23 July 2014

Beaufort's Literary History Begins

The literary history of Beaufort begins with Living Christianity Delineated, in the diaries and letters of two eminently pious persons lately deceased: viz. Mr. Hugh Bryan, and Mrs. Mary Hutson, both of South-Carolina with a preface by the Reverend Mr. John Conder, and the Reverend Mr. Thomas Gibbons published by J. Buckland in London in 1760.  Because it was printed on excellent rag paper, the book is in good shape though to protect the original we like for our customers to consult the electronic version on the Internet Archive website at https://archive.org/details/livingchristian00hantgoog.  This limits physical handling of a key artifact of local literary history while allowing all to get to the content of the book. (Less handling = less potential damage.)

Hugh Bryan (1699 -1753) lead a long and eventful life.  Captured by hostile Indians and imprisoned by the Spanish when a young boy, his life was spared by the intervention of the Huspah King who made the boy his slave. While in the St. Augustine prison, the Indians gave Bryan a Bible and he read Private Thoughts Upon a Christian Life by Rev. William Beveridge. The experience changed his life.

Some cited his survival as a sign that "Providence was concerned in his preservation," while others believed that the experience "left him mentally unbalanced," as an enthusiasm for religion was considered "a symptom, type, and cause of insanity" during the 18th century. For a number of years, he was considered simply as an eccentric person.

As an adult, Bryan owned land along Huspah Neck in Prince William's Parish and in nearby Colleton County, became one of the colony's largest cattlemen, a ferry operator, ship owner, a surveyor, and a supporter of establishing commerce with the new colony of Georgia. His second wife, Catherine Barnwell, a daughter of "Tuscarora Jack" John Barnwell, experienced a religious conversion in 1739 after a serious illness. Bryan was influenced by her decision and experienced a religious conversion himself.

Rev. George Whitefield, 1714 -1770
A bias against a display of strong religious feeling coupled with his later close association with evangelist Rev. George Whitefield (1714-1770, pronounced Whit field), added to his neighbor's unease about Bryan's sanity. His neighbors opposed Bryan's commitment for instructing and converting enslaved Africans to Christianity.  When the South-Carolina Gazette printed Bryan's statements about the recent Stono Rebellion (1740) and prophesy that one day all the enslaved would revolt and gain freedom in 1741, his neighbors had read and heard enough. Bryan and Whitefield were arrested in Charleston but were soon released. Both continued their evangelizing efforts: Whitefield, back in England; and Bryan, in St. Helena's Parish.  Bryan continued to draw the attention of the authorities by providing religious instruction for the enslaved and sending his predictions that God would use the slave population to punish those who profaned his laws to the Commons House of Assembly in February 1742.  He was charged with "sundry enthusiastic Prophecies of the Destruction of Charles-Town and Deliverance of the Negroes from their Servitude." His excess zeal caused his suspension from church office by the Rev. Alexander Garden. Bryan soon came to his senses. (A conviction for fomenting rebellion among the enslaved carried a death sentence.) His letter of apology was read before the Commons House on 3 March 1742:

"It is with Shame, intermixed with Joy, that I write you this. I find that I have presumed in my Zeal for God's Glory beyond his Will, and that he has suffered me to fall into a Delusion of Satan.  Particularly in adhering to the Impressions on my Mind, though not to my Knowledge in my Reflections and other Occurrences of my Journal.  This Delusion I did not discover till three Days past, when after many Days' intimate Converse with an invisible Spirit, whose Precepts seemed to be wise, and tending to the Advancement of Religion in general, and of my own spiritual Welfare in particular, I found my Teacher to be a Lier [sic], and the Father of Lies; which brought me into a Sense of my Error; and has much abased my Soul with bitter Reflections on the Dishonor I have done to God, as well as the Disquiet which I may have occasioned to my Country. Satan till then appears to me as an Angel of Light, in his spiritual Conversation! But since I have discoverd his Wiles, he's appeared a Devil indeed; shewing his Rage. But God, who is rich in Mercy, hath prevented him, and strengthened me. My Zeal for God exerted Satan's Malace; and my Pride required Abasement; therefore it was just God to desert me.... My Misfortune may caution others, who think they stand, to take Heed, lest they fall also.  My sincere Regard for my Country's Welfare, and my Zeal for my God, put me on sending to you my Journal, at the Risque of suffering for it; and now my Sense of the Error, and the Ill that may attend it, obliges me (in Duty) to send you this, to prevent the Uneasiness which my Journal may create to the Government.  In both I have acted with a conscientious Regard to discharge my Trust truly to God and my Country; and therefore, as all Men are fallible, I hope your Honours will the more easily pardon me in this Thing.

I am surprised to hear that I am suspected of secret Designs, contrary to the Peace and Tranquility of the Government; and that it is reported that I have furnished spare Arms for such Design from Charles Town. I do declare that I have procured neither Arms nor Ammunition of any sort; which if I had, it might easily be known from the Merchants who sell those Things in Charles Town; and from them your Honours may soon be informed of the Certainty. My whole Life has been spent among you; and my Manner of Life and Conversation; and former Zeal for my Country's Welfare, is known to you; and my Inclinations with respect to my Love and Zeal for my Country's Good are still the same as formerly. I beg Leave only to add that God's Favour is our Country's Safety; and our sincere Obedience to his Commands is our wisest Method to obtain it. Which Wisdom may God of his infinite Mercy grant to each Member of our Community; and especially to your Honours, and all in Authority (the Feet do naturally travel whither soever the Head leads) is the Prayer of

 Your Honours'  Most humble and dutiful Servant in Jesus Christ Hugh Bryan

P.S. May we all keep close to the Law, and to the Testimony of our God, and hearken to no other Revelation for Divine Truth, and watch and pray that we enter not into Temptation is a further Prayer of Your most unworthy Servant Hugh Bryan."

The Commons House forwarded the letter to Lieutenant Governor William Bull, and ordered it printed in the South-Carolina Gazette newspaper. Eliza Lucas [later Pinckney] soon wrote a short letter to Mrs. Elizabeth Cheesman who owned nearby Lake Farm Plantation on the Ashley River:

      The last time I had the pleasure of being with you, you seemed under fearful apprehensions for the Consequence of Mr. B[ryan's] prophecy, which induces me to acquaint you with the agreeable news of his being convinced of his Error.  [He] is extremely concerned for what has passed and readily acknowledges he was guided by the infalible spirit but that of delusion. Please to communicate this with Mrs. Hill, [Elizabeth Godrey Hill, wife of Charles Hill, former chief justice of the colony, and owner of Hillsborough Plantation on the Ashley River] and I am with Mama's Compliments

Madm,                                                                                                                                  Y.m.o. St. E. Lucas

Bryan was forgiven his excesses, severed his long association with the Episcopalian Church, helped found the Stoney Creek Presbyterian Church, and continued to provide religious instruction to the enslaved.  He did, however, stop sharing his prophecies with the government and newspaper. His body is buried in the Stoney Creek Presbyterian Church cemetery.

The Stoney Creek Presbyterian Church congregation called Rev. William Hutson (1720 - 1761) as its first minister in 1743. Although born in England and educated in the law, Hutson so disliked the legal profession that he embarked upon a career as an actor in America in 1740.  Shortly thereafter he was converted by the Rev. George Whitfield, employed by Bryan as a tutor and later employed at Whitefield's Orphan House (now called Bethesda Academy) in Savannah. In 1743, Hutson married widow Mary Woodward Chardon, a grand-daughter of Dr. Henry Woodward, the first English settler in South Carolina. She was an enthusiastic supporter of Whitefield's theology. Living Christianity Delineated is also her story of religious conversion.  (The connection with the Bryan family was strengthened in 1787 when the recently widowed Hutson married Hugh Bryan's widow, Mary Prioleau Bryan, his third wife.)                                                                                                                  
Drop by the BDC to see the "Beaufort District's Literary History" display in the Research Room during our customary hours of operation, Mondays through Fridays, 10 am - 5 pm through the end of the summer. (We will switch the display in time to highlight some of  our holdings about Natural History for South Carolina Archives Month in October.)  

Sources informing this entry: 
"Bryan, Hugh." Biographical Directory of the South Carolina house of Representatives by Walter B. Edgar and N. Louise Bailey, University of South Carolina Press, 1977, vol. 2, 1692-1775, pp. 108-109.

"Bryan, Hugh." South Carolina Encyclopedia edited by Walter Edgar University of South Carolina Press, 2006.
"The Carolina connection: Jonathan Bryan, his brothers, and the founding of Georgia, 1733 -1752" by Harvey H. Jackson. Beaufort County Historical Society Paper, #61.

The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, vol. 1: 1514-1861 by Lawrence S. Rowland, Alexander Moore, and George C. Rogers, Jr. University of South Carolina Press, 1996.

"The Hutson Family of South Carolina," by William Maine Hutson, South Carolina Genealogies, vol. 2, pp. 381 -395. 

Journal of the Commons House of Assembly, 1741- 1742 (Colonial Records of South Carolina), edited by J.H. Easterby, South Carolina Archives Department, 1953. 

Journal of the Commons House of Assembly, 1742- 1744 (Colonial Records of South Carolina), edited by J.H. Easterby, South Carolina Archives Department, 1954.
The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739 - 1762, edited with a new introduction by Elise Pinckney with editorial assistance of Marvin R. Zahniser, University of South Carolina Press, 1972.
Moonlight, Magnolias & Madness: Insanity in South Carolina from the Colonial Period to the Progressive Era by Peter McCandless, University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

16 July 2014

Beaufort District's Literary History - Means

Although special local history collections and archives cannot always contribute to Summer Reading Programs, this year's theme, Literary Elements, allows us to share some of our literary treasures. If you drop by the Research Room before this Friday, you can see our display and check off an activity on the official Adult Summer Reading Program guide in one fell swoop.  We have books from all periods of Beaufort's long and distinguished literary history on exhibit, including one of the first novels about African American life on the sea islands.

Florence Crannell Means was one of the first writers of multicultural books for children and teens.  Her goal was to promote racial equality among those who's opinions were in the process of formation by writing empathetically about the conditions faced by American minorities: African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and Japanese Americans.      

Shuttered Windows is the story of a 16 year old African American girl from Minneapolis who relocates to the sea islands off "Bosquet" (Beaufort, SC) where she experiences culture shock. She learns to adjust to the Gullah way of life and dedicates herself to return to "Bosquet" as a teacher after additional schooling.  This volume is dedicated to Mather School, a private school founded by Rachel Mather in 1867 and supported for almost a 100 years by the American Baptist Home Mission Society. (The Technical College of the Lowcountry is located on the site of the former Mather School.)

While some may take issue with the dialect in Shuttered Windows (1938) and Great Day in the Morning (1946), her characterizations of strong-willed and powerful female protagonists withstand the passage of time. Her novel The Moved-Outers about a California based Japanese American family forced into an internment camp during World War II was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1946.  Means is credited with "bringing an early social conscience to children's literature." [Anita Silvey, ed. (1995). Children's books and their creators].   

Means died in Boulder, Colorado in 1980.

Please note: Image of Means is from Something about the author (Commire, 1971, p. 154) cited on the Outstanding Women in Children's Librarianship website http://www.unc.edu/~bflorenc/libraryladies/means.html

13 July 2014

Local History Programs in August

After a hiatus in July, the Beaufort District Collection returns with two programs during the dog days of August, one on a Saturday and the other during the evening to encourage attendance of families and working folks. 

Saturday, August 9th:  You may have heard the news about recent discovery of a shipwreck that might be - or might not be - the remains of "Robert Smalls's the Planter." (We share pride in the character and achievements of our native son Robert Smalls with Charleston.) Dr. Nicholas Butler, Public Historian, Charleston County Public Library shares contemporary evidence about the ultimate fate of the steamship Planter. Free. Open to anyone over age 12 interested in attending. This BDC@ St. Helena Branch local history program begins at 1 pm.

In commemoration of the 121st anniversary of the storm that almost destroyed Beaufort and killed thousands, I'm doing a revised version of the talk I did last year at St. Helena Branch, "'Tide of Death:' The Sea Island Hurricane of 1893." (We take the comments on the evaluation sheets seriously.) I will share first person accounts and rare materials from our holdings about the night that death came to call. This free BDC@ Beaufort Branch Local History Program is open to anyone over age 12 interested in attending. Program starts at 6 pm.
We hope to see you at one - or even better - both of these BDC local history programs! 

11 July 2014

Connecting with Archaeology


      The mission of the Beaufort District Collection is to acquire, maintain, and share materials about the local history, Gullah culture, archaeology, genealogy and natural history of this area.  Through the years we have been connected to and supportive of the study of archaeology. For more than a decade we've partnered with Beaufort County Planning Department, South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (SCIAA) and the Hilton Head Chapter, ASSC and other agencies to bring programs about archaeology to the community during the month of October.  We've amped up our commitment to advocate for archaeology by helping establish and partnering with the new Beaufort Chapter, Archaeological Society of South Carolina this year.  

      Mary Lou Brewton summarized our partnership on page 2 of the latest Archaeological Society of South Carolina newsletter. Read all about how working together is raising the archaeological ante here in Beaufort County.   

09 July 2014

Beaufort District's Literary History - Grayson

In line with the Adult Summer Reading Program theme, Literary Elements, we have put special collections materials by some of Beaufort District's finest writers from colonial times to the present on display inside the Research Room. Among those represented is William J. Grayson.

Grayson was born in Beaufort on November 12, 1788. He spent much of his youth cavorting on Parris Island enjoying life as only a coastal boy can, fishing, swimming, hunting, boating. He attended Beaufort Grammar School and later was tutored by Milton Maxcy.  He graduated from South Carolina College in 1809. He became a schoolmaster in his home town until his friends secured his election as the St. Helena's Parish state representative to finish out the unexpired term of James H. Cuthbert.  Upon his marriage in 1814, Grayson became assistant principal at Beaufort College and later Savannah Academy.  Yellow fever outbreaks in 1817 led him to abandon teaching for the study of law.  He was deeply disappointed that "Right, justice, truth" were not of primary importance in the practice of law so he turned again to politics.  He served terms in the SC House of Representatives, the SC Senate, and the US House of Representatives. For about a dozen years, he was Charleston's customs collector. He was editor of the antebellum Beaufort Gazette newspaper. Although he promoted nullification in the 1830s, he wrote that the "Union is the source of peace, prosperity, and power" in 1850 as sectionalism began to hold sway.

William J. Grayson is best remembered for his proslavery verse, The Hireling and the Slave. In his poem Grayson describes the plight of the Northern factory worker as worse than that of the Southern slave. Eugene D. Genovese's foreword to Witness to Sorrow: The Antebellum Autobiography of William J. Grayson (SC 975.7 GRA) edited by Richard J. Calhoun states that there was nothing new in Grayson's apology of slavery, other than he wrote it in verse.  The poem shows Grayson's "extreme agrarian distaste for industrialization and the industrial state but also a rationalist's fear of the anarchy that could result from class strife.... Exploitation of the [industrial] worker would lead to socialism, communism, [and] anarchy." (p.10) According to Edwin Epps, "Most Southerners saw Grayson's poem as reasonably argued, mostly accurate and persuasive; Northerners ... mostly ignored the poem intended as a rebuttal to Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe." (Literary South Carolina, 2004) It met with instant local success but is mostly remembered as an example of Southern insensitivity to the enslaved.  We have a rare 1856 edition of the Hireling and the Slave in our collection. 

Grayson stood with other South Carolina Unionists such as James L. Petigru, Benjamin F. Perry, and James Henley Thornwell in opposition to the fire-eaters for years.  However "Once the South was at war, Grayson chose publicly to be a patriot, loyal to the Confederacy; but, privately, in his autobiography, he continued to be realistic as to the problems that plagued the South and would provoke defeat in war." (Genovese's foreword, p. 16)

He grieved for the loss of the Union in his Autobiography written during the early years of the Civil War. We have a photocopy of "Autobiography of William John Grayson" as a typescript "copied from Original MS in possession of the South Caroliniana Library Columbia, S.C. by Theo Frick & Margie Peak" in 1941. A nearly complete transcription of his autobiography was printed in installments in volumes 48 - 51 of the South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine which you can read in our Research Room. The most recent version of this work is Witness to Sorrow mentioned above. Calhoun's notes to the autobiography are invaluable for anyone interested in learning more about mid-19th century Beaufort District social life and customs. 

Grayson died at his daughter's home in Newberry, SC on October 4, 1863. He is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.

To learn more about William John Grayson, check out the list of resources we have in our Wordpress blog http://bit.ly/1xTsSKp.