The Royal Colony of South Carolina

The French Huguenot Settlers During the Royal Period (1729 to 1775)

The first wave of French Huguenots came to South Carolina in the 1680s. They established the settlement Jamestown on the Santee River north of Charles Town, and elsewhere in the lowcountry. French Huguenot churches were established at Jamestown, Goose Creek, and in the city of Charles Town. The lowcountry French soon came to own large plantations and businesses, and were among the elite of the colony. They intermarried with the local British, and are believed to have adopted British ways quickly. 

Peter Horry, who played a conspicuous part in the history of South Carolina during the American Revolution and for over thirty years subsequent thereto, was born in South Carolina about 1747. After the death of his father, John Horry, which occurred on April 10, 1770, he became possessed of a plantation near Winyah Bay in Prince George's Parish, Winyah, probably a tract of 475 acres which had been granted to his father in 1762 and which adjoined a plantation composed of two tracts, which his uncle, Elias Horry, had bought from Henry and Benjamin Smith, by deeds dated March 25, 1756 and March 2, 1757, respectively and amounting together to 1,779.75 acres. These lands were originally a part of Winyah Barony, which had been granted to Landgrave Robert Daniell by the Lords Proprietors on June 18, 1711, and by him conveyed to Landgrave Thomas Smith the next day, on June 19, 1711.

Peter Horry wrote an account of his life in South Carolina:

My grandfather Elias Horry fled from Paris on account of the persecutions or Edict of Nantz, took refuge, and settled at what was then called French Santee in S. Carolina.

So my Grand Father Horry were with his brothers refugees, he was a poor man and worked many days with a negro man at the Whip saw, his neighbors respected him as an industrious and honest man, he married a Miss Huger of French descent, they had four sons, viz. Daniel, Elias, Peter and John (who was my father) and two daughters, named Margaret and Magdeline. Their mother tongue was French -- My Grand Uncle Horry, when the Edict of Nantz was in full force was with a Detachment of the French army in Flanders, but after when the effects of the Prosecution had greatly abated, he returned to Paris, and married a Protestant woman -- they had four sons, named Stephen, Rene, Hugh and Peter. Rene corresponded with my father for a long time after he returned from Paris to So Carolina and when he was a young man he wrote my father the following letter, dated Paris, Feb. 8, 1769, besides other letters not now in possession of the historian -- other brothers as well besides Rene also wrote my father, their letter also not in the historians possession.

Rene Horry to John Horry (Translated thus):

" My dear Cousin-- It has given pleasure to gain intelligence of you by letter dated 8 May 1769, which we read in the month of Sept. of that year -- you speak to us of Mr. Dan Huger, we have not the honor of knowing him, or his place of residence -- viz. whether tis at Paris, or in England, which occasions our not being able to write to you more frequently and prevents our hearing often from you -- That we received a letter of the 10th Oct. 1765 from a cousin Daniel Horry, who has done us the honor of writing to us, that he was married and that his brother-in-law would come to Paris in the month of November or December of that year -- We have inquired for him at many places in Paris but without being able to find him -- he might have inquired for us in Paris having our address as you have markt it on the letter. I will inform you that our father and mother are dead, and two of our brothers.

The two eldest and our sister and brother-in-law Megion, and have not left but our son, who is married and has 3 children --- and there are only 3 brothers of us remaining who are all Batch, yet, we are Hugh, and Stephen Horry, who are no longer in business but live on their property -- I alone still follow the trade of a sadler as an employment --We all three live together and still in the same street, Street of the Little Caroin, opposite the street of the Bondumondie -- I will inform you that our uncle, Mr. Gaslin, and his wife are both dead -- there remains only his son, who is married and have no children. He lives on his property -- you have written to us that you have drank our health - -we are much obliged to you for your attention. If you intend coming to France inform us of your intention, that we may go to meet you and when you do us the honor of writing us, I beg of you to write in French, for it is with difficulty that we procure a translation of English -- and also inform us to what part of England we should direct, that you may hear more frequently from us. My brother and I and my nephew Megion and his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Gaslin offer you their complements, and I who am Cousin Rene Horry -- Your obt humble Servt. Cousin R. Horry"

In 1730, Governor Robert Johnson created his "township scheme" and established nine new towns and one large undefined tract well into the interior of South Carolina. Click Here to learn more about this important historical event.

Of these ten new interior "townships," three were created specifically for the Swiss/Palatines, which included a good number of French Huguenots. The first to be settled was Purrysburg Township along the Savannah River in what is present-day Jasper County, South Carolina.

During the first two decades of the eighteenth century, many plans were presented to the Crown, to the Lords Proprietors, and to the governors of the two colonies by "independent interested parties," such as Jean Pierre Purry, a Swiss/Palatine who had been on a major "PR campaign" all over Europe and in England, pressing anyone he could get to listen about his desire to take his brethren French Huguenots to the New World. His efforts finally paid off - after pressing the Crown continuously for seven years - in 1730, with the new Township Act of Governor Robert Johnson.

In 1732, a small group of independent French Huguenots settled well inland along the Santee River, in what are present-day Williamsburg and Berkeley counties.

In 1735, the original Edisto Township was renamed to Orangeburgh Township, and was therefore settled by 250 Swiss/Palatines, mostly German with a good number of French Huguenots. This settlement was in what are the present-day counties of Orangeburg and Calhoun.

In 1737, New Windsor Township was first settled by 200 Swiss/Palatines, mostly French Huguenots and a good number of German Lutherans.

The next known immigration of French Huguenots was in 1750, and they settled in what is present-day Clarendon County. In 1755, a group of French Huguenots from the seacoast made their way to what is present-day Fairfield County. Also in the late-1750s, a small contingent of French Huguenots, along with a small group of Germans, settled in what is present-day McCormick County.

In 1761, three "new" townships were created by the Bounty Act in the backcountry area of South Carolina. Boonesborough Township was set aside for the Scots-Irish. Londonborough Township was set aside, once again, for the Swiss/Palatines, which included many French Huguenots. Hillsborough Township was set aside for French Huguenots.

Hillsborough Township was settled in 1764 by 200 French Huguenots and they established the town of New Bordeaux that year. In 1765, they established the town of New Rochelle. These settlements were in the present-day counties of McCormick and Abbeville.

Londonborough Township was settled in 1765 by 300 Swiss immigrants, many of whom were French Huguenots. This settlement was in the present-day counties of McCormick and Edgefield.

In the first United States census of 1790 - only fifteen years after the Royal Period - South Carolina's population included approximately 3.9% with French heritage, much more than the 1.7% as found in North Carolina the same year.

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