A description of the Province of South Carolina, drawn up at Charles Town, in September, 1731.
Translated from Mr. Purry's Original Treatise, in French, and published in the Gentleman's Magazine, for August, September, and October, 1732.
The King of Great Britain having about 3 years ago purchased this Province of the Lords Proprietors thereof, has since studied to make Agriculture, Commerce and Navigation, flourish in it. His Majesty immediately nominated Colonel Johnson, a worthy Gentleman, to be Governor thereof; who, at his Departure for Carolina, receiv'd divers Orders and Instruction, but in particular was directed instantly to mark out Places in a proper Situation for building Eleven Towns, viz.
Two on the River Alatamaha, Two on the River Savanna, One at the Head of the River Poupon, Two at the River Santee, One at the River of Watery, One at the Black River, One at the River Wacomau, and One at the River Pedee.
The District of each of the Towns is to contain the Extent of 20000 Acres of Land, formed into a Square, bordering on the River, and divided into Shares of 50 Acres for each Man, Woman, or Child, of one Family; which may be augmented as the Planters shall be in a Condition to cultivate a larger Quantity of Ground, and every one of them shall have an equal Share of the better and worse Lands, and also the same Right on the River.
Each Town shall be formed into a Parish, the Extent whereof shall be about 6 Miles round the Town on the same Side of the River; and sas soon as a Parish shall contain 100 Masters of Families, they may send Two Members to the Assembly of the Province, and enjoy the same privilege as the other Parishes of the Province.
The Ground of each Town shall be speedily marked out, and shall belong in common to all the Inhabitants, till it shall be distributed in particular Shares to each of them. There are to be 300 Acres of Land near the Town, which shall be common for ever, without being charged with Rent, and no person shall, by Virtue of any former Grant, take Possession of any Land within 6 Miles of each Town.
The Rent shall be 4s per Ann. for every 100 Acres, except that for the first 10 Years the Lands shall be entirely free, and all those that shall settle in the said Towns shall enjoy the same Advantages.
His Majesty further grants to every European Servant, whether Man or Woman, 50 Acres of Land free of all Rents for 10 Years, which shall be distributed to them after having served their Master for the Time agreed on.
In consequence of these Instruction M. Purry was permitted to go and chuse on the Borders of the River Savanna Land proper to build the Town of Purrysburg upon; and having found it such as he wish'd, the Government mad him a Grant thereof under the Great Seal of the Province, dated the 1st of September 1731, and at the same Time publish'd throughout the whole Country a Prohibition to all Sorts of Persons to go and settle on the said Land which is already called the Swiss Quarter.
In order to facilitate the Execution of this Undertaking in the best Manner, the Assembly granted to the said M. Purry 400l. Sterling, and Provision sufficient for the Maintenance of 300 Persons for one Year, provided they be all Persons of good Repute, and Swiss Protestants, and that they come to Carolina within the Space of 2 Years.
The River Savanna is one of the finest in all Carolina, the Water good and stored with excellent Fish: It is about the Largeness of the Rhyne, and there are 2 Forts already built upon it, one of which call'd Pallaholaas, is 100 Miles from the Mouth thereof, and the other call'd Savanna Town, about 300 Miles; and altho' there is not usually about 20 Men to garrison the first Fort, and about 40 in the other, yet the Indians have never dare to attack them.
The Town of Purrysburg will be situated 30 Miles from the Sea, and about 7 Miles from the highest Tide; The Land about it is a most delightful Plain, and and the greatest Part very good Soil, especially for Pasturage, and the rest proper enough for some Productions. It was formerly call'd the great Ymassee Port, and is esteem'd by the Inhabitants of the Province the best place in all Carolina, altho' never yet possessed but by the Indians, who were driven from thence by the English several Years ago, and have never dared to return thither. All Sorts of Trees and Plants will grow there, as well as can be wish'd particularly Vines, Wheat, Barley, Oats, Pease, Beans, Hemp, Flax, Cotton, Tobacco, Indico, Olives, Orange Trees and Citron Trees, as also white Mulberry Trees for feeding of Silkworms. The Lands will not be difficult to clear, because there is neither stones nor Brambles, but only great Trees, which do not grow very thick; so that more Land may be clear'd there in one Week, than could be done in Swisserland in a Month. The Custom of the Country is, that after having cut down these great Trees, they leave the Stumps for 4 or 5 Years to rot, and afterwards easily root them up, in order to manure the Land.
Tis very certain, that Carolina is in general an excellent Country. 'Tis true, the Ground is sandy; but then 'tis a Sand impregnated with Salt and Nitre, so that it brings forth in great Abundance, as the like Soil does in Divers Parts of Europe; But what is more particular to Carolina, there are a great Number of Plantations that have been continually cultivated for near 60 Years, which yet still produce great Plenty without every being manured by the least Dung, for they never lay any on their Grounds; The Planter only turns up the Superficies of the Earth, and all that he plants and sows therein quickly grows and matures; Those who understand ever so little of Agriculture will be obliged to own,, that if the Lands in Europe were not constantly manured, their Strength would be so exhausted, that at length the crops would not pay for the Seed. But a Man who shall have a little Land in carolina, and who is not will to work above 2 or 3 Hours a Day, may very easily live there.
Another Consideration deserving our Notice is the Progress of the first Colonies, their sudden Advancement, the Riches of the present Inhabitants, the great Number of publick Expences for which they provide, the great Trade which they carry on at present, and lastly their misfortunes and Losses; which are entirely repair'd. The better to comprehend these Matters, we shall only make the following Observations.
- That there were no People in Carolina till about 60 Years ago, for the English did not begin to send any thither till the Year 1670.
- That they had at first very fatal Beginnings, being afflicted with Sicknesses, and even the Plague, which daily diminish'd the Number of the People.
- That cruel destructive; Divisions sprung up among them.
- That they had a very bad Government under the Lords Proprietors, being almost with Order, Justice or Discipline.
- That a certain Time the Pyrates interrupted their Trade and Navigation
- That they have often had great Droughts.
- That a terrible Fire consumed almost all Charles Town.
- That they have been a great Expence in Fortifications, publick Edifices, Churches, &r.
- That they have often sustain'd long Wars with the French, Spaniards, and particularly with the Indians, who once united altogether to destroy the whole Province.
- That notwithstanding all these Misfortunes, the People of Carolina, except those who gave themselves up to Debauchery, are all rich, either in Slaves, Furniture, Cloaths, Plate, Jewels, or other Merchandizes, but especially in Cattle; which shews the Goodness of the Country they inhabit.
The most Part of those who came first thither were very poor and miserable; server of those who are most considerable went but as Servants.
The Trade of Carolina is now so considerable, that of late Years there has Sail'd from thence annually above 200 ships, laden with Merchandizes of the Growth of the Country, besides 3 Ships of War, which they commonly have for the Security of the Commerce, and last Winter they had constantly 5, the least of which had above 100 Men on Board. It appears by the Customhouse Entries from march 1730, to March 1731, that they sailed within that Time from Charles Town 207 Ships most of them for England, which carried among other Goods41957 Barrels of Rice about 500 Pound Weight per Barrel, 10754 Barrels of Pitch, 2063 of Tar, and 1159 of Turpentine, of Deer Skins 300 Casks, containing 8 or 900 each; besides a vast Quantity of Indian Corn, Pease, Beans, &c. Beef, Pork, and other salted Flesh, Beams, Planks, and Timber for Building, most part of Cedar, Cypress Sassafras, Oak, Walnut and Pine.
They carry on a great Trade with the Indians, from whom they get these great Quantities of Deer Skins, and those of other wild beasts, in Exchange for which they give them only Lead, Power, Coarse Cloth, Vermillion, Iron Ware, and some other Goods, by which they have a very considerable Profit.
The great Number of Slaves, makes another Part of the Riches of this Province, there being above 40,000 Negroes, which are worth one with another 100 Crowns each.
There are between 5 and 600 Houses in Charles Town, the most of which are very costly; besides 5 handsome Churches, viz. one for those of the Church of England, one for the Presbyterians, one for the Anabaptists, one for the Quakers, and one for the French. If you travel into the Country, you will see stately Buildings, noble Castles, and an infinite Number of all Sorts of Cattle. If it be ask'd what has produced all this? the Answer is, 'Tis only the rich Land of Carolina.
There is not the least Appearance but that the Prosperity of this Province will still increase, and, with the Blessing of Heaven, in a few Years be the most flourishing of all America; not only because the King has much at heart the new Country, but because People come thither from all Parts. His Majesty has lately sent thither 74 pieces of heavy Cannon, with Powder, Ball, &c. and Governor Johnson is setting out from Charles Town to mark out the Land, whereon to build two good Forts, one at Port-royal, and the other upon the River Alatamaha, betwixt which is the River Savanna. The People of the Palatinate, those of New-York, New-England, and other Parts, sell all that they have to come to Carolina; which has raised the Price of Lands within 50 miles about Charles Town to four times the Value in 4 or 5 Years time; It will probably be the same about Purrysburg. However, it is a certain Truth, that the same quantity of Land at Charles Town which might be bought for a Crown about 40 Years ago cannot at this Time be bought for 200l. Sterling, nor even for 300l. in those Places which are well situated for Trade.
The good Dispositions which are making daily for a regular Administration of Justice, cannot fail of bringing the County into Reputation, and drawing thither still great numbers of people. Artificers are so scarce at present, that all sorts of Work is very dear; Taylors, Shoemakers, Smiths, &c. would be particularly acceptable there. A skilful Carpenter is not ashamed to demand 30s.per Day besides his Diet; and the common Wages of a Workman is 20s. per Day, provided he speaks English, without which he cannot be understood, and consequently not so useful as others; and when a Workman has but 10s. per Day he thinks he labours for almost nothing, tho' he has his Maintenance besides. But this is Carolina Money.
Most of their shoes are brought from England, and generally sell for 40s. per pair. Not but they have Hides enough, and very cheap, an Ox's Hide being sold for 20s. neither are they destitute of the Means to tan them; for they make very good Lime with Oyster-shells, and the Bark of Oak-trees is so plentiful, that it costs nothing but the Trouble of gathering; They want therefore only a sufficient number of good Tanners and Shoemakers.
I might say the same of Leather dressers, since they send every Year to England above 200,000 Deer-skins undrest. Yet Carolina produces Oker naturally, and good Fish-oyl may be had from New-York or New-England very cheap: So that they might be drest and made up into Breeches in the Country, for which those Skins are very proper, being warm in Winter and cool in Summer.
There is not one Potter in all the Province, and no Earthenware but what comes from England, nor Glass of any kind: So that a Pot-house and a good Glass-house would succeed perfectly well, not only for Carolina but for all the other Colonies in America. There is a kink of Sand and Earth which would be very proper for those Purposes, as also Wood and Fern in abundance, had they but Workmen to make use of them.
The woods are full of wild Vines, bearing 5 or 6 sorts of Grapes naturally; but for want of Vine-dressers, &c. scarce any Wine is drank there but what comes from Madera, which are indeed cheap, for a Bottle of excellent wine cost last Winter but 2s. Carolina Money to those who bought it by the Hogs-head. There is something so singular in these Wines of Madera that we cannot forbear mentioning it; which is, That Heat preserves them, and Cold spoils them; For as in Europe they are obliged to put their Wine in cool Cellars; these, on the contrary, must be put into the warmest Places. If they begin to be sour, they are exposed to the greatest Heats of the Sun, to be recovered: So that to keep them good, you are to do what you would in other Parts to make Vinegar. This seems to be the greatest Paradox in the World, but nothing is more certain; and strange as it may seem, Col. Bleek caused a Vault to be made over his Oven, purposely to keep his Wine in all the Year.
The Cattle of Carolina are very fat in Summer, but as lean in Winter, because they can find very little to eat, and have no Cover to shelter them from the cold Rains, Frosts, and Snows, which last sometimes 3 or 4 Days: Only the Cattle design'd for the Butchery are fed, and they bad enough, with Potatoes, Straw, and Grain; but they always lie in the open Field, for there is not one Hovel in all the Country, either for Oxen or Cows. If you object this to the Planters, they answer, that such Houses or Hovels would do very well, but that they have too many other Affairs to think of that. The last Winter being very severe about 10,000 horned Cattle died of Hunger and Cold. Notwithstanding this, the People will not change their Conduct, because they do not understand the manner of ordering Cattle, nor even know how to mow the Grass, in order to make it into Hay, of which they might have great Plenty for Fodder. Their Ignorance in this respect is very great, which is the Reason that Butter is always dear, being sold last Winter at 7s. 6d. per Pound, and in January and February last it was sold at Charles Town for 12s. per Pound: In a word, nothing would be more easy than for Persons who understand Country Affairs to grow rich in a little time. There is so great a number of Cattle, that a certain Planter had last Spring 200 Calves marked, which he let run in the Woods with other Cattle; Nobody looks after them, or takes any other Care, but to bring them together in the Evening to lie in a Park near the House.
At certain times they kill a great many to send the Flesh salted to several other Colonies, where there is little Pasturage, particularly to the Isles of Antilles, and in general to all those of the Torrid Zone.
Horses, the best Kind in the World, are so plentiful, that you seldom see any body travel on foot, except Negroes, and they oftner on horseback; so that when a Taylor, a Shoemaker, or any other Tradesman, is obliged to go but 3 Miles from his House, it would be very extraordinary to see him travel on foot.
There is likewise in the Country a prodigious number of Swine, which multiply infinitely, and are kept with very little Charge, because they find almost all the Year Acorns, of which there is 5 or 6 sorts, as also Nuts, Walnuts, Chesnuts, Herbs, Roots, &c. in the Woods: So that if you give them never so little at home they become fat; after which you may salt and send great quantities of them to the Isles of Barbadoes, St. Christophers, Jamaica, &c. which produce very good Returns either in Money or Merchandizes.
Of all Animals in that Country, none are a less Charge than Sheep, for they subsist only on what they find in the Fields; yet are always in good Case, and bring forth their Lambs regularly; and there is a particular sort, whose Wool is not inferior to the finest Spanish Wool.
Flax and Cotton thrive admirably, and Hemp grows to 13 or 14 Foot in height, but as few People Know how to order it, there is scarce any cultivated; besides, they want Dung, which is very necessary for that purpose, few Plants weakening Land as much as Hemp does: However, this is one of the Articles which would produce most Profit, because the Parliament has allow'd so much per Ten upon all Hemp which comes from the English Plantations in America in order that in time of War they may have no need of Hemp from Russia and Poland; besides this Encouragement, which is to last for 30 Years longer, there is an Exemption from some other Duties on Importation; which joined together, makes an Advantage of about 40 per Cent,. over that of Hemp from other Parts.
Rice and Indian Corn produce at least an hundred-fold, and would much more if the Land was better cultivated. The Easiness of procuring such a plenty of Grain, is the Reason that the Planters have or may have to all Times a Court-yard fill'd with Cocks, Hens, Turkeys, Geese, Ducks, &c. also a good Pigeon-house, without being at any Expence. There is great plenty of Game of all sorts, but especially wild Turkeys, some of which are 30 pound weight, and those who love Fowling may easily take them. With this Indian Corn they make pretty good Bread, for it is much finer an better and better than in Swisserland o, or in any other part of Europe, where it is commonly call'd Turkey Corn.
Persons may grow rich in Carolina without being at much Expense or Labour, by planting white Mulberry Trees for feeding of Silk-worms, there being perhaps no Country in the World where those Trees grow better, nor where the Silk is finer than in Carolina. They grow so much in so short a Time, that we dare scarce mention it: Capt. Scott has one at the back of his HOuse at Port-Royal, not above 7 or 8 Years old, the Body whereof is above 5 foot round. It would be difficult to believe this, if it was not confirmed by other Mulberry Trees of 4 or 5 Years old, at Port-Royal, Westmesaa, Gouscrick, and other Plantations, the Trunks whereof are near a food in Diameter. But as all the Planters apply themselves chiefly to the Production of Rice, Pitch, and Tar, there is very little Use made of them. However, those who have been in Provence and Languedoc know, that the Strippings of a Mulberry Tree, that is, the Leaves of a Summer, are commonly sold for a Crown, and sometimes two, altho' the Silk of those two Provinces is but very indifferent; from thence it may be easily conjectur'd, what Riches Carolina would produce, if this Affair was well managed. All other Trees grown there in the same Proportion, and much faster than in Europe, but particularly the Peach Tree; for the 3d Year it is commonly loaded with Fruit, and is a great Tree the 4th Year.
Some perhaps will object, that this Country is feverish and unhealthy, and all the Advantages which might be found in other Respects, would not make Amends for the loss of Health: Besides, that you are plagued there with several sorts of Insects, and especially with great Rattle-Snakes; so that you are in Danger of your Life every Moment.
To this we answer, That if People are sick there, 'tis generally an Effect of their bad Conduct, and not knowing how to regulate themselves suitably to the Country where they live; for 'tis very certain, that those who observe Precautions have as good Health there as they would in other Places. But the better to understand this Affair; you must know that the uncultivated Lands of Carolina, as well as the other adjacent Provinces, which extend much further than Canada, being wholly covered with large Pine Trees, very Cold in their Nature, and when the Vapours which they have attracted and retained come to be dispers'd by a Northerly Wind, you feel a Cold almost as sharp as in Europe; so that in one Day you may find a considerable Change of Air: This then, together with the Debauches made by Punch, strong Madera Wines, and the eating unripe Fruits, is the real Source of the Sicknesses there; for sensual Persons, who have not the Power to deny themselves any thing, when they find that a hot Day is succeeded by a great Coolness towards Evening, expose themselves to it with great pleasure without troubling themselves with the Consequence; and when this Pleasure is succeeded by Rheumatisms, Fevers, or other Distempers, they never fail of pouring out Curses on the Country, rather than own their Carelesness or Excess. And 'tis very common for those newly arrived, to say, when they have got any Illness, That 'tis a Tribute they must pay to the climate. But such as take care to keep their Breasts always warm, to shun the great Transpirations of the Air, to cover themselves well in the Night especially in Summer, and in other Respects live regularly, will certainly enjoy as good Health there ass in any other Part of the World.
There are few Insects in Carolina that can reasonably be complain'd of, except a sort of Gnats, which they call Muscatoes; and there is scarce any of these except in low Grounds, or near the Rivers; but if a House is trouble with them, it is easily remedied, by opening the Windows about Sun-setting, and shutting them again a little before the Close of the Twilight, the Muscatoes never failing to quit the House at that Time; and for better Security, they make fine Gause-work about their Beds, which keeps them off.
There are People in Europe, especially in England, that tremble only at the Name of a Rattle-Snake, imagining, that the Country of Carolina is so full of them, that there is no going into the Woods without Danger of Life; But this is an Error as ill-grounded as the most part of the other Reports pread Abroad to the Disadvantage of this new World. At least, 'tis certain, that this Serpent is very seldom seen, and if they are met, do very little Hurt, except they are provoked to defend themselves: Besides, they never fail to giving you Notice of their Approach by their Rattles, which may be heard at a considerable Distance. 'Tis also said, that the Venom of this Serpent is mortal, and kills in a very short Time, if not prevented by some Antidotes: But those Remedies are well known by every body in the Country. When Mr. Purry went with his small Company to chuse out a Spot of Land on the River Savanna, the People told them before their Departure from Charles Town, that they had great Reason to fear these Rattle-Snakes, the Country being full of them; and that they ought to keep a good Guard against them; however they did not so much as see one of those Serpents, nor of any other sort for 15 Days that they travelled about in the Woods, tho' it it was in the Middle of Summer at a time when all Serpents are out of their Holes. It is very seldom that any Person is bitten by these Snakes, or by those of other Kinds, which are much more common, that it would be very difficult to find so much as one Person in all Carolina that has ever had this Misfortune. There are also some Crocodiles in the Rivers, but the People fear them no more, than if they were so many Fishes, since it was never known that they have hurt any Person whatsoever.
Those that may have any Desire to go and settle there may further take notice of 3 or 4 observations:
1st, That South Carolina is not only situated in the same Degree of Heat, Fertility, and Temperature of Air, which is about 33 Degrees Latitude, as Barbary, the Isle of Candia, Syria, Persia, Mogolistan, China, and in general all the best Countries in the Universe; but it is also the only Country of all those the English possess that is situated in that Degree; and there is all the Reason in the World to believe, that if there be now an Opportunity to have Lands there for nothing, this Advantage will not continue long. At least 'tis very certain that those who shall come first, will have the Choice of Land, as also the Proximity of Rivers, much better than those that shall come afterwards.
2dly, That by means of the Wool, Cotton, Flax and Hemp, it will be easy to procure all Linnen necessary, as also good Cloth and Stuffs for Cloathing, without being forced to purchase them at a very dear rate from the Shops, as most of the Planters are at present. And what is still an Article very considerable, there will be no Danger of wanting Provisions in a Country so plentiful, unless some Accidents happen, which cannot be foreseen by human Prudence; we may be assured that Hailstones will not deprive the Inhabitants thereof.
3dly, That Carolina being of all the Neighboring Provinces which the English possess on the Continent of North America, from 29 to 49 Degrees of Latitude, is not only the largest and most productive of Necessaries, but also the most Southward, and nearest to Jamaica, Barbadoes, and all the Islands of the Antilles, which have Occasion for salted Provisions, Bread, Wine, Fruits, Roots, and several other Things, we need not hesitate a Moment to prefer it to all the other Colonies on the North side. And besides the great Advantages which may accrue to the Inhabitants by the Fertility of the Land, and the Temperateness of the Climate, the Situation thereof for Trade will always draw Ships into its Ports, which there finding at a reasonable price and in good Order, all that the other most distant Provinces can have, will hardly go so far, whilst any thing is to be had in Carolina.
4thly, and lastly, And what is of the greatest Importance of all is, that there is an entire Liberty of Conscience and Commerce for all that come thither, without paying any thing for it; Justice is duly administred to all; and every body can say that what he possesses lawfully belongs to him full Propriety. There are no Tenths, Imposts, Tailles, nor Capitation Taxes, nor any of those Burdens which render so many other People unhappy: In a word, you have all the Laws, Liberties, and Priveleges there which are enjoyed in England: This the Lower House that has the Disposal of the Money of the Province, and who vote the Taxes necessary for the publick Service, however with the Approbation of the Upper House, and that of his Majesty, represented by the Governor; and when one of the two Houses would have tan Act passed, on any Subject whatsoever, after having examined and debated all the Clauses thereof, it is ingrossed and sent to the other House for their Concurrence. But this Act, or rather projected Act, has at that time only the Name of a Bill, that is to say, properly, an Act proposed. Now if this Bill is passed by the other House, it is carried to the Governor, who may either approve or reject it; and 'tis not till the Moment the Governor gives his Consent thereto, that ti takes the Form of a Law, and has all the Force thereof; for if either of the Houses or Governor rejects the said Bill, it drops of course. Therefore nothing better proves, that the Constitution of the Government of Carolina, as well as that of England, is founded on the Union between the King and the People, since they make only one and the same Body, of which his Majesty is always that the English ware the most free and happy People at this Time in the whole World.
We whose Names are hereunto subscrib'd, do Attest, that all which is contain'd in this Account of South Carolina, is the real Truth, having been Eye-Witnesses of most part of the Particulars therein mentioned. Done at Charles Town the 23d of September, 1731.
John Peter Purry, of Neufchatel. James Richard, of Geneva. Abraham Meuron, of St Sulpy in the County of Neufchatel. Henry Raymond, of St Sulpy.
It may not be disagreable in this Place to inform our Readers, that Mr. Purry, on his Return to Swisserland, with the Account of Carolina, soon prevail'd on many industrious Persons and their Families to the Number of about 400, to go with him. On the 11th of this month [August, 1732,] they embarked at Calais in France, on Board two English Ships, which arrived off Dover the next Day, and are now sailed on their Voyage. Mr. Bignion their Minister came to London, and received Episcopal Ordination: So that the Reflections which some have cast on the Religion of these People, are unjustly founded.
Extracted from the book "TRACTS AND OTHER PAPERS, relating principally to the ORIGIN, SETTLEMENT, AND PROGRESS of the Colonies in North America, from the discovery of the country to the year 1776" collected by Peter Force, VOL. II. Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1836 by Peter Force, In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Columbia.