(South) Carolina in My Mind

The topic for week 3 of 52 ancestors is longevity. It took me a couple days to think about what I wanted to write about: my longest living ancestor? The ancestor that lived the farthest back? The longest courtship we know about? I didn’t feel like I could write very much about any of these, so I kept thinking.

As I thought about these ancestors, I realized that all the people I was thinking about lived in South Carolina. My paternal ancestors have lived there going back 10 generations in at least one line and for the most part have stayed until recently: my father and two of his siblings were born in South Carolina and all three of his siblings live there now.

Even though I wasn’t born there and haven’t ever lived there, a piece of my heart belongs there. For much of my life, we spent Christmases and parts of summer vacations there visiting my grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and sometimes extended family, a tradition that carries on as I take my boys to visit almost yearly.

On the Veranda

One of my boys visiting the historic DuPre Home.

Of my known direct ancestors, more than 120 grandparents and great-grandparents have lived in South Carolina, most of them on my dad’s side. Several of my ancestors have lived in South Carolina since the 1700s, with one family coming as early as 1685. Only 3 of the family lines arrived after 1800. The most common places for my people were Charleston, Abbeville, Edgefield, and Clemson.

South Carolina and a few of its places

South Carolina was founded as an English colony in 1663 when Charles II granted a charter to eight of his friends. Charleston was settled by Europeans in 1670 when settlers arrived from Bermuda. Charleston was founded on ideas of religious tolerance, which made it a refuge for people of many faiths. It become known as the “Holy City.”¹ Some of my ancestors arrived at the Port of Charleston. Some stayed, but most eventually went up the Savannah River to Abbeville and Edgefield Counties.

Abbeville was settled by French Huguenots in the upper part of the state in 1764 and named after the French town of the same name.²  Some of my ancestors were French Huguenots and some even came from the town in France called Abbeville. Eventually many migrated to this part of the state. At one time it was home to a large railroad depot. Many of my ancestors lived, worked, married, and are buried here.

Edgefield is 26 miles from Augusta, Georgia, across the Savannah River. (The proximity of these two towns is significant in our family history, but that is for another post.) It was part of the Great Wagon Road that brought settlers from the North. Settlement of Edgefield happened gradually between 1750 and 1775, with Edgefield County being created in 1785.³ Some of my ancestors were in Edgefield by 1787, when a South Carolina census was taken. Many more lived there well into the 20th Century.

Clemson was established as an agricultural college in 1889 on the land of Fort Hill Plantation. The plantation belonged to the Calhoun family. After the deaths of Anna Maria Calhoun and later her husband Thomas Clemson, the land was donated for the college.4 My ancestor, JFC DuPre, was the first professor of horticulture at the college. My father and grandfather attended school there. My grandmother lived there from the time my dad was at college in the early 1960s until 2004, except for one year. My grandfather joined her years later (because of his commitment in the Air Force) in 1970 until his death in 1984. This is where we would spend most of those holidays when I was growing up. I have a zillion memories of the town, the school, and particularly my grandmother’s house.

Family Stories

My father’s mother was a DuPre. My 7th (Josias and Sarah DuPre), 8th (Josias and Martha DuPre), and 9th (Samuel and Martha DuPre) great grandparents and their families were French Huguenots (Calvinist Protestants). They were merchants and Josias, Sr. was a minister. In 1598, France’s King Henry IV issued the Edict of Nantes, which granted considerable rights to the Huguenots. They were able to build churches and schools. Many of the royal court, contributors to economy and art and industry also converted from Catholicism to Protestantism. After the death of King Henry IV, things started going badly for the Huguenots, as Henry’s son was Catholic. Civil wars and intimidation to convert to Catholicism continued for many years until the Edict of Nantes was revoked by King Louis XIV in 1685. This allowed for the destruction of the Huguenot churches and schools and made open persecution of Protestants legal. Thousands of people left France causing a huge drain in ideas, skills, and knowledge. My ancestors left France in 1685 for Middleberg, Netherlands. They then went to England and finally to Charleston, S.C. in 1686. My ancestors were given land in Charleston and helped to establish the French Quarter of Charleston. The home of my 5th great grandfather still stands in Charleston at the corner of George Street and East Bay Street.

My 6th great-grandfather, James Bones, married Mary Adams, who’s father I wrote about in my first post, in 1790 and they were the parents of 9 children. He was a member of the United Irishman and took part in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. They were fighting for a united Ireland, inspired by the events and ideas of the American Revolution. The rebellion failed and James fled. He hid at one time in the bread closet of his father-in-law’s home to escape the British. Eventually, he was captured and imprisoned. As family legend has it, his beautiful wife, with a baby in arm, came to the prison. She enchanted the guards and they set him free. James, and possibly the rest of his family, fled to Jamaica in the summer of 1798 and returned two years later. But things were never the same for the James Bones family in Ireland. In 1810, the family immigrated to the United States, arriving in Savannah, Georgia on July 4th, 1810. The family lived in Fairfield County, South Carolina for a time, but later moved to Edgefield, where their son John purchased a home called Cedar Grove for them. James would sometimes come home from drinking in town, riding his horse, and reliving the days of the Irish Rebellion. James and Mary lived there until their deaths. Many of there descendants continued to live in Edgefield for many generations.

My grandmother was born and raised in Abbeville. After she married, she would often return to live in Abbeville to have her babies or when my grandfather was stationed in different places around the world for the Army Air Corp/Air Force. When my grandmother was in high school, a friend wanted to visit a young man attending Erskine College, about 15 miles away. None of them had drivers licences, but they were able to convince a neighbor to loan them a car. My grandmother was elected to be the driver since she was the tallest. She had never driven before and she was terrified all the way there and back that her parents would catch her. They never found the young man.

Many years later, after grandma and her siblings started having children, they all gathered at their mother’s house for Christmas. Grandma’s brother, Fred, dressed up as Santa Claus and peeked in the windows in hopes of giving delight to the grandchildren. Instead, my dad’s cousin still remembers feeling very frightened, some 70 years later.