A backward look at the 4th of July here in 1807

by | June 30, 2018 5:00 pm

Last Updated: June 27, 2018 at 11:06 am

By Dr. David W. Hiott

After Independence Day 1776, John Adams wrote his wife Abigail enthusiastically to predict that future generations would celebrate The Fourth as a great anniversary festival with parades, games, bells, fireworks and more. This prediction came true. Two rare newspaper articles found in an old Charleston newspaper show that, as elsewhere, the fete was enjoyed greatly in Colleton County.
During the late Colonial era of South Carolina, the only Colleton County town of any significance west of the Edisto River was Jacksonboro. Situated on the bank of the Edisto River, the village even served as the provisional capital of the state in 1782, when the legislature met there to enact overdue business. After post-war shuffling of counties, Jacksonboro became the county seat for Colleton County and remained so until Walterboro achieved that distinction after 1817.
Jacksonboro, once a town of 80 houses and stores, was a riverside and roadway center for many surrounding rice plantations. That type of agriculture, however, had downsides. One involved the damming of area branches, creeks, and swamps for rice cultivation, making the stagnant waters increasingly susceptible to mosquitoes and malaria during the hot months.
By contrast, Walterboro began in 1784, as a healthy, summer colony. The Walter brothers, Jacob and Paul, who seemed to sense the healthy nature of the sandy hills in the center of the county, built the first cabins there. At first the colony was called Hickory Valley. More than a century would pass before the reason for the healthy location became clear. When the role of mosquitoes in the transmission of malaria to humans became known, then it was be understood that Walterboro’s sloping sand had few stagnant pools in which mosquito larvae might hatch.
Because Walterboro and Colleton County lost their records in 1865, when Sherman’s troops burned Columbia, the Charleston newspaper articles about us in 1807 are rare gems.

CELEBRATING THE FOURTH
At Jacksonboro, Captain Oswald’s Company of Militia assembled for the citizens. They performed several military evolutions, and then fired three rounds in honor of the day. The company was accompanied by the Jacksonboro Cavalry, under the command of Lieutenant George Rumph.
Following this, everyone sat down to a handsome dinner prepared by Mrs. Roberts. There was a listing of numerous, post-dinner toasts that were given. These included toasts to our Declaration, our Constitution, our country, President Jefferson, Governor Charles Pinckney, etc. Of more local interest was a toast in memory of Colonel Isaac Hayne, our Revolutionary War martyr, hanged 25 years earlier by the British.
Who were the local people mentioned? Captain William Oswald Jr., planter and militia officer, had residences both toward Jacksonboro and a summer cabin in Walterboro. By the War of 1812, he would be a S.C. Militia Brigadier General, and in the 1820s, sheriff of Colleton District.
Lieutenant George Rumph was probably the Horseshoe Creek planter who married Jennet Allen, but there was also a George Rumph, tavern owner, in Jacksonboro, at the same time. The latter George allowed his tavern to be used as a polling place on election days. Unfortunately, the article did not name Mrs. Roberts well enough for identification, despite her obvious culinary arts.
In the newer village of Walterboro, the festivities began with a prayer by Rev. Floyd, followed by an address by Captain Youngblood, then an elegant meal, courtesy of Mr. Spencer, with toasts. They even announced plans for the celebration of 1808, with Francis B. Fishburne to be featured orator.
The clergyman who offered the prayer was Rev. Loammi Floyd. He served the Bethel Presbyterian Church at Jacksonboro. In 1820 he was involved in starting a branch church of Bethel for the worshippers in Walterboro. His religious background was rather ecumenical. He began as a Methodist preacher. In 1801, he was ordained at the Independent Congregational Church in Charleston, and then ministered at the Bethel Presbyterian Churches until his death.
The orator that day, Captain William Youngblood, was a planter, and later became a S.C. Militia Major General. This family is said to have had Hessian roots. His father, Peter E., was a large, planter landowner in the Round O area of Colleton County, land which William and his siblings inherited. William’s first wife was Elizabeth Singellton and his second was Eliza Bower.
Unfortunately, the news article failed to identify “Mr. Spencer” fully. I suspect that Spencer paid for the elegant dinner, which was probably prepared by others. The most likely Colleton “candidate” was William Spencer, born in the 1750s or before. William Spencer’s daughter, Catherine, born in 1794, would have been 13 at the time of the celebration. At maturity, Catherine married Simon Verdier. Verdier came to Walterboro about 1800 from France “with nothing.” Within a few years as a merchant, he became quite an entrepreneur, moving into land, planting, and sawmills, to name a few. Catherine and Simon were childless, but the township surrounding Walterboro was named Verdier in their honor. Eighteen toasts were given, including one to the martyr Hayne.
Major Francis B. Fishburne, of a prominent Colleton County family, was a planter, whose place on the Ashepoo River was “The Oaks.” His father, General William Fishburne of Round O, was a Revolutionary War officer of distinction. His mother, Sarah Snipes, was a daughter of the noted Revolutionary War curmudgeon and patriot, Colonel William Clay Snipes. Major Fishburne’s wife was also of prominent ancestry; she descended directly from Edmund Bellinger I, II, III and IV. Captain Edmund Bellinger Sr., was one of the original Landgraves of Carolina, so honored by the Lords Proprietors for merit and service to them as surveyor general.
No record has been found to say if Fishburne was able to fulfill his obligation as orator on 7-4-1808.

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