The Ancestors Of George & Hazel Mullins

by Philip Mullins

Chapter 1 - South Carolina


1757 Land Grant to Leonard Vernadeau
01-1 (Click to enlarge)

Land Grants to Leonard Vernadeau and Sons
01-2 (Click to enlarge)

Summary: The arrival of the Europeans affected the native Americans in many ways. Groups living near the coast were dislocated and some were exterminated. All Indians in the region were affected by the hide trade. The success of the rice farms made slavery a major factor in the life of the colony. Immigrant arrivals from Europe included the French, the Germans and the Scotch-Irish.

Leonard Vernadeau worked in the hide trade and as a soldier before becoming a farmer. He married a woman from the German settlement at Orangeburg and raised his children on a farm in the wilderness far from the colony's centers of industry and learning.

The Native Peoples

When the Europeans first arrived in the Carolinas, the uplands or piedmont, above the Sandhill Barrens, was teeming with forest animals. The native inhabitants periodically burned off the undergrowth and, as a result, the forests resembled a vast park. Under the canopy of mature pine and scattered hardwoods was an under-story of scrubs. Here and there were open meadows knee-deep in wild peas. In these forests, bison and deer roamed in large numbers..

The native people living in the Carolinas were corn farmers. They had no livestock. Instead they hunted the bison and the far more numerous deer for meat and for their hides. After the arrival of the Europeans, the natives sold deerskins to European hide traders and the raw skins were shipped to Europe for use in glove making. Prior to the establishment of the rice plantations around 1705, deerskins were the principal export crop of South Carolina. In a single year as many as 120,000 deerskins were shipped from the Carolinas. The business of exchanging iron ware, cloth, rum and other manufactured goods for raw animal skins was extremely lucrative for both the natives and the European traders. To trade with the Indians European hide traders from the Carolinas ranged as far west as the Mississippi River and helped make South Carolina the most prosperous of the British Atlantic colonies.

Like the fur trade in the northern half of the continent, the hide trade dramatically changed the lives of the native people. Indian groups competed among themselves to get the most profit from the trade. Each group tried to monopolize contacts with the European traders. As a result the hide trade resulted in a series of wars between the tribes. Most were local struggles involving only the Cherokee , the Catawba and the Creek nations, the largest groups in the region. One war lasted two years and involved fifteen different tribes. The Catawba and the Edisto people gradually disappeared. These coast-dwelling farmers were caught between the growing white population along the Atlantic coast and the Cherokee in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Cherokee defeated the Europeans in battle on several occasions and managed to maintain control of the South Carolina piedmont until the 1760s. During this time they were the middlemen between the whites on the coast and the more inaccessible Indian bands to the west. After 1760 the Cherokee were forced out of the Carolinas.

Arrival of the European Settlers

The policy of the British government was to encourage English, French and German Protestants to settle in its American colonies. By 1700 there were some 6,000 whites in the colony of South Carolina. This number included some 500 French Huguenots . The Huguenots were Protestants who were antagonistic to the majority Catholic population of France. In 1690 an uneasy truce between the Huguenots and the Catholics broke down and the Protestants were driven out of their villages in France. Many of them fled to England and then scattered to various English colonies in North America and the Caribbean islands. In 1691 one of these Frenchmen invented a machine that cleaned rice. Encouraged by this machine and the high price of rice, many French-speaking immigrants settled along the Lower Santee River. There were so many French settlers there that the river was called the French Santee. By 1713 the French constituted one-sixth of the rural population of South Carolina. Although they often arrived in the Americas desperately poor, many of them prospered and the Huguenots became influential during the Revolutionary War period on the rebel side. They were eventually assimilated into the English-speaking Anglican population of South Carolina.

Rice Cultivation and the Slave Trade

The population continued to grow at such a rapid pace that by 1724 there were 14,000 whites and 32,000 slaves in the Province of South Carolina. Much of this population growth was a direct result of the success of the rice plantations. Until 1739 rice offered a consistent and high return to those who had the large amounts of capital necessary to start a plantation. After 1739 the price of rice was depressed by overproduction and the lack of transportation because of a war in Europe. Nevertheless the slave population continued to increase rapidly year by year.The increase in the white population did not keep pace because few white artisans and laborers were willing to face the competition of slave labor. It is perhaps ironic that many of the original settlers of South Carolina had left Barbados in 1670 because they could not compete with slave labor on the sugar plantations there. By the 1730s those poor whites who did chose to settle in South Carolina came as a result of the inducements and subsidies offered by the colonial and British authorities.

Leonard Vernadeau: Hide Trader

It was during this period that our ancestor Leonard Vernadeau immigrated from France. I do not know if he came as an indentured servant but it is quite possible that he did. It is said that over half of the white settlers of the southern colonies came to America as indentured servants. It is unlikely that Leonard Vernadeau was a rice farmer. He first appears in the colonial records because he became involved in the hide trade. On Saturday, April 10,1736 he and two other men obtained a trader's license from the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of South Carolina. This license was supposed to give them and their goods protection on the journey to Savanna Town. Savanna Town was a landing on the Carolina shore of the Savannah River about 100 miles upstream of the present city of Savannah in Georgia. This little village was a major terminus of the hide trade. Leonard Vernadeau and his companion chose to include rum in their trade goods. Because they were carrying rum, they became involved in the ongoing struggle between the rival colonies of Georgia and South Carolina for control of the Indian trade in the southwest.

Officials of the colony of Georgia had been harassing traders from the Carolinas since Georgia's establishment in 1733. The new colony's backers wanted to get control of the hide trade for the merchants of the Port of Savannah. Until 1803 Georgia claimed land all the way to the Mississippi River and agents of the Province of Georgia throughout this huge area systematically seized trade goods belonging to men operating out of the Carolinas. Leonard Vernadeau had the misfortune to be stopped on the Savannah River by a naval officer of the Port of Savannah. On April 20, 1736 he was accused of importing rum into Georgia. This violated a law preventing the importation and use of rum and brandies in the province. The colony had been founded just three years earlier by a group of London philanthropists as a haven for persons imprisoned in England for debt and to prevent drunkenness among the former convicts, rum and other "strong waters" were banned.

The arresting officer dumped a large quantity of an alcoholic liquor into the river. About 180 gallons of the liquor belonged to either Vernadeau or to William McKenzie, the owner of the boats. The two men and their boats were then allowed to proceed upstream. The three hogsheads or barrels of rum that Vernadeau lost had an estimated value of thirty-five pounds sterling. Vernadeau's companion, Peter Shepheard, lost some or all of his rum and in addition was compelled to post bond of ten pounds sterling.

The incident was reported to the South Carolina House of Assembly in Charles Town and was followed by an angry exchange of letters between Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia and the government of South Carolina. The South Carolina Assembly accused the authorities in Georgia of obstructing the free passage of the River Savannah. The Savannah River was the border between the two colonies. In those days the river was the only route to Savannah Town over which freight could be hauled so traders bound for the west had no alternative routes. As far as I know nothing else came of the incident. The next time Vernadeau appears in the records is some six years later and he is married to a German girl named Sarah Hutto who had recently immigrated to South Carolina with her family.

The Settlement at Orangeburg

By 1735 African slaves were being imported at the rate of 3,000 to 5,000 a year because it had become impossible to find enough white servants to satisfy the demand for farm laborers. Beginning in 1670 the system of indentured white servants gradually gave way to a new system involving Negro slavery. Slaves were expensive to purchase and difficult to train but the system of permanent slavery solved the problem of finding reliable field hands for South Carolina's expanding farm economy. By 1760 there were 57,253 Negros and 6,000 white males over 16 years of age in the Province. The white people were understandably alarmed by the presence of so many slaves in their midst and they undertook numerous projects to encourage immigration of white Protestants to South Carolina. For this purpose the importation of slaves was heavily taxed and the proceeds spent to aid white immigrants.

The Orangeburg Township was an example of attempts made to increase the white population. The township was located in the interior of the province about 75 miles inland from Charles Town. It was surveyed by the royal government prior to 1732 as part of a plan to encourage the growth of towns and villages in the interior of the colony. Orangeburg was laid out as a large square of surveyed land in the middle of the wilderness. It was accessible by the North Fork of the Edisto River and consisted of gently rolling hills and good soil. Each immigrant was offered 50 acres of land, transportation to the township from England and a sum of money for essential equipment. In 1735 this offer attracted 220 German-speaking Swiss to begin the settlement at Orangeburg. It appears that the original settlers of Orangeburg were not indentured servants. I say this because when an indentured servant entered the colonies the "headright" of 50 acres of land was given to whoever had paid for their passage, not to the immigrants themselves as was the case with the settlement at Orangeburg.

In July 1735 it appears that another 200 persons from Germany arrived in Charles Town from Rotterdam. They arrived on a ship named "Oliver" after a voyage of nine weeks. Among these new colonists may have been Isaac Hutto , his wife Maria Catherina and four children. The children included Sarah, who was nine years old and is our ancestor. This family soldl themselves as indentured servants to pay the cost of their passage and essential supplies. After their term was finished in 1739 Isaac received a grant of 350 acres six miles west of the village of Orangeburg. Like the other settlers of Orangeburg, he received some tools and provisions from the British government.

Leonard Vernadeau: Professional Soldier and Farmer

Orangeburg was a German-speaking Protestant settlement. The minister of the town's Lutheran church kept records, in German, through which most of the children of Leonard Vernadeau and Sarah Hutto can be traced. On or about May 25, 1742, Leonard and Sara were married. The birth or baptism of all but three of their nine children are recorded in the Geisendanner church records. For the next 16 years the family appears to have moved several times. In 1758 Leonard and his wife finally settled down on a farm some 16 miles west of the village along the road to a remote settlement called Ninety-six. This farm was on a stream called the Rocky Swamp Creek. In 1767 a younger brother of Sarah received land nearby and there is some indication that Sarah's widowed mother, her mother's second husband and another of Sarah's brothers moved to land along Rocky Swamp Creek in later years.

Not long after his marriage to Sarah Hutto, Leonard Vernadeau was enrolled in the garrison of Fort Moore on the Savannah River. Fort Moore was located near Savannah Town, or as it was later called, New Windsor, about 100 miles upstream of the river's mouth. By land Fort Moore was about 60 miles west of Orangeburg. Leonard was stationed there in the service of South Carolina as a sergeant under the garrison commander, Captain Pepper. In March of 1744 Leonard and the men serving under him decided that they could not save any of their wages because of what they called "a scheme of Captain Pepper". The captain made the men purchase supplies exclusively from his own store by prices nearly double those of neighboring stores. Also the men were made to clear ground, fence and build on Captain Pepper's private plantation during work hours. Leonard and six of the privates petitioned the governor of the colony on March 1, 1744 asking for a redress of these grievances.

The petition alleges "that the petitioners from such usage and hardships...have frequently resolved to quit the service, and have given notice thereof to our said Captain, who towards every pay day begins to heal us with a little more clemency and goodness than before, and takes care then to make us drunk and then take the advantage of enlisting us again." Whatever the outcome of the petition, Leonard eventually quit the service and in the spring of 1747 he and Sarah began to raise a family. Sarah gave birth to a child about every two years until their youngest, Anna, was born in March 1758. I do not know where they lived before 1758 but that year they received a land grant of 200 acres 16 miles west of Orangeburg near the South Fork of the Edisto River. These two hundred acres were granted Leonard by King George II in August 1758. About half of this tract was swamp when Leonard had it surveyed. The land was divided down the middle by a little stream called Spring Branch. This farm was about four miles from the Edisto River on Rocky Swamp Creek. This meant that it was easily accessible by boat. The soil was rich and well-watered and suitable for farming.

Leonard kept this land until at least 1794 when his oldest son, Henry, received a grant of land adjoining it. Leonard probably spent the rest of his life farming this land. He passed away between 1794 and 1800 when he was about 80 years old. He is the only known Vernadeau to have come to this country and, although his descendants have spelled their names some thirty different ways over the years and use eight variants today, everyone bearing the name Varnado or one of its variants can trace their lineage to Leonard Vernadeau and Sarah Hutto. The name supposedly disappeared in France when the last male bearing the name died some years ago.

While Leonard and his family were living on the farm on the Rocky Swamp Creek, South Carolina and the British Atlantic colonies grew to nationhood. The white population along the coast continued to increase at a slow but steady pace. After the Jacobite rebellions in Scotland in 1715 and again in 1745 boatloads of Scots immigrated to southeastern South Carolina. Nevertheless by 1760 a nightmare of the southern planters had become a reality. By that year there were nearly ten slaves for every white male over 16 years of age living in South Carolina. The haunting fear of a slave revolt was never far from the minds of South Carolina's whites. This huge slave population was employed first in the rice, and then in the indigo, plantations.

1745 through 1775 were prosperous years for the Carolina slave owners. Rice declined somewhat after 1750 but by 1754 indigo was a boom crop. Negro slaves could be bought on 18 months credit and it was possible for a planter to double his capital every three or four years growing indigo. Land and Negroes were the source of this wealth. The dark side of this success was that the competition of slave labor put an effective brake on white immigration to South Carolina. Immigrants were arriving in North America in large numbers, but almost all of them were settling to the north of Virginia. In the north the plantation system was only rarely used and there were fewer slaves. Although the south was wealthier than the northern colonies, few artisans choose to settle in the South. To the new immigrants the labor conditions further to the north were more advantageous. This situation changed dramatically after 1760.

The Scotch-Irish

Beginning about 1752 the empires of the French and the British clashed in North America. Fur traders from French towns in Canada fought with American traders from Pennsylvania and Virginia for control of the Ohio valley. Each side sent troops to help their nationals. Both sides armed their Indian allies. The English settlers had been relentlessly hostile to the Indians for150 years and as a result had very few Indian allies. Only the Iroquois Confederation could be considered to be pro-British and they stayed on the side lines in the war with the French .

In 1755 the British General Braddock and over 1,400 Redcoat soldiers were ambushed and defeated by the French and their Indian allies in western Pennsylvania. The British had been attempting to capture a French fort near present-day Pittsburgh. Anglo-American troops also failed to defeat the French on the Niagara peninsula and on Lake Champlain in upstate New York. The Indians allied to the French took this opportunity to avenge themselves on the English settlers. They attacked outlying farms and settlements. Fear of Indian attacks discouraged new settlers from locating along the Pennsylvania and Virginia frontiers. Following Braddock's defeat tens of thousands of settlers began to move south from Pennsylvania and western Virginia to escape expected attacks by the French and the Indians. At about the same time, between 1759 and 1761, the Cherokee Indians in the Carolina Piedmont were decisively defeated by the Carolina provincial militia in what amounted to a war of extermination. The Cherokee were forced to cede most of the Carolinas east of the Blue Ridge mountains to the British crown. This opened large areas for white settlement.

As a result of these two military actions, after 1755 thousands of Scots followed a trail called the Catawba Path to the South Carolina Piedmont. These Scottish folk had been exiled to Northern Ireland from their native Scotland by the English army and then driven by poverty to Philadelphia. They had first settled in Pennsylvania or Virginia and then had moved south in stages seeking land at no cost in money. They were not slave owners and carried with them little of value. Existing settlements were not of interest to these people because there land had to be purchased from speculators. They were impoverished. They preferred the wilderness because there good land could be had for nothing.

Nor would the Scotch-Irish have been welcomed by the proper Englishmen on the coast. These recently arrived inhabitants were described in 1766 as "new" and "all come from Virginia or Pennsylvania" with "not an English person or a Carolinian among them." Unlike the settlers on the coast, the majority of whom were Anglicans, these people were almost all Presbyterians or Baptists. Again, unlike the coastal whites, their dress was not materially different from that of the Indians. The men wore fringed hunting shirts tied around the middle with a broad decorated belt. A tomahawk, a shot bag and a powder horn were attached to the belt. They wore leather breeches or thin trousers, leggings and home-made shoes or moccasins. The women wore petticoats and "bed gowns" without the usual outer dress and, in the summer, no shoes. The women's hair was commonly clubbed. That is, they kept their hair long but wore it in a bun on the back of their head. They were all extremely poor. It was opinion of an Anglican missionary who worked among them in 1766 that "they are the lowest pack of wretches my eyes ever saw, or that I have met with in these woods." Even "the Indians are better clothed and lodged."

These Scotch-Irish people were prototypical of the Davy Crockett-type Alleghenies frontier Americans that have figured so prominently in American folklore. After the American Revolution, these frontiersmen migrated to Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and even to Texas. It has been said that almost every prominent figure in the history of South Carolina until after the Revolution was born in Pennsylvania or Virginia and moved into the Carolinas during this period. Among these could be found the parents of Andrew Jackson, Andrew Pickens, Daniel Boone, Kit Carson, John C. Calhoun, Wade Hampton, Thomas Sumpter and numerous others. It is very likely that some of our ancestors were part of this mass migration of Scotch-Irish to the Carolinas. However the Varnados and the Huttos had been associated with the settlement at Orangeburg long before the arrival of the Scotch-Irish. Solomon Newson Sr., the great-grandfather of Keziah Newsom , did move from Virginia to Georgia during this period, but he had been born in the coastal area of Virginia in Isle of Wright County that was inhabited by slave-owning planters. Likewise the great-grandfather of Ann (or Nancy) Tyler , the wife of Richard Simmons, had received a land grant in Charles River County in Virginia in 1652. His descendants had later moved to Barnwell County in South Carolina but they were by then third or fourth generation slave-owners. None of these families were Scotch-Irish.

It is likely that Nancy Hope, who married William Simmons, was descended from these "new" Scotch-Irish Americans. Nancy Hope was born on the banks of the French Broad River in east Tennessee just a few miles west of the border with the Carolinas. Her mother had been born in South Carolina in 1783 and the family had moved north and west to Tennessee before finally settling in Pike County, Mississippi, prior to 1820. This is consistent with the movement of the Scotch-Irish out of the Carolinas to the new Southwest Territories after 1810.

The majority of the early settlers in Pike County, Mississippi whom I have identified do not appear to have been Scotch-Irish. Many were from Barnwell or Orangeburg counties in South Carolina, far from the piedmont areas of that state. They were mostly neighbors of the Vernadeaus and the Huttos. Among the families living in the Orangeburg District prior to the Revolution were families named Stricklin , Felder, Simmons, Tyler, Carter, Holman, Ott and Sandifer, all common names in Pike County, Mississippi, some sixty years later. Because the Scotch-Irish were largely unschooled, had little use for government and lived in truly frontier areas, it would be difficult to find the kinds of records left by literate people like Leonard Vernadeau. It is mostly for this reason that the early parts of this history focus on those of our ancestors who were living in the more settled areas of the country where records were kept and preserved. As more research is done I am confident that we will find that many of our ancestors walked the Catawba Trail into South Carolina around the year 1760.

According to an early Mississippi historian, "the frontier had a certain leveling effect among the various groups and classes of immigrates. After the white people moved to Mississippi Territory around 1810, differences of origin, wealth, education, language and religion became muted". The settlers were mostly illiterate and any surviving Old World usages, habits and customs were soon forgotten. Everyone, regardless of educational background or training, acquired a farm at the first opportunity and became "planters". Because the region was isolated and few immigrants arrived after the Great Migration from the Carolinas, there was much intermarriage among the different groups. The institutions of racism prevented the color barrier from being similarly broken down and, although I have many black relatives by blood especially Varnados and Simmons, I'm fairly sure that none of my direct ancestors are either Indian or Negro.

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