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Mayfields of South Carolina

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Migration Incentives to South Carolina before the Revolution

By Phil Norfleet

 

The early settlements of what became South Carolina were along the Atlantic coastline, near Charles Town (renamed Charleston after the Revolution), during the 1670's.  The South Carolina economy during its first fifty years was to a considerable extent based on rice plantations and slave labor.

However, the long term survival of any colony depended upon successful settlement of new citizens, and the establishment of an orderly government and diversified economic system.  As early as 1725 South Carolina sought to encourage British and European Protestants to settle the inland areas of the colony. The reasoning was sound; new settlers would clear and cultivate idle lands, drive the Indians further away from coastal areas, and provide manpower in the event of attack by the Spanish from Florida.

In  1731 "poor Protestants" were offered land if they came to the colony to settle. This was on the basis of 100 acres for the head of the family and 50 acres for every other person in the family.  Instructions to South Carolina Governor Lyttelton in 1755 spell out the terms of the grants. The quit rent was to be 4 shillings proclamation money per 100 acres after two years from the date of the grant.  When conditions of the grant were fulfilled, the grantee was entitled to another grant on the same basis. The grantee was required to clear and cultivate the land granted at the rate of three acres out of every hundred acres per year.

As additional encouragement, in 1752, a monetary bounty for tools and provisions was provided in the amounts of five pounds proclamation money for each person under 50 and over 12 years of age; and two pounds, ten shillings for each person under 12 and over 2 years.  In 1754 a portion of the tax from which was provided the "bounty" mentioned above, was authorized to be used to pay the fees for surveys and grants for the "poor protestants."  There were changes from time to time in these Acts, mostly with respect to the taxes from which they were to be paid, but also in the amounts and purposes of payment to the settler.

In July 1761, the General Duty Act was passed to provide "encouragement heretofore given to poor protestants to become settlers in this province hath not had the desired effect," the bounty was changed. Hereafter, four pounds sterling or the value thereof in current money of the Province would be paid to defray the expense of the passage from Europe of "every poor free protestant who hath not already received any bounty from this province, and who shall arrive in this province to settle from Europe within three years from the passage of this Act above the age of 12 years, and who shall, in case they come from Great Britain or Ireland, produce a certificate under the seal of any corporation or a certificate under the hands of the minister and church wardens of any parish, or the ministers and elders of any church, meeting, or congregation, of the good character of such poor protestants above the age of twelve years," and 2 pounds sterling or the equivalent for such poor protestants under twelve and above two years or age brought within the time and for the purpose aforesaid; also twenty shillings sterling or equivalent to such poor protestants above the age of two years, to enable them to purchase tools and provisions. The passage money was to be paid to the owner or master of the vessel unless the emigrant had already paid for his passage, in which case it was paid to him.

This legislation recognized the fact that the cost of transportation was a deterrent to migration and also that not all immigrants had funds with which to procure the type of tools needed to clear land and build a shelter. At the same time, the requirement of references insured settlers of high quality. The several acts under which these "bounties" were paid were repealed, amended, or expired from time to time, but were equally often "revived."  Ultimately, however, at the close of the term of the General Assembly in 1768 all authority for the payment of bounties finally expired.

As a result of the above legislation, families from Europe, particularly Northern Ireland, and also from the northern British colonies flocked to the backcountry of South Carolina.  The colony advertised for settlers who were willing to work hard if they were allowed to have security in their lands and to be free to have their own churches. The migration began with a trickle in 1750 and became a flood in the 1760s.  During the later part of the French and Indian War (1761-1763) many families from Pennsylvania and Virginia migrated to South Carolina to escape French supported Indian attacks that were concentrated on the western frontiers of those colonies.  While migration slackened somewhat after the bounties were terminated in 1768, it still continued up to the beginning of the Revolution. The two principal land routes to South Carolina, used by settlers from the northern colonies, are known to historians as branches of the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road, viz., the "Upper Road" and the "Fall Line Road."

Families coming into the South Carolina backcountry, particularly those from the northern colonies, added new leadership, but threatened the power of the great tidewater planters in the Assembly. This situation is reflected in legislative actions, petitions to the Governor, and letters to the newspapers.

The Cherokee Wars

In the 1750's, the settlement of South Carolina lands above the Fall Line (the backcountry) began in earnest.  These new settlers began to spill over onto the Cherokee hunting grounds, thereby causing much agitation with that Nation.  In 1755, the Province of South Carolina made a new treaty with the Cherokees, but this peace was short lived.  Clashes between the settlers and the Indians continued and increased to the point that the Cherokees launched a full scale war with the colonists in 1760.  The Royal Government sent several military expeditions to the South Carolina Piedmont and laid waste to many Cherokee villages.  In 1761, the Cherokees sued for peace and agreed to cede most of their lands in South Carolina; only the northwestern part of the Colony remained under Cherokee control.  After the Revolution, in the late 1780's, this territory would be organized into the new counties of Greenville (1786) and Pendleton (1789).

The Regulators

After the Cherokee War, large numbers of new settlers poured into the SC backcountry.   By 1765, bands of brigands and marauders began to operate in the area.  Since no assistance was received from the government in Charleston, the local settlers formed vigilante groups to drive out this dangerous criminal element.  Furthermore, the backcountry people were grossly underrepresented in the SC Assembly and although they paid much money in taxes, they received little support from the government of any sort.  A group of the vigilantes began to organize into an anti-government group called the Regulators.  The Regulators demanded more equal representation as well as the benefits of law enforcement, courts, jails, roads, schools and judicial districts.

The year 1768 stands out in South Carolina's settlement history for several reasons. In that year, South Carolina's effort to attract new settlers by offering payment of passage came to a close in July 1768, with the expiration of the General Duty Act Also, the Provincial Government in Charleston successfully confronted backcountry "Regulators" and averted a civil war.  After heated debate, and a threatened march on Charleston by these backcountry men, the Circuit Court Act was passed, authorizing a system of seven Judicial Districts.  These districts, activated in 1769, for the first time provided local courts to serve the backcountry.

By the end of the 1760's, South Carolina was divided into two distinct cultural groups.  In the coastal tidewater, large plantations owned by a "gentlemanly" leisure class but worked by slaves predominated; the cultural focus was the City of Charleston and the prevailing religion was that of the Anglican Church.  Conversely, the inhabitants of the backcountry, above the Fall Line, were mostly hard working, small farmers who owned few if any slaves; their religion, if any, was primarily Presbyterian or Baptist.

The Circuit Court Act of 1768 notwithstanding, the backcountry people were still grossly underrepresented in the Assembly and there was no love lost between the two cultural groups.  As the Colony drifted toward Revolution in the early 1770's, the backcountry tended to be predominantly Loyalist in sentiment, while the tidewater planters leaned toward the Rebel cause.

South Carolina Land Grant Fees and Procedures

A person granted land did not get it without any expense;  the fees paid at every step of the procedure could mount up to a considerable sum.

There are numerous references in the statutes and the reports to England as to changes in fees for various transactions but those on the granting of land were remarkably constant. The South Carolina Assembly insisted that one of its prerogatives was that of fixing fees. While such fees were never formally approved by the King, Governor Bull stated in 1764 that most royal officers adhered to the following fees:

Land Grant Fees

Category

Pounds Shillings Pence
To the Surveyor General:

For running a line, per acre

0 0 4

For a plat, certificate and copy

2 10 0

For an attested copy of a plat

0 30 0

For a warrant

0 2 6

For a copy of a warrant & precept

0 10 0

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