The 1860 census shows that Alston’s mill was not operating as of June 1st of that year. Nor was it reactivated after the Civil War or Alston’s death in 1866, and in this circa 1875 photo of the mill it appears abandoned.
In 1875, Robert and Eliza Donaldson bought Alston’s rice plantations, calling the combined properties Friendfield. They began cultivating rice and restored the mill to full production, adding machinery and reinforcing walls. The Georgetown Times described the Donaldson mill as “...one of the oldest and best buildings in the county - a landmark - and intended for pounding as well as threshing...made of brick, with iron doors and window frames, and cost considerable money.”
The Donaldsons came late to rice planting. Between 1860 and 1870 rice production in Georgetown County declined by over 90% and agricultural land lost more than 80% of its value. Commercial rice production moved west, to Texas and Louisiana, as seen in this photograph taken in 1910. Today's major Southern rice growing states are Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.
In the 1890s the Donaldsons began leasing some of their rice fields to duck hunters, and in 1894 Robert Donaldson died. His sons were still operating the mill in 1902 when it burned. By 1904, when Bernard Baruch visited the area looking for a hunting retreat, they were ready to sell.