Lincolnshire to South Carolina
In 1697, a seventeen year old heiress, Elizabeth Massingberd, daughter of Sir Drayner Massingberd of Ormsby Hall. married Edward Hyrne of St Leonard’s, Shoreditch. Edward was in his forties, had been married before and had children (Edward, Mary and Margaret). Elizabeth was not due to inherit under her father’s will until she was twenty-five. Early in 1700 Edward left for America leaving Elizabeth behind. The following extract is from a letter written by Elizabeth to her eighteen year old brother, Burrell Massingberd, while she was still in England.
April 2nd 1700
I just now received a letter from my husband who saith the best way for us will be to buy a plantation nearly cleared and stocked for to clear one will be a great Charge and will be sum years before much money can be raised of it and now there having bin a great sickness and many Dead, there are several to be had great penny worths particularly one with in a mile of the princepell town of the place £12 5s per Annum a good house upon it several out houses for (?) Negroes about five hundred head of cattle and it is supposed it will be sold for about five hundred – six hundred pounds with all the premises he is willing if he might have my fortune to settle this upon me and mine. I think truly it will be better for me to have that then the interest of my portion which will not be so much yearly and then we shall be in a way to rais money by raw silk whereof many gitt great estate by there if it might be so, I should think myself very happy pray due to you and also desire my aunt if she hath an oppertunity to desier Sir William not to oppose that what I have had may be taken out of the principal so what I have allowed me for entrest since my marrage may be immediately payed me before any can have time to hear of it for I hear what ever I have allowed me in England will be seized of so that I shall be left destetute of a maintenance which will be very hard for me to work for my self and others who was never brought up to it My Mother hears Sir William has promised to pay Mr White’s pray send me world what is the truth of it for she will not blieve but it is true, she is in a very sad condission for want of money her landlady saith she liveth of brown bread and small beer duty and service where due my husband and I both giveth
is in haste from
your loving sister Elizabeth Hyrne
(Lincolnshire Archive Office reference LAO 2MM/B/7/5)
The ‘great sickness’ Elizabeth refers to is likely to have been the 1698-99 outbreak of small-pox will claimed between 200 and 300 lives along with yellow fever which took a further 160 lives in Charles Town (the ‘principal town’).
By October the same year (1700) it is clear that Elizabeth, though only twenty, is preparing to leave for South Carolina to join her husband. Amongst Burrell Massingberd’s papers are orders arranging for the care of Elizabeth’s two step daughters whom she is intending to leave behind in the care of one Berthiah Singleton.
October 1st 1700
Mark I do hereby order you to pay 20 pounds to Mrs Bertha Singleton senior for which she hath covenanted to keep Mary and Margaret Hyrne my two daughters in all their expenses which agreement is in Brother Burrell Massingberds costody, and which money is to be paid out of the 50 pound per annum allowed me (by decree in Chancery) for my maintenance.
Yor friend Eliz Hyrne
And her recite shall be yor discharge
Upon the recite of these orders I expect to receive to which with what is ordered Coz: Singleton will amount to a years allowance which Sir William in his letter to my Bro is willing should be advanced to me after this manner which must be done with speed for I shall saile in a week or ten days at the farthest and who am yours Eliz Hyrne.
The following day Bertha signs her side of the agreement:
October 2nd 1700
I do herby covenant and agree to keep Mary and Margaret Hyrne, in all their expenses and forever for and upon consideration of 20 pounds per annum paid by, or by the order of Mrs Eliz: Hyrne their mother and in witness therof do let my hand wittnes
Bu: Massingberd, Bethiah Singleton, John Holland.
A letter in the archives of the South Carolina Historical Society sheds light on what Edward was going through at the same time and reveals something more about Elizabeth. On the 19th of the same month (October 1700) Edward writes to Elizabeth from Charles-Town. He begins with an account of a recent hurricane:
‘Most dear love
On Tuesday Septemb: 3rd here happened a most terrible Storm of Wind and Hurricane with continual Rains; wch has done great Damage to the Country. Thousands of Trees have been torn up by the roots, many houses blown down and more damnified: much rice and corn &c spoiled; but the greatest of all the mischief fell amongst the shipping of wch about a dozen sail (of all sorts) were riding at Anchor before the town, some were driven on shoar & broke all in pieces, some were carryed a great way up into the Marshes & One (a Brigantine of about 80 tons) driven clear over the Point of Land wch parts the Two Rivers into Ashley River, in her way breaking down a pair of gallows (on wch 8 pirates at once were hanged since my-coming here) some were turned bottom up and lost. Bell lost all his Masts & was turned bottom upwards, but they have got her to rights again, and I believe she will be the next Ship for England. Capt Man was riding at Anchor near the Bar, ready to sail, but he was forced to cut his Main and Mizen-Masts & much ado to save his ship: so he will make a miserable voyage; but is now almost ready to sail again, but the greatest and most deplorable Loss of all was that of a great ship called the Rising Sun, which having lost all her masts in a Hurricane in the Gulf of Florida was riding at Anchor without our bar, with Design to come in here and refit; but being a ship of 800 Tons and 60 guns she durst not venture without lightening to which Purpose One Sloop has already been onboard her, but waiting for another, the storm rise and she foundered at Anchor the Capt. (Gibson) & all souls on board (being about 100) miserably perishing’.
Edward then writes of his wife’s health:
‘My dear I recd your truly welcome letter of June 20 by Capt Pynes, being exceedingly glad to hear of your good health, especially that yor own is so much better than before & that our little son thrives & is likely to do well; of whose life (by what you writ in your former) it seems to me that there was very little hope’.
The name of this infant and his fate is currently unknown, but later (1705) Elizabeth will write ‘the greatest of our losses is the loss of our children I am sure it is the worst I ever mett with’.
My Dear, you are willing to flatter yourself & me with Hopes of getting a little Interest Money out of Chancery, you know not how or when, nor I either; but dearest do not deceive your Self, I must say plainly that money will neither come soon enough, nor be sufficient enough for my Occasions if it shou’d: 500 at least must be rais’d or I must never see you more; for tho (as God is my Witness) there is nothing upon Earth that I desire so much as to see you all well in this country, yet I had much rather never see you at all, than see you miserable; & yet that must happen if you persist to come hither before I am capacitated by such a Sum to provide you a comfortable Subsistence.
Of his three older children Edward writes that he is glad to hear that they are all ‘tractable’ and that, ‘as for Neddy, since you have kept him all this while, that you should bring him with you.’
He goes on to say that ‘as for this place agreeing wth me, if it did not I know not how I should help it, for I have no Money to carry me elsewhere: but I do really think it is the most agreeable place in the world, at least I should do if I had your dear Company (& a Competency) with me: for about five weeks we have had the finest Weather that ever was seen, & so it generally continues all the winter (a few sharp days now & then expected) & spring, when the warm weather comes again. The country begins to fill apace with People, some Families lately arrived from Barbadoes advise us that 200 more are coming over from that Island; several are lately arrived from New England & New York; & many ore are expected: besides about 12 or 14 Families of good acco’t that are coming from London wth Capt. Flavel. So that I fear most of the Plantations that (are worth buying) will be bought up, whilst I am only beating the bush but can not buy for want of money.
Edward concludes his long letter:
‘I fear have too much troubled your patience with this long Epistle, I shall therefore hastily conclude. Subscribing myself (with due respect to every individual friend) Thrice dear Love:
Your most affecon’t and most faithfull Husband till Death
At some point around this time Edward did indeed contract to buy a plantation, the location of which is described in a legal document recording Edward Hyrne’s petition in pursuance of Elizabeth’s inheritance.
The Petitioner Edward Hyrne proposes in pursuance of the order made on leaving of this cause that £1000 part of the £1500 due to his wife be laid out in the Purchase of an Estate or Plantation which he hath contracted to purchase of Thomas Smith Esq. [Landgrave Thomas Smith] lying in South Carolina in America containing about 2500 acres of land abbutting on the East upon a River called the Back River running into Cooper River West on the fever lands not runne out and other parts on the Lands of one William Moore South on the lands of Capt. George Smith with all edifices Buildings Blacks Slaves and all other matters and things to the Estate or Plantation belonging or in anywise apertaining upon which Plantation or Estate the petitioner Elizabeth is now resident… (LAO 2MM B/7/66)
Unfortunately the letters referred to in the South Carolina Historical Magazine, which were deposited in the Lincoln archive office in the 1950’s, have gone missing. I am therefore indebted to the article for this quote from one of Edward Hyrne’s letters in which he describes the plantation:
‘as consisting of 2550 acres of land whereof 200 cleared and most fenced in tho wants repairing. 150 head of cattle, 4 horses, an Indian slave, almost a man, a few hogs, some house hold stuff and the best brick house on all the county; built about 9 years ago and cost £700, 80 foot long, 26 broad, cellared throughout’.
Hyrne Family Letters, Edited by Albert J Schmidt, The South Carolina Historical Magazine, Vol. 63 No.3, July 1962
Elizabeth eventually left for South Carolina late in 1700 to join her husband Edward Hyrne on the plantation he had contracted to buy. Within the year she gave birth to their first surviving child, a son, named Burrell after Elizabeth’s brother.
Although the plantation is not named in the surviving letters, it is now known to be the Medway Plantation, located on Back River (a branch of the Cooper River) in Goose Creek, St James Goose Creek Parish, Berkeley County, South Carolina.
The First Hyrne Plantation in South Carolina
It is clear from the letters that Elizabeth expected to continue the same aristocratic lifestyle as she was accustomed to on the family estate in England, but the demands of such a large plantation and the inexperience of both her and her husband meant constant financial difficulties. These problems were compounded by a series of calamities which beset the family in 1703. Elizabeth wrote:
‘on the 20 of … [June] we lost a negro man by the bite of a rattlesnake which was a great lose to us being at the height of weeding … rice. On the 25th of August I lost our dear little son which went very near to me [Elizabeth’s second son, Henry, had been born the previous June]. In September we lost our cattle hunter. But the greatest of all our losses (except my dear Harry) was on the 12 day of January last on which we was burn [letter damaged] out of all our house taking fire I know not how in the night and burning so fiercly that we had much to do to save the life of poor Burry and two beds just to lye on which was chief of what we saved we also had all our rice and corn and all sorts of provehans burnt. Cloes and everything nothing escaped the fire so that had it not bin for some good people we must have perished. My dear child was forced to be taken naked out of bed being left without close enough to keep him from cold. And now I am big with child expecting to lye inn the beginning of next June so that you may casely imagine our miserable condission. But blessed be God we have mett with some kind friends in this place or elce we had not bin for you ever to have heard more of us.
Source for this letter: South Carolina Historical Magazine, July 1962, p150.
This disaster also meant that Elizabeth and Edward were unable to meet their commitments in England and in desperation the guardian of the two girls, Berthiah Singleton, had the girls, Mary and Margaret, then only about eight and eleven, shipped off to America on their own in 1704. (Little is known of the fate of Margaret (Peggy) but Mary (Molly) would ultimately marry Landgrave Thomas Smith and bear him 10 children).
I have recently discovered another of Elizabeth’s letters (thanks to K.M. Wald 16/06/2006), dated 21st Feb 2004:
In my last by Capt. Cole I gave you an account of our losses by death & fire which as you will find by that letter has been very great yet such has been the goodness of our God towards us that he hath not suffered us to want meat, drink, and clothes sufficient to keep us from harm and cold which was more than we deserved or could expect. Having given you a particular account in my last of our losses shall not give you trouble of them here. I know not what is the reason Dear Brother that you so seldom write to me unless I being poor and at a great distance you intend by little and little to leave off letting me hear from you it being now a year and a half since your last letter was written. Had it not been for the war I would have expected to have seen you here, according to your promise that you made me when I left England, before now. But now time and distance has so altered you that in instead of my being so happy as to see you I must be content with a letter once in a year or two I send God willing to you for England in the next vessel bound for London that goeth with convoy… On the 29th of June last I was brought to bed with another son whom I have baptized Henry who is blessed be God a very lusty healthful child which has been a great comfort to me in the midst of my trouble, my Burry also grows a brave boy blessed be God I have great hopes he will make a sensible man tho but small of shank. I think I have no more to add only that we have lost a great deal of time wherin we might have got several hundred pounds for want of hands & pans to boil within which is a very profitable commodity in this country. I know not one that hath so good a piece of land with so much lightwood whereof char is made … this becoming such a profitable trade made our plantation to be at least £5.00 better worth than the money we due to give for it notwithstanding the loss of our house.
Some time around 1704-1705 the Hyrnes built a smaller version of the original brick house at Medway (below).
Medway was finally and positively identified as the house rebuilt by Edward Hyrne when, ‘in the summer of 1984, a main support wall in the centre of the present house collapsed, confirming the identity of the owner … the workmen noticed something peculiar about several bricks around the doorway.’ Each had been stamped with with a crest, later identified as the Hyrne family coat of arms. (Medway, by V C Beach)
The next letter from Elizabeth is dated May 2nd 1705
My last to you was by captain Flavell by way of Lisbon who sailed a considerable while since but I have received none by you nor any of my friends in England since August 1703 tho here hath been lately severall vessells arrived from London by some of which I thought I might have heard from you however hope you may have written by Jennings who has not yet arrived and is feared may be lost or taken … I advised you in my last of having another son who is now above ten months old and as brisk as any having had very little sickness ever since he was born my Burry also praised be God grows a healthful boy and tall enough for breeches but he has not yet for want of money to purchase them. We are all of us likewise very much in want of severall things since our great losses which have been very heavy upon us …so the only way we have to gitt any money is by selling now and then a little frish butter or a little sape which I made myself or such an od thing which is very inconsiderable so you may believe our living is very hard at present all sorts of things being very dear here for I gave almost four shillings the other day for a pair of shoes for Burry and half a crown for a pair for Harry who is not eleven months old till the 29th of this month there is no sort of clothing to be brought but what is very slite and very dere so that you may believe it is hard with us at present indeed things have not been so hard with us as long as they be now …
Since the above written I have received yours by Capt Jennings of the 26th September having not received mine by Capt Cole for which I am very sorry [Burrell’s letter having taken just over six months to arrive], I take notice of Aunt Hall’s great kindness for which pray give our hearty thanks’ (LAO 2MM B/7/20)
In spite of some help from family in England their struggle continued. When Elizabeth came of age in 1705 the money she was due to inherit was held by the Chancery Courts who required proof that the plantation should be placed in the ownership of Elizabeth and her children. This delay dragged them deeper into debt. In some desperation Landgrave Thomas Smith entered into correspondence with Elizabeth’s brother.
November 21st 1705
‘Since you have had such an ill character of the plantation and stock…if you will allow me four hundred pounds in England to be paid in six months time I will take my plantation and what off the stock is left on itt, which I doubt will be but little remaining, Mr Hyrne wanting hands to keep them in good order which is the occasion many are run wild, when I sould him my plantation as I gave you account in my other letter there was a larger and better house on itt than any county house in Carolina, he had besides the house and land about 200 head of cattle and severall horses and mares one Indian cowkeeper worth thirty pounds which is since dead one large boat for his use which has since gone to decay. By which you may calculate that my damage will rise to much more than I ask you, butt beacause you should nott think that I put a hardship upon you Bro and sister I make you this offer’ (LAO 2MM B/7/21)
By 1706 Edward had returned to England to fight the case in person. A further letter to Burrell Massingberd from Thomas Smith indicates that Edward had not been entirely straight with him:
‘Nov 16th 1706
Yours by the packet under cover from Mr Lea I received by which I find you received both mine I find you tell me that I am misinformed about your sisters fortune and that itt does nott lye in your hands but in Chancery since 1700…If I had [known] I should nott have staid till this time; when the mortgage was expired long ago … and their living and making use of the cattle all the while for their use which is within six weeks off five years all ready expired, nay not only for their eating, but they sould severall of their breeding cattle, some of which I bought my self … and they also salted severall barralls of beef and sould …doubt nott butt that Mr Hyrne will confirm the truth himself, and he knows had I not stood his friend he could not have left Carolina…’.
(LAO 2MM B/7/22)
Landgrave Thomas Smith seems to have been, at all times, an understanding and tolerant landlord and a good friend to the Hyrnes.
© Pauline M Loven, B.A., 2010
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