William Piercy letters 1773-1783, Bethesda Orphan House and College - Steven Coker
Subject: William Piercy letters 1773-1783, Bethesda Orphan House and College
From: Steven Coker
Date: February 20, 1998

Piercy, William. 
William Piercy letter book, 1773-1783. 
1 v. 

Request #: 37/035

British clergyman and agent for the Countess of Huntingdon in Georgia and South
Carolina, who sent him to America in 1773 to be the president and manager of the
Bethesda Orphan House and College in Georgia. In 1776 Rev. Piercy married
Catherine Elliott, daughter of Barnard Elliott (d. 1758), in Charleston, S.C. 

Letter book chiefly contains excerpts and copies (contemporary) of letters from
Rev. William Piercy to the Countess of Huntingdon concerning conditions at
Bethesda Orphan House and College, her plantations and slaves there, and
Piercy's management of the institution and the lands. Piercy discusses the debts
of the college and orphan house which were left at the time of George
Whitefield's death and other financial problems, his plans to improve the
plantations by purchasing more slaves, the services of Mr. Law, a Georgia
plantation owner who undertakes to manage the plantation, Piercy's desire to
preach to the slaves and Indians, missionary efforts by his brother Richard
Piercy in the "back country," James Habersham (another representative of the
Countess), rice crops, the Countess' property in South Carolina, and other
matters. Letters written in 1773 are from Bethesda (Ga.); later letters are from
Charleston (S.C.), Philadelphia (Pa.), and Bethesda. 

In 1781 Piercy writes from Cork (Ireland), and later from Dublin (Ireland), and
elsewhere in Great Britain. He reports that the British have plundered the
Countess' plantation in Georgia. He also asks that, in the event of his death,
the Countess would befriend and look after his family and wife, who is
"connected to the most respectable and opulent families in Carolina." Throughout
the letters Piercy often cites misunderstandings and defends himself against
"misrepresentations" which have been given to the Countess about him. The
concluding letters include copies of two of her replies to Piercy in which she
requests him to prepare his accounts and other documents for investigation by

Use restricted. 

George Whitefield established an orphan house in Georgia which was bequeathed to
the Countess of Huntingdon with the intent that she would continue the work of
the orphanage and complete the building and establishment of a college. The
Bethesda College was never actually in operation and was destroyed by a fire in
1773. After the death of Lady Huntingdon the state of Georgia seized the
property, which from 1808 onward stood abandoned until the Bethesda Home for
Boys was constructed there by the Union Society in 1870. 

Available on microfilm. 

Cite as: Piercy, William. William Piercy letter book, 1773-1783. 

South Carolina Historical Society
100 Meeting Street
Charleston,SC 29401
Voice: (803) 723-3225 FAX: (803) 723-8584 
(area code changes to 843 in March 1988)

South Carolina Historical Research Library Catalogs 


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