Sunday, October 07, 2012
South Carolina 1: Introduction
When South Carolina congressmen became more vociferous about the false theories of modern science, I began to wonder how Charleston had ever produced the important innovations in botany that underlay its lifestyle: the selection of new types of rice and roses. Periodically, I’ll be publishing the result of my inquiries into the lives of two innovative growers, Hezekiah Maham and John Champneys.
Weather: Gradually cooler weather preparing plants for winter; last rain 9/18/12; 11:37 hours of daylight today.
What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid perpetual roses, silver lace vine, datura, Heavenly Blue morning glory, African marigolds, Maximilian sunflowers, zinnias.
Man in line in the post office Saturday was giving away apples. He, and everyone, have so many they can’t find any takers. He said he finally had figured out how to freeze them.
Beyond the walls and fences: Leatherleaf globemallow, white and pink bindweeds, goat’s head, yellow and white evening primroses, chamisa, snakeweed, broom senecio, áñil del muerto, Tahoka daisies, heath, purple and golden hairy asters.
Leaves on catalpas and cottonwoods turning yellow; Virginia creeper burgundy red.
In my yard: Floribunda and miniature roses, calamintha, California poppies, nasturtium, chocolate flower, blanket flower, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemum, Sensation and yellow cosmos.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia, petunias.
Animal sightings: Small brown birds, geckos, bumble bees, other bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants.
Weekly update: V. O. Key suggested South Carolina politics in the 1940's depended more on people’s relations with their neighbors and kinfolk, than it did with class, region, or ideology. In wars, like the American revolution, predicting people’s behavior is impossible without knowing more about their lives than statisticians like to recognize.
Hezekiah Maham was a small planter who represented upcountry Saint Stephen’s parish in the first Provincial Congress in 1775. John Champneys was a merchant who was on the Charles Town committee formed to prepare a militia later that year.
When war threatened in 1776, Maham was elected captain in Isaac Huger’s regiment. When war became reality, Champneys refused to swear an oath of loyalty in 1777 and was banished.
The two men who ended on opposite sides of the war were self-made men who became planters by their early thirties. They differed in that the one grew up in a rural area where he could only succeed if he ingratiated himself with his neighbors, while the other worked in an urban, commercial environment that necessarily made men antagonists.
Hezekiah Maham was born in 1739 in the borderlands between the French settled area of the Santee river (Saint James) and the English Santee (Saint Stephen). The area became more French as Huguenots moved up river. As another generation followed the Santee’s tributaries west into Saint John’s parish, however, more names were Anglicized. His name also appears as Mayham while Pamor became Palmer.
Nothing is known about his father, Nicholas. The name Maham itself is lost in obscurity. One genealogist found it in County Clare, the same area where the Guerins stopped on their way from France to the New World, but he may have confused it with Mahon. We know Hezekiah’s one sister, Elizabeth, married John Cook and another, Ann, married Huguenot John Cahusac. Hezekiah’s first wife was Ann Guerin, who died within two years of their 1758 marriage.
Joseph Johnson says Maham worked for a while as an overseer for Mrs. Sinkler “of St Johns Parish, grand mother of Jas Sinkler, the DuBoses and Glovers.” This would make her Elizabeth Mouzon, first wife of the Huguenot Peter, and the plantation was probably Lifeland. Sinkler’s brother James was granted land at Belvedere, St. John’s, in 1770 and established a retreat from the threat of malaria at Pineville in 1793.
By 1771 Maham was well enough established to be granted land in the area that became Pineville, and marry Mary Palmer, daughter of Catherine Farrell and Thomas Palmer. Thomas was the nephew of the more famous brothers, John and Thomas of Gravel Hill in the Fair Forest swamp, whose sister, Catherine, was the last wife of Peter Sinkler.
Unlike the planter Maham, whose early life is now found primarily in the genealogies and plantation records of descendants of the ancien régime, the merchant Champneys appears only in legal records. I’ve found nothing between his birth in 1743 and his marriage in 1763 to Anne Livingston.
There was a John Champneys who was a free holder in Charleston in 1737, and one who served as the province’s deputy secretary. They could have been the same man, but neither is likely to have been the father of our John who was 7 when the latter died in 1750 at age 77.
There was another John Champneys born in 1743 to John Champneys and Sarah Saunders in Saint Andrews Parish, but his descendants claim he married Amarinthia Lowndes.
Our Champneys went into business with his wife’s father George as Livingston and Champneys in 1763. When the older man died in 1769, his sons were storekeepers in Indian territory, and one can assume his business was related to deerskins or other aspects of that trade.
The younger man was more ambitious and, in 1767, requested a certificate to ship indigo to Bristol under the British bounties that had existed since 1749. A year later we know he was buying rice from planters for resale to Charles Town merchants.
Henry Laurens, the leading merchant and political leader, wrote William Cowles in London in May of 1768 to explain the reason he hadn’t fulfilled his contract for 600 barrels of rice was that Champneys had tried to send him damaged goods. He noted that the man had “try’d more than one trick in delivering rice.”
Later that year, Champneys struck out on his own and Livingston soon denounced him for harming his business. By then, the younger man had invested his profits into commercial real estate and owned the wharf where the older man did business.
In 1773, the overseer at his plantation, Johannes Jacob Zimmerle, was killed when he tried to capture a run-away slave. The land was on the Wando river, which empties into Charleston’s harbor between the Cooper and the ocean. The slave may have been the runaway Champneys advertised as “Banaba, of a yellowish complexion, looks like an Ebo negro.”
For reasons not made clear, he asked the General Assembly to pay for damages to his plantation in 1775. They ruled his request was inflated, and he owned them more for other obligations than they owed him. It was that body’s whose oath he rejected as illegitimate two years later.
We don’t know if he was the duplicitous businessman seen by Laurens, the elder Livingston and the assembly, or if any man who tried to become a factor had to start with the worst suppliers, the ones no one else would handle, until he built a reputation that would attract better ones.
We do know that after Livingston died, his son William moved to Saint Helena, the area at the mouth of the rivers draining into the Atlantic south of Charleston, where he bought indigo to send to Champneys. When he died in 1791, William was “regretted by a numerous and valuable acquaintance” in that area.
E. P. O. “Hans/Johannes Jacob Zimmerle (John Simerly) of SC,” genealogy.com, 31 Aug 2004.
Gueri, Pat. “Some Historical Notes on the Guerin Surname in Co. Clare,” clarelibrary website.
House of Names website. “Maham Coat of Arms and Name History.”
Johnson, Joseph. Traditions and Reminiscences, Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South, 1851.
Key, V. O., Junior. Southern Politics in State and Nation, 1949.
Laurens, Henry. Letter to William Cowles and Company, 9 May 1768, in The Papers of Henry Laurens: September 1, 1765-July 31, 1768, 1976, edited by George C. Rogers, Jr, David R. Chesnutt, and Peggy J. Clark; includes the information on George Livingston.
Webber, Mabel L. Death Notices in “The South Carolina Gazette,” 1766-1774, 1954 edition, on William Livingston.
Photographs: Late summer flowers, all taken 30 September 2012
2. Chrysanthemum, partly eaten.
3. Bee on a purple aster.
5. Datura growing in the bunch grasses.
6. Heavenly Blue morning glories.