26 July 2015

Freedman's Bank

Few people know that the Freedman's Bank was the first local financial institution in Beaufort District. Yes, that's right: Beaufort District did not have any local financial institution before Gen. Rufus Saxton (U.S.) advocated a bank for the newly freed slaves to learn "habits of carefulness and prudence"during the Civil War.

  • You can peruse the online version of "New South Newspaper," a part of the University of South Carolina's Digital Collections, to read more about Gen. Rufus Saxton's efforts to get a branch of the Freedman's Bank in Beaufort.
  • We also hold the New South, Free South, and Palmetto Herald on microfilm at Beaufort Branch and Hilton Head Island Branch libraries for the customer who loves reading old newspapers. [It can take awhile, but oh, it is ever so much fun!]
You can read plenty about the Reconstruction era financial difficulties in "Bankless in Beaufort: A Reexamination of the 1873 Failure of the Freedman's Savings Branch at Beaufort, South Carolina," by John Martin Davis, Jr. in the South Carolina Historical Magazine, vol. 104, January 2003, pp. 25-55. The author is both an attorney as well as an accountant so his skill sets afford penetrating insight into what really happened to the bank.
  • You can find the South Carolina Historical Magazine in the Beaufort District Collection and at our Hilton Head Island Branch Library.
  • When the Freedman's Bank failed, it left behind some crucial records for anyone doing African-American family research. Although the extent of the information can vary widely, it is one of the best sources of genealogical information to get you ever closer to that key 1870 Census.
  • You can search Freedman's Bank records on the Family Search website. 
  •  Ancestry Library Edition numbers the United States, Freedmen's Bureau of Field Offices, 1863-1878 records among its more than 10,000+. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, also known as the Freedman’s Bureau, was established in the War Department by an act of Congress on March 3, 1865. The Bureau was responsible for the supervision and management of all matters relating to refugees and freedmen, and of lands abandoned or seized during the Civil War. 
  • Check out our Reconstruction webpage to gain a better understanding of the fascinating complexity of the Reconstruction era and its enduring impact on the people and institutions of the United States.

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