Carolina - The Barbadian Settlers,

Charles Town and surrounding areas were first settled by folks from Barbados and Bermuda


In contrast to northern Carolina, first called the Albemarle region in 1663, the southern part of Carolina was first settled in 1670 by three ships of Englishmen from Barbados and Bermuda - two early English colonies in the Western Hemisphere.

Bermuda was first discoverd by the English in 1609 when Sir Admiral George Somers' ship, returning to England from James Town, was wrecked offshore, and within three years a permanent settlement was established. Unfortunately the islands were not as abundant as was first thought. The shallow topsoil limited agriculture and the lack of fresh water prevented commercial crops like sugar cane from being introduced. The settlers soon became reliant on food imports from the American colonies, which they paid for by supplying sea salt secured from the Turks Islands.

Barbados was first settled by the English in 1625, and by 1640 sugar cane was introduced to the colony and it soon became heavily dependent on slave labor to keep the blossoming industry alive. Barbados acquired the nickname "Little England" because, through the centuries, it has remained the most British of the Caribbean islands. Since wind currents made it relatively difficult to reach under sail, it was not conquered and reconquered like most of its Caribbean neighbors. British control over Barbados lasted from 1625 until its independence in 1966.

The first English settlement in what is now called South Carolina was made in 1670, when William Sayle sailed up the Ashley River with three shiploads of English emigrants from Barbados and Bermuda. These settlers pitched their tents on its banks and built a town, which has since wholly disappeared.

The first ship to land in the second Charles Town was the Carolina, which landed in April of 1670. It was followed shortly by the Port Royal and the Three Brothers. These three ships had left Barbados with 150 people on board; two died enroute.

The original destination for the ships was Port Royal, further to the south. The Kiawah Indians in that area convinced the settlers that Charles Town was a better choice for farming, and the settlers observed that Charles Town was further away from the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine.

The Carolina reached land and anchored at Sewee Bay/Bull's Island on March 17; Port Royal about March 21 and stayed 2 days; then to St. Helena; then to Kiawah, Ashley River, arriving early in April.

In 1671, Sir John Yeamans, the governor of the first Charles Town along the Cape Fear just four short years earlier, joined the second Charles Town colony, bringing with him about two hundred African slaves.

Ten years after the first settlers arrived, a more favorable site for the town was desired. A point between the Cooper and Ashley Rivers was chosen, and this is where Charles Town was actually founded in 1680, where it remains today.

Since the Barbadians had been in the "plantation" business for decades, they brought this concept and its associated culture to the second Charles Town in the 1670s, where it flourished. Charles Town was launched under completely different circumstances than the Albemarle region in the northern part of Carolina, which was settled slowly by the early Virginians. These two quite-different cultures never really got along with each other. Each were convinced that their "way of looking at things" was better than the other's.

Since Bermuda was so isolated and so poorly suited for agriculture, the Charles Town area was wonderful to those who wanted to get off the small island chain and get back to mainland living. Even though they did not have the historical ties to the "plantation" lifestyle, the Bermudians quickly caught on and followed the lead of the Barbadians.

The "plantation lifestyle" certainly insisted on the use of slavery, and Charles Town quickly became the port-of-entry for the majority of all black slaves into the English colonies. Indian slavery grew, as well, thanks to the many warring tribes within the southern part of Carolina. The English quickly took advantage of these warring groups and convinced many tribes to "turn over" their captured enemies to the colonists so they could be added to the growing black slave population.

The "Barbadians" had virtually no problem with getting "free" labor from wherever they could. As the "southern colony" expanded quickly, with larger and larger plantations growing everything from indigo to rice - tobacco was grown, but it took years before the "South Carolinians" could find the right combination of soil and tobacco plant to survive - the South Carolina culture evolved quite differently than North Carolina, which was not as well-suited for large plantations.

Many people actually got "rich" in South Carolina, few did in North Carolina during the Lords Proprietors' rule. Charles Town was a thriving and hustling, bustling city by 1700 - when there wasn't even a single "town" in North Carolina until 1705. New London (later renamed to Willtown) was established in 1682, and Dorchester was established in 1696. South Carolina was expanding quickly along the coastline, north and south of Charles Town. It was growing so fast that it was no great surprise that the Native Americans were getting pretty riled up, and "incidents" began happening in South Carolina much sooner than they did in North Carolina.

Although the South Carolina culture was firstly based on the Barbadian system, of course it evolved and began to diverge from the "island colony" cultures that continued in the English Caribbean. Predominantly English (which includes Welsh), the Charles Town region was also home to many French Huguenots, who began to arrive circa 1680 and continued well into the 1720s. The Huguenots were not a big factor in the South Carolina culture evolution, but their influence was certainly not zero.

As in North Carolina, the English/Welsh/Barbadian/Bermudian settlers were split - about 50-50 - between Anglicans (Church of England) and Dissenters. Dissenters typically included Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists, Congregationalists, Unitarians, and after 1795, Methodists (too late for this discussion) in Carolina. Their unpopularity with Anglicans stemmed from their radical ideas and a continuing fear that, once empowered, they might disestablish the church. They rejected the church's thirty-nine Articles of Faith, rejected the Act of Uniformity (1662) and the Test Act (1673), both of which limited in their civil and political rights.

The Dissenters slowly began to assert themselves, and by 1701 there was almost "all-out war" between the two factions in South Carolina. Unpopular laws were first passed, then repealed, then passed again, until the two sides soon woke up and realized that both were getting screwed by their "leaders" in London. In 1719, the South Carolinians rejected the Lords Proprietors and "elected" their own governor. The Crown - King George I at that time - simply sided with the colonists and the demise of the Lords Proprietors influence in South Carolina was soon at hand.


© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved