Purrysburg - Steven J. Coker
Subject: Purrysburg
From: Steven J. Coker
Date: September 15, 1998

The Huguenots of Colonial South Carolina 
By Arthur Henry Hirsch, Ph.D.
1928, Duke University Press
reprinted 1962 by Archon Books
(pp 28-33)


   A portion of the population of South Carolina, often counted among the
Huguenots, were Frenchmen, but inhabitants or natives of Switzerland.[68]
Pursued by their oppressors, both after the massacre of St. Bartholomew's and
after the repeal of the Edict of Nantes, many had fled from France into the
mountains of Switzerland, not far from their estates, which they had temporarily
lost and to which they could easily return and claim in case the opportunity
should be offered.[69] Emigration to Switzerland continued until far into the
eighteenth century. It is estimated that 60,000 French Protestants found refuge
in Switzerland. With many thousands of Swiss colonists emigrating to North
America during the eighteenth century, directing their course chiefly to
Pennsylvania and Carolina, came a sprinkling of French Protestant refugees. Two
colonies were established in Carolina under Swiss leadership, one in New Bern,
North Carolina, in 1710, the other  at Purrysburg, South Carolina, in 1732. The
latter is of special interest to us in this chapter. Among the refugees of this
group who went to South Carolina, during the early years of its history were,
for example, the families of Laurens, De la Bastie, Gautier (Cottier),[70] May,
Leher, Jean François Gignilliat, Pierre Robert, Honore Michaud, Jean Pierre
Pele, etc.,[71] but much larger numbers went under the alluring and oft repeated
solicitation of Jean Peter Purry, of Neufchatel, Switzerland, formerly Director
General of the French East India Company, advertiser and solicitor.[72] The
provincial government was fearing the results of a great increase of negro
population and was adding greater inducements for settling Carolina in order to
counteract the effect of the great number of blacks. In June, 1724,[73] he began
his attempts to convince the British authorities that he could transport 600
French and Swiss to Carolina, providing he were offered proper inducements for
making the attempt. He asked for "four leagues square of land"[74] located
according to his own choice, that he be constituted a colonel and a judge with
power to nominate his own officers, and that the emigrants, after being
transported to Carolina free of charge by his Majesty, should be regarded there
on "the same and equal basis" with Englishmen and that they be organized into a
military regiment, whose officers should have brevets from the King of
England.[75] The British Government, in 1725, made a contract with Purry in
which the former agreed to give passage to 1,200 persons from England to
Carolina, 600 of whom were to be transported that autumn, and to grant Purry
24,000 acres of land in the province.[76] The 600 persons, however, after four
years, should be required to pay annually a revenue of £300 sterling to the
proprietors. This project became a "speculation bubble". The British government,
after a large number of people had waited at Neufchatel for nearly a month for
means of transportation to England, failed to carry out its part of the
contract. Vernett, one of the adventurers, disappeared for want of sufficient
money to take the people on the journey and Purry absconded to avoid the fury of
the people, who had neither food nor shelter, nor money to buy either.[77] Hean
Watt wrote on October 31, 1726:

   "So many people offered themselves on the sight of the vessel, prepared, that
I am persuaded if one had money, above 600 volunteers might have been

There was evidently considerable disturbance and possibly riot, for four days
later he wrote that the magistrate of the city had quelled the tumult by "giving
them each 75 'bats' their own country". A band of about forty went to England by
way of Holland, not daring to face the reproaches of their friends at home. They
were led by Mme. Vallet, who took her four children, aged six to twelve, with
her. Mme. Vallet and a few of her company succeeded in making only a part of the
journey. Out of this scattered and numerous host of six hundred persons,
twenty-four finally reached Charles Town, arriving there December 6, 1726, after
a six weeks' voyage.[79]

   Defeated in this first undertaking, Mr. Purry waited nearly four years before
making another attempt, though meanwhile carrying on his publicity. In 1730 he
went again to South Carolina to look over the available territory.[80] He wrote
and published a glowing account of the province and then returned to England. In
perusing the pamphlet now, one is led to wonder that the statements it contains
could have been taken seriously by anyone. Many of the arguments it presents are
illusory and chimerical. Nevertheless, it had the desired effect of inducing a
good many disheartened foreigners to go to South Carolina.[81] Purry agreed with
the English authorities in return for 12,000 acres of land to transport six
hundred emigrants to South Carolina within six years at their own expense. A £6
bonus for each effective person brought over was promised him by the South
Carolina legislature.[82]
   In 1731, one hundred and fifty colonists were brought over.[83] In addition
to other perquisites obtained in America, Mr. Purry received from the British
government £4 sterling for each effective person he brought.[84] The assembly
appropriated £5,150 for expenses occasioned by Mr. Purry's trip and the laying
out of the new township. In 1732 the town of Purrysburg was laid out. It
contained 400 acres on the Savannah River. Besides, 300 acres were set aside for
a church and cemetery and 100 acres for a common and a glebe.[85] In a company
of 260 that came in 1734, 40 were persecuted and poverty stricken refugees who
had temporarily settled in the Piedmont.[86] A collection was taken for them in
England, which netted them enough for the purchase of tools, provisions, and
cattle on their arrival in South Carolina. Their names are not extant, but the
names of those who arrived on the 22nd and 23rd of December, 1732, are
preserved, as well as the age of each.[87]
   On March 12, 1732-3, Colonel Purry made affidavit in the court house at
Charles Town, that he had brought the following consignments of French and Swiss
to Charles Town.[88]

   November 1, 1732, in the ship Peter and James,
                   61 men, women and children.
   December 13, 1732, in the ship Shoreham,
                   42 men, women and children.
   December 15, 1732, in the ship Purryburg,
                   49 men, women and children.

To this list should be added 150 who arrived in 1731 and 260 who reached Charles
Town in 1734.[89] At least 87 were French.[90]
   Mr. Purry died about 1738-39 leaving an estate of personal property valued at
about £3,600, in addition to his land holdings.[91] His youngest son who died in
Lisbon in 1786 left an immense fortune valued at £800,000 sterling. During his
lifetime the latter presented to his native city, Neufchatel, a gift of £50,000
sterling for the erection of a state-house and a hospital. In recognition of the
gift he was honored with the title of Baron, by the King of Prussia. In his will
he bequeathed £140,000 sterling to his native city.[92]
   In 1764, as we shall see, Granville County Frenchmen secured their final
additions of countrymen, prior to the American Revolution, by the arrival of
thirty-one French Protestants. This was a section of a larger company of about
370 French refugees, who went to South Carolina with the intention of settling
in Hillsboro Township, but who separated from the rest in a quarrel. Thereby
they lost the protection of the provincial government and the promised
bounty.[93] Forced to shift for themselves, they sought land in Granville


68 At the time they were classed as Frenchmen, though they were born in
Switzerland. See Cooper, Statutes, II 59.

69 See Moerikofer, Geschichte der Evangelischen Flüchtlinge in der Schweiz.
Among the French-speaking areas in Switzerland were the following: Corcelles,
Bern, Basil, Langel, Le Roy, La Ferrière. See Faust and Brumbaugh, Lists, 41,
43, 45, 61, 62, 76; Combe, Les Refugiées de la Revocation en Suisse.

70 Cottier (also written Gautier) came from a respected peasant family. Because
of his peasant stock he was looked down upon by fellow students at school. See
Faust and Brumbaugh, II. 4. Henri-Louis Bouquet, born about 1715 in Rolle,
served first in a Swiss regiment in Holland, then in Sardinia, when he became
captain. See Faust and Brumbaugh, Lists, H. 37, and Dictionnaire biographique
des Genèvois et des Vaudois.

71 Howe, Hist. Presbyt. Ch. S. C., I. 115; MS Pr. Ct. Rcd., 1694-1704, 406; Pr.
Ct. Rcds., 1754-58, 357.

72 Howe, Hist. Presbyt. Ch. S. C., I. 115; Col. Rcds. S. C., XVII. 294; XI. 132.
The name is spelled Purry and Pury in the records; the former is preferred.

73 See MS Col. Rcds., S. C., XI. 132; Dalcho, 385.

74 Col. Doc. S. C., XI. 132-33.

75 Popple to R. Skelton, June 11, 1725, Col. Doc. S. C., XI. 132.

76 Ibid., XI. 282, 320-1; Rawlinson MSS no. 271, folio 3, Library of Congress
transcripts. The South Carolina Assembly contracted to supply the provisions for
the company for nine months.

77 MS Col. Doc. S. C., XII. 153-4, Jean Watt to Monsr. de Valagne, "at Giles's
Coffee House in Pell Mell, London"; dated Neufchatel, Oct. 31, 1726.

78 Ibid.

79 Ibid., XII. 190 f.

80 Ibid., XVI. 122.

81 MS Col. Doc. S. C., XIV. 243, 112, 237; Coll. S. C. Hist. Soc., II. 127, 179,
182; Letter, Chas. Purry to a friend, S. C. Gaz., Sept. 23, 1732.

82 Ibid., XVI. 122; Carroll, Collections, II. 121 f.; MS Col. Doc. S. C., XIV.
112, 237, 243; Coll. S. C. Hist. Soc., 11. 127, 129, 182. The Swiss French
emigration reached its height about 1734-35. By that time it had reached such
proportions that it may be called an "emigration fever". A Bernese official at
the time coined for it the appropriate expression "Rabies Carolinae". Efforts
were made at Bern to restrain the movement. See Faust and Brumbaugh, Lists of
Swiss, II. 17 et seq.
   At various times financial aid was given to refugees who went to Carolina,
e.g., Jaques Bernhardet, wife and two children received a viaticum of two
thalers each (ibid., 18).
   On March 19, 1735, the Bernische Avis Blättlein contained the following
notice: "For the good of those who have no scruples against leaving their
fatherland and going to a strange country, the following extract from a letter
From a citizen of Bern residing in London is here inserted.

                               London, February 4, 1735.
There have arrived here 340 Swiss who have no money left to pay for their
passage to Carolina and who are in the direst need because of Mr. Pury's little
book in which Carolina is represented as much better than it is and no mention
is made of the difficulties, expenses, nor how to plan the journey, so that they
are forced to accept any conditions, however hard they may be, to reach
Carolina. Finally they have all departed in a little ship in which twice as many
were placed as it will probably hold, so that in all probability many will die
on the way.... Not only are they taken to the hottest part and to the
border-lands of Carolina, but Mr. Pury requires of them a threefold ground-rent,
and as I have said, makes them agree to pay over a sixth of the produce of the
land to him. I have also heard that Mr. Pury treats the German Swiss very badly;
he makes them work for him a half year before he assigns their land to them; he
also sells rum to those who like to drink, in return for which they must work
his land for him, and so Mr. Oglethorpe who is a member of Parliament
(Parlaments-Herr) and trustee of Georgia, had the bottoms of all the casks
broken, since it is a practice very harmful to the people to sell them this
liquor, so that when the people complained, this gentleman, when he was in that
country, put them under the supervision of a German, in order that Mr. Pury
should no longer have control over them."

The following appears under date of June 4, 1735: "Reliable account of the
people from Bern who recently set out in three ships for the English colony of
Carolina: After they left here they were 53 days on the way to Rotterdam because
of bad weather and water, but contrary to expectation they passed the Rhine
safely ... but with three times as much expense as they expected, and on May 19
... arrived in Rotterdam and on May 21 ... embarked there 300 ... in one ship."
(See Faust and Brumbaugh, Lists of Swiss, II. 25).

83 Proposals of Peter Purry for Protestants; Description of South Carolina,
Carroll, Collections, II. 121 f.

84 See Holmes, American Annals, 1753 and MS Assembly Jrnl., (Col. Doc. S.C.),
1728-33, 960.

85 Council Jrnl., V. 74-6; Cooper, Statues, III. 301; Coll. S. C. Hist. Soc.
III. 306; MS Council Jrnl., 1730-34, 208, 277. Four thousand eight hundred acres
were marked off for the new settlers (ibid., 376).

86 S. C. Gas., Nov. 16, 1732.

87 The list contains the names of both French and Swiss. Only the French names
are given here: "David Hugenin, age de 60; Susanna Seccot, sa femme, 47; Daniel
Huguenin, son fils, 14; David, son fils, 8; Abraham, son fils, 10; Marguerite,
sa fille, 12; Josue Robert, 56; Joshue, son fils, 21; Marie Madeline, 29; Anne
Vallo, veuvre de Pierre Jeannerret, 49; Henry, son fils, 19; Jacques Abram, son
fils, 17; Jean Pierre, son fils, 14; Marie, sa fille, age de 21 ; Rose Marie, sa
fille, 9; François Buche, 45; Margaretta, sa femme, 50; Jean Pierre, son fils,
4; Dan'l Henry, son fils, 1; Abram, son fils, 2; Susanne, sa fille, 8; Henry
Girardin, 32; Marguerite, sa femme, 32; David, son fils, 7; Henry, son fils, 4;
Anne, sa fille, 2; Francois Bachelois, 46; sa femme, 36; Batiste, son fils, 6;
François sa fille, 31/2 ; Marie, sa fille, 11/2 ; Laleuve Breton, 53; Jean Pierre
Breton, son fils, age de 17; Ulric Bac, age de 50; Jacob Calame, age de 60;
David Giroud, age de 19; Madame Varnod; Abram Varnod, son fils; François son
fils; Trantions, sa fille; Mariannee La fille; Andrians Richard; Monsieur Purry;
Monsieur Buttal; Monsieur Flar." - MS, Commissions and Instructions, 1732-42, 4,
Office Hist. Com. Columbia.

88 Ibid., p. 6.

89 Ibid., 6; S. C. Gaz., Nov. 16, 1743.

90 Col. Doc. S. C., XVI. 121. An unknown number of persons of French extraction
went from Charles Town and other places to settle in Granville County with the
newcomers. This fact is attested by the presence of names in Granville County
formerly familiar in other places.

91 Pr. Ct. Rcd., 1736-39, 65.

92 Extract from a letter from Neufchatel, dated July 1, 1786, printed in S. C.
H. & G. Mag., V. 191 and in the State Gazette of S. C. Nov. 6, 1786.

93 MS Council Jrnl., 1763-64, 179-80.

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