Puritanism Moves South


Puritanism did not confine itself to New England, even in the seventeenth century. The people of Dorchester, Massachusetts, looked southward and saw there, near Charleston, in South Carolina, a fertile missionary field. It is uncertain exactly why they felt there were opportunities in this proprietary colony where the Church of England was established. Of much different origin from Massachusetts Bay Colony, Carolina (it was not divided into North and South Carolina until 1729) was established after the Restoration when eight promoters obtained a proprietary patent from Charles II. Chief amongst them were Sir John Colleton, a wealthy planter of Barbadoes, and Anthony Ashley Cooper, later to be Earl of Shaftesbury, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Shaftesbury must have had a tinge of the romantic about him, because the 120 articles of the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina which he and the political philosopher, John Locke, drew up, attempted to revive medieval feudalism on a more German and French pattern than English. An elaborate governmental system was devised which provided for five estates, eight supreme courts, a chamberlain, and lord high admiral, and titles of baron, cassique, and landgrave to be bestowed according to the size of land tracts purchased by individuals. Manors and leets were also created. Leet-men and leet-women were bound to the manor, and it was decreed that all their children unto all generations also should be leet-men and leet-women. The nobility was to be hereditary. The eldest of the Lords Proprietors was made Palatine, and at his death the eldest of the seven surviving Proprietors would succeed him. All the royalties, proprieties, jurisdictions, and privileges of the County Palatine of Durham were granted in the patent for the express purpose of avoiding the erection of a democracy. Although the Church of England was the only religious body to receive public maintenance, liberty of conscience was allowed. It was a strange document for John Locke to have had a hand in drawing up.

Charleston was settled in 1670, by a small group from England and several hundred colonists form Barbadoes. Early the following year, the John and Thomas carried forty-two men, women and children from Barbadoes to Charleston sent by Thomas Colleton, Samuel Farmer, and John Stroud, esquires. On board was John Maverick, a Barbadoes planter, with his servants, Philip Jones and Richard Rowser. Hugh Strode also was a passenger. He and John Stroud were undoubtedly members of the prominent Devon family which had taken an important part in the Dorchester Company of Adventurers. John Maverick, who was named in the Parliament of the Carolina colony on April 20, 1672, was probably the son of Nathaniel Maverick, esquire, who was in Barbadoes by 1656. This Nathaniel was the eldest son of Samuel and Amias Cole Thompson Maverick, and grandson of the Reverend John Maverick who was emigrated from Devon to Dorchester, Massachusetts, on the Mary and John. His will, dated August 16, 1670, and proved at Barbadoes February 24, 1673/4, names a son, John, who was under twenty-one years of age when the will was signed. Directing that he be buried beside his son, Moses, under the southeast window of St. Lucy's Church, he left to his daughter, Mary, 40,000 pounds of muscovado sugar to be paid to her either after her marriage or at the age of eighteen years. Samuel Maverick, who was an important figure in early Massachusetts and who there gained a certain amount of unpopularity because of his well-known attachment to the Church of England, apparently was considering emigrating to Barbadoes, as Nathaniel's will directed that if his father came into the island, he was to be maintained out of his estate. Nathaniel Maverick had joined in an agreement with a large group in Barbadoes on January 7, 1664, to settle in Carolina. Perhaps illness forced him to change his mind and remain in Barbadoes, but the subsequent activities of the group are obscure. After his arrival in South Carolina, John Maverick apparently did not prosper, at least, at first. Although he held land at Charleston, he could not afford to keep his servants.

It seems likely that the presence of Maverick in South Carolina had an influence on the decision of a group of Puritans in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to remove to the southern province in 1695. This is especially probable when it is considered that one of his relatives was one of those who emigrated. She was Mary Maverick Way, daughter of Elias and Anna Harris Maverick, and granddaughter of the Reverend John Maverick. She married Aaron Way, son of Aaron and Joanna Sumner Way, who was baptized at Dorchester, Massachusetts, on October 6, 1650. The couple, with their children, were dismissed from the church at Danvers, Massachusetts, on October 11, 1696, to "the church of Christ laterly gathered at Dorchester in New England, and now planted in South Carolina." It was just a year previous to this that the church had been gathered. October 22, 1695, being a lecture day for the church in Dorchester, Massachusetts, the day was set apart for the ordination of Joseph Lord for the church which was to remove to South Carolina and "settle the Gospel there." Those who signed the covenant were Joshua Brooks, Simon Daken, and Nathaniel Billings of Concord; William Norman of Carolina; William Adams of Sudbury; Increase Sumner and William Pratt of Dorchester, and George Foxe of Reading. Representatives or "messengers" of churches in other towns were present to carry out the solemn work at hand. Mr. Lord first prayed, then preached on Matthew 5:13—"ye are the salt of the earth," after which the ministers laid their hands upon him. Mr. Morton gave him a very solemn charge, and Mr. Hobert gave him the right hand of fellowship. A collection amounting to five pounds, eight shillings was taken in the Dorchester congregation which was to help pay the expenses of the day. Two days later a public fast was kept.

The presence of William Norman's signature on the covenant is curious. He had been in Carolina from at least 1684, as on September 22 of that year, he obtained the usual survey in preparation for receiving a land grant from the Lords Proprietors. His 320 acres were located on the northeast side of the Ashley River approximately three miles above the spot where the Dorchester settlement was later made. His family origins are uncertain, but he must have had connections with New England to have gone to Dorchester and become a member there of the church which was to plant in South Carolina. He may have been the William Norman who was in Falmouth, Maine, in 1663, and possibly he was the grandson of Hugh and Agnes Woolcott Norman, and son of Hugh Norman of Plymouth and Yarmouth who returned to his old home at Orchard, near Taunton, Somerset, about 1654, abandoning his wife, Mary White, and his children in New England. Then, too, it will be recalled that a John Norman and his son were among the Old Planters who stayed at Salem with Roger Conant. It certainly is plausible that John Maverick and William Norman were responsible for the beginnings of what was to become Dorchester, South Carolina.

The members of the newly gathered church for Carolina on December 3, 1695, embarked from New England on a longboat (skiff) to board the brigantine Friendship of Boston, but because of strong winds could not come along side her. They were forced to endure the cold of a winter day for three or four hours before they managed to get back to land at Dorchester Neck whence they returned to Boston. Two days later, another attempt was made which was more successful. By December 8, the Friendship had reached the Virginia Capes. A moderate and steady gale was blowing on this Sabbath evening, which soon became a blustery wind and continued to increase in strength the following day. By Monday evening they were forced to take in all the sails except the main sail, and the helm was lashed to leeward. They continued in this state until Tuesday night when at midnight, the wind rose so high that the vessel was in danger of sinking, and it was necessary to lay by for a day and a half. In the midst of this, the passengers agreed to set apart Friday as a day of fasting and prayer to beg the Lord for favorable winds and good weather, but by Thursday noon the winds decreased and the sun came out. On Sunday the ship made great speed. On the 19th of December they came in sight of land at Carolina and hoped to make port that day. It was the evening of December 20, though, before they docked "through divine goodness." The people of Charleston fired a nine-gun salute in response to the Friendship's three guns. Many "worthy Gentlemen" went on board to welcome the New Englanders to Carolina, then took them to their homes for entertainment.

After spending a week in Charleston, William Pratt, an elder of the church, Increase Sumner, and two other men went by water to William Norman's home of the Ashley River and were entertained by Lady Rebecca Axtell, widow of Landgrave Daniel Axtell. They prevailed upon her and her neighbors for the acquisition of land in that region. The South Carolinians were not impressed with all the members of the group, so it was only when Pratt and Sumner held a secret discussion with them that any progress in the negotiations was made. The Ashley River people had a higher esteem for them than they had for many of those who came from New England. There were complaints that some of them were "guilty of gross miscarriages." It is probable that some of these obstreperous characters had left New England not with the desire to spread Puritanism in an Anglican colony, but with the hope of escaping from the strict control of the Bay magistrates. Joseph Blake, governor of South Carolina, was persuading the Reverend Mr. Lord and his congregation to settle at New London (later called Willtown), and sent them to discuss the matter with Landgrave Joseph Morton, son of the late governor of the same name. Pratt and Sumner joined them there after returning overland to Charleston. Lord called Elder Pratt aside to discuss the merits of the two sites, and they kept the conditions of the proposed transaction for the Ashley River settlement secret. They also kept secret from the other members of the congregation something which was greatly for their benefit. After a few days they returned to Charleston by water, and shortly the Reverend Mr. Lord and some of the church went up the Ashley River to William Norman's house where on Sunday, January 26, the minister preached on Romans 8:1. Many of the neighbors from the surrounding countryside attended and gave diligent attention to the sermon. The following Sabbath the sermon was on Peter 1:3-18, and again the neighbors came and also several persons from a distance of ten miles. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered and two deacons chosen. The next morning several members of the church set out for a return voyage to New England for the purpose of bringing their families to Carolina, so a time was spent in prayer on Sunday afternoon. It was probably they who carried the news of the day's activities back to the church in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Puritans in the Province were not confined to the Dorchester Group. There was already a Congregational meetinghouse on Meeting Street in Charleston. In 1698, they were destitute of a minister and sent an invitation to the Reverend John Cotton, an uncle of Cotton Mather and a son of the Reverend John Cotton who had emigrated from Boston in Lincolnshire to Boston in New England. The flock must have been very destitute, as Cotton had been silenced by a council at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and dismissed the previous year for "his notorious breaches of the Seventh Commandment" (Thou shall not commit adultery), and for his "undue carriage in choosing Elders." Just before the unexpected invitation arrived, he had kept three days of fasting and prayer "that the Lord would look upon him in his desolate condition." He then set aside another day of prayer at the close of which he visited his nephew, Cotton Mather, requesting him to pray with him and commit him to the Lord. This he did. By October 1698, the Plymouth case still was dragging on. Just before John Cotton sailed for Carolina in November, having been delayed in Boston by unfavorable winds, he was presented with the testimonials against him. He peremptorily denied the most and the worst of them. His suffering under this cloud was of short duration, as he died of the terrible sickness which carried off many in the low country of Carolina, on September 17, 1699. Cotton Mather continued his interest in the South Carolina Puritans, writing and sending them sermons to keep them from straying into Anglicanism. The Reverend Joseph Lord, a 1691 graduate of Harvard College, apparently did not find South Carolina much to his liking, as by 1718, he was back in Massachusetts, at Barnstable, and two years later was installed pastor at Chatham, where he died June 6, 1748. Born June 30, 1672, the son of Thomas and Alice Rand Lord, he had taught school at Dorchester from 1692 until his departure for the South. On June 2, 1698, he married Abigail Hinckley, daughter of Governor Thomas Hinckley of Plymouth Colony,. Her mother was Mary Smith, daughter of Quartermaster John Smith of the Dorchester Group which sailed on the Mary and John.

The condition of the Anglican Church in South Carolina during the first half of the Eighteenth Century provided fodder for the growth of Puritanism. Letters went to the Bishop of London from clergy in the province deploring the caliber of their fellows in Holy Orders. They were a hard-drinking, quarrelsome, and troublesome lot, engaging in indiscreet conduct and performing illegal marriages. Good men were deterred from going to South Carolina by the lack of decent housing for themselves and their families and because of the low salaries. There were also constant pleas for more clergy. One was said to have died in the same beastly manner in which he had lived. In the space of twelve or fourteen years previous to 1734, there had been four ministers in succession at Christ Church, Charleston, and not one of them was of tolerable behavior, leading to the great damage of religion and the increase of dissenters in the city. The clergy of South Carolina plead for a settled minister for St. Bartholomew's Parish to prevent the inroads of Presbyterianism. One minister ran away from his parish and thus was held in contempt by the better sort of his parishioners.

The Puritans took advantage of the opportunity offered them. In April 1734, Nathan Bassett of Harvard College was ordained in the Brattle Street Church, Boston, by Cotton Mather, Benjamin Coleman, and William Cooper, to be minister of the Presbyterian Church in Charleston. The Calvinist element in South Carolina was augmented in 1735, with the arrival of immigrants from the North of Ireland whom the governor settled in Williamsburgh Township at Wingaw on the Black River where they immediately built huts, cleared the land, and planted corn. They were supported by public funds. A settlement of Swiss Protestants was made on the Santee River. Heavy taxes were levied to cover the cost of bringing and settling European immigrants; it was calculated that Charleston, although a small city, would pay £10,000 in taxes in 1735. White settlers, though, were needed to balance the number of Negroes. A vessel from Angola in that year had brought 318 slaves, and a number of slave ships were expected from Guinea. The Assembly passed a bill levying a duty on the importation of Negroes and the funds derived from it were used for the encouragement of importation of "strangers."

The tract of land on the Ashley River was finally acquired for the Dorchester Group when on July 7, 1696, a grant of 1800 acres was made to John Stevens. William Norman already held a 320-acre tract nearby. It is unknown why a new grant was made of the same 1800 acres to John Stevens on February 1, 1699/1700. At the same time, he also obtained another 2250 acres which had been in the possession of a Mr. Rose. These grants, totaling 4050 acres, were for the benefit of the Dorchester people as is shown by the deeds Stevens gave them. This was divided into twenty-six parts to be sub-divided. He conveyed 1/26 of all unpartitioned land which consisted of 123 acres near the mouth of the creek on the north side to be reserved for a mill, and a 50-acre commons adjacent to the "place of trade" of about 50 acres sub-divided into 115 lots of a quarter of an acre each. Later the mill land was sub-divided into 26 lots of 4 3/4 acres each, and the commons into lots of about two acres each. The old New England system of a common which had been brought from England, did not long survive in Carolina. There was, however, about twenty acres left between the town and where the creek enters the river for public use. Land also was set aside for a public square and streets. The remainder of the land was divided into two divisions and sub-divided into two ranges which were further broken down into forty-five and fifty-acre lots. One of the 115 quarter-acre lots was granted for the ministry of the Congregational Church. With the exception of Way and Sumner, the names of the other recipients are not familiar in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The only family in the male line who had come on the Mary and John to Dorchester, Massachusetts, to go to South Carolina was the Way family. There they produced a numerous progeny. Aaron Way, son of Henry Way and grandson of Henry Way, the immigrant, died in 1695, in either Dorchester or Chelsea, Massachusetts. His widow, Joanna, and their children, Aaron, Moses, William, Mary, and Joanna, joined the South Carolina colony during its first year. She was the daughter of William and Mary West Sumner, who had emigrated from Bicester, Oxfordshire, to Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1635. Two years later, William Sumner was admitted a freeman although he was not admitted to the church until 1652. He was a selectman for twenty-three years, and for twelve years a deputy to the General Court of Massachusetts, besides holding other lesser offices. His descendant, Increase Sumner, in the eighteenth century, was Governor of Massachusetts. Aaron Way II was already married at the time of the removal to South Carolina as he was accompanied by his wife, Mary Maverick, already mentioned. They were dismissed from the Boston church on October 11, 1696. Joanna Sumner Way's brother, Increase, was one of the signers of the covenant. He apparently went south with the advance guard, but his wife and children (they were the parents of ten) were not dismissed from the church in Dorchester, Massachusetts, until November 1, 1696. She was Sarah Staples, daughter of John Staples of Weymouth, but they were married in Dorchester on March 26, 1667. Other families came from various towns in the Bay and seem to have had no connection with Dorchester families. There is no list extant, unfortunately, of all those who emigrated from Massachusetts to South Carolina.

Dorchester grew only slightly and with slowness, never becoming a very thriving place. Its geographical location made it capable of easy defense and of quick communication by water with Charleston. For these reasons, it served as a refuge from Indian invasions. The terrible Yemassee Indian War of 1715, which wreaked havoc in the province and delayed settlement south of the Ashley River, did not reach Dorchester. Life in the town apparently moved along in the same fashion as it had in Massachusetts, except that it was probably a bit slower in this semi-tropical climate. In 1700, the wooden meetinghouse was replaced by a brick one in which George Whitefield preached in 1744, to a large congregation. Another church had been built at Beech Hill about 1737, to accommodate the increasing population, but one minister served both. An interest in education did not express itself as early as one would have expected of New Englanders, at least, judging by surviving records. The Anglican clergy in November 1726, were entreating the continuing influence of the Bishop of London with the King for his confirmation of the act to establish a school at Dorchester. The idea behind this was probably to attempt counteraction of Calvinism. Finally, in 1734, an act was passed to create a free school.

By this time, the value of the natural timber of South Carolina was recognized. Governor Johnson wrote to the Council of Trade and Plantations describing the great quantities of live oak there as well as in the Province of Georgia. He pointed out that by reason of its durability and crookedness of growth, it was suitable for the most difficult timbers in building men of war, adding that it was superior to any English oak. The growth of cypress was almost inexhaustible. Some of these trees were five feet thick at the bottom and tapered to a height of eighty feet without a knot nor a limb. He explained that because of this as well as its light weight when dry, it would be valuable for decks and masts. Live oak grew near the sea and cypress in swamps adjoining freshwater rivers. The latter was easily obtained at flood time, so with either there was little need for transportation overland. Yellow pine of moderate size and said to be better for masts than the white pine of New England, was also plentiful. Production of turpentine and rosin had begun ten or twelve years previous to 1734, and South Carolina was capable of supplying all that would be needed in England. Various planters in Carolina and the Trustees of Georgia recently had begun propagating a considerable quantity of white mulberry trees for the production of silk. Johnson suggested that it would be a great encouragement if import duties were removed by Parliament and the premium on naval stores increased. It appears that the Dorchester people had no interest in augmenting their farming with an income derived from timber. Remaining such an exclusive group, they seem to have never been absorbed into the main stream of Southern life, even on a purely economic level. Their only interest was in maintaining the New England Way, even fifty years after they had left the Bay Colony.

Ann Natalie Hansen, The Dorchester Group: Puritanism and Revolution, 1987

1 comment:

  1. I am a direct decendant of the Turpin Family of Rhode Island, without whom the Mavericks of Texas fame might not exist. My first cousin, Lydia Turpin, married Samuel Maverick (1742-1783) in Charleston, SC. I have been wondering for some time if they were connected to the Boston Maverickes. Thank you so much for your help in clearing that up for me.

    Donald Allen
    Charleston, SC

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