintain the 16,000 acres of coastal South Carolina that she loved so well. Above all else, she wanted to ensure that her property would not be developed with hotels, boardwalks, and entertainment venues, like those in Myrtle Beach to the north. She wanted Hobcaw Barony to remain as she knew it.
Advised by attorneys and others on the most effective methods to achieve her ends, she established environmental research in forestry and marine biology as her foundation’s purpose, as well as the “propagation of flora and fauna.” In so doing, she saved the property from development in perpetuity. Today it is part of 66 miles of undeveloped coast between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, one of the most pristine coastal environments on the east coast of the United States, and therefore perfect for the uses Ms. Baruch envisioned.